Interest in kombucha is rapidly growing into a multibillion-dollar industry in cultures around the world. The effervescence and distinctive flavors of this age-old beverage have flooded the market as more people are tapping into the craze.
It is now common to see kombucha in grocery stores and juice bars, where you can find infinite varieties. However, you can create your own perpetual artisanal brew source for the cost of a few store-bought bottles.
Making kombucha at home is surprisingly simple as it calls for only a few expensive supplies. You will need:
Sanitize your equipment to avoid introducing harmful bacteria that would spoil your culture and make you sick. Use vinegar, a weak bleach solution of one tablespoon bleach to one gallon of water, or a barware sanitizer on your container and stirring utensil. Allow your supplies to air dry before brewing. If using cloth, machine wash with hot water.
The ingredient list for homemade kombucha is small as well. To make one quart of kombucha tea, use 2-3 cups distilled water, ¼ cup organic cane sugar, two tea bags or 1 ½ teaspoon loose tea leaves, ½ cup starter tea, and an active SCOBY. Some experts advise that apple cider vinegar and other kinds of vinegar may not be acidic enough for making kombucha tea.
Sugar feeds the SCOBY and produces consistent results with brewing kombucha. Sugar substitutes may cause your tea not to ferment properly, and they may harm your culture. Many experienced kombucha makers advise against using honey, molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar, agave nectar, powdered sugar, stevia, aspartame, monk fruit extract, Splenda, Equal, or other artificial sweeteners. Some experts maintain that pasteurized honey is a viable option, though, so feel free to experiment.
Tea leaves provide caffeine, nitrogen, and theanine that feed the SCOBY. Unflavored black, green, oolong or white teas can make excellent kombucha with the flavor and benefits it is famous for. Flavored or scented teas contain compounds that may harm your culture.
Herbal teas such as peppermint, hibiscus, or chamomile do not contain the nutrients that your SCOBY needs to thrive. Herbs have natural oils which may negatively affect the culture as well. Organic teas will help you avoid exposing your culture to pesticides that may diminish its health and performance.
The SCOBY, a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, is the flat, leathery culture that ferments sweetened tea into kombucha. You can purchase a dehydrated SCOBY online that usually comes with detailed instructions for starting your tea. You may be able to find someone who makes kombucha and has extra SCOBY. If so, be sure to get at least half a cup starter tea with the culture to brew your first quart batch.
You can try growing your own SCOBY from store-bought kombucha if you are willing to wait. Brew one cup of your preferred tea. Add 1-2 tablespoons sugar while the water is still hot; mix and cool to room temperature. Pour a bottle of raw, unflavored kombucha and your cooled tea into a glass container. Cover the jar with a coffee filter and secure with a tight rubber band.
Set the container out of direct sunlight in a warm spot for about a week. By that time, you may notice a clear film forming on the surface of the liquid. This baby SCOBY will become opaque and thick over time. Wait about a month until the new culture is at least ¼-inch thick before using it to brew kombucha tea.
Bring your water to boil in a large pot. Once the water is boiling, remove the pot from heat and add sugar and tea. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Let the sweetened tea steep for 15 minutes, then discard the tea bags or leaves. Allow the mixture about an hour to cool to room temperature.
Once your tea has completely cooled, pour it into your brewing container. Add your SCOBY along with ½ cup starter tea. Cover your container with cloth, securing the cloth with a rubber band. Leave the kombucha to sit for 7-10 days, then taste test to determine if it has reached the flavor and carbonation you desire.
Less time typically results in a weaker, slightly sweet kombucha. A longer fermentation time allows the tea to develop a stronger, sour taste. A warm environment usually causes the kombucha to ferment in less time.
Once your kombucha has obtained the fizz and strength you like, it is time to remove it from the container and place into sanitized glass bottles with non-metal caps. You can add flavorings to the tea at this point because your SCOBY is safe in the brewing container with at least one cup of kombucha. Leave at least an inch of space from the top of the bottles to allow for carbonation. Refrigerate for another day to chill and allow more fermentation.
Use high-quality glass bottles or containers to store your fresh kombucha tea. Beer bottles are too thin to contain the carbon dioxide created by the brew. Rounded swing top bottles and glass bottles with tight-fitting plastic lids are suitable options. Burp your bottles every other day to release excess pressure by opening the lids then quickly recapping them.
Creating and enjoying your own batch of kombucha can be an invigorating experience. Once you become familiar with the techniques involved, the simplicity will amaze you. However, caution is essential to keep you and your culture healthy.
Brewing in ceramic containers could cause lead to leach and contaminate the brew. Unsanitary equipment or conditions could expose the tea to mold and pathogenic bacteria. Constant contact with metal can diminish the flavor of your brew and weaken the culture over time.