Kombucha has been all-the-rage for a while now. Why? Other than it’s unique taste, (you either love it or you hate it), it actually has so many added health benefits for your gut!
What is Kombucha?
Simply put, Kombucha is fermented tea. If you’re familiar with the canning or beer brewing process, then it’s similar to that. You take a bunch of brewed tea (I prefer black tea), add a SCOBY, wait 21-30 days, add your flavor(s) of choice, and then wait another 7-10 days. The longer you let your Kombucha ferment, the stronger and more effervescent your tea will be.
What is a SCOBY?
Honestly, it looks like a giant placenta. But the SCOBY is what makes Kombucha, Kombucha. SCOBY stands for: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. Which is exactly what it is – a home to bacteria and yeast that turns your tea into your fizzy Kombucha drink. The SCOBY floats at the top of your brewed tea during the fermenting process, and it even protects the liquid from unwanted bacteria and matter floating around the air.
The picture above is a “mother SCOBY” and a “baby SCOBY”. The baby is what is produced under the mother during the fermentation process. If I have a really healthy, good-looking mother SCOBY, I’ll hold on to it. But typically, I would add the baby/new SCOBY to my next batch. This is why it’s so easy once you start brewing your own Kombucha…because it’s a continuous cycle once you have good SCOBYs! *NOTE: When you aren’t using your SCOBY in the fermenting process, you should always store it with reserved Kombucha liquid (about 1 cup). I like to keep mine in the fridge, but I’ve read that it doesn’t necessarily need to be refrigerated.
Once you have a SCOBY (you can get one from Amazon or from a friend!), then you can start the process. You also need to get ahold of some kind of glass gallon jar like this one. You will also need some smaller glass jars to put your fermented tea in once it is done and flavored. Swing-top bottles or recycled Kombucha jars are perfect!
Fill your container up with water, and then pour that into a large pot (I know my container holds a gallon, so I fill that up first so I know how much to pour in the pot).
Once your water comes to a boil, remove from heat and add your tea (bags or loose leaf). Honestly, I use a cheap black tea. But you can literally use whatever you want here. If you’re using tea bags, use about 6-8 bags per gallon of water.
Once you add your tea to your hot water, let it steep for about 10 minutes. Then add 1 cup of sugar (I’ve used granulated, organic, and coconut sugar and they all work great). Stir really well until you don’t see any sugar left on the bottom of the pot.
Once your sweet tea has cooled a bit, you can pour it into your large glass jar. You’ll want to make sure it’s completely cooled before you add your SCOBY to prevent damaging it. Once you’ve added your SCOBY, put some cheese cloth or coffee filter on top of your jar with a rubber band (or anything else that allows the tea to breath – NOT A SEALED LID!!). Store your jar in a room that is not exposed to direct sunlight and stays between approximately 65-75 degrees! I put mine in our pantry.
Flavoring your Fermented Tea
After 21-30 days of letting your SCOBY do its magic, you can flavor your Kombucha however you’d like! You know that your SCOBY did a good job if:
- You can smell a strong, vinegar smell.
- The SCOBY expanded/grew across the top of the tea.
- The SCOBY should look thicker, larger, and have a “baby SCOBY” underneath.
Take your SCOBY out (I keep both the mother and baby SCOBYs if the mother still looks healthy!) and place it in a zip loc bag with a cup of your new tea for reserve.
Using a funnel, pour the fermented tea into your individual glass containers (I like swing top bottles like these from Ikea or even old Kombucha bottles with a tight seal!) Fill your glass containers about 1/2 – 3/4 of the way full to leave room for your fruit/herbs/juice.
This is where you can get creative. I love pairing fruit with some kind of herb (strawberry/mint, strawberry/rosemary, ginger/mint, apple/cinnamon, etc.) But, if it’s winter and you don’t have any real fruit/herbs handy, juice works just fine! This last time I went for a fall taste so I used a spiced pear juice and added cardamom.
The Second Ferment
We like our Kombucha really effervescent (AKA more bubbly/fizzy), so we do a second ferment with our fermented tea and flavor. This ferment can be much shorter, about 7-10 days. It might seem like a long time to wait, but once you’re on a continuous cycle, you will probably just be finishing up your previous batch when this batch becomes ready!
When you are ready to enjoy your Kombucha, OPEN WITH CAUTION, especially if you let the tea ferment for as long as I do.
Can You Make Sugar-Free Kombucha?
I haven’t tried it, but this is a big question from a lot of you. My guess is: NO you cannot do Kombucha without adding sugar of some kind. The sugar is what allows the SCOBY to react and do its fermenting job. So my guess is that if you aren’t using sugar, your Kombucha will basically taste like an un-carbonated, vinegary La Croix.
With that being said, adding the fruit juice and/or real fruit to your fermented tea will increase the effervescent effect in your Kombucha. Which I think is a good thing!!
If you’ve mastered a way to do sugar-free Kombucha, let me know!
Well, that’s it! This might seem like an overwhelming task and process, but I promise, it isn’t! And you only get better at it the more you do it. My 3 year old also loves it and has been drinking it since he was about a year and a half! It’s so great for your gut and a good way to wake up in the morning if you’re trying to cut back on coffee.
Let me know your favorite Kombucha flavors in the comments or ask any questions!