How to make Kombucha Tea
Kombucha! We love it! Most have heard the word, “Kombucha” but what is a SCOBY, why should I drink it and how do I make it home?
For all of my microbiologist and food safety professionals, this kitchen counter experiment sounds crazy, at first, but once you learn the many benefits of this delicious drink, it will grow on you. (no pun intended:) Kombucha is a fermented tea made from a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), starter tea, black tea and sugar. Yes, sugar! Gasp! Don’t worry this is food for our SCOBY. The fermenting process, more accurately, the respiration process uses yeast to cleave sugar and bacteria to produce the acidic quality of Kombucha tea. We will refer to it as fermentation because that is the more widely used term for the process. What’s after the fermentation process is sunshine in a glass, a yummy, slightly carbonated drink that is packed full of healthful benefits.
The benefits of Kombucha are:
Boil 12 cups of water, don’t worry this does not need to be exact. Add one cup of pure cane sugar. I like organic because that means less pesticides. Remove from heat and add 5 black tea bags. Wait for the tea to brew and to COMPLETELY cool. This is the second hardest part. The first being that you will want the 7-14 days to fly by so that you can taste your science project.
You will not want to use any metal spoons, ladles or utensils with your SCOBY. I have read many articles and blog posts that swear by cleaning all utensils and glass jars with vinegar before handling them. I do this about 75% of the time and the other 25% I use a normally washed jar and utensils. I have never noticed a difference.
After cooling, add your tea to a one-gallon glass jar and add the SCOBY and starter tea. Starter tea can be an original flavored kombucha from your local co-op, from your past batch of tea or from a friend. Add at least one cup. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Store your kombucha in a dark place for 7-14 days.
Now wait! But how long?
There are a couple of different factors that will affect the length of time your kombucha will take to ferment. Light and temperature are big ones. The optimal temperature for your SCOBY is 74-84 F. Fermenting time will be longer in cooler months than summer months. When you start to think, “What is that smell?” Your tea could be ready for bottling. The smell is acidic but slightly sweet. If you like your tea more acidic tasting you may try leaving it a few more days. If you would like more carbonation, adding fresh fruit and doing a second fermentation process may be a great option for you.
Once you are ready to bottle your kombucha, take a quick look into the jar. There should be two SCOBY in your jar. A mother and baby SCOBY. Each time you brew kombucha, you will end up with an additional SCOBY. I keep them so I can give them to friends or start another batch of tea. I place them in a mason jar and cover them with kombucha. This is called a SCOBY hotel.
A SCOBY hotel can be stored in the refrigerator for many, many months. I loosen the lid of my mason jar so that the CO2 does not buildup inside of the jar. Refrigeration will cause the SCOBY to go dormant and grow at a very slow pace. If your SCOBY hotel gets crowded you can dehydrate them and make dog treats. Your puppies will love you for it!
To bottle your tea, filter the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and fill your jars, leaving about an inch of room. If you wish to do a second fermentation to achieve a higher level of carbonation, add fresh fruit, cover with a coffee filter and leave on the counter (not in the sunlight or heat) for 2-3 additional days.
If you choose not to do a second fermentation, THIS IS THE MOMENT YOU HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR ALL ALONG. Enjoy your kombucha and store extras in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to save a cup or two of your kombucha to be the starter tea for your next batch.
P.S. We would love to hear and see how your kombucha adventure is going! Share your thoughts and photos on your favorite social media site with #wholesomekombucha.