Kombucha- that drink with the funny name- is popping up all over, even my local Wal-Mart has taken to carrying it in their produce section.
Why drink this delightfully fizzy drink? It boosts your energy and mood with B vitamins, gently detoxifies the body thanks to the glucuronic + glucaric acid, and aids digestion with organic enzymes. It also boots immunity thanks to the bio-available gut-friendly probiotics and contains acetic acid, which aids in a speedy metabolism. Not to mention, when it is made correctly, it is absolutely DELICIOUS- and who doesn't love something both delicious and nutritious?
If you're wondering what the "catch" is, here it comes:
Save the occasional sale, the regular price per 16 oz. bottle can range anywhere from $3-7 each. That's pricey, especially if you have a family or like to drink more than one per day (like me, for example.) Add to that the fact that some brands you buy at the store are pasteurized, which destroys the fabulous enzymes and organic acids that make Kombucha so beneficial.
"Yeah, Margaret," you say, "Kombucha sounds great and all, but I can't afford it!"
Can you afford some white sugar & black tea? Oh wait....you already have some in the pantry?
How about $7 for a kombucha scoby that can last for years?
Do you have an extra 10 minutes..... per week?
Then you can very easily make it at home, saving money AND getting healthier at the same time. I have had many trial and error runs of Kombucha- from a batch that was much too funky/vinegary to batches that didn't even carbonate properly and tasted "flat."
Try as I might, I was NEVER able to get it "just right" and as such, didn't enjoy drinking the Kombucha I made. All of that striving led me to perfect the method which I use now- the art of the double ferment. It takes a little more time, but is well worth it to get Kombucha that is fizzier and more delicious than store bought.
The 3 Keys of Kombucha Brewing:
too little time, and the tea won't be fermented enough, forget about it for a month and it won't fizz properly. This is an area where you may need to experiment a little bit, as everyone's home and environment is different. Don't let this intimidate you, though! When it comes down to it, the kombucha is ready when YOU like the taste. You're the main person that will be drinking it, right?
Kombucha ferments the very best between 65-75 degrees fahrenheit. Typically, the warmer the environment, the faster the kombucha will ferment. If your house gets little sunlight and tends to be cold, or it's the dead of winter and you heat with a woodstove, you may want to wait and start in the spring/summer. It will still "work" to some degree, but it will take much MUCH longer, and you may not get the fizzy-ness you so crave.
3. The SCOBY Mushroom
This somewhat unattractive Kombucha mushroom (most commonly known as a SCOBY- Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) is what transforms the sweet tea mixture into the health tonic that is Kombucha. Most kombuchas feed off of sugar and black tea, but a Jun Kombucha Mushroom feeds off of Green Tea and Honey. The recipes I am presenting to you are for both varieties. Kombucha Kamp & Amazon both sell SCOBYS as do Cultures for Health If you get a bad mushroom, you will not have good kombucha. Period. Make sure you trust your source.
Starting a Mushroom?
If you do not have a mushroom or are starting one for the first time, I recommend following the instructions that come with the mushroom you choose to purchase BEFORE moving to the recipes listed below. It can be a little different, and the first batch sometimes calls for more sugar to feed the SCOBY to help it grow larger.
A Word on Alcohol
Some folks are leery of Kombucha due to the "alcohol content." While yes, Kombucha can contain very small amounts of alcohol, it is usually around 0.5% or less, unless you are doing something else nefarious with it. In fact, the 0.5% alcohol sometimes seen in Kombucha is comparable to the alcohol content of an over-ripe banana. No one I know has been buzzed from a banana. That being said, I've heard that in some places highly-alcoholic Kombucha is sometimes sold in a different section of the store and requires ID for purchase.
You will need to gather:
- Large gallon GLASS jar
- Small saucepan or tea kettle
- Pyrex measuring glass
- Stainless steel whisk
- Cheesecloth and twine/rubber bands
- Kitchen thermometer
- Kombucha Scoby (see above for purchase information)
- Grolsch-Style flip top bottles (a MUST for Soda-like Kombucha, I purchased mine on Amazon)
- Small funnel
And now, for the recipes. Pick a variety and then skip down to the Method section for detailed instructions
Kombucha (Black Tea Base)
MAKES 1/2 GALLON
7 cups filtered water, divided (3 1/2 cups boiling & 3 1/2 cups cold.)
1/2 cup sugar**
3-4 Organic Black tea bags**
1/2- 1 cup tea from previous batch (or vinegar if starting your mushroom on its first batch.)
1 Kombucha SCOBY
** a note on sugar- do NOT be afraid of it here. The sugar is the magic fuel for the SCOBY. You give it sugar, it gives you B vitamins, organic acids, and detoxifying agents. Pretty good trade, huh?
**If you are sensitive to caffeine, you can use decaf black tea. Herbal teas not recommended, as black tea aids in the production of glucuronic acid.)
