If you haven’t tried this tasty beverage yet, you’re in luck. Many people love their soda, beer, wine, coffee, and tea and the thought of giving up one or all of these is unimaginable. After you taste kombucha, it might seem more doable.
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made from tea, sugar, and a a kombucha mushroom. Kombucha is considered to be an ancient elixir of life lauded for it’s restorative and vitality generating qualities. It is loaded with probiotics and there is no sugar or caffeine left in the finished product. The scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) feeds off of the sugar and caffeine and produces this slightly fizzy probiotic beverage as an end product. It smells vaguely like a sweet beer and it can sometimes have a low alcohol content as a result of fermentation. If you buy this at the store, it will run you anywhere from $2-$4 per 16 ounce bottle. If you make it at home, you will spend cents per bottle and I promise, it will taste just as good.
There is somewhat of a learning curve when it comes to kombucha brewing, so I will try to save you the trial and error that I experienced and give you the cheapest, most nutritious, and fool-proof way to make kombucha at home. I got over $30 worth of kombucha out of 1 batch!
I bought these 2 gallon containers at Wal-Mart for under $10 a piece. It is important to ferment kombucha in glass containers as the scoby will eat away at plastic or metal resulting in plastic and metal in your tea. These lids are perfect because they keep out bugs but allow the mixture to breathe. If you don’t have an appropriate lid for your container, you can use cheesecloth and a rubber band just as effectively. Start by filling your 2 gallon container with 1 1/2 gallons of pure water. Next, put 3 heaping Tablespoons of organic Yerba Mate tea in a tea ball or a canvas teabag. Drop teabag into water and let it brew overnight.
I like yerba mate for several reasons. First, it has nutritional benefits that are not found in traditional black and green teas. I like to brew it unheated to maintain these nutritional benefits that would otherwise be lost by boiling the water. If you want to use caffeinated black or green tea, that will work as well. The tea will look almost black when it is done brewing. Remove the teabag and stir in 3-4 cups of organic raw cane sugar or sucanat. The flavor and the minerals in sucanat make it my favorite to use and I have been using it with great success! Make sure to use wooden utensils for stirring as the scoby will leech heavy metals from stainless steel spoons into your brew.
To obtain a scoby, you have several options. You can buy one online. Kombucha enthusiasts often give them away on Craigslist or other websites dedicated to this glorious beverage. Or, you can grow your own! You can pour a bottle of original, unflavored, raw, organic kombucha (I have had great success with High Country brand) into the tea and sugar mixture, and in about two weeks, you’ll have a scoby and your first batch of kombucha. To speed things up a bit, you can brew 2 cups of strong yerba mate, add 4 heaping Tablespoons of the raw cane sugar or sucanat, let cool to room temperature and add 1 bottle of raw organic unflavored kombucha to the mix. Cover with chhesecloth and place in a warm dark place for 3 days. When the film on the top is about 1/4 inch thick, it is ready to go into your tea and sugar mixture along with the liquid contents of the jar. From there, it should take about 5-7 days depending on temperature to get your final product. Taste it. If it is too sweet for you, let it go another day. Taste it everyday until the sweetness/tang/fizz is to your liking.
This is what a kombucha scoby looks like when it is finished with it’s first brew. If you have discolored mold growing on your scoby, than it was either over/under fed, the jar or utensils were contaminated, or the temperature was to low for proper brewing. If the taste is bad, discard and try again. To start your next batch, pour off the liquid into jars or bottles (I refill the kombucha bottles from the store bought kombucha), saving about 1 quart of kombucha to start your next brew. Refrigerate immediately. Brew another 1 1/2 gallons of yerba mate ahead of time so you don’t hurt your scoby. I like to remove the scoby from the jar, place it in another clean container with the reserve kombucha liquid, rinse out the jar with water (and vinegar if necessary), dry with a clean cloth (no paper towels) and then add my 1 1/2 gallons of yerba mate, 3-4 cups of raw cane sugar or sucanat, and then add the reserve kombucha liquid. Stir. Carefully place the scoby on top of the new brew. It is okay if the scoby sinks to the bottom of the jar. Allow to brew 3-7 days (it will likely take less time on the second batch then on the first because you will be using a mature “mother” scoby). Taste daily to evaluate taste and then repeat the process.
I like to use multiple jars and have a continuous supply of kombucha. It may take a little practice to get into the rhythm, but before you know it you’ll have more kombucha than you can drink and you’ll be giving scobys away!
To make kombucha vinegar, add another 4 cups of sugar to your kombucha when it has reached the “drinkable” stage and let it brew another 2 weeks. This will produce some very potent vinegar for your skin or counters, or for making salad dressings (it may need to be diluted because it is very potent).
For flavored kombucha, put a small amount of juice in the bottom of you jars or bottles that you will pour your finished kombucha in (examples: ginger, pinapple, apple, lemon, lime, use your imagination), then fill the jar with kombucha and refrigerate.
Be sure to use clean jars and utensils. Do not use bleach or soap to clean, distilled white vinegar and/ or baking soda should be sufficient and won’t kill the scoby.
Every time you brew a new batch of kombucha, a new scoby will form. It will have to be removed for the next batch (unless you are brewing vinegar). Share your love of kombucha with others by giving them away to friends, family, or strangers in your neighborhood. Giving to others is good for your health too!