Kelly the Culinarian: How to Make Homemade Kombucha

Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Make Homemade Kombucha

My first homebrew made
with green tea
I am such a hippie. I don't know how this happened. I like to shower and all, but I have a lot of habits that would brand me as a tree huger in any other circumstance: shopping at specialty markets, line-drying my clothes, growing my own food and now, brewing my own kombucha.

For the uninitiated, kombucha is a fermented tea that's choc full of probiotics and good bacteria. It's fizzy and slightly vinegary, but can be flavored with fruits or other additives.  Again, something I never imagined myself voluntarily consuming, but times change. After my crippling digestive issues this summer, I was seriously doubting my ability to continue running and racing. I was desperate for any remedy. Desperate enough to try a $4 bottle of fermented tea.

Once I realized this magical snake oil was the key to being able to race without embarrassing side effects, I was hooked. However, I needed a cheaper fix, so I googled around to figure out what to do next.

My youngest sister makes kombucha in a lab for research purposes, so she gave me the basics. Then, Laima mentioned that her sister brewed her own, so she procured a starter for me, otherwise known as a Mother or SCOBY.

I'll be honest, it was kind of like having a chunk of placenta in a jar. The first time I brewed with Lauren, it was hard to get over the grossness of it all. But the end result is hard to pass up: It costs $2 for enough tea and sugar to make roughly eight batches of kombucha, and each batch makes about seven single-serving bottles. I'm not great with math, but this is an awesome value. It's also a very passive process and involves basically boiling water, then watching it ferment.

Here's my method for kombucha brewing. If you're a kombucha fan, please let me know your secrets and tried-and-true strategies.

Here's what you'll need:
A kombucha starter (if you're in Chicago and need one, let me know. Every batch creates another baby SCOBY)
A 1-gallon glass jar, vase or pitcher (here's the one I bought it was $6 at WalMart)
1 cup of sugar (you must use sugar, this is what the kombucha eats to make it fizzy)
10 tea bags (green or black, but not herbal)
A large sauce pot
A funnel
A fine-mesh strainer
Six to eight bottles with lids (recycle, yo)
1 mason jar

Start with boiling one gallon of water. Let it boil for five minutes, then add the sugar and tea bags.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely to room temp. You can leave it overnight or place the pot in your sink with cold water and ice to speed the process.

Pour the sweet tea into your kombucha using the fine mesh strainer to remove the loose tea, then add your starter and whatever liquid it was stored with into the jar. If you're going to touch the SCOBY, make sure your hands are clean and soap-free. Don't use any anti-bacterial stuff around the tea because duh, this whole thing is about growing bacteria.

Cover the jar loosely with a paper towel or rag and add a rubber band to keep out anything gross or unpalatable, then place in a cool, dark place for seven to 10 day to let your pet grow and feast on that sugar. I put my brew under the guest bathroom cabinet. So if you need toilet paper in my house, sorry.

My second batch made with black tea
After a week, taste the tea. Use a straw to pipe out a sample (don't drink right from the brew, that's icky). If it's sweet, it probably needs another few days. If it's slightly acidic, you're ready for the second brew.

It's easiest to bottle this stuff if you strain your freshly brewed kombucha into a pitcher first. Then, start pouring your tea into your bottles using a clean funnel. Don't leave much air in the bottles because it will take forever to get it fizzy. Secure the caps tightly, then place in that cool dark place again for another three to five days. Once you refrigerate it, the brewing stops and you're ready to drink up. Each batch makes about seven bottles, because you should retain roughly 10 percent of the brew to keep the Mother moving forward until you brew the next batch.

For every batch, the mother splits, hence why I have starters to share. You don't want the starter to hang out too long before brewing again, but if you have to store it, put it in a mason jar, cover it loosely with a paper towel and rubber band and place it in the fridge. Allow it to sit overnight at room temp before adding it to a brew again.
The end result of the black tea saga
Questions? Let me know in the comments and I'll answer to the best of my brewing abilities.


Unknown said...

How is the black tea v/s green tea for flavor? Did you ever try the cherries?

KellytheCulinarian said...

I prefer the green tea, but the black tea gets more fizzy for whatever reason. I haven't tried any flavors yet, but that's my next step.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, I am so excited! The brew went great. I am ready to decant mine into the bottles today. Which mother do I keep... the one on the top? How much of the kombucha should I keep from this batch with the mother to start the new batch.

KellytheCulinarian said...

You can actually keep both - a new mother forms every time! Keep enough tea to keep the mother moist. I usually save about a cup for each mother.