Everything You Need to Know About Kombucha and How to Make It
You’ve seen it in Whole Foods or other natural food stores, the blends of mysterious kombucha “tea” as it is usually called. Sometimes it’s mixed with other flavors, similar to juice or apple cider, and has a slight carbonation from its fermentation process. But what is it? Is it really alive? Should I drink the slimy stuff? Is it safe to make it at home? These are great questions. Let me show you!
What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha tea is made from the fermentation of a scoby. "Scoby" is an acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast." You use it to start your kombucha culture. A "scoby" is basically a self-propagating formation of yeast and bacteria.
Kombucha is believed to have curative properties, especially in regards to improving the digestive system, boosting the immune system, and increasing energy levels. It is also believed to help the skin, promote well-being, and detoxify your body.
Kombucha is the name of a mushroom that's also known as a Manuchurian mushroom. For centuries, it has reputedly been used in Asian and Russian countries. The scoby, also called the mushroom, is not eaten. It gets confusing, I know. A tea is made from fermenting the mushroom (the scoby formation, not an actual mushroom) in water, sugar, and green or black tea for a week to a month.
Sometimes apple cider vinegar or original “culture” is added, meaning tea from the last batch (similar to making buttermilk–using previous cultures to culture the next batch). Baby scoby (“daughter mushrooms”) are produced during this process and can be used to create more and more kombucha.
This Is a Scoby.
How Do I Make Kombucha?
Things You NEED to Know Before Making Kombucha
- Clean, Clean, Clean: When you’re fermenting this liquid, you’re growing a culture, and then you’re consuming it. So cleanliness is of the utmost importance! Wash your hands. Have a clean, empty sink to work in.
- Use the Right Tools: ONLY use stainless steel, glass, or clean wooden utensils. Invest in a clean, stainless steel pot. Use a glass dish to store the scoby in while you make a new batch of tea. Remove all jewelry off your fingers. Other metals can kill a scoby.
- Be Aware of Temperature: Room temperature everything, all the time. Extreme temperatures can kill a scoby. In warm, humid environments, people leave their kombucha teas on the counter. Here in Northern California, I place mine in the back of my pantry on the floor.
- Ferment in the Dark and Quiet: It’s a living organism, and it’s growing. Have you ever made bread? Have you ever watched it fall when a door was slammed? Store your scoby in a safe, quiet, dark place so it can do it’s thing. This way you avoid many mishaps, dirt, spillage, disruption, etc…
- Don't Drink the Slimy Bit: And no, you don't have to drink the slimy part! It's part of the culture. The benefits come from the liquid.
How Do I Make It?
- Start with a scoby: You can buy the drink for $2-5 per 16 oz. bottle, but why? Kombucha scoby (or mushrooms) can be found: through friends or random strangers met at health food stores, on Craigslist or other networking boards (like at your local health food store), and on the internet. Obviously, it seems safest to obtain a scoby from a person deemed trustworthy because you’re going to make a concentrated tea from this stuff that you’re going to proceed to drink! If you’re desperate to make it and can’t find flesh and blood to give it to you, turn to the internet, and search wisely.
- Get a glass jar as big as the amount of liquid you want to make.
- In a stainless steel pot, boil water. Turn off heat. Add 5-7 green and/or black tea bags (I use organic. Ask the previous owner what they were using and transition slowly, so as not to disrupt the scoby, possibly killing it). And add 1 to 2 cups of sugar (if you have a smaller jar, use one; if it’s extra large, use two).
- When the liquid is room temperature (neither hot, nor cold), remove the tea bags with a wooden or stainless steel spoon and pour the liquid into your glass jar.
- Add in the scoby with the reserve liquid it came with.
- Cover with a piece of cloth (I cut up an old T-shirt). Secure it with a rubber band.
- Wait. Some say a week. I aim for 28 days. I’ve fermented for as long as three (3) months, but don’t recommend it.
Put the Scoby Into Your Tea and Sugar Mixture
Cover Your Kombucha and Let It Ferment
Safe, Fun, & Easy!
Have fun! Ask me if you have questions!
- Balch, P.A., (2000). Prescription for nutritional healing. Avery Books: New York.
- Haas, E.M. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition: The Complete guide to diet & nutritional medicine. Celestial Arts: Berkeley, CA.
- Kirschmann, J.D. (2007). Nutrition almanac – 6th ed. McGraw Hill: NY.