Kombucha originated in Manchuria. It later propagated to Russia and from there to the rest of the world. Kombucha was extremely popular as a health beverage in China in the 1950’s and 60’s. Many families grew kombucha at home.—from our TIPS FOR WHOLESOME LIVING Series, by Jessica Stamm, MS CCN
After 7 years of spending way too much money on GT Dave’s Kombucha (which is delicious, but in Hawaii is almost $5 per bottle), I decided to take the plunge and started brewing kombucha myself.
Kombucha offers an extensive list of health benefits including but not limited to hormone balance, cancer prevention, detoxification support, and even improvements to bone and tooth quality.
I personally drank kombucha through both pregnancies to prevent nausea (which I never had, thank goodness!) and when not pregnant would drink it for the week prior to my period to prevent migraines and PMS during that time. At $5 a bottle that really adds up!
To be brutally honest, I was resistant to brewing my own kombucha because in my mind the next step after entering the world of home fermentation is Birkenstocks and hairy armpits—not that there’s anything wrong with either of those things!
I realized I was being ridiculous and my resistance was costing me money that could instead be spent on practical, important items like stilettos and waxing. Okay, now I’m really being ridiculous but I’m too hopped up on coffee and homemade kombucha today to have a filter and I’m perceiving myself as funnier than I actually am.
Back to the point—making kombucha at home was shockingly easy to do and my very first batch turned out well so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you who may also be skeptical of home brewing.
Here’s what you do:
1. Find a Kombucha SCOBY
- Find a SCOBY (the starter – stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). I recommend checking on Craigslist.org for someone in your area (just type in “SCOBY” or “Kombucha”) or contacting your local Weston Price chapter leader.
- If you can’t get a SCOBY from either of these places, you can get them on Amazon, but this tends to be the most expensive option.
- I found someone through Craigslist here on the North Shore of Oahu (relatively far from me) who referred me to their friend in Waimanalo (close to me) who was nice enough to meet up and give me a free SCOBY.
- While it may seem a little disturbing to meet up with a total stranger and leave with a ziplock baggie full of something that looks like an alien organ suspended in a solution of brown liquid, it is totally worth it.
2. Get a Half-Gallon Glass Jar
- Get a half gallon glass jar (or gallon, or any size glass container really, but my recipe is for a half gallon because that’s the biggest jar I have), fill it with purified water, and then dump that water into a pot and bring it to a boil.
- Stir in approximately 3/4 cup sugar, but don’t dump it in all at once or it might boil over.
- White sugar is actually the best (and cheapest) but you can use any type of sugar you have on hand – white sugar, brown sugar, organic sugar, I’ve even heard of people using molasses. The sugar is just to feed the fermentation so the bacteria and yeast should eat most (if not all) of it anyway. Just don’t use honey since it has antibacterial properties.
3. Remove Kombucha Solution from Heat and Add Tea Bags
- Remove solution from heat and add 2 black tea bags (any type of black tea, I used plain old Lip- ton’s because I had it in the cabinet but since then have started using organic black tea).
- Steep for 10 minutes to brew a strong tea. You can also use an equivalent amount of loose tea, you just have to strain it and that’s 5 seconds I’d rather spend doing something else.
4. Control Room Temperature
- Cool to room temp. If you’re in a hurry you can throw in a few ice cubes and put it in the fridge to cool faster, just make sure you stir well to avoid any “hot spots” that might kill the bacteria in the SCOBY.
5. Add SCOBY to the Kombucha Solution
- Once the solution is cool enough, add your SCOBY along with 1-2 cups of kombucha from a prior brew (use store-bought kombucha if you didn’t get liquid with your first SCOBY, or if store-bought isn’t available add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar to make the tea acidic enough for fermentation).
- Cover loosely with a cheesecloth or other breathable cloth—I used a thin dishcloth, but Gerber diaper cloths work well also—and secure with a rubber band.
- Place this in an area where the temperature is around or slightly warmer than room temp (between 74 and 84 degrees F) and leave it alone.
