Homemade Kombucha (Cultured Tea)
Kombucha is a fermented probiotic beverage. The caffeine and sugar are “eaten” during the fermentation process and what you are left with is a tangy slightly vinegary beverage. The taste of your kombucha will depend on the tea used and the fermentation length. The SCOBY is a bacterial and yeast starter culture that includes beneficial probiotics such as Acetobacter, Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Gluconacetobacter and Zygosaccharomyces strains. Drinking kombucha provides many more helpful bacteria for your digestive tract than yogurt.
SCOBY is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
To get started, you can purchase a dehydrated SCOBY online, obtain a fresh one from a friend, or grow your own. Growing your own takes quite a bit longer but it’s typically a fifth of the price of an online purchase. To buy one online, I like Cultures for Health website: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha-yeast-bacteria.
- 1/2 gallon ball jar
- paper towel or coffee filter
- 3 cups boiling hot filtered water
- 3 individual organic black tea bags Decaf will not work
- 1/2 cup organic sugar
- 1 cup Kombucha (from last batch) for first time see note below
- 1 piece SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)
- 3 cups filtered water (room temperature)
- Place the sugar into a 1/2 gallon ball jar and add in 3 cups of boiling water and stir to ensure all the sugar is dissolved. Add your tea bags and let your tea steep till it is room temperature (I let mine steep overnight).
- Remove and discard the tea bags.
- Add in the SCOBY (your tea must be below 100F) and add 1 cup of kombucha from the last batch as a starter.
- Top off your jar till the water line is about 6 or 6 1/2 cups total.
- Cover your jar with a non-bleached coffee filter, paper towel or folded cheese cloth, securing it with a rubber band or your ball jar ring (not the metal top). This will prevent fruit flies from getting to your tea.
- Let this mixture ferment for 10-16 days depending on your taste preferences. I do not ferment in direct light, but in a room that has ambient natural light. The longer the fermentation, the less sugar will be left. A three week fermentation is pretty vinegary for my taste. I ferment for 2 weeks as my preferred taste and this allows me to turn over my batches every other weekend with ease.
- After your 10-16 day fermentation, remove the new "baby" SCOBY that forms (typically on the top) and 1 cup from this batch of kombucha to start another round.
- Drink the remaining fermented tea or proceed to a secondary fermentation to create a fizzier drink. You can discard the "mother" SCOBY, put it in your compost, or use it again to double your batch. Kombucha should be kept in the fridge till consumed.
Optional secondary fermentation
- Pour the remaining fermented kombucha (after you have removed the SCOBY and 1 cup of tea as a starter for your next batch) into smaller serving size containers. I use 2-cup size ball jars or clean 16 oz jars. Jars must have lids. Leave a little bit of room (like 1/4 cup) for flavoring if wanted.
- Add additional optional flavoring such as fruit,1/4 cup fruit juice, 1/4 strongly flavored tea, or 1-2 TBST lemon juice. I often use grated ginger or ginger tea, blueberries (about 6-8), or some fruity herbal tea like cherry.
- Close the jar tightly and let this secondary fermentation sit for an additional couple of days at room temperature to add carbonation to your drink.
- Transfer your finished kombucha to the refrigerator for storage. Kombucha will be drinkable for up to six months. The tea will still ferment in the fridge, just at a much slower rate.
First time – Growing a SCOBY
- If you don't have a SCOBY from a friend or neighbor, no problem, you can grow one. Purchase a bottle of Kombucha from the store. Original flavor is best, and I personally like the GT brand best for growing a new SCOBY. Transfer that liquid into a quart size ball jar.
- Steep 1 organic black tea bag into 1 cup of hot water and add in 1/4 cup of granulated sugar.
- Once your tea has steeped and cooled, add it to the store bought kombucha.
- Cover your ball jar with a paper towel or a coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band to prevent fruit flies. A SCOBY should grow within a week to you to use as a starter.
Erin Williams, MSN CN LMP, is the founder of EZBalance.com, a health and wellness company established in 2001. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Purdue, a master’s degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University, and is currently studying to become a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Erin enjoys sharing her love of natural health and wellness with people through lectures, blogs, and consultations.