Do you love soda? Are you hooked on a one a day habit? Is the carbonation of soda what you are addicted to? Maybe you should give kombucha a try! Komba – what? Follow along as I walk you through the easy steps of how to make kombucha – a fizzy, refreshing, healthy substitute for soda.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Let me start by saying that kombucha is a straight-across-the-board wellness tonic. It is full of beneficial bacteria and enzymes that support most every bodily system. I’m not super at research like Katie is at WellnessMama so I will direct you to her page for an in-depth education on kombucha.
How to Make Kombucha
Making kombucha requires some planning ahead.
First, you will need to locate a “mother” or “mushroom.” These terms refer to the SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) that is required to start your kombucha and convert your sweetened tea into a powerhouse of beneficial enzymes and bacteria. If you poke around on Facebook I’m sure you can find someone who has an extra “mother” to give away. Otherwise, lots of people sell them on Amazon and Etsy. The great thing is that the kombucha mushroom grows a “baby” with every batch you brew. Soon you will have lots of “mothers” to give away!
Find an appropriate brewing container for your kombucha. It must be glass and have a wide enough top to get your hand through. I prefer gallon pickle jars that I get from restaurants or garage sales. Some people use a glass bowl. If you like a nicer looking jar check out this container that I have.
You will need some sort of cover that lets air in but not bugs. I like to use a coffee filter secured by a rubber band. If you have a larger bowl you can crisscross masking tape over the top and then lay cheese cloth over it and secure the edges. You could use fabric as well. Cut a piece out of an old sheet or tear up a tee shirt. I’m sure you have something laying around your house to cover your kombucha!
Or just skip these steps and grab this all-inclusive kombucha starter kit!
You will need to buy organic black tea. [There are lots of things I don’t buy organic because I don’t think it’s worth the extra money. Black tea is one I always buy organic because conventional teas can be treated with fluoride during processing.] I personally prefer a breakfast blend. Earl Gray works well if you like that strong bergamot flavor. Another kind I have experimented with is a black orange tea. Only use flavored black tea if you don’t want to experiment with other flavors after its fermented.
To save money you can buy tea in bulk (as I linked to above with the orange tea). A rough measurement is one tablespoon equals one tea bag. You just have to put the loose tea in a tea ball or just strain the tea after you’ve steeped it.
Next, find cane sugar. Yes, I’m telling you to go buy white sugar. [Yep, I’ve always got white sugar in my house, too.] Most sugar is made from sugar beets. Buy C&H brand or know for certain that your sugar is from sugar cane, not beets.
Locate non-chlorinated water. I am fortunate and have delicious well water. If your water is treated, just buy a gallon of spring water from the store.
How to Make Kombucha
Now that you have gathered all your supplies and ingredients you can make your kombucha. But don’t get too excited yet! You are still going to have to wait 14 days or more to taste the fruit of your efforts! It’s less on how to make kombucha and more on how to wait for kombucha. Hang in there!
First, bring your three quarts of non-chlorinated water to a boil in a stainless steel kettle. After it has boiled, remove it from the heat and stir in your one cup of cane sugar until it has dissolved. Put in the four tea bags without metal staples. Let this steep until it has cooled to room temperature.
Once the tea has cooled pour it into your brewing jar or bowl. Add in the 1/2 cup of kombucha from a previous batch (or from a bottle of unflavored store-bought kombucha). Place your SCOBY in the tea.
Cover your container with your cheese cloth or coffee filter or cover of choice and secure it.
Let it Grow
Set your tea in a warm, dark, somewhat ventilated area. I put mine in my hall closet. It stays warm and I open that door a couple times a week anyways so the air gets circulated.
One time I was staying in a house with a wood stove for heat. In order to keep my kombucha growing in a warm enough place I had to make my own warm, dark, ventilated area. I set my gallon pickle jar under a dining room chair nearby the wood stove. Then I covered the chair with a fleece blanket to make it dark. Let me tell you, you can really have some fun with this when people come over and wonder about your “baby” or “mother” or “SCOBY” growing under your special chair!
After 14 days you can taste your kombucha and see how tart it is. The longer you let it sit and ferment, the more sugar will get eaten up by the SCOBY. Your growing climate will determine how quickly or slowly it ferments so don’t be afraid to taste test more often. My preference is 14-20 days.
