HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA

I have a new obsession and it’s slowly starting to take over my life and my kitchen. In every corner there’s some kind of food or drink bubbling away. Yes, I’m talking about fermentation. It’s starting to become a bit of a problem. Seriously. My kitchen just doesn’t have enough room for all of the fermented foods and drinks I want to make. In order for fermentation to be a success, there needs to be at least 4ft of distance between each thing fermenting. I want to ferment more, but I’m barely able to squeeze in what I have now! It’s tragic, really. I’m going to have to start getting creative about where I can put all of my goodies and do it in a way that won’t drive my family insane. Whenever I feel sad about all the fermentation I’m missing out on due to lack of space, I just picture having a nice new kitchen with a huge pantry someday. It gives me something to look forward to.

I told you I was obsessed!

I’ve had so many requests for my kombucha recipe so I’m finally getting around to sharing it. Before I do that, I have to share something about myself. I’m a researcher. Not the type of researcher who maybe spends an hour or two researching something, but an obsessive researcher. When I want information, I go overboard. We’re talking like 20-30 hours of research at the least. When I first decided to start making my own kombucha, it took almost a full year of research, mostly on whether or not it was safe to brew at home, before I felt that I was ready. What I learned during my research is that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there. For example, some people say to never put a SCOBY in the fridge, others say it’s okay. I’m in the never put it in the fridge camp, by the way. I know some people will tell me that I’m wrong, but that’s what I feel most comfortable with. I’m super careful about doing things in the safest way possible. See? Obsessive!

Some of you may be thinking “what the heck is kombucha?”. Kombucha is, in short, fermented tea. The fermented tea is made using a SCOBY (stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast), which looks a bit like a mushroom. During the fermentation process, the SCOBY feeds off of the sugar in the tea and leaves behind a sweet, yet tangy, delicious and refreshing drink full of probiotics. It’s super healthy for you and your gut, and it’s supposed to help with joint pain and strengthen your immune system.

It’s incredibly important to read the instructions in their entirety before starting your kombucha. The notes at the end of the recipe are very important and will help set you up for a successful batch of kombucha.

KOMBUCHA RECIPE

FIRST FERMENTATION

Supplies

  • a glass container (a 1-gallon jar or beverage dispenser work well)
  • a tightly woven dish cloth or coffee filter (cheese cloth doesn’t work well because it’s not tightly woven enough)
  • an elastic band

Ingredients

  • 12 cups of filtered water
  • 8 bags of non-flavoured organic tea (black, green, oolong, white, etc. – I like black best)
  • 1 cup of organic cane sugar
  • a SCOBY 
  • 1 cup of already brewed kombucha

Directions

1. Clean out your container and then rinse using distilled white vinegar to get rid of any remaining soap residue.

2. Boil 12 cups of water in a large pot. Once boiling, remove from heat. Add sugar and tea bags.

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I like to tie my tea bags to a wooden spoon to make it easier to remove them.

3. Steep until tea has reached room temperature. 

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I drape a clean kitchen towel overtop to keep bugs and dust out.

4. Remove tea bags and pour tea into your container. Wash your hands thoroughly and then rinse with distilled white vinegar. Carefully add the SCOBY and already brewed kombucha. 

5. Cover the opening of your container with a tightly woven dish cloth or coffee filter and secure in place with an elastic band.IMG_3860

6. Let the kombucha sit for 7-30 days and do not touch it. I have a strict 10 day rule and I have always had amazing kombucha. Just remember, the longer you let it sit, the more tart and vinegary it will be. I keep mine on the kitchen countertop, away from the sun. 

7. After 10 days, remove the SCOBY and pour the kombucha into 1-litre mason jars or glass bottles, leaving a cup of kombucha behind to add to your new batch of kombucha. I find that I have enough kombucha to fill four 1-litre mason jars. Either refrigerate your kombucha or do a second fermentation. I would recommend doing a second fermentation as I think it’s the tastiest way to make kombucha.

IMG_3831

Two of my four batches of kombucha (after removing some kombucha to start new batches), my SCOBY hotel, and my SCOBIES waiting to start new batch.

