What is kombucha?
These days, most people have already heard of kombucha. But in case you are new to it, I’ll give you a brief run down on it. Kombucha (also tea mushroom, Manchurian mushroom, formal name: Medusomyces gisevii) is a variety of fermented, lightly effervescent sweetened black or green tea. It can be plain or flavored with fruit juice or whole pieces of fruit.
Why would you want to drink kombucha?
Kombucha is a natural antibiotic. This is because of the process of fermentation and its by-products. One of which is acetic acid, which creates a kind of sterile environment which inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
The probiotics also fight the bad bacteria so whereas pharmaceutical antibiotics kill off all the bacteria in our systems, kombucha leaves the good and kills the bad. No bad bacteria means no infections and a healthy immune system.
The probiotics, yeasts, and enzymes help with digestion by breaking down food for better nutrient absorption. Kombucha is also full of antioxidants which means that it actually has detoxifying properties, which can help cleanse the liver and prevent cancer.
Drinking kombucha can help fight arthritis and keep your joints healthy because it contains naturally occurring glucosamine. It also contains butyric acid which contains antimicrobial and anti-carcinogenic substances which guard against yeast infections, kill parasites and strengthen the walls of your gut.
And because it promotes the growth of healthy bacteria and helps to achieve a healthy PH balance in the gut, it has been known to help those suffering with stomach issues such as Candida overgrowth, Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowl Syndrome and Crohn’s Disease. Because of the fermentation process of kombucha, it is easy to digest due to the pre-digested enzymes in it.
Kombucha is loaded with Vitamins B and C. Vitamin B helps lower your risk of heart disease and stress levels, curb sugar cravings and improves memory. Vitamin C increases the health of our immune system, reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and increases eye health.
Buying it vs. making it
Kombucha can be found in most grocery and health food stores. But it is expensive if you want to drink it on a daily basis. I drank store bought kombucha on a daily basis at first and knew I would eventually make it myself, so I saved all of the empty bottles and I now reuse them over and over. I was able to try out different flavors that way to see what I preferred. It’s easy to make your own fizzy kombucha yourself at home using only a few inexpensive ingredients.
How to make kombucha
You will need a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast aka SCOBY, which you can make yourself inexpensively by using sweet tea and a bottle of unflavored, unpasteurized, raw, store bought kombucha. Cover and let sit for 7-14 days and it should grow a SCOBY. The SCOBY is what’s responsible for the fermentation and production of healthy probiotic bacteria. Or you can purchase one on online. You will also need white processed sugar, plain black or green caffeinated tea, chlorine free water, a larger ceramic or glass jar (no metal or plastic) a larger mesh strainer, wooden spoon, a piece of cloth or paper towel and a rubber band. You will also need 14 glass bottles
(if making a double batch, otherwise 7) with lids. Make sure all your jars are nice and clean before starting because any contaminants can ruin your batch of kombucha and potentially kill your SCOBY. I wash all of my bottles in the dishwasher. I rinse my clean, large container with white vinegar before filling it with water.
- You will need purified water, however, if you want to save money, you fill up the glass or ceramic container 24 hours ahead of time, uncovered with tap water. After 24 hours, the chlorine will naturally evaporate. Chlorine will kill your SCOBY, so this is a very important step.
- Add 20 plain black or green tea bags and chlorine free water from your container to a pan. Do not use any flavored tea. I use a small amount of this water to make a tea concentrate. after you bring it to a boil, let it steep for ten minutes. Scoop up tea bags into a mesh strainer, press them down with a wooden spoon and let drip into pan.
- I make a double batch every time so I add 2 Cups of white processed sugar. Make sure all of the sugar is dissolved using a wooden spoon. You will need to adjust your ratios contingent on the size of your batch. For each gallon of water (you’re probably starting off making 1 gallon at a time), use about 8-10 small tea bags and 1 cup of sugar.
- Let this cool and add it back to the rest of your chlorine free water. Make sure it is cooled before adding your SCOBY. Any temperature above 100 degrees will kill it. I know it seems counter productive to use processed sugar to make such a healthy drink, but the SCOBY consumes all of the caffeine and sugar to produce kombucha. The result will not be caffeinated or sugary.
- Once your sweetened tea is cooled completely, it’s time to add your SCOBY so it can work its magic. With clean hands, gently place the SCOBY into the jar of tea. It should float but if it doesn’t just let it fall (don’t go trying to fish it out.)
- Cover the jar with the coffee filter, paper towel or piece of cloth and secure it into the jar with a rubber band. This will allow the gasses to escape during fermentation while protecting the kombucha from contaminants (and flies…eew.) Place the jar of tea in a warm corner of your kitchen and leave to ferment for about seven days. This time may vary depending on the temperature of your house.
- Second Fermentation
After the seven days of fermentation, you’ll have a batch of basic fermented kombucha tea which many people enjoy all on its own (it’s the original form of kombucha, after all.) If you want to take things a step further to produce the fizzy, soda like kombucha drink that most people find so appealing, continue on with a second fermentation step.
Using a funnel, add 1/4 cup of fruit juice to each empty bottle that you are going to fill with kombucha. Fill the rest of the bottles with the kombucha leaving about one inch head space at the top. Make sure you leave at least 1/2 a cup of kombucha tea in the jar with the SCOBY to keep it alive for using in the next batch. Seal the bottles and allow to ferment in a cupboard for another 2-7 days, or until carbonated to your taste.
- Save Your SCOBY
After your first batch of bubbly, refreshing kombucha is complete, don’t forget about your SCOBY! It can be used over and over again to make more batches of this fermented goodness. Once your friends taste the delicious beverage you’ve created, they may even want to make their own so saving your SCOBY will allow you to pass on a ‘baby’ SCOBY from your own culture so they can get started.
You can also get pretty creative in the second fermentation phase of making your kombucha soda. Switch up the fruit juices, try different combinations, or add extra aromatics like lemon and orange peel, or slices of fresh ginger and lemon grass. Once you get the basic brewing process under your belt, there’s virtually no limits on what kind of kombucha combinations you can create!