I have to admit, I had no idea what kombucha was just a few years ago and I was too intimidated by the idea of fermenting that I was too scared to try! My mom introduced it to me and after my recent incidents with my health, I decided to try to drink this more often. And let me tell you, it has been a joy! Since I am not drinking coffee or alcohol anymore, I wanted something flavorful and fun to drink that could also be beneficial to me. In addition, it is easier to make (which is better for the pocket book than purchasing it).
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What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is essentially fermented sweet tea through a combination of healthy yeasts and beneficial bacteria. This ancient fermented drink has a sweet, tangy, tartness to it that is usually accompanied by naturally occurring carbonation. The sugars get eaten by the bacteria as the fermentation process continues. The yeast is “captured” from the air as it is naturally occurring and found everywhere.
The two work together to form the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria yeast) that make kombucha the delightful drink that it is. The SCOBY, however, looks and smells weird, especially if you are new to kombucha brewing. It smells like vinegar and has a weird sweet funk to it and it looks like some bizzare solid mold. It feels like a more solid gelatin jiggler. An unusual looking organism, it is the essence of how your sweet tea becomes the wonderful kombucha. This post will not cover how to make a SCOBY, if you, like me, would rather try using someone else’s first before trying to do make on yourself.
I decided to go with the Joshua Tree Kombucha Brewing Kit off of Amazon. It comes with the cloth, vessel, rubber band, SCOBY and helpful recipe.
- 7 bags of organic, unflavored black or green tea (if looseleaf, use 3 tbsp)
- 1 gallon clean glass container (preferably wide mouth)
- 1 SCOBY
- 13 cups of filtered water (be sure it is dechlorinated)
- 1 cup organic white sugar (there are substitutes you can use, but remember this is for the bacteria, not for making the drink sweet per se)
- a rubber band
- 1 clean cloth (preferably organic)
Step 1: Brew the tea
Bring 13 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat. Stir in sugar and make sure it dissolves (should not be able to see any granules). Add tea and let sit for 5-10 minutes. After that, remove the tea bags or filter out the loose leaves. This recipe is adapted from the Joshua Tree Kombucha Brewing Kit recipe.
Step 2: Wait
The SCOBY is sensitive and does not respond well to too much heat. If over heated, the organisms will die back and fermentation will cease. If too cold, the fermentation will cease. Luckily, all you need to aim for is room temperature. Which for a 98.6 degree human, means it should feel slightly cool to the touch. Generally, this takes a couple of hours depending on a few factors including: the ambient temperature, the air flow and size of your brew. I will brew it at night, cover it with a towel then put the whole batch together in the morning.
Step 3: Into the vessel
If you have a kit, like I did, you will want to pour the tea into your vessel. I use a simple gallon glass jar that comes with a lid. You do not want the lid right now as fermentation needs exposure to air, but you can keep it in case you plan to bottle it in that container. Pour all of the cooled sweet tea into the container.
Step 4: add your scoby
After you have poured the tea, add the SCOBY and some starter liquid. It should have come with some, as that is how the SCOBY stays alive during transport. But if you got it from a friend and do not have any liquid, go ahead and add a little organic store bought kombucha, about a cup.
Step 5: cover up
Cover the vessel with a cloth and secure with a rubber band. Place your brew in a dark corner with limited air flow. I use our back room where we shut the vent since no one is staying there right now. It stays pretty warm and has a perfect spot for protecting the kombucha. Like you, your kombucha prefers temperatures that you are comfortable in, between 70 and 80 degrees, in general. If it is warmer than this, it will ferment faster. If cooler, it will ferment slower. Most people keep their house around 72, which should be good for any kombucha brewing.
Step 6: wait…again
This time you will need to wait for about 1 week and up to about 3 weeks. There is a huge range based on temperature, air flow, tea kind and amount, sugar kind and amount and the health of the SCOBY. After a week, start tasting. With a clean spoon take out just one sip or pour out a small amount and see what you think. Don’t worry, it will not hurt you. Once it has reached the tanginess and sweetness level you desire you can stop. Be mindful though, the longer you let it ferment, the more and more vinegar-like it will become, which does not sound like a tasty refreshing drink.
Step 7: Enjoy!
Put the whole thing in your fridge and the fermentation process will slow down. Pour off what you need, until you have about a cup or two left in order to repeat the process. Alternatively, you can bottle it or even a second ferment! WHAT? This, to me, is the best part. If you want, pour the finished kombucha into bottles where you can add fruits for some flavoring. Then let those bottles continue to brew for a couple of days, then drink up! Or you can just put it in the fridge. After 2nd brew, with the fruit flavoring, you can just put them in the fridge.
There are lots of health benefits associated with consuming fermented foods and it is arguable the one of the first known preservation methods in the world! Its a delightful drink that is especially refreshing and good for the guts. Drink up.
You may experience issues. You can read about troubleshooting problems from Joybilee. In general, if it tastes bad or has green, black or bright colored molds, throw it out. The color of SCOBY, yeasts and teas will vary in colors but anything really striking and obvious mold, throw it out. Otherwise, enjoy your healthy refreshing kombucha any time!
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