What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented drink, made by feeding a sweet tea to a kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic community/colony/culture of bacteria and yeast). The resulting beverage is a slightly carbonated, acidic beverage comprised of sugars, organic acids (like butyric acid which is an important anti-inflammatory), vitamins, and minerals (this is a nice detailed analysis). It will contain vinegar, vitamin B, traces of the kombucha SCOBY, and whatever constituents the original tea had (caffeine, polyphenols, volatile oils, etc). As vinegar is produced by acetic acid bacteria (in this case Acetobacter xylinum) feeding on ethanol (that’s regular old alcohol) in the presence of oxygen (open jar), there can also be tiny traces of alcohol.
Kombucha has been around for thousands of years, and has long been used by traditional cultures to improve digestion, boost immunity, eliminate kidney stones, reduce high blood pressure, and create sustained and lasting energy.
14 cups water
8 tea bags
1 cup sugar
1 gallon jar
bottles for bottling
2 cups reserved kombucha from last batch
Bring the 14 cups of water to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add tea bags and sugar and stir to dissolve sugar. Cool the tea completely. Tea that is too hot will kill the SCOBY.
While the tea is cooling, get area prepared: clean surfaces, clean bottles, clean any spoons, clean measuring cups, clean a plate. If soap is used, rinse really well as soap can affect growth. Ideally just use very hot water and sterilize everything. Get your bottles ready to take the new batch of kombucha. Metal kills kombucha. Don’t use metal lid or store in anything but glass.
Bring out last weeks brew and gingerly remove the SCOBY from the batch and place on a plate. Remove yeast if too much has grown. The yeast is the brown hairy things that are growing and sticking to everything. Measure out two cups of the kombucha and set aside. Pour remaining Kombucha into bottles. I don’t carbonate mine as I prefer room temperature, non-carbonated kombucha. Others bottle with pop tops and the kombucha then carbonates. BE AWARE… that when you do this, you create a champagne like environment and I have also inadvertently sprayed kombucha all over the kitchen… you want a brewery smell? that is a sure way to get one….
Pour tea into gallon jug til about 3/4 full, add SCOBY, add the 2 cups reserved tea from previous batch. It should fill up until the ‘shoulder’ of the jar. You need a bit of room for expansion of the SCOBY. Cover with paper towel and an elastic band or a piece of cloth. Don’t use cheesecloth as fruit flies know how to get through cheesecloth.
Invest in some jars you want to bottle with. I purchased a very great jug at London Drugs for $7 that has a rubber twist seal on it. We leave it on the counter and keep the kombucha close at hand so we drink frequently. Keeping it at room temp also means that it continues to grow. If you put in fridge, it will stop growing. Growing means that you will always get the start of a new SCOBY as slimy scum on the top of your kombucha. I just chuck these little guys into the compost.
I make kombucha each Saturday morning*. I have a warm environment to store it in so our batches grow quick… and we like the taste of 1 week kombucha. Others brew for 2 weeks and it becomes much more vinegar like as the sugar gets all eaten up. You will find your happy medium. It should not be too sweet. The longer the brew, the healthier for you supposedly. Less sugar, less caffeine and the like.
Other instructions and observations suggest a variety of methods and tips: -Don’t move the jar too much for the 1 week – 2 weeks it’s brewing -Use tea that does not have too much oil ie. earl grey -A few bags of herbal tea can be added for a different taste experience -Without too much disturbing, ensure the SCOBY continues to be covered in the tea and to not get too dried out at the top -Green tea works but the batches seem to take longer -When bottling, flavours can be added… ie… herbs, fruit etc.
*Update April 3 2016. I am now brewing every 2 weeks. The process is taking longer because I started using tea that was less fermented to begin with. I now am mixing jasmine, oolong, white tea, 1 or 2 bags of orange pekoe and 1 herbal. These teas take longer to ferment a batch but I get a lighter product at the end. When I just used orange pekoe, it went quite quick.
*Update June 9 2016. I added mint leaves to the 2nd ferment. This is the stage after brewing with the SCOBY. Bottle the Kombucha in large glass containers with lids, add fresh mint leaves and let do an additional ferment for a few days. The flavour is fantastic. I am trying blueberry mint and ginger mint.
*Update January 26 2018 I started using the basket type coffee filters with an elastic to cover the jars whilst fermenting. They stand up better than paper towel. During the winter I also added some chai to the first ferment and this made for a very nice taste.