How To Brew Kombucha At Home
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria. The culture of yeast and bacteria is called ‘scobe’ (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or, more commonly called ‘mother’.
Kombucha, called the Magical Elixir of Life in the Orient, where it originated 2000 years ago, is said to have many healthful benefits.
Why drink kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented, has a slightly sweet tart flavor, is highly acidic, and has a slight effervescence when bottled in tightly sealed containers.
It is full of probiotics, and helps in digestion, stamina, general health, helps to cure skin conditions, and is said to detoxify the liver. It contains vitamin B and antioxidants, and a slight amount of alcohol from the fermentation.
I’m sipping on a bottle right now, which I bottle in used Grolsch beer bottles with the EZ cap lids. I’m cutting back on coffee, and drink a little kombucha to give me a boost when I need a little more energy. I enjoy the taste of it, although, be warned, it is tart due to the vinegar produced when you ferment it.
How can I make kombucha at home?
One morning, several months ago – actually it was December 12, 2014 – my eldest son met me for breakfast. He has been brewing kombucha for a couple years at this point, and he knew I was interested in trying it myself. So he said, “Let’s cut breakfast short and go over to your house. I’ve got a surprise for you.” When we got to my house he gave me a beautiful ceramic pot (lead free, mind you) and a mother starter, which he took off the top of his brew. The scobe was immersed in about 20 oz. of kombucha tea. He got the mother starter from “fermentation fetishist” Sandor Katz. So all my batches “descended” from that mother.
We boiled up about 2 1/2 gallons of water in my big spaghetti pot, and put 2 1-gallon sized tea bags in the water, once it boiled. At this point he left, but with specific instructions how to proceed.
Here’s the summary of how to make kombucha at home and enjoy its healthful benefits:
- Boil about 2 1/2 gallons of water.
- Remove the pot from the stove and put 2-3 gallon-sized tea bags in the boiled water. Cover and let steep for 1-3 hours.
- Measure 3 +/- cups of white cane sugar and dissolve in still hot tea. I’m stating to use about 3 1/4 cups now and like the taste better. Experiment.
- Let the tea cool to room temperature. Do not put the mix into the ceramic crock until it has cooled to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Hot tea can damage the mother.
- Get a big ceramic pot to ferment the mix in. Make sure it is lead-free, since the lead will leach out into the mix. (That definitely would defeat the purpose.) My good friend David will start his 1st brew this week and he bought this kit to get started. Here’s a picture of my setup:
- Pour the room temperature mix into the pot. Pour about 16 to 20 oz. of fermented kombucha tea into the mix.
- Place your starter mother in the mix. It will eventually come to the top.
- Place a cloth over the top. It would be a cut t-shirt, a hanky, or a towel. The main thing is that it needs to breath.
- Place the protection ring over the cloth.
- Place the pot in a warm, but not hot, area of the home. (In the winter, some people use special heaters to keep the mix around 80 degrees.)
- Wait 7-14 days and bottle the mix. I usually wait about 13-14 days. The longer you wait, the stronger it gets. Taste it every few days and bottle it when you like the taste. It will be acidic, but that is one of the traits of kombucha. The bitterness doesn’t bother me, but my wife makes a face every time she drinks it. You can bottle it in a covered glass pitcher or bottles that have EZ caps on them. David bought 12 blue EZ cap bottles for his 1st batch.
A few more tips:
- After a few batches the scobe will be too thick, and take up a lot of room in the crock. Remove about half of it and give it to a friend. Unfortunately many times you have to throw this living culture away. My son removes his mother’s lower portion and leaves the top portion. I take off the top and leave the new mother below. I may try his method and see if it makes a difference. Note – leave about 1″ to 1 1/2″. Scobe is very durable. Don’t worry about hurting it. Even a small trace of scobe will eventually grow to full size as long as you feed it sweet tea.
- Boil your water. This keeps it pure.
- Wait a few minutes before dropping your tea bags in the water. Tea doesn’t necessitate, nor like, boiling water.
- After ten or fifteen batches you’ll find your spigot is clogging up and the crock looks pretty dirty. Remove your scobe and about 20 oz. of kombucha. Place them is a clean vessel. Wash the pot and use a long toothpick or other object that won’t damage the valve, and poke around from the inside and the outside while running water through the spigot. It should start to flow better. (This takes a bit of work to really clear it, but is well worth it when it comes time to bottle. Note – I don’t use soap, just water, because I don’t want any contaminants in the crock. If you use soap, rinse thoroughly.
- Don’t use herbal teas. I use Lipton Black Tea, gallon size like you get at Sam’s or a restaurant supply. Research before trying the many other teas you can use.
- I keep a note on the cloth covering the kombucha mix. It states the date I started the batch, how many tea bags I used, how much sugar I used, how many days before I bottled it, and whether I removed the excess scobe when I bottled it. This is a great record of all your batches.
- You can also add pulverized fruit after you bottle it. Do some research on different ways to flavor kombucha. Only flavor it after brewing though.
That should get you started. If you have any questions leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.
What has kombucha done for me?
My wife and I have been drinking kombucha for about 9 months now. It helps our digestion, has cleared up some chronic skin conditions I had, energizes me, and helps my digestion. It may be doing a lot of other things, but all in all, I like it. Despite its sour taste, my wife drinks half a juice glass every morning.
I hope you enjoy your journey into better health and home brewing. This fermented tea is cheap and very good for you. (About $0.50 a gallon) I have a feeling, once you get started you’ll never stop.
I am not a medical doctor or anything related to medicine or diet. Please do you own due diligence and research any of the information herein.