I remember when my kids were little, my mom used to make Kombucha all the time and give it to them to drink. She would call it “Magic Potion” and I think that because she called it that, they sort of liked it.
I, myself, couldn’t stand what I referred to as “Mushroom Juice”. I tried to like it because it was supposedly good for me, but it never worked. I despised the stuff so much, I had to block my nose to drink it.
I guess you can very well imagine that I never quite understood the craze around Kombucha and why people were willing to dish out 3, 4 and even 5 bucks for a single bottle of the stuff!
Still, one day I decided I had to give it another chance. Hey, maybe I’d changed enough in all those years that I would now appreciate it? After all, it had been well over 15 years since I’d last had some.
So I actually stopped by the store on my way back home one night and bought myself a bottle. Of course, I had to absolutely love it. Because I needed another addiction, you know. Another expensive addiction, at that!
It didn’t take long before I decided I needed to try my hand at making my own. Hey, if my mom had been able to do it for so long, surely it wouldn’t be a problem for me. I was only hoping that the home made stuff would taste nothing like what I remembered and more like the stuff I’d been getting from the store!
So I started reading on the subject and found many great articles, namely on Cultures for Health, as well as in Fermented: A Four Season Approach to Paleo Probiotic Foods by Jill Ciciarelli (if you are the tiny least interested in food fermentation, I strongly recommend you get this book, by the way), but it wasn’t until Josh, the amazing young man behind Slim Palate, posted about his Kombucha making experience that I finally decided to take the plunge. His instructions were so very clear and concise, and he made it look so easy, he convinced me to finally give it a go.
But before I could get started, I needed to get my hands on a few mandatory supplies:
#1 – A large container for the Kombucha to ferment in
I decided to use a 1½ gallon Beverage Dispenser which I found at my local Target. This kind of container makes tasting your Kombucha so easy! A little too easy, perhaps…
#2 – Several glass bottles to keep my Kombucha in after it’s done fermenting
I purchased several of these beautiful flip top glass bottles at my local IKEA, but I’m sure you could find these pretty much anywhere. You can also reuse any glass bottle that has a screw-on cap, although the flip tops are preferable if you’re opting to do a second ferment. Also, if someone in your entourage happens to be drinking Grolsch beer (like my son does), have them keep the bottles for you!
#3 – Some suitable tea
I chose to go with one of my ultimate favorites, a black Pu Erh, but you can use any tea you like, so long as it’s true Camellia Sinensis, NOT herbal tea, and doesn’t contain any kind of artificial flavoring.
#4 – Most important of all… I needed to find me a SCOBY and some starter tea
Now this is probably the trickiest part. While I know that you can start your very own SCOBY from scratch (well, more from store bought unflavored kombucha) I found it was harder for me to get my hands on some of that unflavored tea than it was to find an all grown up and ready to use mama SCOBY. Plus, when you purchase a SCOBY, it usually comes packed in enough starter tea to get your batch going. There are several online sources where you can buy them and a lot of natural health food stores also keep them in stock.
Get all your stuff ready before you start.
I used a 1½ gallon glass beverage container, an organic black Pu Erh tea that I really like and got me a SCOBY as well as some starter unflavored Kombucha tea at my local health food store
Ready? Let’s go!
Pour 2 cups of simmering water over the tea. You can use tea bags, discs, bricks or even loose tea, so long as it’s the real thing. No herbal teas, no flavoring.
Let that tea steep for 5-6 minutes, then remove the bags or strain the leaves.
Add the sugar to the hot tea. Yeah, I know: it’s sugar. WHITE SUGAR!
But don’t worry, your SCOBY will be eating most of it and very little will be left in the final product.
Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and allow to cool to room temperature.
Fill the glass container with cold water and pour the sugared tea right in. Make sure you leave enough room for the starter tea and SCOBY to go in!
Add the starter tea and SCOBY to the beverage dispenser or glass jar.
Just make sure both the liquid in the jar and the starter tea are at the same temperature. Adding the SCOBY to hot or even warm liquid would likely kill it.
See how that SCOBY is happily it’s floating in there?
We’re pretty much done for now. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Cover your jar with 2 or 3 large coffee filters and secure them with rubber bands. You could also use a clean tea towel if you don’t have any coffee filters on hand.
Make sure that you use something that lets air through but that is woven tightly enough to keep bugs and dust out of your brew!
Now for the hard part. You need to leave your kombucha alone for the next 2 to 3 weeks.
Total fermenting time can vary greatly depending on many factors, such as ambient temperature, light, ingredients used, as well as your own personal preference, so start tasting after about 10 days.
Set your brew in a warm, well ventilated and well lit area, but away from direct sunlight. You don’t want to hide your kombucha in a cupboard or closet, completely away from light as your SCOBY does need light in order to feed. The kitchen counter works perfectly well for me.
After a couple of weeks, your kombucha will be ready to drink.
Notice the beautiful SCOBY that grew on top of the other one. Fascinating!
Now you can use that SCOBY to start another batch right away.
Just start the process again right from the beginning.
If you’re pressed for time and can’t really get another batch going immediately, you can always store your SCOBY in the refrigerator for a little while. Just place it in a clean glass jar along with 1 or 2 cups of unflavored tea. This also is a great way to keep an extra SCOBY on hand, in case something unfortunate happened and you needed to throw out an entire batch, SCOBY and all…
Plus, these things they multiply with every batch, you know, so chances are you’re gonna want to share with your friends and family! Keep your mushrooms in a jar like that until you find a new home for them.
And there you have it, you can now enjoy your delicious home made fermented tea.
Just transfer it to glass bottles or jars and store it in the refrigerator.
It is very important that you keep the finished kombucha in the refrigerator, otherwise it would continue to ferment even though the SCOBY has been removed.
If you want to add a little bit of flavor, as well as a tad more fizz to your already delicious brew, this is the time to do it.
Simply add a few pieces of fruit or a little bit of natural fruit juice, a little bit more sugar and a few herbs and spices right into a flip top bottle, fill with your unflavored kombucha and leave the bottles on the counter for another 4-5 days, or up to a week, to ferment for a second time.
Don’t be afraid to experiment, here. The sky is pretty much the limit!
I personally added a dozen popped fresh cranberries, about a tablespoon of sugar and a half teaspoon of chai spice to a 1 liter bottle. In another 1 liter bottle, I added a few pieces of fresh ginger, a tablespoon of unpasteurized honey and a quarter of a teaspoon of vanilla powder.
Both turned out amazing!
After the second fermentation is done, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator and allow the tea to chill completely before attempting to open the bottle. Failure to do that may result in a Kombucha volcano erupting in your kitchen!
Even after refrigerating, always be extra careful when opening the bottles.
It’s not a bad idea to cover them with a clean dish towel just in case…
Time to pour yourself a glass and pat yourself in the back for a job well done, and for saving all that money!
Just look at that beautiful color. And can you see the fizz?
Oh yeah! It fizzes!
And it tastes amazing…