I’m veering away from food today to bring you something slightly unusual but very good for you, especially if you suffer from gut issues…Kombucha Tea. Maybe you have seen it in the grocery store where it sells for about $2.50 per bottle! I am going to teach you how to make this incredibly easy tea at the fraction of the cost.
WHAT EXACTLY IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha is a slightly fermented, slightly sweet tea, that is indisputably full of probiotics, which are very good for your gut. Kombucha starts out as a surgery tea, which then slowly ferments as the “scoby” feeds on the sugar. Hmm, sounds weird, right? Well it is, but really not much different from how vinegar is made. The scoby eats up a majority of the sugar, leaving a slightly sweet, ever so refreshing fizzy drink.
Okay, before you say anything, I agree with you! It looks like something your kids brought home from a science experiment at school. Well, that’s not far off. “SCOBY” is actually an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacterial yeast. This rubbery, sponge-like mass floats, grows, eats sugar, and brown stringy bits hang from it. Sounds gross, right? But in reality it is so awesome! This little amoeba-looking scoby is the power and life behind creating the delicious probiotic fermented kombucha.
WHY IS IT GOOD FOR YOU?
Fermentation is good for your body period. If you want to know why, read here: Fermented foods and why they are amazing for your body. Kombucha goes through a fermentation process that gives the drink its natural carbonation. Kombucha, like yogurt, is full of probiotics, which again, are fantastic for making a happy gut. And any of us suffering from Celiac or a Gluten Intolerance can attest to wanting a happy gut!
IS KOMBUCHA ALCOHOLIC?
This is a good question because it is a fermented drink. But kombucha contains less that 1% alcohol, so do I call it an alcoholic drink? Personally I do not, but you should be aware that due to its fermentation process there is a slight amount in each batch of brewed kombucha.
HOW DO I MAKE A SCOBY?
Unless you know someone who makes kombucha tea, you will need to order a scoby. My daughter was brewing kombucha long before I ever started making the tea, so I was able to get a starter scoby from her. Every batch of Kombucha produces an extra baby scoby, which can be passed on to friends. In the image above you can see where the extra scoby is forming. The tea takes about 7-10 days to brew, then after it is bottled it goes through a second fermentation resting period of about 5-7 days. What happens if you forget about your fermenting kombucha? Well let me tell you, you end up with the mother of all scoby’s! Here is what happened when I brewed a batch and forgot to bottle it before we left for our 3 week European trip! It was like birthing a baby trying to get this gargantuan scoby out of the jar! I sliced off about a 1/4 inch thick piece and started again.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE KOMBUCHA
- 16 oz EZ cap bottling jars
- 1 gallon glass jar for brewing
- Large Cooking Pot
- Wooden Spoon
- 1 scoby (symbiotic culture of bacterial yeast)
- Black Tea
- Fresh cut fruit/no citrus (optional)
Most of the supplies you need for brewing Kombucha, including purchasing a scoby, you can find in my GF Market on the left-hand side under Making Kombucha.
- 3 1/2 quarts water
- 8-10 black tea bags
- 1 cup sugar (raw or white)
- 1-2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or from store-bought scoby bag.
- Fresh cut fruit (no citrus)
Place large cooking pot on stove and fill with 3 1/2 quarts of water. Add 8-10 black tea bags, 1 cup of sugar and bring to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once tea comes to a boil remove from heat. Allow to completely cool.
Once tea has completely cooled, remove tea bags. Place cooled tea in a large one gallon glass jar. Add scoby and starter tea from last batch (or store-bought batch). Place plastic lid or coffee filter with rubber band over opening (this is what I use so I can put the date I need to bottle on the filter with a permanent marker). DO NOT USE METAL LID OR METAL STIRRING SPOON. For some reason, metal disturbs the fermenting process. Place covered jar in a dark place (I keep mine in my pantry) and let it sit for 7-10 days. If you like more sweetness bottle after seven days, more even balance between sweetness and tartness bottle after 10 days (I always go 10 days). You may notice the scoby on the bottom, floating on the top or even drifting sideways. All these positions are perfectly normal. Sometimes the new baby scoby will grow completely detached from the mother scoby or it may attach itself, in which you will want to pull it apart before beginning a new batch.
After the 7 to 10 days have passed you are ready to bottle! Remove the lid and take out the scoby. I place my scoby in a glass bowl with 1-2 cups of the tea and set it aside. Take the baby scoby and place in a plastic Ziploc bag with a cup of tea and place in the refrigerator to give away or keep as a back-up scoby.
You will need about 6-7 16 oz bottling jars. I like to use the jars with the EZ lid stoppers because they can be used over and over again. Now you get to be creative and think of all kinds of fruit combinations to place in your kombucha. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
- Asian Pear & Ginger
- Blueberry Blackberry Raspberry
- Apple Blueberry
- Ginger Peach
- Raspberry Peach
I cut the fruit small enough so when it soaks up a bit of the tea it won’t get stuck in the mouth of the jar (about the size of a blueberry). When I use fresh ginger, I cut a long strip. For some reason, the citrus fruits disturb the fermentation, so I have been told not to use them. I generally place about 10-15 pieces of fruit in each jar and only one slice of ginger when adding that. Place your fruit in the jar first, then add the tea just above the bottom of the neck of the jar by using a funnel. You should notice the first signs of bubbly carbonation when filling the jar.
Wipe the top rim of the jar with a damp cloth before sealing the cap. After you are done bottling, your jars are ready for the second fermentation. Let your bottles rest on the counter for another 5-7 days before placing them in the refrigerator, which stops the carbonation process.
After you finish bottling, it is now time to start your next batch. Follow the beginning steps of brewing the tea and placing the scoby you have resting in the dish into your cooled tea. Place in a closet and this new batch will be ready to drink in a few weeks!
Now you are ready to drink your first bottle! Strain the kombucha (I use a tea strainer) At this point it doesn’t matter if your strainer is metal. But you do want to strain it before drinking so you can remove any fruit or bits of brown stringy cultures that may be still in your bottle, although it would not hurt you if you drank it. Cheers!