How to make Kombucha

How to make Kombucha

What is Kombucha and why drink it?

Kombucha starts out as a sugary tea, which is then fermented with the help of a scoby.

“SCOBY” is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” It is very similar to the mother used to make vinegar.  The scoby is added to sugar and tea so it can ferment. The end result apparently contains vinegar, B vitamins, beneficial bacteria and numerous chemical compounds. I say apparently because the studies done on Kombucha are scant. In fact, most evidence pointing to its beneficial effect is anecdotal.  If you would like to skip straight to the directions, click here.

There are many articles on the internet and in natural health publications that claim Kombucha is loaded with beneficial probiotic organisms linked to digestive health and immune function. They claim that drinking  kombucha before, during, or after a meal, can help break down the food and make the nutrients more bioavailable; resulting in more energy, healthier body, and stronger immune system. There are even claims that Kombucha aids in liver cleansing; essential for long lasting health.

When attempting to work out whether or not making and drinking Kombucha is worthwhile, I found it impossible to make a decision based on the evidence and information I found online. The scientists and so-called experts were mostly saying the opposite of those sharing positive experiences with Kombucha.  In the end, it was reading about the experiences of Donna Schwank,(blogger, author and fermented food enthusiast) that swayed me to give it a go.

I thought too, that the best way to test it out is to try it. People have been brewing this drink all over the world for centuries so it can’t be too bad right?

My family has now been drinking Kombucha for about 6 months and we love it. We feel good for drinking it and our general health has been great. Because it tastes delicious, and feels good, we will continue to make and drink it. Plus it is a lot of fun coming up with new flavours!

How to Make Kombucha

You will need (per litre): I usually brew 6 litres at a time

  • 1L distilled or filtered water
  • 1/4 cup white or raw sugar (brown and other sugars can upset the scoby and you don’t need to buy expensive sugars since it will be gone by the time you drink it)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. organic leaf tea or 2 organic teabags. The only tea you should use is black, green or white. Using herbal teas will upset the scoby due to oils in these plants.
  • 1 scoby and 1-2 cups of mother tea (obtain this from a friend who brews kombucha or online)
  • 1 large glass jar. I use one with a tap at the bottom which makes it easy to bottle the kombucha after it is made. You can get glass ones in kitchen shops, department stores or even at discount stores like “The Reject Shop”. The ideal brewing container is one that is made from an opaque material as Kombucha likes the dark but  you can achieve this just as easily with a towel laid over the top. 
brewing_jar
My husband bought me this lovely brewing jar for my birthday. It has a lead-free glaze and looks great on the kitchen bench.

Method:

  1. Boil the water in a large saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar until dissolved.
  2. Add the tea to the water and allow steeping for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Strain the tea or remove the tea bags.
  4. When the mixture is cooled, pour into your jar. You can speed this process up by using only a portion of your water to make the tea and then adding the rest (at room temp. or cold) after the tea has brewed. 
  5. Add the scoby and the mother tea. Make sure you secure the top of the jar with paper towel or cheesecloth to keep insects out. The cloth needs to be larger than the circumference of the jar so there is enough overhang to secure it with a rubber band.
  6. Brew for 6-10 days. The tea is ready when it tastes like apple cider. Not very sweet but not vinegary. If left too long, the mix will turn to vinegar which you can use. Start tasting from day 5.

Important Information on brewing Time: The time will vary depending on the amount of mother tea, the temperature, etc. It is more important to go by the taste of the tea, making sure it tastes like cider and the sugar has been changed over.

Note: you will see that a thin film will develop on top of the tea as it brews. This is the new scoby. As you continue to brew more kombucha, this new scoby will become thicker until you have more than one scoby. You don’t need more than one, so this is an opportunity to share with others. Always provide a cup of starter tea with a scoby you give away. If your scoby ever develops mould (this will be blue, green or furry), throw it out with the tea.  It is not safe to drink. This is VERY RARE.

scoby
This is my healthy scoby. The look of it does take some getting use to as when it comes to food, we are accustomed to everything looking so clean. Don’t be concerned about brown stringy bits and dots attached to the scoby. They are normal.
scoby_layers
Here you can see the layers of the scoby. These form with each new batch of kombucha. You can peel one off and share with a friend so that they can start their own brew.

See this website for images of unhealthy scobys: https://www.kombuchakamp.com/kombucha-mold-information-and-pictures

After the kombucha is ready you can remove the scoby(s) and 1 cup of the tea ready for the next batch.  Bottle the strained kombucha and refrigerate. It will not contain bubbles at this point. If you want it to have a fizz and other flavours you can do a second ferment. See below.

Directions for second ferment

  • Remove the scoby from the finished kombucha saving 1 cup of the tea for your next batch.
  • Add the desired flavoring to glass bottles and decant kombucha into the bottles. See below for flavour ideas. Leave about 1cm space at the top for the carbonation to develop and put lids on tightly.
bottles&ingredients
I use recycled bottles of all shapes and sizes to decant the kombucha for the second ferment. I use vinyl labels that I write the various flavours on with chalk so that I can rub them clean when I re-use them.
  • Leave the bottled kombucha to ferment for 2-7 days at room temperature. I usually leave them for only 2-3 days. I find that when the lids go from concave to convex, they are ready. You know how bottle lids have the message: “bottle lid pops up when freshness seal is broken”? Once the kombucha is fizzy, that bottle lid will not pop up. It will be very hard. Don’t leave it too long at this stage as if the carbonation builds too much, the bottles can explode.
  • Once the second fermentation process is complete, store in the refrigerator. If you add juice for flavour there is no need to strain it again. If you add solids, you will need to strain it each time you pour it from the bottle.
Click on the images to enlarge

Ideas for flavouring Kombucha

  • Fresh fruit pieces such as apple, pineapple, berries, orange, lemon
  • Ginger
  • Herbs and spices: cloves, cinnamon, vanilla, mint, lavender, chamomile and other herbal teas
  • Fresh fruit juice (requires no straining later). Use about 20ml per litre.

Our Favourite Flavours

  • Mixed berry and vanilla
  • Pineapple and mint
  • Ginger (tastes like ginger beer)
  • Passionfruit
  • Apple and ginger
  • Elderflower (tastes a bit like champagne)
  • Mango (pureed)

 

Do you have any favourite Kombucha flavours to share?
If you do, please share in the comments section below.

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5 Comments

  1. So many flavours…. I can’t wait to try, I’ve only recently started making Kombucha and now making my third batch and I am keen to try the mango and apple & ginger. Like you Angela my kids love kombucha, I love it when they get excited about healthy foods. It’s motivation to research and make more fermented foods. Thanks for sharing your info and ideas on Kombucha!!

     
  2. Sandra McCarthy

    Loved your post and your ideas for flavours. I have been making kombucha for a while now and love it. Looking forward to using some herbs in mine like you suggested.
    The only thing is I find that sometimes it doesn’t really get fizzy on the second ferment. Do you know why this would be?

     
    • Hi Sandra,
      I can think of a few things that may prevent your kombucha from fizzing. The first is that your bottle lids may not be screwed on tight enough – preventing a pressure build up. Or maybe you aren’t leaving them long enough. It takes longer in colder weather and a shorter time in the heat as the good bacteria thrive in the warmth. The other possibility is that the kombucha has gone to far in the brewing process: ie it has turned to vinegar. I have found when this happened it didn’t fizz.
      Hope that helps and good luck with future batches,
      Angela

       
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