For those who have not yet heard of this drink, kombucha (pronounced kom-boo-ch-ahhh) is a fermented sweet black tea made using a SCOBY – symbiotic culture of yeast & bacteria. This beverage has been around for a very long time, and is said to have originated in China. Because the drink is made by microorganisms, it contains the buzzworthy “probiotics”.
Probiotics basically means live bacteria or yeasts that are good for your health. Probiotics are great for your digestive health, immune system, liver, kidneys, and overall health. The beneficial bacteria and yeast in kombucha live together in a cellulose raft on top of the kombucha, and work together to cause a special type of fermentation. This uses up the sugar and caffeine in the beginning tea mixture, so the resulting drink is tart, carbonated, and relatively caffeine-free. There is a trace amount of alcohol; not enough to cause a noticeable effect, but in case you avoid alcohol that is important to note.
To make kombucha at home, you only need containers (preferably glass, wide-mouth mason jars), water, tea, sugar, and a starter SCOBY or culture. You can buy a starter SCOBY online, get one from a friend who makes kombucha, or do as I did and buy a bottle of raw, unpasteurized kombucha from the store. I show you how to do this all step by step in my awesome Homemade Kombucha video! (Also at the bottom of this post)
This recipe makes 2 quarts of kombucha each 7-10 days.
- 7 cups water
- 4 black tea bags
- 1/2 cup plain sugar
- 1 cup kombucha starter
- (If using, a mother SCOBY or culture)
Step 1: Get 7 cups of water boiling, and add your tea. Mix in the sugar so it dissolves. Let that sit and cool to room temperature. To speed up cooling, you can place the container with the tea into a larger container filled with ice or ice water.
Step 2: Once cooled, add the cup of starter tea. If using store-bought, make sure it is an organic brand, and that it is raw and unpasteurized. If it has been pasteurized, there may not be any more live bacteria or yeast in there to start your new SCOBY. If using a mother from a friend or online, or a culture, stir that into the tea.
Step 3: Fill your jars up to an inch or so from the rims. Place a clean paper towel or cloth over the opening, and rubber band, tie, or otherwise hold it in place. Now leave your jars in a cool, dark place where they won’t be disturbed for at least 7 days, and as long as you like.
The first time you brew kombucha, your SCOBY may take longer than a week to get growing. Colder temperatures also make them grow more slowly. Don’t worry, let it ferment up to a month. If after 4 weeks nothing has happened, you may not have had enough active probiotics to make a culture. Just start over with fresh tea and fresh starter culture.
After a day or two, you may start to see flecks on the surface of the kombucha, or bubbles. This is a great sign! After a few more days, you will see a thin film start to develop on top of the liquid. This is the beginning of your symbiotic colony. This layer will thicken over time with successive batches of kombucha.
If your first SCOBY seems wavy, has holes or air bubbles, or differences in color, that is ok. But if you smell anything rancid, like mold or cheese, or see red or green or white fuzz growing, your kombucha has been infected with something you don’t want to drink, and you should throw that batch out and start over.
This first batch may end up being too vinegary to drink, but you may also like the acidity. You can discard the batch, keeping the SCOBY you worked so hard to grow, or drink round one. I’ll show you how to transfer your brand new SCOBY into future batches in my next post!
Part 2 of how to make homemade kombucha is out! Once you have your SCOBY, here’s how to propagate it for future batches of fresh delicious tea.
With video! https://youtu.be/o5peIHOvKrY
- Whole lifestyle nutrition has a free 4-part course all about kombucha
- Ellie Kreiger wrote an article for the Washington Post explaining how the truth about kombucha lies in between a magical health cure-all and a toxic poisonous drink
- Food Renegade has a great kombucha Q&A section along with more step-by-step directions