How do I make my own kombucha tea?
What is kombucha tea?
Kombucha tea (KT) is a fermented drink, made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast.
The bacteria and yeast combine to form a SCOBY, which naturally processes the sugar in the sweetened tea, to make a slightly carbonated drink.
KT is said to have many health benefits, none of which have yet been scientifically documented, but kombucha success stories are plentiful.
Kombucha is commercially available, or you can make your own.
Why should I make my own kombucha?
Buying kombucha tea (KT) from the store can become expensive, especially if you like to drink KT regularly. Averaging around $3 a bottle, it can soon start to burn a hole in your wallet!
It's easy to make your own KT at home, with just a little effort, and a little time commitment.
Brewing kombucha is a satisfying hobby, you know what goes into it, so you know what you're putting into your body. It saves you a lot of money, and it's a self-sustaining process. Once you're set up, the only expenses are tea and sugar!
What are the benefits of drinking kombucha?
While KT has a reputation as a health elixir, the Mayo Clinic reports that there are no scientific studies to prove it has any health benefits at all. Studies have, however, been reported by the Gaia Institute, and are referenced here.
The Chinese call kombucha the Immortal Health Elixir, and it has been used for over 2,000 years to help people feel better.
People who drink KT report that it supports the immune system, improves digestion and liver function, and can even prevent cancer and arthritis. KT has high levels of glucaric acid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer.
KT is rich in enzymes and bacterial acids, and so promotes a good detoxification.
KT contains glucosamine, which is beneficial to joint health.
KT is probiotic, fights candida overgrowth, and promotes gut health and good digestion.
KT is rich in anti-oxidants, which boost the immune system and energy levels.
Best tea to use for KT
- Black tea
- Green tea
- White tea
It's best to use organic tea, wherever possible.
You can use any tea that has no added flavors. For instance, Earl Grey tea has bergamot essential oil added. This will not produce a good KT, and maybe harmful to your SCOBY
What does kombucha taste like?
The taste of plain KT depends on the type of tea used to make it, and the amount of time it has fermented. Once the fermentation is complete, it should no longer taste of sweet tea, but should taste slightly sour.
As the fermentation progresses, the taste becomes more vinegar-like.
Once fermented to your taste, you can do a second ferment (referred to as 2F) without the SCOBY, where you change the flavor by adding fresh fruits, fruit juices, or other ingredients.
Making your own kombucha
It's easy to make your own KT at home, with just a little effort, and a little time commitment.
Your level of commitment depends on:
- How much KT you intend to drink per day/week/month.
- How many people are drinking the KT you make.
- Whether you're using the continuous brew or batch brew method.
- Whether you intend to do a second ferment or not.
- Is round, square, oval, or any shape in between.
- Can be white, brown, pink, cream ... depends on the tea used.
- Can be thin or thick.
- Feels rubbery or slimy.
- Floats or sinks.
- Can sit sideways.
- is beautiful!
What is a SCOBY?
SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Some people call it a mushroom, and some people call it a mother. People also call their SCOBYs George, Annabella, Scooby, Methusula ... yes, we get so attached to them that they have to have names!
The SCOBY is where the action happens. Essentially, the yeast in the SCOBY turns the sugar into alcohol, and the bacteria transform the alcohol into acetic acid. (Yes, if you brew your kombucha for too long, you'll get vinegar!)
The SCOBY is usually white in color, almost rubbery, usually slimy, To the non-kombucha brewer it may even look ugly, but most of us brewers love our SCOBYs and would never call them ugly!
SCOBYs reproduce. Every time you start a new batch of KT, you use a SCOBY (which now becomes the mother), and this will produce a baby. The mother may sit just under the surface of the brew, or it may sink to the bottom. It may just "hang" sideways. It's all good. The baby will form on the surface of the KT. More on that later ...
Where do I get a SCOBY?
Because each batch of kombucha that is made forms a new baby SCOBY, they are not hard to find! If you have a friend who brews kombucha, they will more than likely be happy to give you one. You can often find them on Craigslist, or you could ask for a source at your local health food store.
People also sell SCOBYs on sites such as eBay and Amazon. There are groups of kombucha enthusiasts in various forums all over the internet, and most are willing so share their extras for the cost of postage.
Your SCOBY will usually be delivered to you swimming in about a cup of starter tea.
