I remember the first time I heard of kombucha. I was at a friend’s house and they had multiple gallon-sized jars of different colored liquids on the counter top. And each jar had a thick, weird-looking, pancakey-type thing in the bottom. My friends tried to talk me into tasting some of it. I did not.
Fast forward a few years, and somewhere along the line I’d given the strange stuff a try (I sampled a store-bought kombucha long before trying homemade!), and became a fan! Eventually I decided to try making my own. This is a fairly easy process that I will outline in this post.
Homemade kombucha is a bit more unpredictable than store-bought, but I like to make my own food, and I especially like to save money by making my own!
What Exactly Is Kombucha?
If you are at all familiar with the health and nutrition world (and since you are reading this, I am going to guess that you are at least a little bit!), you’ve probably seen and tasted kombucha at some point. It is a fermented sweetened tea that may or may not be flavored with added ingredients.
Kombucha, like most fermented foods (sourdough, yogurt, kefir) is made with a starter. The starter here is called symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast; typically shortened to scoby, which is pronounced just like it’s spelled!
The scoby is added to the sweetened tea (I use a mixture of green and black tea for mine) and then allowed to sit in a warm spot for a couple weeks. It will develop a film on top, which can become the scoby for your next batch. After two weeks, the kombucha can be drunk as-is; flavored with fruit or fruit juice and drunk or allowed to ferment further; or just left for another week or two to ferment until the desired level is reached.
Depending on the kombucha, some is more bubbly and carbonated-like than others. Some of the brands intentionally carbonate theirs. I like to let it ferment a bit longer than is necessary when making my own, because I like the extra bubbles. Not everyone does, however; and it’s still good for you either way.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Kombucha?
Kombucha, or “mushroom tea” as it is sometimes called, it chock-full of probiotics. That is the main draw it has to the health and nutrition world. The good bacteria also make it easier for your body to fight the bad bacteria in your system.
Kombucha is also thought to have a good source of antioxidants. However, it is possible that the antioxidants are from the green tea that is used to make it rather than the fermentation process itself.
I personally enjoy kombucha enough that I could drink it every day! I love watermelon or cranberry-flavored kombucha especially. But, because of the sugar content, I limit it. It is fermented sugar, so much of the sugar actually gets eaten by the bacteria in the process. It does still have a pretty high sugar content though. So find some flavors you like, and drink in moderation!
How to Make Your Own Kombucha
If you want to try your hand at homemade kombucha, but aren’t quite sure if it will turn out good or even edible, you are not alone! The first few times I made it, I was almost afraid to try it because I didn’t know if it would even be safe. Watching sweet tea basically spoil before your very eyes can be a pretty weird experience! Added to the fact that it is a very odd-looking sweet tea, with a big, scary, slimy fungus-looking thing hanging out in the jar! Do I really want to eat THAT?!
Or maybe you (or your family) are concerned with how your homemade product will taste. I will be the first to say, homemade kombucha does not always taste great. As a matter of fact, sometimes it is rather lackluster, while other times, it tastes amazing! Some of this has to do with the fermentation process. How long (and at what temperature) the fermentation happens affects taste and fizziness. What flavors you add obviously plays a part as well.
Overcoming The Homemade Kombucha Fear
My homemade kombucha has always tasted pretty good. Sometimes it has even been delicious! And the only time it was unsafe to consume was one summer when it sat in the hot, direct sunlight and ended up molding. Yuck! Do not do that, whatever you do! I had to throw it all away and could not reuse the scoby.
There are some really helpful guides to making kombucha at home. If you are concerned about the very few risks involved with producing a safe fermented product on your own, please reference them.
Or if you are a bit more adventurous and ready to get started, then here we go!
First, you will need to ensure you have everything you will need for the process. Find a gallon-sized glass jar (it must be glass) that is sterilized (use white vinegar and put through the dishwasher). Used pickle jars are great for this. Just be sure they are completely clean.
You will also need a rubber band and a coffee filter to cover the jar with.
As far as ingredients, get some black and green tea bags. I use about eight of each for a gallon of kombucha, but you really only need half that. I like mine strong flavored. Play with it and see what tastes best to you!
You will need a cup of sugar and a nice-sized scoby, as well as about two cups of prepared kombucha to get started. The prepared kombucha should be unflavored. Also make sure it is true kombucha and not some type of drink with kombucha added to it.
Scobys are best obtained from a friend, because you have a good idea of how they were produced and how well they work. I like to start with a thick (about ¾ inch) piece that is nice and light-colored and healthy-looking.
If you wish to flavor your kombucha, you will need a couple cups of fruit juice or some pureed fruit. However, you don’t need to worry about this step for another week at least!
How To Make Your Own Kombucha
Start by brewing your tea (use about one quart water). Let it brew for several minutes.It will be very strong. Then stir in the sugar until dissolved. Be sure to use a wooden spoon; avoid using anything metal unless it is stainless.
Pour two quarts of cold water into your gallon jar; then slowly, very slowly so as not to break the jar, add the hot tea.
Then, carefully place the scoby into the jar. It will probably sink to the bottom. Top off with the prepared kombucha, then secure the coffee filter over the jar’s mouth with a rubber band.
Set in a warm location where it will not be disturbed and let sit for a week. The best temperature is between 68 and 78 degrees, but you can go slightly warmer for a stronger-tasting product (which will also culture more quickly).
Check Your Kombucha At One Week
After a week, check your kombucha. Taste a small spoonful and guage the bubbles. If you like it how it is, put it in the fridge and consume at your pleasure! Be sure to remove the scobys (the old one as well as the new thin one that has developed on top of the jar) and sae them for your next batch. If you will not be making that batch immediately, Place the scobys in a jar and cover with kombucha, and store in the fridge.
Flavoring The Kombucha
At this point you can also flavor your kombucha. Add the juice or fruit and let ferment an additional week. I usually remove the scobys first, but you can leave them in if you want it culture more quickly.
I also like to put the kombucha into individual bottles at this point (you will have to remove the scoby or cut it into small pieces and divide among the jars in order to do this).
At the end of the week, your kombucha will be ready!
What To Do If The Kombucha Isn’t Strong Enough Or Bubbly Enough
If your kombucha is not as strong as you liked after the first week, let it sit another week and then consume or flavor. I personally let mine sit for two weeks, then flavor, then let sit another two. This makes it more flavorful as well as more fizzy. Adding a touch of grated ginger also helps with fizziness!
Start Your Next Batch!
Meanwhile, if you want to have a steady supply of kombucha, start another batch. I like to start a new one with the scobys I remove when flavoring the kombucha. I do it the same day so as not to run out of kombucha.
I would love to hear about your homemade kombucha experiences! Is this your first time? What are your favorite flavors? Let me know!