Kombucha is an ancient drink (at least 2,000 years old) made from fermenting tea, sugar and a live culture (a scoby). It has a pleasant tart applely taste and is fizzy. It makes a refreshing drink, is delicious with meals, and is good for us! There is very little sugar left following the fermentation process.
It has been well documented for its “cure all” properties, but this is not entirely true. However, it does contain many beneficial acids, yeasts and probiotics that help to protect the body and keep it functioning well.
The Kombucha scoby is a living organism and will need to be feed! It is feed by the sugar and the tea mixture. However, the final sugar content of the drink is quite low at the end of the process.
The main purported health benefits of Kombucha
Supports the immune system
Help fight cancer
Protects the lining of the intestinal track
A large glass jar (2.5 litres) with a wide top
Plastic sieve or strainer
Heatproof bowl or jug (1.5 litre Pyrex)
Muslin or breathable fabric to cover the jar
An elastic band
We are intending to grow “good bacteria” in this process, so it is beneficial to use organic indigents. We want to eliminate pesticides, detergents, chlorine or anything that will be harmful to our “good guys”.
The basic recipe is straight forward, but there are many variables, such as the tea used and even the sugar used. It is a question of experimenting to achieve a flavour to your taste.
Whilst it is important and all equipment should be thoroughly cleaned before use, bear in mind that using antibacterial cleaners or bleach can kill the cultures. Normal cleaner and a bit of hard work will suffice and then rinsing all items thoroughly. I do usually finally rinse bottles, jars and bowls with filtered water.
One other thing to mention, scobys do not like metal! Therefor, all the utensil need to be plastic or wooden. This also applies to rings on fingers and these should be removed or gloves warn.
The tea can be any “proper “ tea – green, black or white, but not fruit teas. I usually use Clipper’s organic white tea. I like this one as it give a milder taste to the Kombucha.
The sugar should be of good quality, I have used golden sugar or even soft brown sugar.
The water must be either filtered or boiled. This is to remove any chlorine from the water.
Lastly the scoby. The name is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacterial and Yeast. I suggest buying a scoby from a reputable supplier. I use Happy Kombucha. (www.happykombucha.co.uk) and have always found them to be good. It will be sent in the post and will contain some started fluid.
Firstly you need to brew your tea. Place 160gms of sugar in are large bowl together with you chosen tea bags (I use 6 tea bag for a 2 litre batch) Pour 1 litre of boiling filtered water over the tea bags and sugar. Allow it to brew for approximately 20 mins.
There are a number of variable at this stage. More sugar may be used if you want a sweeter finished product. 160gms seems to be the minimum amount needed for the process of fermentation. Most of the sugar is used in the process and makes a tart apple tasting fizzy drink.
The type of tea bags used will also influence the flavour of the kombucha. So again it’s a case of trying different teas to find the one that suits your palette. The length of steeping the tea also affects the flavour. The longer it is steeped the stronger flavour.
After the desired passage of time has elapses and your tea has steeped, remove the tea bags and allow it to cool to room temperature.
When cooled pour the tea into your 2.5 litre jar and add a further 1 litre of filtered water. Add your scoby and starter tea. The starter tea will be in the packet with your scoby if you have purchased one, or if this is an ongoing brew, you will have keep some of the kombucha back from the previous batch.
Cover the top of the jar with a piece of muslin (I usually double mine up to be sure no dust or flies can get through or you can use a clean tea towel.
Seal the top with an elastic band. Store you kombucha in a dark cupboard at room temperature and allow it to ferment. The fermenting period is when the good bacteria is growing and digesting the sugar. Again, there are variables on the time to leave your kombucha. I usually leave mine for 1 week to complete the fermentation process. One week is the minimum time for fermentation. It will depend on the room temperature. If your room is quite warm than the fermentation process will be quite quick. (My home is fairly warm so in the summer it will ferment in 1 week) In the winter I keep my kombucha in the kitchen above my fridge as there seems to be a certain amount of heat coming from the fridge and the jar is snugly wrapped in a piece of fleece to keep it warm and dark! I also have a thermometer strip on the jar to check the temperature. I have found it ferments best at around the 22 deg mark. The temperature strips can be purchased quite cheaply either from Amazon or through Happy Kombucha.
Now is the time you need a bit of patience! After 7 days you can check the taste of you Kombucha by using a straw and extracting some of the liquid from the jar and tasting. Put the straw between the scoby and the jar and let the straw fill, then place your finger over the end of the straw draw the straw out of the jar, and release over a glass, and taste! If you like the taste then it is time to bottle. If you want a stronger more tart taste then leave if for an extra day or two and try it again. The longer the kombucha is left the more tart the flavour will be, culminating in making vinegar.
Each time you brew a batch of kombucha a new scoby will form on the top of the jar. I do let mine build up to about ½ inch, but at some point you will need to discard the excess ones. More about storing the scobies in a future article.
This stage it is referred to as a second ferment, which means it is bottle into swing top bottles and left to ferment again and build up the carbonation. For this reason they need to be the flip top lid variety and good sturdy ones as considerable pressure can build up in the bottles. It can be flavoured at this point by adding fruit and flavourings, but I have not had much success with this and have had lumps of fruit stuck in the bottles! I very much like the taste of the kombucha as it is, so I usually leave it plain.
Make sure your bottles are thoroughly clean and free of detergent or bleach, but they do not necessarily need to be sterilised.
Take off any metal from your hand and wash your hands and thoroughly rinse them make sure there are no traces of detergent. (or alternatively ware thin plastic gloves).
Carefully take out the scoby from the kombucha and put it into a non metal bowl and pour approximately ¼ litre of the kombucha over the scoby. This will become the started for your next batch.
Now strain the rest of the kombucha into another larger non metal bowl. I use two strainers together to catch all the bits. Next fill the swing top bottles with the kombucha to within 1” of the top of the bottle. Seal the swing top and then store the bottles out of direct sunlight until the carbonation has built up. Check them every day and burp the bottles by release a little of the built up gas. Once they are fizzy store in the refrigerator. Because I use the least amount of sugar required for fermentation, I find they don’t get overly fizzy. I have found that it can take up to 2 weeks for the kombucha to become fizzy. However, if using more sugar they can get quite explosive! So burp them regularly and storing them in the refrigerator should slow the fermentation. One tip I have found useful is if the kombucha seem a little too strong you can dilute it with carbonated or filtered water.
Your kombucha is now ready! Enjoy. If you are new to kombucha start with only a small amount each day. Kombucha is detoxifying and it is possible to have some side effects from this. It is only temporary and will pass in a few days. Also it will take a while to build the “good” bacterial in the gut and needs to be built up slowly.
I usually stain my kombucha before drinking. There may be a small scoby built up on the top of the bottle. Whilst this is not harmful and perfectly normal, it is not particularly appetising. Incidentally, I put all these bits in my compost and it certainly seems to help with decomposition! I know of one lady who feeds any excess scobies to her chicken; they must be the fittest chicken ever!
To return to the Home page click here