You will need:
- Filtered water
- Tea leaves or teabags
- Sugar: preferably organic cane sugar
- Starter tea from a previous batch of kombucha
How much to use
Loose tea/tea bags
1 1/2 tsp loose tea or 2 teabags
1 1/2 cups
1 T loose tea or 4 teabags
6 1/2 cups
2 T loose tea or 8 teabags
For your batch brew
How to test KT
Taste testing is easy!
- Take a straw, and dip it past the SCOBY and into the KT.
- Make sure not to disturb the SCOBY too much!
- Once the straw reaches about half way down your brew, cover the top with a finger and draw it out.
- Put the end of the straw that was in the KT into your mouth, then release your finger, and taste the KT goodness!
Batch brewing your kombucha
Batch brewing refers to the method of brewing kombucha one vessel at a time. Whether you choose to recycle a big pickle jar, or use a gallon Mason jar, or any other glass or (unglazed) ceramic container, you can get great results from batch brewing.
The ingredients are listed in the table below, with the exception of the SCOBY (see the section on where to get your SCOBY.)
Follow these simple steps, remembering that the ideal temperature for brewing kombucha is around 75 degrees:
- Boil the water in a large non-reactive metal saucepan.
- Add the teabags, or loose tea.
- Steep the tea for about 5 minutes, then transfer the tea to your brewing container. Either remove the teabags, or strain the tea to remove the loose tea leaves prior to transferring the tea.
- Add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.
- Allow the tea to cool to room temperature.
- Add the starter tea and SCOBY to the room temperature sweet tea.
- Cover with a coffee filter, or close-woven fabric.
- Secure with a rubber band.
- Wait. (Be patient!)
- After about 5-7 days you can taste your kombucha to see if it's to your liking.
When your KT tastes the way you like it to taste, remove the SCOBY and store it in about a cup of the finished brew until you are ready to make another batch.
Transfer the remaining tea to pint mason jars or flip-top bottles, and consume at will!
The continuous brew method
The continuous brew method is favored by some because of the decreased handling time, and increased probiotic content.
To produce a continuous brew, you need a container with a spigot to draw off your KT. A sun tea jar is perfect. If you want a larger container, look for an iced tea dispenser (these usually come in either 2 or 3 gallon sizes), or a ceramic water crock, or dispenser.
Note: when using a ceramic vessel, make sure the surface that touches the kombucha is not glazed. The could leach harmful chemicals into your KT.
When using a vessel with a spigot, make sure that the spigot is not metal. Metal is harmful to your SCOBY.
To start your continuous brew, you will need a little more than 10% of your volume as starter tea. Use the chart above to determine how much you will need. For instance, if you're making 2 gallons of KT, you'll need 4 cups of starter tea.
Then, add your SCOBY, and let the tea ferment, as you would with the batch method.
Because the continuous brew is in a constant state of flux, it contains a greater range of probiotic organisms. Another benefit to batch brewing is that everything is handled less, reducing the chances of cross-contamination.
Once your initial ferment is complete, when you draw off the kombucha and replace it with new sweet tea, it takes less time to convert the newly added sweet tea to kombucha as there is never less than 2/3 kombucha in the "mix"- giving you a faster turnaround time.
Drawing off, or harvesting, continuous brew kombucha
You can draw off your KT daily, or you can draw off a week's worth at a time.
If you draw off about 1/3 of the total volume, and then replace it with the same amount of sweet tea as you drew off, it should only take about 2 days for the tea to be ready to harvest again.
I have a 3 gallon container, and I draw off four 16oz bottles every two days, replacing it with 64oz (a gallon) of sweet tea.
Some people prefer to harvest their KT weekly, leaving about 4 cups of KT in the brewing vessel, and replacing with sweet tea to make up to the original amount.
Grow your own clothes!
What do to with all those SCOBYs
As you brew, you will end up with a new baby SCOBY from each batch. Once you've given them to every friend who'll accept one, what do you do with all the rest of the SCOBYs?
There are a number of ways to use a SCOBY!
- Put them in your compost.
- Feed them to chickens.
- Make SCOBY candy.
- Make clothes! (see video)
- Store them in a SCOBY hotel for later use
- Make a drum skin
So. What now?
The story of kombucha has far to go.
We still have to discuss 2nd ferments, how to flavor your KT, what can go wrong, what else we can do with KT, and so much more!
Check back for my next hub. I'll link it right here!
© 2014 Vikki
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