Sweet, tart, and slightly tangy, kombucha tea is the latest craze among the people-that-like-to-make-fun-things crowd.
Made with with tea, water, sugar, and a living culture called a “SCOBY”, it’s fun to make, tasty, and full of wonderful probiotics.
For a peek into this latest trend, I grabbed my smartphone and begged a friend to let me sit in on the process. Keep reading for history, tips, and a comprehensive how-to guide.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented drink made with sugar, tea, bacteria, and yeast. According to legend, it was first made using the Kombucha mushroom during the Tsin Dynasty in 212 BC.
Some people say that it helps with digestion, acid reflux, immunity, joint problems, and even cancer. While the medical community has been skeptical of these claims, it’s definitely tasty and ridiculously fun to make.
When you’re brewing kombucha you’re actually cultivating a living organism known as a SCOBY—a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. This makes the mixture ferment. It looks like this.
Here it is in action.
So now that you know where it comes from, let’s get cooking!
How to Brew It
First you’ll need a “mother SCOBY” to start the process. You can cultivate your own from store bought kombucha, but it’s easier to get one from a friend.
You’ll also need: 3 1/2 quarts water, 1 cup white sugar, 8 black tea bags, 2 cups starter tea from your last batch/vinegar, and jars for your finished product.
- Make the Base– Bring your water to boil and add the sugar until it dissolves. Drop in your tea bags and let them steep until the water is cool. My friend used an ice bath to cool it faster.
- Put in Starter Tea– Save a few cups of kombucha every time you make a batch. If it’s your first time, you can get kombucha from the store (make sure it’s unflavored) or use vinegar.
- Add SCOBY & Put in Big Jar– Take out your tea bags and transfer your mix into a one gallon jar. Place your SCOBY in the mixture and then seal it up tight.
- Let it Sit– The waiting begins. It should take around a week. Taste it after about five days to see how it’s doing.
- Start a New Batch– Making kombucha is an on-going beautiful cycle. In the middle of the process, you’ll have to start a new batch so you can transfer your SCOBY to a new home when your tea is done.
- Move Your SCOBY- A new SCOBY is formed with each batch. Take out your original or “mother” SCOBY and put in with with the next mixture. As for the baby, put it in a clean tupperware container for the time being. Be sure to use it within seven days or it will die.
- Bottle Your Product: Put your finished tea in glass bottles (or old salsa containers in our case) and let them sit in a room temperature environment with no direct sunlight. It’ll take one to three days for them to get carbonated. Once they’re done, sip and enjoy.
No matter what stage you’re at, be sure to handle your SCOBY with care when you transport it. Below, you’ll see my kombucha brewing friend showing off the delicate touch every brewer should posses.
Final Advice: Don’t Kill Your SCOBY
Hygiene is of the utmost importance is in the process. Not only can germs kill off your SCOBY, brewing kombucha in unsafe conditions could lead to some pretty nasty infections.
To be safe, keep your area clean and wash your hands with vinegar.
You may also want to sterilize your jars in the oven and keep everything covered tight in an undisturbed, clean location.
Be sure to use white sugar in your mixture because it’s food for your precious SCOBY.
While it’s possible to use alternatives, honey can easily kill your bacteria.
Most of all, be sure your tea is completely cool before you add the SCOBY. The extra heat will kill it.
Now It’s Your Turn
Have you made kombucha recently? How do you make it work? Let us know! Leave a comment below!