Kombucha (Green Tea Base)
MAKES 1/2 GALLON
8 cups filtered water, divided (4 cups boiling, & 4 cups cold)
1/2 cup raw honey
3-4 organic green tea bags (or 4t. loose leaf green tea)
1/2-3/4 cup kombucha from a previous batch
1 JUN Kombucha SCOBY
You will notice that I have you divide up the water in 2 parts- boiling, and cold. This is intentional, as waiting hours for 8 cups of boiling hot tea to cool down on the counter is not only annoying, if you are at all impatient and don't wait long enough for the tea to cool, you can cause your SCOBY to die. When waiting for it to cool down, other things can and have happened to me, like a fly making a fatal crash landing in it or just forgetting about it altogether. This waiting period can be easily expedited by concentrating the tea and sugar in the 4 cups boiling water and then adding the rest of the cold water in afterwards. Just a time and frustration-saving tip I have learned by trial and error!
- Heat half of the water in a clean kettle or saucepan until boiling. Pour it into your gallon glass jar, and add the tea or tea bags. Allow to steep- 5-8 minutes until dark for black tea, steep 3-4 minutes for green tea. Then remove tea bags. If using black tea, now's the time to stir in the sugar with a whisk.
- Add the other half of the water into your fermentation vessel and stir. Allow to cool. Once this tea mixture reaches 65-75 degrees, as measured by your thermometer, you can now add the honey in (if making the green tea option) and whisk to combine.
- Once the tea is at optimal temperature, and the sweeteners mixed in, pour in the 1/2-1 cup of tea from a previous batch and whisk vigorously. SCOBYs like oxygen, so oxygenate that tea using your whisk! Also, take a small taste of your tea mixture from a spoon. This will give you an idea of what your baseline is for the tea. It should be sweet but have a sourness to it as well. Now, you can gently plop in your SCOBY. Cover the top of the container with cheesecloth and secure with twine or a rubber band. Next, all you have to do is put it in a warm place out of direct sunlight and wait 5-7 days for the mushroom to do its magic work! It can take less time if it's warm, more time if it's cooler.
- You'll know it is working when you can see the tea start to change color, tiny strands of weblike cultures beginning to form (like the ones you see in raw apple cider vinegar) the mushroom beginning to form a new layer, and maybe even little bubbles from the fermentation all around your SCOBY.
- Once it's fermented and you like the taste, it's time to move to the Second ferment! This is where the real magic starts to happen.
You will need:
- Flip top bottles, cleaned
- Pitcher with a spout
Juices and add-ins of your choice:
- Juices: Apple, Blueberry, Guava, Cherry, Pomegranate, Grape, Cranberry, Lime, Lemon, Raspberry, etc.
- Whole blueberries, chopped cherries, strawberries, etc.
- Chopped Ginger root
- Chia Seeds
- Kola nut extract (For something a little "Cola" like) ;)
- Vanilla extract
A few flavor combo ideas to get you going:
- Blueberry + ginger root
- Raspberry + ginger root + lemon,
- Apple juice + lime juice
- Cherry juice + lime juice
- pomegranate juice + blueberry juice
- dash of vanilla extract + cloves
- Remove the SCOBY from the glass jar with clean hands, placing on a clean glass container.
- Pour the kombucha into the pitcher or container with a spout. If you are serving picky eaters (er, drinkers) who are skittish of the strands of culture, just strain out the bits you don't like the look of. No biggie. Just remember to save at least 1 cup of this tea to use in your next batch.
- Pick your add-ins, and pour/place them in your jars. For juice, I like to fill the bottle approx 1/5 full of the juice- the amount of juice you add will depend on your taste, which you will develop as you continue to make it. Now fill the rest of the bottle with the kombucha liquid until it is approx 1 inch from the top You can really go crazy here with flavors- each bottle can be different!
- Next, seal up the bottles with the flip top and let them sit at room temp to ferment into fizzy, delicious Kombucha Soda. The fizziness intensifies due to the fruit sugars being eaten up and subsequently fermented by your Kombucha. Depending on the temp of your home, this may take anywhere from 2-3 or 3-5 days. Experiment and see what works best in your house! Personally, I like mine super fizzy so I usually go for 5 days.
When you're done bottling your first batch of Kombucha Soda, clean and wash the jar out and follow the First Ferment instructions to get your next round of kombucha brewing!
To prevent the remote possibility of a rogue exploding bottle, I put my bottles to ferment in a heavy duty bucket with a lid. An explosion has never happened to me with a fermenting bottle of Kombucha, but it did once with kefir water, another fermented drink.
Once it is done fermenting, place in the fridge to chill and halt the fermentation.
Enjoy your raw, fizzy, delicious Kombucha Soda!
~Margaret Barry- NTP, CFT, T-Tapp Trainer