Kombucha is the new trendy drink (but it's really been around for awhile). It's a naturally carbonated fermented tea, flavored however you like. You will find the most widespread commercial product is Ginger Kombucha, which I also happen to love. But instead of paying $4 a bottle, I pay something closer to $0.19 for a pint.
Kombucha Scoby: What is it?
SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast (source: wikipedia). In a sense, the SCOBY is the starter culture for the kombucha. Much like yogurt and cheese, you don't want just any other bacteria fermenting your food. You want specific, healthy, safe bacteria transforming your food into a delicious beverage. A SCOBY is remarkably durable, tough to cut, slimy and a bit like raw fish. That being said, it has the power to transform boring tea into impress-your-friends Kombucha.
Sourcing a Kombucha Scoby
You will need one of these starter cutlure to make Kombucha. You have 3 choices:
#1 Find a Friend
Just like Amish friendship bread, with each batch of Kombucha you will grow a baby Scoby. After a few brews, you will have a Scoby ready to ferment on it's own. You can give this to a friend, and share the 'bucha love.
#2 Buy one Online
#3 Grow Your Own
If you have a bottle of Kombucha, don't have a friend, and don't trust bacteria bought off the internet; you can create your own! Follow Step #1 below in brewing some tea, add a store bought (non-pasturized) Kombucha and wait 1-4 weeks for your own Scoby to grow. When your Scoby is 1/4 inch thick, it is ready to brew it's first batch of Kombucha.
Sizzling Step #1 Kombucha First Ferment
- 7 cups clean water
- ½ cup white sugar
- 4 bags black tea (caffeinated or decaffeinated)
- 1/2 cup Kombucha (store-bought or your last batch)
- Half gallon mason jar (or similar large glass container)
- Cheese cloth jar cover
- Rubberband or metal jar ring
Steps in the First Ferment
- Boil the water and dissolve the sugar.
- Take the boiling sugar water off the heat and add the tea bags.
- Let the tea brew and come to room temperature. This may take up to 2 hours. But if the water is too hot, it will kill your Scoby.
- Remove tea bags.
- In a clean, sterilized glass jar add your brewed tea.
- Add already made Kombucha. This can be either store-bought Kombucha or some from your last batch. This is going to kick-start the fermentation.
- Add you Scoby to the jar. It's ok if it sinks or floats or chills haflway in the jar. It'll do it's thing and a baby Scoby will form on top.
- Add cheesecloth or other fine fabric to allow air to enter, gases to leave, but keep dust and flies out.
- Ferment your tea for 6-10 week in a cool, dark place. I find the like the taste after 7 days, but it's all about preferences.
- I ferment on my kitchen counter, away from any windows but gets some light when we are in the kitchen and cooking. If I left it in a cabinet, I would forget about it. (Experience: I forgot about some vinegar I as fermenting because it got pushed to the back of my cabinet. Think you hate the smell of vinegar? Try the smell of rancid vinegar.)
Sizzling Step #2 Kombucha Flavoring + Carbonating Ferment
- 2 tbsp of fresh ginger per pint
- 1 tsp sugar per pint (honey, couple pieces of fruit, sugar, etc)
- 6-7 pint mason jars
- 6-7 mason jar lids + rings
Steps in the Carbonation Ferment
- Remove the Scoby from the jar and set aside 1/2 cup of Kombucha for your next batch. (Brew the next batch right away for endless Kombucha.)
- Taste test your tea, it should taste like unflavored Kombucha. If it tasty a bit funky (as compared to normal Kombucha), then start over. It should not be carbonated at this point.
- Divide the fermented tea into your mason jars or other airtight bottles.
- Add sugar. You will need sugar for the bacteria to convert and produce the CO2 that is natural carbonation.
- This sugar could be normal table sugar or honey or a couple pieces of fruit. Nearly any source of real sugar would work for this step, so flavor it how you love.
- Add flavor. I love ginger so I add 2 tbsp of fresh chopped ginger to each pint. I will strain out of the ginger pieces before drinking.
- Seal the pints and leave them at room temperature for 3-4 days. This will carbonate the jars, and make the bubbly magic.
Sizzling Step #3 Enjoy or Age your Brew
After a brief trip to the refrigerator to cool the Kombucha it is ready to enjoy. You may want to strain out the ginger before serving. However if you used peaches or fruit, you could enjoy those as part of your drink. Share with friends, and cheers to a pint worth waiting 2-6 weeks for!
Store: If you don't drink it all right away, store it in the fridge. This will slow the fermentation, and stop it from turning into some sort of vinegar. Not sure how long it lasts, it never lasts too long around here. But it's also a matter of taste, how long can you still enjoy it? If it smells bad, just don't drink it.
Completely optional step: Just like wine, whiskey, or beer you may want to age your brew. Kombucha is aged in the refrigerator, where fermentation is slowed by the cold but the flavors still mingle. This will give your ginger and fruit flavors time to settle in and relax. I find, a bit like Scotch, the older brews tend to be smoother. I am talking 2-4 weeks old though, not 20 years!
The Numbers $0.19 per Pint
Assuming you have a Scoby and starter Kombucha for a batch of 7 pints.
- Water: Free (included in my rent)
- Tea: I paid $4 for 100 tea bags. $0.16 per batch.
- Sugar: $2.39 for 5 lbs of white Domino Sugar. $0.11 per batch.
- Ginger Root: $2.50 a pound. $1.09 per batch
Total: $1.36 per batch == $0.19 per pint
Have you ever made your own Kombucha? What is your favorite flavor? Let us know below.