I introduced my beloved Kombucha a few weeks ago in this Kombucha 101 post. Kombucha is bubbly, tart drink made from fermented tea. You can buy it at natural food stores and at many large grocery stores, especially those with a natural food section. I have yet to see it in a Super Target or Walmart, but in the DFW and Austin/San Antonio areas, I’ve found it in HEB (the local chain in south and central Texas), Whole Food’s Market (obviously), Central Market, Market Street, Greenfields and Sprouts.
At $3 a bottle, a kombucha habit can get pricy. I had seen bloggers write about making their own, but I was generally intimidated by the thought of something fermenting on my counter. Which is highly ironic considering I used to do product development for a yogurt company and have had plenty of food fermenting and microbiology exposure. Sometimes I think that I think too much. I’ll have to think about that….
I’m on the RealFood San Antonio yahoo group (which can be a good resource for finding local eggs, produce and relevant local food info) and saw a message come through about a Westin Price Foundation meeting that would feature a How to Make Your Own Kombucha lesson, complete with kombucha mothers (or SCOBYs) handed out. I’m not exactly a Westin A. Price follower, but I was definitely interested in the kombucha talk and the chance to get a scoby.
I attended, asked at least 15 questions (14 more than anyone else there), took notes and came home with my slimy little scoby. My husband was quite horrified by the sight of the scoby and asked how I could use something like that from someone I don’t even know. Fair question. I just ignored it.
I’ve been using the following method and have had good success so far.
1. Gather Supplies. You will need:
- a large jar – enough to hold a gallon of liquid – I use a sun tea jar
- a large pot for boiling water
- tea bags
- white sugar
- the scoby
- and some kombucha, either from the last batch or from a store-bought bottle of raw, unflavored kombucha.
2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil.
3. Remove from heat and add tea bags. I’ve been adding 2 black tea bags and 2 green tea bags. That’s my top secret blend….
4. After about 5 minutes of brewing, remove tea bags
4. Add in 1 cup of white sugar. Do not use sugar substitutes. The yeast will not like it or you.
5. Stir in sugar and let the sweetened tea mixture cool to room temperature. Do not rush this step. The yeast in the scoby can be killed by heat, so you want your tea to be all the way cool. I let mine sit for 3-5 hours.
6. When tea is completely cool, add in scoby and 1.5 – 2 cups of unflavored kombucha.
the scoby will usually float up to the top
7. Cover with a cloth or paper towel (air needs to be able to circulate). Let sit in a quiet, slightly dark place for 6-8 days. (Feel free to be jealous of the quiet, dark existence of the kombucha. I am) I let mine sit on a counter in our dining room that doesn’t get any direct sunlight.
looks like a shepherd in the church Christmas pageant…..
8. Start tasting for doneness around day 6. I use a non-metal spoon and scoop a little bit out. Do not put the tasting spoon back into the pot until it’s been washed, as you don’t want bacteria from your mouth to contaminate your brew.
You are tasting for a brew that is less sweet tea and more tart, bubbly, slightly vinegar-ish tasting. If it still tastes more like sweet tea, give it another couple of days to ferment.
When the kombucha is finished:
9. If you want a flavored kombucha, pour the finished kombucha into bottles, flavor, cover with paper towels and let ferment for another couple of days. Save 2 cups of unflavored kombucha, along with the scoby (which will have grown and likely developed a ‘baby scoby) for your next batch. See below for more information.
I’ve done two flavors so far: ginger and cranberry. For ginger, I simply drop in 1-2 sugared ginger cubes (that I get in the bulk section of Whole Foods). For cranberry, I cook frozen cranberries with water and sugar, strain and pour the cooled sweetened cranberry ‘juice’ into the bottle.
10. If you are doing the second fermentation, you will get another little mini scoby forming on the top of your bottle. Simply remove it, put on the lid and put the finished bottle into your fridge. Consume when cold and be really proud of your home-brewed kombucha.
Those red specs are cranberry seeds. Clearly I need to work on my straining skills. Among other things.
11. If you aren’t flavoring, you will pour the finished, unflavored kombucha into bottles/jars and save about 2 cups of kombucha for your next batch, along with the scoby.
12. If your scoby has formed a double layer, gently separate with very clean hands. You now have a second scoby that you can pass on, use to have two brews going at once or to save in the back of your fridge. If you are saving the scoby, make sure to cover it with some unflavored kombucha so it won’t dry out.
13. Repeat process to keep you with a steady supply of fresh kombucha. Enjoy the $3 a day savings!
- Store the finished kombucha in glass jars. I use clean, empty bottles from store-bought kombucha, mainly because they fit in my cup holders better than mason jars.
- This recipe will get you about 4 16-oz bottles worth of finished kombucha.
- The scoby will develop some interesting looking spots. From what I’ve read (and I’ve read a lot), the only cause for concern is fuzzy looking mold, the type you’d see on bread. Brown spots are normal.
I’ve found the Food Renegade website to be really helpful, especially these two posts:
How to Brew Kombucha – Double Fermentation Method
How to Grow a Kombucha Scoby
Some blogging friends and their kombucha posts:
Sarah Learns- Brewing Kombucha
Cotter Crunch – Kombucha Tutorial Part One
What questions do you have?
Have you made your own kombucha? Or does the thought of handling a scoby creep you out? :)