Kombucha, a fermented tea beverage has been a very hot topic. Now considered to be a potent health elixir, this beverage is the source of numerous conversations. What is it? What does it taste like? What are the health benefits? Although Kombucha is quickly becoming the talk of the town, many don’t know the specifics.
Many in the field of wellness, yoga, or fermentation have directed their attention towards this mysterious beverage. It is commonly known as a health elixir and addresses health issues ranging from acid reflux to indigestion due to the heavy content of health probiotics in each bottle.
Kombucha is a sweet tea that interacts with what’s known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY is a living organism that literally eats away at the sugar and caffeine and produces probiotics and a trace amount of alcohol. The result is something that resembles a mix of tea, wine cooler, and vinegar (the longer the batch ferments the less sweet and more vinegar-like the batch becomes).
The SCOBY multiplies in layers as it feeds with each batch (which is why seasoned kombucha brewers almost always have SCOBYs to give away. The SCOBY resembles a raw piece of chicken in the shape of a circle due to the jar it previously fermented in). As healthy as the beverage is, it is also expensive ($4 per bottle) which is why many are looking into home brewing their own batches. This is not difficult to do. However, you will need certain non-negotiable ingredients and methods if your batch is to turn out well.
Making Your Own Kombucha
– Tea of your choice (at least 4 ounces to be safe)
– Mason Jars (2-3)
– Cheesecloth, or other breathable mesh + rubber bands
– Organic Sugar
– Fruit Juice (preferably organic, pure juice) or fresh fruit
– Bottles for serving (either sealable bottles or beer bottles + caps)
– Capper (if using beer bottles)
– Funnel or beer bottling siphon
You will need to acquire one gallon of tea (black, green, oolong, puerh, or white all produce wonderful finishes that are unique to each type of tea used). The tea must be pure (in other words, no Earl Grey, no fruit/herbal , no flavored teas) or the ph balance could then be negatively affected which can produce mold.
Brew up your tea and add enough sugar to taste extremely sweet (I use four cups of organic sugar per gallon of tea). Also, it is preferable to brew the tea in spring water (purer water leads to purer kombucha).
You will also need a SCOBY. There are three ways you can accomplish this. You can either formulate your own with a ready-made bottle of kombucha, you can buy one online, or someone you know can pass one along to you.
In a glass mason jar, pour the tea (it must be room temperature or the SCOBY will not flourish). Add one cup of finished kombucha (from a previous batch or a store bought version) or apple cider vinegar to the sweet tea. Place the SCOBY in the tea (with clean hands). Then over the top of the mason jar place either a paper towel, a coffee filter, or even a t-shirt (something breathable). Seal with a rubber band (If the jar is air tight the SCOBY will suffocate). Place the covered jar in a dark place. (ideal temperature is between 70 and 85 degrees). The longer the jar sits the less sweet it becomes.
After two weeks, test the taste by removing the coffee filter and inserting a straw (sanitized) into the jar (poke it along the side of the SCOBY and into the tea). Place finger on the top end of the straw and pour the content into a cup. Taste. If it is too sweet, let the jar sit. If it tastes just right, prepare for packaging. If it tastes like vinegar, not a problem. You now have kombucha concentrate (to which you can add your juice of choice to make a delicious beverage).
To distribute, begin a new batch of sweet tea. Have clean sanitized bottles ready. Into a new jar (and with clean hands), pull the SCOBY out of the jar and place in a clean jar. Pour a cup of finished kombucha on top of the SCOBY. This jar is now ready for the new batch of sweet tea. If you aren’t ready to make a new batch, you can put the SCOBY in a fridge.
As for the finished batch, pour into clean bottles. A clean funnel helps to avoid spills. You can also use a bottle capper and other home brewing equipment to fill beer bottles. These are available in any home-brew beer supply store.
Your kombucha is now ready to be consumed cold or over ice.
An optional second step it to prepare a secondary fermentation and flavor your kombucha.
Flavoring Your Kombucha
An easy way to flavor your kombucha is to create a secondary fermentation. You can do this in the bottle itself or in another glass jar. Fill the jar/bottle leaving about 2 inches of room. Then add your juice or fresh fruit of choice. Add in and fill bottle so that there is at least half an inch of room from the lid. Seal so the bottle is airtight. The beverage will be carbonating, and air pressure will be building. Do not over fill your bottles or else there will be a risk of explosion.
Let the bottle sit in the dark at room temperature for at least 48 hours. The kombucha will be taking on the flavor of the added contents (the live cultures in the beverage will be feeding on the sugars, producing additional probiotics and ethanol). The longer you let it sit, the more that secondary fermentation will occur.
In case you’re wondering why you shouldn’t simply add the fruit to the original batch, you could mess up the PH balance, and produce mold. For this reason, only a straight tea can be used (only black, green, white, oolong, puerh, or roobois. You CAN add any tea you want during the secondary fermentation (anything goes).
Although the process is time-consuming, the benefits of your own kombucha-brewing process are numerous. As one becomes more seasoned, the joys of experimenting with different teas and flavors become an adventure.
By David Vozzy