How to Make Kombucha Tea: A Fermented Probiotic Beverage

Kombucha is a fermented tea made with tea, sugar and water, using a SCOBY (Or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) to start the fermentation process. It is naturally carbonated, has a sweet and sour taste, and a low alcohol content. [Read more...]

Probably originating in Manchuria, kombucha is just another way a beverage was preserved without the relatively new invention of refrigeration. Food preservation, in the past, consisted mainly of dehydration, candying, salting and fermenting.  Without the modern convenience of refrigeration it was challenging to store food and beverages, and so fermentation was often used for beverages.

SCOBY:  The SCOBY is similar in some ways to a MOTHER in apple cider vinegar.  A scoby is best acquired from another person who makes kombucha.  Once it is placed in the tea, it feeds on the sugar and ferments the tea.  The SCOBY culture produces a bacteria that ferments the yeast, also from the SCOBY.  This increases the acidity which keeps the alcohol content minimal.  It is the acid and the mild alcohol content that inhibit the growth of undesirable bacteria or mold.  When brewing your kombucha, the SCOBY will make a second SCOBY.  You will have one to give away to a friend, or to start a double batch with.  You can also just throw it out (although if you are like me you will become oddly attached to the thing as if it were alive). The chickens like it too!

Where To Find A SCOBY: Your best bet is to get one from a friend or acquaintance.  You can often find them advertised on craigslist.  Some people have had success making them from a bottle of original GTs Kombucha, which is a commercially prepared kombucha purchased at many health food stores.  You can also find them on Etsy and they can be shipped by mail.

Health Claims: Kombucha contains active enzymes and amino acids.  This means it may be good for the intestines by providing it with beneficial probiotics.  Others have made more specific health claims which haven’t been scientifically proven, so you can do your own research on that matter.

Alcohol Content: Kombucha is undeniably alcoholic.  That said, the acidity keeps the alcohol content from being over 1% and in many cases in only about 0.5%. (Similar to a dealcoholized beer.)

How to make Kombucha:

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 L (Quarts) Water
  • 1 cup white sugar (I use organic white cane sugar)
  • 8 black tea bags
  • 1 SCOBY in 2 cups of kombucha

Directions:

  1. Bring water to a boil in a large pot.  Remove from heat.
  2. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
  3. Add 8 tea bags.
  4. Allow to cool until tea is room temperature (several hours)
  5. Remove tea bags.
  6. Pour tea into a large, glass (not metal!) jar.  A large pickle jar is perfect.
  7. Dump SCOBY and kombucha into the tea (only at room temperature!).
  8. Cover with cheese cloth and hold cloth tight with an elastic band.
  9. Place in a cool, dark location for 7 -10 days.
  10. After 7 days, taste the tea.  If you would like it more sour (which would mean less sugar content) let sit longer.  If you are happy with the flavour, remove SCOBY, separate the new SCOBY from the old, and store both in 2 cups each of kombucha in the fridge, covered with cheese cloth, or start a new brew.  Be sure to reserve 2 cups of kombucha with the scoby for your next brew.
  11. You can strain the kombucha if you wish to remove the strands and lumps.  I usually do.  Pour into bottles and cap tightly.  You can use mason jars.  Cap tightly.
  12. Let sit on the counter in the same cool, dark location, for 2-4 days.  This is a second fermentation, and an anaerobic one, so the alcohol content may increase during this process.  This will also increase the carbonation content.
  13. When you have finished the second fermentation, place bottles in the fridge.   This effectively stops the fermentation process and your tea is ready to drink!  Enjoy!

Notes:

  • The SCOBY will store in the fridge for several weeks before it starts to break down.
  • When you choose your tea, make sure it is black tea, WITH caffeine.  It won’t work without caffeine.
  • DO NOT USE EARL GREY TEA!  The tanins in it may destroy the SCOBY.
  • You can substitute several of the bags with a flavored tea or a green tea, but make sure your main tea is black tea (for example, English Breakfast).
  • You can add fruit juice, fruit, ginger, herbs and more to your second ferment (when you bottle it).  Play around with it!
  • When choosing bottles, look for ones that can be capped tightly.  You can use mason jars if necessary.  The ideal bottles are home-brew style bottles with reusable caps that clamp down.  Find them at U-brew stores.
  • The longer you let your kombucha ferment, the more vinegary it gets, and the less sugar content it will have.  Go by taste!
  • When you place your SCOBY in the tea for the first time it may float.  It may sink.  It may line up vertically in the jar.  That’s ok!  Let it do what it wants to do.  The new SCOBY will form on the top of the jar.  You will then peel them apart if they are attached.
  • A healthy SCOBY is thick and peach colored.  An unhealthy SCOBY is thin, frayed looking, darker in color and looks…. sick.  It may still make a new SCOBY but it needs to be fed!
  • If your SCOBY or your brew ever shows mold on it discard it.  You have an imbalance of yeast and bacteria somehow.
  • Don’t mistake your newly forming SCOBY for mold on the top!  It will be whitish and thicker in some spots than others.  Over time it will get thicker and form a new SCOBY on top.  If you are uncertain, just wait a few days and you’ll know for sure.  Also, your brew should smell a bit fermented but not moldy.

This post has been shared on From The Farm Blog Hop.