You’ve seen Kombucha lining health store aisles, maybe mispronounced it a few times and probably tried it at least once…but what exactly is it and why is it so popular? Kombucha (Kom-booch-uh) is a fermented tea that originated in Northeast China around 220 B.C. and was revered for its health-boosting and gut-healing properties. It’s made by mixing black tea (or green tea) and sugar, then fermenting the blend into a fizzy, probiotic-packed wellness drink. Fermentation, by definition, is the chemical breakdown of a substance by bacteria, yeasts or other microorganisms.
For Kombucha, fermentation happens through “SCOBY”—an acronym for a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The SCOBY is part of the brewing process and a new layer of SCOBY will grow on the surface of the original used to begin the brew. For your first batch, you need to purchase a SCOBY from a reputable source. Once added to the tea-sugar blend, SCOBY breaks down most of the sugar in the mixture. The batch is left to ferment for 1-2 weeks and is then transferred to bottles where it sits for another 1-2 weeks to encourage carbonation. During bottling, different flavors are infused to create a refreshing, bubbly, health beverage. Kombucha is popular because it combines the health benefits of tea with those of probiotics and healthy bacteria!
Health Benefits of Kombucha
- Packed with antioxidants, enzymes and organic acids such as acetic, caprylic and more
- Contains B-Vitamins such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B12
- May reduce heart disease risk
- Improves digestion and supports a healthy gut
- Promotes detoxification
- May have immune system boosting & antiviral properties
- Antioxidants in Kombucha may help protect the liver
Recipe For Brewing Kombucha
*This recipe makes 1 gallon
- Active SCOBY
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 96 oz. of water
- 6 bags (12 g) black or green tea
- Pot, mason jars, 1 gallon glass fermentation vessel/jar, wooden spoons, mesh tea ball (if using loose leaf tea)
- Thermometer strips
- pH test strips
- Organic cotton cloth cover
- Rubber bands
- Herbs, spices, fruits or flavoring of your choice (optional)
- Clean all surfaces, utensils, pots, jars & hands with soap & water—leaving no residue behind. Always use glass vessels and wooden or plastic utensils.
- Bring ¼ gallon of filtered water to a boil.
- While the water is heating, prepare your tea. If you are using loose leaf tea you will need a mesh tea ball. The tea for this step should be simple & unflavored. Earl Grey and other flavored teas are not recommended.
- Once the water has reached a boil, steep six tea bags (12 grams) of black or green tea in hot water for 20 minutes, mixing frequently. Make sure to do this step in a pot that can withstand high temperatures.
- Remove the tea bags and stir 1 cup of sugar into the pot. Mix this for a couple of minutes to help the sugar dissolve.
- Pour your mixture into your 1 gallon, glass fermentation jar.
- Fill the jar with 8 cups of cold, filtered water.
- Use your thermometer to ensure the temperature reads between 68-84 degrees F before adding your SCOBY or Kombucha culture.
- Once the temperature is right, add your culture to the mixture.
- Cover your fermentation jar with an organic cotton cover and seal it with a rubber band.
- Place your mixture in a warm place out of direct sunlight & with plenty of airflow (not in a closed cupboard). The best temperature for this process is between 72 and 80 degrees F. Make sure to check the temperature gauge frequently & adjust locations as needed.
- After a couple of days you will begin to notice a cream-colored layer growing on top of your brew. This is your new culture! Your batch should be ready in about 9-14 days depending on the temperature, water quality & your taste preference. Cool temperatures slow fermentation while warm temperatures speed it up. The typical fermentation period is about 7-10 days.
- If your batch is too sweet, put the cloth back on and let it brew a few more days. If it is too tart you can sweeten during the bottling process.
- After you have made your Kombucha, it’s time to bottle it!
Bottling & “Second Fermentation”
- Remove the SCOBY & place into a glass or porcelain container. Pour some of the Kombucha liquid on top, enough to cover your SCOBY. This will be the starter liquid for your next batch and keeps the SCOBY fresh.
- Add your brew to a 32 oz. glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Your brew may contain brown blobs, strands, or debris after removing the SCOBY & that it is perfectly fine! It’s just parts leftover from the mother SCOBY. If you don’t like the blobs, you can use a strainer if when pouring your Kombucha into the bottle.
- It’s best to leave an inch or less of air at the top of the bottle. This should allow for the appropriate amount of carbonation.
- You can use crushed leaves of fresh herbs, ground or whole spices, fruit purees, veggie juices & host of other options to flavor your brew. Add the individual flavors directly into your Kombucha bottle and cap. If your lid is metal, be sure to place plastic wrap in between the lid & your Kombucha.
- If you are looking for a carbonated beverage, let the sealed bottle continue to ferment at room temperature for 3-7 days. Then put the mixture into the fridge & enjoy. If you don’t like fizzy drinks or carbonation, you can just put the flavored bottle straight into the fridge after bottling. You can strain out the fruits, herbs etc. after if preferred.
- Always use caution when brewing your own Kombucha & be careful about fermenting it too long.
- Never touch the Kombucha or SCOBY with metal as it may kill it.
- Look out for mold! Brown, clear and cream are acceptable colors for your SCOBY. Black, green, blue or white, fuzzy mold & dark, round spots should never be present. If you see any of those make sure to throw the culture and brew away.
- If you ever have any reserves about your Kombucha, reach out to someone for help. You should also check the pH of your Kombucha using test strips to make sure it’s between 2.5-3.5—the ideal range for Kombucha.
- If you are brewing for the first time & nervous about making your own Kombucha, there are an assortment of kits you can purchase which provide you with everything you need to brew your own. They also come with easy-to-follow instructions that make the process very enjoyable!
- It’s recommended to start with a little Kombucha a day & gradually work your way up to drinking more. Stick with about 8 oz. per day or less, especially in the beginning.
- If you are pregnant, breast feeding or have underlying health conditions, make sure to check with your health care provider before trying Kombucha.
- Kombucha is brewed using black tea and sugar which, when fermented, turns into alcohol in very small amounts. However, only about 1% of Kombucha is believed to be alcohol.