How to Brew Your Own Kombucha
Kombucha is Nature’s Healthy Soda and one of my favorite things on earth. I got turned onto it a few years ago and have been consistently brewing my own ever since. It’s amazing how easy it is to make considering I used to buy everything in a package from big box supermarkets. I had no clue how to make anything that didn’t come in a package. Making my own Kombucha was a simple yet huge step in living with more happiness, health, and freedom. It’s completely eye opening to learn that just about everything at the grocery store can be made very easily at home. When I make my own food from scratch, I know what is and isn’t in it. No long ingredient lists with mystery ingredients for me.
I would rest assured that any Kombucha I buy at the store is healthy and safe to drink but brewing my own is really fun and saves me a ton of money. A jar of Kombucha at the store costs between $3 and $5 but I can make my own for as little as .25 cents a bottle. Plus all that Kombucha has to be shipped which of course burns fossil fuels. It’s almost always more environmentally friendly to make your own food and drinks from scratch.
Kombucha’s health benefits are through the roof. It’s rich in vitamins and minerals which are essential to good health and exceptionally beneficial for good digestion As in probiotic rich foods like yogurt, the bacteria in Kombucha are a great source of nutrition and Kombucha has a wide range of organic acids, vitamins, and enzymes that give it its extraordinary value. It contains the range of B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B6, and B12. I could write pages on the health benefits of Kombucha but I’ll leave you to research it if you care to know more.
The best way to learn about something is by doing it on your own, so here’s a simple guide of how to brew your own Kombucha!
What you need for first fermentation:
1 gallon glass jar. Used pickle jars work great.
1 small breathable cloth
1 rubber band
1 large cooking pot
4 tea bags of any caffeinated tea (or equivalent loose tea)
1 gallon water (preferably purified)
1 cup sugar, organic cane sugar is best (don’t use brown sugar)
1 SCOBY “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” with 1/4 cup of reserve Kombucha- you need this to help start the fermentation.
Step-by-step instructions for first fermentation:
1. In large cooking pot, add 3/4 gallon of water and bring to a boil.
2. Turn off heat and add 1 cup sugar and 4 tea bags. Stir the sugar so that it dissolves completely. Steep for 10-15 minutes.
3. Allow brewed tea to cool completely. This should take a few hours.
4. Using the funnel, pour the brewed tea into a clean 1 gallon glass jar. Fill only to the top widest part of the jar or leave a few inches of space at the top.
5. Add the SCOBY and at least 1/4 cup of reserve Kombucha. The SCOBY should float to the top. If it sinks, don’t worry, it will eventually rise to the top.
6. Cover the jar with the small cloth and seal with a rubber band. This will keep insects and debris out. Place the jar in a warm (ideally 72-84 F) dark place to ferment.
The first fermentation process will take about 2-3 weeks depending on temperature, altitude, and size of the SCOBY. During this time, the SCOBY transforms sugar and caffeine into probiotics, organic acids, B vitamins, etc. The longer it ferments the more sugar and caffeine is transformed and the more vinegary it becomes.
To determine if the Kombucha is ready, use a spoon to scoop a little bit out and taste the tea mixture periodically. If the tea tastes sweet, it’s not finished fermenting. Once the tea loses its sweetness you know that all the sugar and caffeine has been eaten by the probiotics. If you let it sit too long it will become very vinegary. When you think it’s ready it’s time to start the second fermentation process.
At this time, you can also re-start the first fermentation process for a new batch. It’s great to always have a batch fermenting so that you never run out. To streamline things you can have your tea ready to go so that you can add it to the jar immediately after harvesting the first ferment.
The SCOBY continues to grow new layers with each batch, like stacks of pancakes. You can use the entire SCOBY for your next batch or take off the older bottom layer and give it to someone else to start their own. If you are not going to start another batch right away you can store the SCOBY in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Make sure to save 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the liquid to use for starting the next batch.
What you need for second fermentation:
Clean empty glass bottles. Wine bottles work great as well as GT’s Kombucha bottles.
Fruit of choice. This part allows for a lot of creativity. My flavorings of choice are strawberry, blueberry, apple, and ginger. You can use fresh or frozen. This is an excellent opportunity to use fruits that are not at their peak freshness and might otherwise go bad.
A natural sugar, such as honey or agave dried fruit, fresh fruit, cinnamon, maple syrup… Any combination works great!
Step-by-step instructions for second fermentation:
1. Add fruit and natural sugar to each bottle
2. Using the funnel, pour Kombucha into each glass bottle
3. Cap each bottle with top or cork. Seal tight. If it’s not tight the carbonation will be able to leak out and you won’t have a fizzy drink. I’ve had batches so carbonated that the cork blew off the wine bottle and sprayed Kombucha all over the kitchen. That’s why I recommend screw on caps. The carbonation is CO2 which is a byproduct of the fermentation by bacteria. Conventional soda has CO2 pumped into the can but nature’s healthy soda does that on its own.
The second fermentation process takes less time, about 4-8 days. The Kombucha tea will take on the flavor of whatever fruit you added. After a few days just take it out of the spot you stored it and enjoy! My favorite is honey, ginger, cinnamon, berry. You only need about 4 oz to get all the benefits but if you can’t resist drinking a whole bottle it’s ok because Kombucha is ridiculously healthy.
Avoid using antibacterial soap to clean anything that you’ll be using. Residual soap can harm the SCOBY. I recommend a natural oil based soap like Dr. Bronner’s.
A bottle of home-brewed Kombucha is an excellent thing to bring to a dinner or potluck and makes a wonderful gift. It’s a very unique and inexpensive gift.
For deep reading, I recommend the book Kombucha: How to and what it’s all about. And if you want to learn all of the amazingness of fermentation, then Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz is an absolute must read. Here you’ll learn how to make all sorts of amazing ferments like sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, cheese, sourdough bread, and cider.
Fermentation is Freedom!