It seems the health world is head over heels for fermented probiotic foods – and with great reason. They’re good for you! One of the most popular probiotic foods is kombucha — a fermented sweet tea with a long history. But have you ever wondered how to make kombucha at home?
Here’s a refresher on kombucha as a health drink and a recipe to make your own!
What’s In Kombucha?
Kombucha is a slightly tangy, fizzy, probiotic drink that’s fermented from sweet tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. Flavors can also be added by the addition of various fruits and vegetables.
People in Asia and Europe have consumed this drink for centuries and today in the U.S. you can buy it almost everywhere.
But kombucha is best when it’s homemade, as some of the varieties sold in stores are pasteurized – so they’ve lost most of their probiotic powers.
As far as probiotic foods go, kombucha is magical to watch during its fermentation period. During the brewing process, the bacteria and yeast grow into a large, mushroom-like “mother” culture, known as a SCOBY. This SCOBY imparts a host of beneficial bacteria and yeasts, B vitamins, and antioxidants into the tea.1
The Kombucha SCOBY
Now, the kombucha SCOBY isn’t particularly attractive (it looks like a big, slimy mushroom). SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast, meaning that the bacteria and yeast strains live in harmony, supporting each other. Together, they build a thick, gummy, biofilm known as the “mother.”2
Not all SCOBYs contain the exact same strains of bacteria and yeast, but they all tend to act in a similar way, by multiplying themselves continuously. Because the SCOBY is self-perpetuating, it will always form new starter colonies – which you can give away to your friends and family to start their own mother. It’s truly a zero-waste process.
A SCOBY is a living entity, so it needs food to survive. That food is going to be your sweet tea.
When a SCOBY is placed into sweet tea it sets about “eating” all of the sugars. The result is an increase in:
- Friendly bacteria and yeasts
- Carbon dioxide (which gives kombucha its fizz), and
- Ethanol (alcohol). Some of this ethanol is converted into acetic acid (the tang), but trace amounts may still be found.3
How To Make Kombucha
So, now that you know a little more about this incredible drink, here’s how to make it!
Makes one quart
- ¼ cup of white sugar
- 2-3 cups of spring water (you don’t want minerals in your kombucha)
- 2 black tea bags
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar or tea from a previous batch
- A living, activated SCOBY sourced from a former batch. You can also buy dehydrated SCOBY online and bring it to life.
- Combine hot water and sugar in a large glass jar, and stir until sugar dissolves. The water should be just hot enough to be able to steep tea.
- Steep your tea bags in the mix.
- Cool the mixture to around 68-85ºF. The longer the tea bags are left in, the stronger your tea will taste. Remove them after about 10-15 minutes.
- Add starter tea (or distilled white vinegar).
- Add SCOBY.
- Cover with cloth and a rubber band, or a custom brewing cap.
- Keep the jar at room temperature (68-85°F), untouched, and out of direct sunlight for 7 to 10 days. Then begin tasting the mix daily. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that tastes nice to you, it’s ready.
- Pour the kombucha (strain if necessary) into a bottle for refrigerating. Consume within a month.
Save the SCOBY, and some liquid from the bottom of the jar (starter tea), to use for your next batch.
Note: The longer your kombucha ferments, the tangier and less sweet it becomes.
Storing your SCOBY
If you’re not ready to go straight into your next batch of kombucha, make a fresh batch anyway to store your SCOBY for up to three weeks. This batch will not be drinkable (it’s too vinegary after fermenting that long) but it will keep your SCOBY alive and well.
For longer periods, do the same, but store the SCOBY in the fridge, changing the liquid every 4 to 6 weeks.
How to Make Kombucha: Ferment With Care
Now, there are some rare but potentially toxic dangers associated with kombucha. The risk involves improper preparation over-fermentation or contamination.
Always take great care to be hygienic with your SCOBY, and carefully clean all of your equipment with soap (nothing anti-bacterial) and hot water. You can also rinse with distilled white vinegar to help keep things sterile.
It’s also a good idea to brew in the smallest quantity that you actually need. Additionally, be sure to stick to the ideal fermentation timeline.4
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