How to make Kombucha at home
If you like kombucha but haven’t tried to make your own yet, you should definitely try since it is such a fun project to do at home! It requires a little time and work in the beginning, but you quickly get a hang of it and it becomes a fun project and hobby (like something in between gardening and cooking). You can experiment with different flavors, you get something healthy and delicious to drink from it, and you can engage your friends as well. Follow my guide below and learn more about this delicious and healthy beverage.
WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha is a fermented drink made out of sugar, tea, and a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria. It might not sound that appetizing based on a couple of its ingredients, but kombucha can really be so delicious. Although it has recently been growing in popularity, much thanks to its many alleged health benefits, it is actually not just a fad, but an ancient drink that has been around for thousands of years, said to originate from China in 220 BC.
Although flavored kombuchas is very common, it naturally has a taste similar to vinegar and cider. It also contains a little bit of alcohol; however, so little that you won’t notice it at all. Moreover, you also find caffeine in it because of the tea, but the level of it is also pretty low so don’t rely on it for an energy boost. And although it is made out of sugar, there is not that much sugar left after the fermentation process since the sugar function as “food” for the SCOBY (an acronym that stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY is the “mother” that is used when making kombucha, and it almost looks like a round (yet flat) and pale raw chicken breast. New layers start to grow on the SCOBY every new batch you make, which means that you basically get more and more for each brew. You can use these for future batches, or give to friends who also want get started with homemade kombucha.
Like other fermented things, such as yoghurt, kimchi and kefir, kombucha is packed with good bacteria and hence probiotic, which promotes a healthy gut, boosts our immune system and can help with digestion. In addition, kombucha also has antibacterial properties and is, especially if made with green tea, rich in antioxidants. Hence, kombucha is such a perfect alternative to alcohol or soda, since it is festive, healthy and really tasty.
Making kombucha is a fermentation process in two steps; the first is about making the actual kombucha, and the second to carbonate it and add flavor. A very important thing to keep in mind when brewing kombucha at home is to make sure all tools used during the process are clean in order to avoid poisoning and allergic reactions. A good idea could be to buy a sterilant liquid or spray that you can clean the glass jar and bottles with in order to be on the safe side.
So, the first step is to get a SCOBY, and if you can’t get one from someone you know, you can buy them online or in some health stores. Another option is also to make one from a bottle of unflavored kombucha. This requires a little more time though, about 1-4 weeks of fermentation instead of 7-10 days (otherwise, you go through the same process as below, just adding a bottle of kombucha instead of a SCOBY). Another thing to keep in mind before you start is that there is a risk that the first batch you make with a new SCOBY might not taste that great, so always make a small (only 1 liter of water) “test batch” first.
Hence, when you have cleaned your tools and found a SCOBY, you are ready to get started:
1. Clean a big glass jar (preferably a 3 liter jar, and not one out of plastic since that can cause unwanted bacteria) thoroughly. If possible, use a sterilant in addition to regular dish soap.
2. Boil 2,5 liter water with 2 tbsp of tea and add 1,5 dl of white sugar for. Unflavored and organic loose leaf tea is usually the best tea to use. You can try different types of tea (green, red, white), but I personally think you get the best results from black tea.
3. When it has been boiling for a few minutes, remove the tea leaf by straining the brew and let it then cool to room temperature (which might take a couple of hours). This is very important as hot water will kill the SCOBY.
4. Pour the brew into the cleaned glass jar. Add the SCOBY and some if its original liquid.
5. Make sure not to touch the SCOBY with any metals. Metal can react with the acidic kombucha and hurt the SCOBY.
6. Remove the lid from the jar and cover the opening with a clean cotton towel instead. Tie a band or a bit of thin rope around the opening of the jar so that the towel stays in place.
7. Leave the glass jar in room temperature for 7-10 days to ferment.
8. Stir with a wooden spoon or paper straw (remember, no plastic or metal) once a day or so to prevent mold from start growing on the SCOBY. If it still happens, you will unfortunately have to toss the whole batch and start over again.
9. You can also taste the kombucha with the paper straw in order to determine how you want it to taste – the longer you wait, the less sweet and more tart it gets.
10. After 7-10 days, pour the kombucha brew from the glass jar, except the SCOBY and about 2-3 dl of the liquid, into cleaned glass bottles. Fill them with about 2/3 of kombucha and then add 1/3 of fruit juice in order to carbonate it and add flavor. I personally like to add freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, watermelon juice, ginger juice or blueberries, but you can basically add any fruits, berries, and herbs that you like. Honey, sage, and lemon are also great flavors to add.
11. Leave about 2-3 centimeters at the top so that the pressure doesn’t get too high in the bottle when the fruit juice carbonates it.
12. Brew new tea (step 2) and add into the glass jar with the SCOBY and the 2-3 dl of the “old” brew. This is a new batch.
13. Let the kombucha in the glass bottles ferment a second time for about 3-4 days. Carefully open the bottles (they might be very carbonated and pop when you open them) after 2-3 days and taste it (a tip is to use a paper straw that you just stick into the bottles) in order to determine if you want it to ferment longer. The more days, the more carbonated it will be. Just make sure you don’t ferment it too long this second time as that might make the pressure in the bottles to get too high and make them explode.
14. When you are happy with the flavor and level of carbon, put the glass bottles in the fridge in order to stop the fermentation process. However, remember to continue to be careful when you open the bottles from now on.
15. Pour in a glass, add some ice, and enjoy your very own homebrewed kombucha!
Now when you have started making it, you can just continue the process and start over with a new brew as soon as you start the second fermentation with the first batch. If you want to pause, you can let the SCOBY rest in the glass jar for up to 6 weeks, but put it in a cool place if possible. That brew will be quite tart and you won’t be able to drink it, so just pour everything out except 2-3 dl when you are ready to start brew a new batch of homemade kombucha again. Good luck with your brewing and have fun!