By Dawna Matthews:
I was a student at an amazing school in San Diego where we learned herbal tea blends, tonics, tinctures, aromatherapy, and other self-healing methods. One of the things they taught us was how to brew our own kombucha. At first I was pretty reluctant to delve into this mysterious fermented beverage, but my teachers at Self Heal School had never steered me wrong, so I tried drinking and brewing it.
Kombucha is a very simply, fermented tea. It has a hint of sweetness, some tartness, and is naturally bubbly. It starts out as a sweetened tea and is then fermented with the assistance of a scoby. A symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, the scoby then “eats” the sugar in the tea and transforms it into the fizzy, slightly sour beverage.
Although its origins are unknown, kombucha is a centuries old beverage found in several cultures such as Russia, China and Korea. Kombucha is well known for its health benefits, as it is jam packed with probiotics. Amongst the many benefits attributed to it, kombucha is said to help improve the digestive system, boost immunity, and detoxify the body.
How To Brew
It is super easy to brew kombucha (or “booch,” as it is known) at home. If the idea of the rubbery, spongy scoby freaks you out, then maybe you should wait before brewing at home. But then again, that’s what makes the booch so awesome and delicious. Here are the ingredients and steps for brewing it at home:
- 3 1/2 quarts water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 6 bags black tea bags (or 6 tablespoons loose tea)
- 2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought
- 1 scoby per fermentation jar
- Stock pot
- 1-gallon glass jar or two 2-quart glass jars
- Cloth to use as a cover
- Rubber band
- Bottles: Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids, 6 swing-top bottles, or clean soda bottles
Make the Tea: Using a 1 gallon or larger stainless steel pot, bring 3 1/2 quarts water to a rapid boil. Add 1 cup raw/organic cane sugar and boil 5 minutes longer. Turn off heat and add 6 tea bags or 6 tablespoons of loose tea and steep for 15 minutes to overnight. Be sure to cover, as it’s needed to prevent anything from getting into the tea. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Transfer to Jar: Place cooled tea in a clear 1-gallon glass jar. Add 1/2 cup of your starter kombucha tea and the scoby. The scoby may float, sink to the bottom, or turn sideways – this is totally normal. Next, place the fine cloth on top of the jar and secure with a rubber band.
Ferment and Wait: Place the jar in a warm area away from direct sunlight. Do not disturb for 7 days. At the end of the week, you should see a whitish cream-like formation about 1/8 of an inch thick attached to the original scoby. This is the “mother-baby” combination.
Test Your Booch: Test your brew. One way is to stick one end of a straw into the liquid, then place your finger over one the other end and pull out. Place the wet end into your mouth and and then release your finger. The tea will then come out. Another way is to gently press against the scoby with a spoon and taste the brew.
Testing is usually done between days 6 and 8, depending on your taste preference. Some folks like a sour tea; others, a sweet tea. When your brew is ready, you should notice an apple cider aroma. The consensus is that a kombucha fermented for 6-8 days at a constant 78 degrees F. will produce the best balance of beneficial nutrients as well as a semi-sweet taste.
Carefully remove the culture and place it into a clean glass bowl. Cover with some of the finished tea. Now you are ready to make a new batch. Follow same directions.
Bottle, Store, and Serve the Finished Booch: Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha (straining, if desired) into bottle. Be sure to leave about a half inch of space in each bottle, as it will expand. Allow the bottles to sit at room temperature from 1-7 days, then refrigerate. This allows for a secondary anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation and effervescence to occur. Drink and enjoy!
If you enjoy adventures in the kitchen and are intrigued by learning something new, I invite you to brew your own kombucha. Let us know your results!
For more kombucha info: