Keep Calm and Kombucha On!: Make Your Own From Scratch
Home-brewing This Delicious, Healthy Drink
Kombucha is a tasty beverage made from tea. I won’t go over all the basics of what it is because kombucha has increased so much in popularity over the past few years, and there are plenty of awesome places online to learn more.
I like this beverage because it’s a fun alternative when I don’t want to just drink water, but it’s healthier than a lot of other options like soda or traditional sweet tea. Buying it at the grocery store, however, can be so expensive! I was talking with a friend about brewing my own, and she immediately said, “I need to start doing that. Kombucha costs me a fortune every month.”
Taking the leap
If you want to brew your own, it’s a pretty simple system: kombucha is made by fermenting tea with a SCOBY. That stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY is a strange, light-colored growth. You can order them online, grow them from a store-bought bottle, or take the route I did: I got one from another kombucha-brewing friend!
Brewing and fermenting kombucha at home is not difficult or complicated, but it also is not for the faint of heart. If you are not a person who enjoys the idea of a blobby growth floating in a liquid you will later consume, you should head to the natural foods aisle and pick up your bottles there.
Brewing and fermenting kombucha at home is not difficult or complicated, but it also is not for the faint of heart.
The basic essentials
To begin our process we received a small, newly formed SCOBY from my friend. While we made the trip home we stored it in a little jam jar with one cup of liquid from her kombucha. This is important for two reasons: first, you don’t want the SCOBY to dry out. Second, you will need that starter liquid for your own kombucha.
All we needed after that was a one-gallon jar, black tea, white sugar, hot water, and a clean dish towel. In a lot of these pictures you'll see two batches of kombucha, but we started with just one, and you can too.
Ingredients and supplies
- Kombucha SCOBY
- 1 cup starter liquid
- one-gallon jar
- 2 tablespoons black tea
- 1 cup white sugar
- hot water
- a clean dish towel
Here is my quick recipe:
- Brew 2 tablespoons of tea in 4 cups of hot water.
- Add 1 cup of sugar.
- Add 8 cups of cold water.
- Place SCOBY in tea along with 1 cup of starter liquid.
- Cover with dish towel and set aside for a week or more.
I have a tendency to stress about things, so this applied to my kombucha too. In over a month of brewing, I have learned one big lesson: don’t worry! A SCOBY is more resilient than one would think, and the tea will ferment under a variety of conditions. Here are a few of the things I was terrified about that turned out just fine:
Is it too cold?
The ideal temperature for fermenting this wonderful probiotic drink is around 80 degrees. There’s no way I’m paying to keep my apartment that warm all winter, and you know what? Ours has been just fine. It will take a little while longer for it to ferment at a colder temperature, but we have found that we like the taste at just less than two weeks, even when the brew has been in a room that’s 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where should I store it?
No direct sunlight! Good ventilation! Warm! No Vibrations!
These are just a few of the qualifiers I read for where we needed to store our brew. I live in a small, one-bedroom apartment with limited counter space. After worrying about the perfect location for our kombucha (and moving it several times in the course of a week) I decided to calm down and put it on top of the fridge. It gets shook up every now and then, but it’s out of the way and the towel on top keeps direct light off of the SCOBY.
Could it be mold?
We took a trip during the first fermentation. I walked in the door, anxious to see our SOCBY’s progress. I was horrified when I discovered it was covered in little spots! If a SCOBY develops mold, you have to throw it away. After thoroughly researching on the Internet, I realized they were air bubbles, a perfectly normal part of SCOBY development. We also get a lot of stringy brown bits on our SCOBY from the yeast that helps transform the tea.
In the process of making kombucha, it’s normal to see a lot of strange looking things. I don’t have to worry that it’s mold every time.
Is it floating correctly?
A lot of pictures I saw online had perfect, thick, SCOBYS floating right on top of the brew. I was filled with concern when mine floated diagonally through the middle of the jar. The kombucha still developed, and a new SCOBY formed at the top of the jar. We were even able to transplant that SCOBY to start another batch the next time around.
On the road to expertise
I’m sure that the longer I brew kombucha, the more I will discover about all the nuances that affect it. For now I have been happy to learn that it’s a pretty difficult thing to mess up. If you’re in the early stages of brewing kombucha, or you think you want to try, don’t worry too much about the details. Nature has left us a lot of room for trial and error. Happy brewing!