Kombucha: An Introduction

I couldn’t go too long without writing about kombucha. It’s one of my favorite things to make, drink, and share. Effervescent, sweet, and tangy, Kombucha is fermented tea. It has been around for hundreds of years (at least), and fallen in and out of fashion here in the US.

Kombucha is claimed to help with digestion, detoxification, treat arthritis, and boost your immune system. While the jury is still out on some of these benefits, kombucha is at the least a tasty, highly probiotic drink, known to be filled with gut-healing bacteria. Personally, I find it to be a great pick-me-up, sometimes replacing coffee. My boyfriend has said it cures his headaches. But above all else, I drink kombucha because it is delicious.

bottlesFresh bottled booch

I don’t remember the first time I tried kombucha, but after that first sip, I never went back. It’s both tart and sweet, with a deep fruit-like flavor. The scent is reminiscent of apple cider vinegar, which can be a deterrent for some. The first kombucha I had was GT’s, which is widely available and often blended with fruit juice. It’s a great starter kombucha. Unfortunately, the stuff is expensive, so once I was hooked it didn’t take long to think about making my own. Turns out, it’s remarkably easy, and there is no shortage of online resources to support you along the way.

Before brewing kombucha, you need to learn about the SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s rubbery, slimy, and generally unattractive, but this culture is responsible for making all the good stuff happen. In just a few days, the SCOBY will turn sugary tea into fizzy, beloved booch.There’s a few ways to get your hands on one. If you happen to know a fellow kombucha brewer, they are likely to have an extra on hand. Every time you make a batch, the SCOBY produces a second baby SCOBY that can be used separately. If you can’t get one from a friend, it’s just as easy to get a good one at a local home brewing store or online. Cultures for Health is a trusted online shop, but you’ll find tons more on Amazon. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you can make your own, though I don’t have any experience doing so myself.

scoby-closeMy odd-looking current SCOBY, a smaller mature one with a larger young one attached

Want to get started? Below is my tried and true recipe for basic kombucha.

Basic Kombucha

Makes 1 Gallon

Ingredients
• 14 cups of water
• 8 teabags or 4 tbsp of organic green or black tea (no flavored teas)
• 1 cup of organic sugar
• 1 SCOBY
• 1-2 cups of starter tea (reserved from another batch of kombucha or wherever you got your SCOBY from)

Equipment
• a large glass container with an open top (at least 1 gallon)
• a wooden or other non-metallic spoon (contact with metal will damage the SCOBY)
• a non-metallic strainer
• cheesecloth or a paper towel, and a rubber band

1. Bring 6 cups of the water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the tea and let steep for 4 minutes. Then remove the tea and add the cup of sugar, stirring until it is fully dissolved. Add the remaining 8 cups of water to help bring the tea to room temperature.

2. Once the tea is at room temperature, pour it into your glass container (it is important not to be warmer to prevent damaging your SCOBY). Then add both your SCOBY and starter tea to the container.

3. Cover the top of the container with the cheesecloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Your tea is now ready to ferment! Find a place for it that will remain at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. The fermentation process can take anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks. The longer it ferments, the less sweet and more sour the kombucha becomes. I’ve found that 7-9 days is my sweet spot, but feel free to taste your kombucha along the way to figure out when it’s just right for you!

doublebrewstrain2
Brewing and straining

4. Once you like how your kombucha tastes, you are ready to move from fermentation to bottling. Remove the SCOBY with your non-metallic spoon along with 1-2 cups of the kombucha. You can start another batch of kombucha with this right away or store in a closed jar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

5. Pour the kombucha from your container into smaller, air-tight containers using your non-metallic strainer to filter out any of the slimy yeast that formed in the process. It’s safe to drink, but not necessarily enjoyable. Make sure to leave at least an inch of room at the top of the jar for air, to prevent your bottles of carbonated booch from exploding.

At this point, the kombucha is technically finished. However, I ALWAYS do a second fermentation to make my booch more bubbly.

6. For second fermentation, seal the containers and leave out at room temperature for another 24-48 hours, then move to the fridge. Do not leave out of the fridge for more than a few days, because again, all that carbonation could cause the containers to burst.

Second fermentation is also your chance to add fruit juice to make flavored kombucha. I’ll have recipes coming soon, but in the meantime I suggest exploring Phickle, my favorite blog. There are some fantastic recipes, including this seasonal Cherry Kombucha.

cherrybooch
Phickle’s cherry kombucha

I hope you enjoy the kombucha adventure as much as I do. If you run into any questions, leave a note for me in the comments, I would love to chat and help out.

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