6. Let the Kombucha Mix Ferment
- Depending on how sour or bubbly you like your kombucha, you can let it brew for a minimum of 3 days up to a month.
- I fermented my first brew for 5 days (it was sour and tasty, but not too bubbly), my second brew I fermented for 2 weeks (more sour and tasty, and more bubbly) and my third brew is in the works now.
- You can check the fermentation process by gently dipping a clean spoon into the mix and tasting to check how sour and bubbly it is.
- Also, one of the fun things to notice as your kombucha is brewing is that the SCOBY “mother” produces a “daughter” which starts out as a thin, clear film on the top and eventually turns into a perfect little disc the exact shape of the top of your brewing container.
7. Serve and Store
- Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, you can pour off what you want to drink and store it in the fridge until you’re ready to enjoy it!
- Be sure to reserve at least 1-2 cups of your brew as the starter for the next batch, which you can store at room temp if you’re going to use it in the next few days or in the fridge if it’s going to be a while before your next batch.
- You can drink the kombucha straight, or add juice or fruit for flavoring. It is sweet on its own so doesn’t require additional sweetener but I find that it mellows nicely when you add something tart for balance, such as lemon juice or frozen berries. I personally don’t recommend adding these to the fermentation unless you really know what you’re doing – I would wait until your brew is complete to add them to the final product.
You don’t have to be an expert to make your own kombucha!
Obviously, after 3 batches at home I don’t consider myself a kombucha expert but I did want to share this info with you to let you know that you don’t have to be an expert to make your own! For more practical tips, I recommend visiting the SustainabiliTEA site on kombucha. I did not read the entire site (yet), but what I did read was very helpful and concise and explains some important issues such as how to avoid and detect mold.
TURD IN THE PUNCHBOWL ALERT!
For the sake of full disclosure, I must confess that the frozen berry mix I used in the beautiful picture of the finished kombucha above is the very same organic antioxidant mix that was recalled from Costco for containing pomegranate seeds from Turkey. These Turkish pomegranate seeds were giving people Hepatitis A!!!
Luckily I only used it once to flavor that particular glass of kombucha. I didn’t like the flavor (maybe my body could innately taste the Hepatitis A, but more realistically it’s because I didn’t like the flavor of the variety of cherries used in the mix) so it stayed in my freezer untouched until it ended up on the news.
Now it’s still in my freezer until I can take it back to Costco and exchange it for something with a little less communicable disease. I don’t have any hepatitis symptoms and thankfully my kids and husband didn’t have any of the berry mix, but just to be safe I’m taking milk thistle herb (for liver support) and eating lots of coconut oil (for its anti-viral activity).
In the future, I will try to stick to flavoring my kombucha with fresh fruit that I have washed myself.
BE ALSO AWARE OF THE FOLLOWING:
As with any food, kombucha may run the risk of becoming contaminated due to improper preparation and storage. A clean environment, proper temperature and low pH are key ingredients for food safety.
If you see signs of common mold on top of the kombucha mixture (as in the picture below–yes, gross), which is distinctively different from the brown filaments on the underside of the cul- ture, dispose immediately of the entire contents from the jar and start over. Here are important steps to avoid this contamination problem:
- Clean hands, utensils and containers
- Use food-grade glass jars to store the mixture
- Keep the cultures covered and in a clean environment
- Find “scoby” (fermentation starter)
- Get a 1/2 gallon glass jar
- Boil 1/3 gallon of water
- Throw in 3/4 cup of molasses or sugar
- Remove boiling solution from stove and pour it into glass jar
- Add 2 black-tea bags and cover with jar lid (organic is best)
- Let it brew for 10 minutes and remove tea bags
- Cool to room temperature
- Add the “scoby”
- Add 1 to 2 cups of store-bought Kombucha
- Let it ferment for at least 5 days or more depending on taste
- Pour liquid into smaller glass jars, leaving the mother and daughter “scobys” in as starters for the next batch.