Simple & Delicious Kombucha In 5 Easy Steps
Making kombucha at home can be an incredibly rewarding experience that helps save you money and allows you to create your own personalized flavors. You can get the same probiotic health benefits of this fermented tea without breaking the bank at your local grocery store while also experimenting with your favorite fruits and herbs. Following these five simple steps will ensure consistent batches of flavorful kombucha which are sure to wow friends and family alike!
Step 1: Acquiring a SCOBY
SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” and is the life force of your kombucha. This culture is what feeds on the sugar and tea nutrients to create fermentation and carbonation within the liquid. SCOBYs are available to purchase online through a number of retailers or can simply be obtained from a friend who is already making their own kombucha. One of the benefits of making kombucha at home is that you will be consistently generating new layers of SCOBY, which can be gifted to others to start their own kombucha journey. Once you have your starter culture, you can begin brewing.
Step 2: Make Sweet Tea
Kombucha can be brewed in a number of different teas, but the most common are green, black, and white teas. You’ll typically want to avoid adding teas with extra flavors at this point, as they may interfere with the fermentation process. Here are the steps to brew your sweet tea, before adding in the SCOBY:
1) Boil 4 cups of filtered water in a medium saucepan over high heat.
2) When boiling, remove the pan from the heat and submerge 6-8 teabags of your choice. You may also use an equivalent amount of loose tea leaves, but filtering this out can be a little more challenging.
3) Once the tea leaves have brewed for about 5-8 minutes, remove the tea bags and add 1 cup of sugar to the tea. Whisk the sugar to ensure it dissolves completely in the hot tea. Raw, unrefined sugar works best in this case, and you’ll want to avoid substitutions such as honey or syrups as they are not as readily eaten by the SCOBY starter.
Step 3: Add SCOBY & Wait
Now that your sweet tea has been made, you’re ready to dilute it and add your SCOBY to start fermentation.
1) In a large, 1-gallon glass jar, add 8 cups of filtered water.
2) Then pour in the 4 cups of sweet tea from the previous step.
3) At this point, the diluted sweet tea should be close to room temperature, but if the liquid feels a bit hotter than this, feel free to add an ice cube or two to bring it closer to the ideal temperature range of 68 degrees F to 78 degrees F.
4) Once the diluted sweet tea has been regulated to the correct temperature range, add in the SCOBY on top of the liquid. Ideally, the SCOBY should float on top and settle near the mouth of the jar where it will remain during the entire fermentation process.
5) Cover the top of the jar with a piece of breathable cloth (or simply a paper towel) and secure it around the lid with a rubber band. This prevents foreign objects from falling into the kombucha while allowing it to breathe.
6) Mark the side of your glass jar with a dry-erase market noting today’s date.
Step 4: Wait
Now that you’ve started the fermentation process, you’ll want to place your glass jar in a dark place with a consistent temperature in the ideal range of 68 degrees F to 78 degrees F. Fermentation can take between 7-14 days depending on the temperature of your home. If you’re living in a colder area, you’ll want to wait closer to 14 days, and vis versa.
You’ll notice more and more little carbonation bubbles forming in the jar as the fermentation continues which is a sign that it’s getting closer to being ready for bottling. Typically the longer you ferment, a more vinegary flavor will develop, but this can be adjusted by adding more sugar. If it tastes too sweet, simply give the kombucha a little more time to ferment.
Step 5: Bottling & Flavoring
After your kombucha has been given a sufficient amount of time to build carbonation and ferment, you’re ready to start bottling your new brew.
1) Remove the cloth fastened to the lid and carefully scoop out the floating layer of SCOBY on the top of the liquid. Place the SCOBY in a new container and pour some of the liquid on top to keep it submerged. You may still see some strands of bacteria from the SCOBY floating in the kombucha jar, which is perfectly fine. But if it bothers you, you’re also welcome to strain the liquid to remove any of these solids.
2) Carefully pour the kombucha into swing-top glass bottles using a funnel so that you leave about 1″ of space from the mouth of the bottle. A 1-gallon jar of kombucha typically fills 6 of these standard swing-top bottles.
3) Next, you’ll want to decide whether you’ll be drinking plain or flavored kombucha. Kombucha is traditionally flavored with fruits and juices which contain varying levels of sugar. If you’re going to be making plain kombucha, or flavoring with low-sugar fruits such as berries, add 1 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. If you’re flavoring with high-sugar fruits such as pineapple, add 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. This added sugar will ensure the kombucha continues to ferment within the bottles and rebuilds the carbonation lost during the pouring process.
4) For plain kombucha, once you’ve added 1 teaspoon of sugar, you’re done! Just fasten the swing-tops to each bottle and let them sit in a dark, room temperature area for 2-3 days to rebuild the carbonation. Once you see the little bubbles return, they’re done and ready to be chilled in the refrigerator for future enjoyment.
5) For flavored kombucha, once you’ve added 1/2 teaspoons to 1 teaspoon of sugar, you’re ready to start adding your favorite fruits, juices, and herbs. This is the stage where you get to be creative with your flavor combinations. Add 2-4 tablespoons of whatever flavorings you prefer before fastening the bottle swing-tops and storing in a dark, room temperature area for 2-3 days. Once you start seeing new carbonation bubbles start building, the bottles are ready to be chilled in the refrigerator.
That’s it! You’ve successfully created your first batch of homemade kombucha and embarked on your journey of flavor experiments and probiotic health benefits.
Some Additional Notes:
1) If you’re taking a break from kombucha production and want to save your SCOBY, simply place it in an airtight container (ideally glass) with enough kombucha to cover it and stick it in the refrigerator. SCOBYs can stay dormant at this temperature for several weeks.
2) Adding sugar during the bottling stage is somewhat of a guessing game. It’s best to err on the side of too little sugar, as too much sugar can cause violent explosions, which are both dangerous and extremely messy. Check sugar contents of various fruits before determining how much additional sugar to include. In the warmer months, less sugar is required as there is generally more fermentation activity.
3) As you make repeated batches of kombucha, you’ll notice the SCOBY grows and adds new, fresh layers. Discard the older, darker layers of the SCOBY and continue using the fresher, lighter portions for future batches.