Harvest Your Kombucha
While the kombucha is fermenting, the SCOBY is forming another mushroom or “baby” on top. When you are ready to take your kombucha off, remove both SCOBYs. Store the SCOBYs submerged in kombucha in an airtight glass container in the fridge. They will last quite a while in there. If you are storing them in a jar, be sure to place a plastic wrap barrier over the top before putting the lid on. Metal has a tendency to kill SCOBYs.
You can strain the kombucha through a cheese cloth if you want to get out all the little stringy things. I personally don’t care so I don’t do this extra step. I just put a lid on my kombucha and store it in the fridge.
It is ready to sip to your enjoyment!
Make Flavored Kombucha
If you would like to experiment with different flavors of kombucha, now is the time. After you have removed the SCOBY, throw in about a cup of frozen or fresh berries of your choice. Put an airtight lid on and let this sit on your counter for three days. This is called the second ferment. Don’t forget about it! The kombucha will be building pressure over this time and you don’t want an explosion!
Many people use these individual brewing bottles for the second ferment. Just add a few berries, or half a mango, or a little bit of ginger root.
You can try different fruits and combinations if you like. Some people do dried fruits and others add in fresh herb combinations. My husband and I like the berry flavor so well that I haven’t branched out much. Why fix what ain’t broken!
[But this spring I’m anxious to try rhubarb flavored kombucha!]
After three days the fruit will have grown a SCOBY-like film and be mostly stuck together. I just fish this out with my hand.
The kombucha is ready!
Read More: How to Freeze Rhubarb
Sharing Kombucha with a Newbie
I love sharing my fruity, fizzy drink with guests! One tip that is super helpful for the newbie’s enjoyment is giving them a straw to drink out of. Kombucha smells horrid – like vinegar – but tastes delicious. Giving them a straw eliminates the vinegar-smell first impression. You should also serve it over ice. Serving it very cold helps it compare to soda.
Depending on the flavor of your kombucha, add a tablespoon of lemon juice or squeeze half a lemon into their glass. Think Arnie Palmer – half lemonade, half iced tea.
Occasionally I have a batch get a little ripe on me. Either I forget about it or the weather warms up and ferments it faster or I leave the berries in for too long. To take the bite out of over-fermented kombucha, just add some stevia. This natural sweetener is derived from a plant and will not spike your blood sugar! Just remember that a little bit goes a long ways.
So there you have it! Kombucha may seem super intimidating and difficult to make but it is quite the opposite. Plus, making it is way cheaper than buying it in the store. So gather your supplies and get this delicious, healthy, fizzy drink brewing!
Read More: How to Use Stevia Instead of Sugar
A light, fizzy drink similar to soda.
- 3 quarts non-chlorinated water
- 4 black tea bags with no metal staples
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup kombucha from previous batch
- 1 kombucha scoby
- Berries (optional)
Bring the water to a boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Add the tea bags (having removed any metal staples first) and let it sit until cooled to room temperature.
In a sterile, glass jar or bowl pour 1/2 a cup of kombucha from previous batch and pour in cooled tea. With clean hands, place the scoby in the tea.
Cover the container with a cloth or coffee filter (something to allow air in but not bugs) secured by tape or a rubber band.
Set the container in a dark, room temperature place with a bit of ventilation. [A closet works if it is warm and gets opened several times a week.]
Let it sit for 14 days. At this point you can taste test for preference. If it is still too sweet, let it sit a few more days to eat up the rest of the sugar.
After 14 Days
Remove the kombucha from the closet. By this time there should be another freshly grown scoby (kombucha baby) on top of the old scoby (mother).
Take off the covering and with clean hands remove the scobys and separate them if they are grown together. Store the scobys submerged in kombucha in a glass, airtight container in the fridge. Make sure the scobys are not in contact or near metal! If your container has a metal lid place a plastic wrap barrier over the top before putting the lid on. Metal kills a scoby even if it's not in direct contact.
If you want, you can strain the kombucha through cheese cloth to filter out the fine strings of "mother" left behind. I don't usually bother with this process because they all fall to the bottom and don't come out when you pour a glass. Near the end, I fish the strings out with a fork.
At this point you can store the kombucha in the fridge and enjoy!
Or you can do a second ferment with berries.
After removing the scobys from the kombucha, throw in a handful of fresh or frozen berries of your choice (about a cup). Put a tight lid on and let it sit on your counter for 3 days.
Three days later remove the berries. Place your flavored kombucha in the fridge and enjoy!
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