We love us some KOMBUCHA…otherwise known in our home as “bucha”…:)
Kombucha is a super-delicious naturally effervescent (bubbly!) probiotic drink that has been around since ancient times. Basically, it’s a healthful fermented tea that you can make easily and affordably at home. It’s a living food loaded with enzymes, vitamins and probiotics.
Since we don’t do a lot of soda around here this is a perfect, kid-friendly, health-friendly treat. I recommend trying a few kinds from your supermarket to find what flavors you like before setting out to make your own (this will give you a good idea about what kind of flavors you like too!).
The starter culture/mother/mushroom is called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast). You will need a SCOBY, 1 cup of sugar, 1 gallon of tea, a glass gallon jar, rubber band, light kitchen towel (or coffee filter) and a bit of fruit or fruit juice for flavoring. We got started with an Oregon Kombucha Starter Kit that I picked up at a local health food store. I highly recommend that! 🙂
So here’s what you do:
- Brew 1 gallon of tea. This is about 8 tea bags. Fill your glass container leaving a little room at the top.
- Dissolve 1 cup of sugar in the tea (a glass container works best). Let it cool completely, overnight works well for me. If the tea is too warm it can kill your precious SCOBY!
- Add SCOBY (with 1/2 cup of starter culture – a previous successful kombucha batch – store-bought works just fine) to the sweetened tea and cover with a breathable cloth, securing with a thick rubber band.
- Let it ferment for 7-30 days. Your kombucha brew should sit at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, away from any other fermenting, cultured foods (yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, etc.). The longer you let it ferment, the stronger and more vinegar-y, and less sweet your kombucha will taste. But you can always add fruit juice or other flavoring to sweeten it at the end.
- Remove SCOBY (save for next batch!) and new baby SCOBY and Enjoy!
A few other notes on delicious and healthy kombucha:
– SCOBY’s can look really strange – after all, they are alive! They are pretty cool to watch and each one can be a little different, and form different yeast structures, etc. (Here are some pictures!) Most of that is all safe and edible (but a little weird texture-wise, so we usually strain any “pieces” out), the only thing to watch out for is mold. If all your utensils were clean it should work out just fine, but mold could make you very sick, so if you notice any fuzzy growth on top, throw out the entire batch and start over with a fresh SCOBY and clean jar. – The longer you let your kombucha brew, the more sugar will be consumed by your SCOBY and the less sweet it will be. For those of us watching our sugar intake, 2 weeks or more of brew time is better. For the sweet tooth, a shorter brew time will be preferred. Try a variety of brew times and see what your family enjoys the most! (There is a marginal alcohol content, so don’t let it go too long if you’re concerned about that!)
This ^ is organic jasmine green tea with unsweetened cranberry juice and a little bit of homemade plum syrup.
It has been bottled for 1 day and is already nice and carbonated and ready for refrigeration. (The ‘floaties’ are pieces of fruit and kombucha starter and can be strained out.)
– After your kombucha has completed it’s first ferment, you can bottle it for a second ferment, adding in fruit juice or small pieces of fruit or ginger. I use a small funnel and glass bottles with flip tops (these bottles are what I use. But you could also re-use clean store-bought kombucha bottles or other air-tight containers). The fermenting continues and when bottles, produces carbonation. After 1-3 days, refrigerate your bottles to stop the fermenting and enjoy. (Be careful opening your kombucha bottles, in case the carbonation has really built up!)
– Many different ingredients can be used, in a vast variety of combinations. Oolong tea flavored with fresh peaches? Jasmine green with cranberry juice and plum? Black tea and blueberries? There are lots of options here, and the ideas I listed are a few of my favorites from the combos that we have tried. There are a few things to avoid though: some teas have oils in them (Earl grey, for example) and those can sometimes interact negatively with the SCOBY. Herbal teas also don’t work as well, but can be used in combination with green or black teas. If you use a flavored tea or blend, keep a back up SCOBY just in case things don’t work out, but it can be fun to experiment. (I’ve actually had luck with one earl grey brew, but I have heard it doesn’t always work!) I’ve not experimented much with the darker teas, but I’ve heard Ceylon and Darjeeling and English Breakfast turn out great.
– When mixing up or transferring your brew, use plastic or rubber utensils.
I’ve just been brewing for a few months, but I think it’s safe to say we’re addicted! 🙂 I really love having real-food probiotics that are dairy-free for my son with some gut complications! Plus it’s delicious and has solved tummy aches for me too.
Have you brewed your own kombucha? What flavors do you like? Let me know if you give this a whirl! 😉
Cultures for Health is the most comprehensive resource that I have found on kombucha and other cultured foods.
Wellness Mama’s Tutorial is another that I have referred to several times.