How to Brew Kombucha

Kombucha has been called an elixir of health by many people, and has gained popularity in the western world over the last ten or so years for its natural healing properties. For over two thousand years Kombucha has been a part of eastern culture and it has been reputed to aid in longevity amongst the people that consume it.

Kombucha, the Elixir of Health

One of the major health benefits of kombucha is that it aids in digestion by adding probiotics to your stomach. There are also a number of detoxifying ingredients, including clucaric acid, lactic acid, and niacin. B vitamins, which are also synonymous with a healthy lifestyle, are present in the magical potion of kombucha. On the more confident spectrum of the scale there are those that even claim this drink will prevent, slow, or even halt cancer cells from forming. Along with a cancer fighting ability kombucha is also said to reverse the effects of aging and arthritis. These healing benefits are disputed by some and seemingly confirmed by others, but without proper study on kombucha and its properties it will remain a heated internet debate.

Health properties aside, kombucha is a tasty beverage that can be enjoyed with a number of flavours, including berries, herbs, spices, and even flowers. If you choose to buy kombucha you will find that it isn’t a cheap drink to have, I find it for around $3.50 for a small bottle, so naturally I decided to make it at home.

Getting Started

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The first thing one must do if making kombucha at home is to find a S.C.O.B.Y. (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). This is the gross looking mass that produces the kombucha. Looking online you will be able to order dried scoby from many different sources, or if you look in the local online classifieds you can probably find a live one from someone brewing their own kombucha at home. I decided that I wanted to grow my own from a bottle I bought at the store. I had to make sure it was raw and unpasteurized kombucha to ensure there was still living organisms in the bottle. I went to a local health food store and found it right away, looking into the bottle you should see a small blob floating somewhere near the bottom. This is the start of a scoby. Once I had my pricey starter I was ready to brew some magical “buch”.

Kombucha is nothing more than a fermented tea beverage, using black or green tea and plain white sugar. So I bought a couple boxes of tea for a few dollars and a large glass vessel for it to ferment in. Glass is ideal as it won’t impart any flavours or stain with time. With a little online research I found a base recipe for making kombucha that was pretty simple, for each gallon of final product you need eight tea bags and one cup of sugar. I was using a two gallon bottle so I doubled that recipe.

Making tea for KombuchaEssentially what the fermentation is doing in kombucha is turning your tea into vinegar, halting this process and bottling somewhere along the way leaves you with the tangy sweet trademark taste kombucha drinkers know and love. Leave it too long and you will get nothing but sour vinegar taste, taste it too soon and you are just drinking cold, watered down tea. It’s a trial and error on the part of the brewer, and many small tastings are needed to get you where you want to be.

The first batch I made was pure black tea and I pretty much sacrificed the whole batch to grow my scoby, which came out almost paper thin and falling apart. The second batch I used a mixture of black, green, and flavoured green tea. This batch was much better and I started drinking it much sooner than the first one. Once I was happy with the flavour it was time to bottle. With freshly washed hands I carefully removed the scoby, which after the second batch was much thicker and very easily handled, and ran the remaining liquid through the spout and into a variety of bottles. This is where you can add other flavours, such as grated ginger, fresh chopped berries, even herbs or flower petals. While I was bottling, the scoby was resting quietly in a bowl with two cups of the kombucha to keep it wet. The next step was to brew the third batch.

On batch number three I wanted to try using mostly green tea, so I used fifteen bags of green and one bag of black tea. Letting the bags steep in a pot of boiled water from the kettle for fifteen to twenty minutes made sure my tea would be nice and strong.

HBS-Kombucha-4Once done steeping I stirred in my two cups of sugar and let cool. The big glass jar was half filled with cool tap water, then the tea was added and I topped it up to just below the two gallon mark. The scoby was placed back in the vessel and the liquid from batch number two was added as well.

The scoby acts like your pitched yeast in any other fermentation but in this case it doesn’t act alone, along with yeast there is also a colony of friendly bacteria at work. These two combine forces to digest the sugars in the tea and turn it into the vinegar that helps to flavour your kombucha. They also are responsible for imparting the probiotics and vitamins that are found in kombucha, so don’t be afraid of the alien looking creature on top of your brew. It is there to help.

HBS-Kombucha-5Instead of sealing the top of your kombucha like you would in a wine or beer fermentation, you do something a little different because you want oxygen and air flow. I used a cloth folded over with a large elastic band around it to cover the top, some use cheesecloth or even coffee filters. In any case you want it covered to prevent pests or dust from getting in, but you don’t want an airtight seal.

Within a few days you can start to sample your brew, I found the nine to eleven day brew is to my liking but you can decide for yourself based on what flavour enjoy the most, sour or sweet. Whichever you choose just make sure you are following some sanitary guidelines ensuring everything is clean when you use it and you should make out just fine.

Whether you are a believer of the kombucha miracle-like health benefits or just enjoy drinking it for the taste, it is an inexpensive and easy to make beverage. After all if you ferment one beverage you are likely going to be interested in fermenting more, and kombucha is just another example of how we can make something using natures gifts of yeast and in this case bacteria. Enjoy.

Finished Kombucha being served

written by Jerod Ritchie

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