SECOND FERMENTATION

Supplies

  • 1 litre mason jars and/or empty glass bottles (I use 500ml amber glass bottles specifically made for kombucha from: www.brewyourbucha.com)

Directions

The second fermentation of your kombucha is optional, but necessary if you want to add additional flavour. Below you will find a few ideas of what you could add to your kombucha. Simply add the ingredients to your mason jars or bottles and add your kombucha, leaving about an inch of room at the top. Let it sit for 1-4 days, opening the lid (“burping”) the mason jars/bottles every day to release some pressure. This will ensure that the mason jars/bottles will not explode. Once your kombucha has reached the desired carbonation, remove fruit and put the kombucha into the fridge. It will keep for up to a month.

Note: I generally like to do my full second ferment in mason jars. Sometimes I will remove the fruit/herbs and transfer the kombucha to bottles on the last day of fermentation to give it extra carbonation. The mason jars will make the kombucha fizzy, but the bottles do a much better job of it. I’ll also transfer the kombucha to bottles if I know I’ll be taking it on the road.

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Experimenting with flavours: Cherry, Apricot, Cranberry, Mojito, Granadilla, and Passionfruit.

For every litre of kombucha you’re making, add:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen fruit
  • 1/2 cup of citrus juice (if primary flavour)
  • 2 tsp of citrus juice (if secondary flavour)
  • 1 tsp of herbs
  • 2 tsp of grated organic ginger

 

FLAVOUR IDEAS:

  • Mixed Berry and Lavender
  • Mixed Berry Ginger
  • Strawberry Basil
  • Lemon Ginger
  • Strawberry Lemon
  • Raspberry Ginger
  • Raspberry Lemon Ginger
  • Strawberry Peach
  • Mango Ginger
  • Mango
  • Passionfruit
  • Mojito (Mint and Lime)
  • Strawberry Rhubarb
  • Lemon Basil
  • Blood Orange Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Peach Ginger
  • Cherry
  • Strawberry Kiwi
  • Cranberry

Don’t be afraid to experiment with flavours. My favourites so far are Raspberry Ginger, Mango, and Strawberry Kiwi.

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This batch of kombucha gave me such a nice, photogenic SCOBY. They’re not always this pretty!

IMPORTANT NOTES

  • It’s important to wash your hands and your equipment thoroughly and then rinse with distilled white vinegar to get rid of any remaining soap residue. Make sure your hands are very clean before handling your SCOBY.
  • NEVER store your SCOBYs in the fridge. It could kill them or cause mold.
  • Keep brewing kombucha and “SCOBY hotels” (see note below) at least 4 feet away from any other fermenting foods to avoid cross-contamination. You should also keep it away from other bacteria sources, such as a garbage or compost, the sink drain, and even soiled laundry! It’s also a good idea to keep it away from smoke, fruit, and plants as this could cause mold.
  • If your SCOBY grows mold or if fruit flies end up in the kombucha, throw out both the SCOBY and the kombucha.
  • With each batch of kombucha you brew, your SCOBY will reproduce. You’ll notice it getting thicker. The layer on top is a baby SCOBY. For the first few batches, you can simply keep them together, to strengthen your brew. However, once they reach 2 inches thick, it’s time to separate them. Gently peel them apart. Keep whichever one appears healthiest. If they both appear healthy, keep one as a backup SCOBY in a “SCOBY hotel”.
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My SCOBY hotel.

HOW TO MAKE AND MAINTAIN A SCOBY HOTEL

You can make a “SCOBY hotel” by adding your extra SCOBY from each batch into a separate glass container. Here’s how to get it started:

  • Clean out your glass container and rinse with distilled white vinegar to get rid of any remaining soap residue.
  • Brew a batch of tea, the same that you would make for a new batch of kombucha, stir in sugar and let it come to room temperature. This is your sweet tea base.
  • Add your SCOBY to the container with 1 cup of already brewed kombucha. Fill the rest of the container with your freshly made sweet tea base.
  • Important note: there should be twice the amount of liquid in the container as SCOBY mass.
  • Cover the jar with a tightly woven dish cloth or coffee filter, and secure in place with an elastic band.
  • Store your SCOBY hotel in a cool, dark place with lots of airflow.

 

It’s a good idea to have a SCOBY hotel for the following reasons:

  • To have a backup in case your current SCOBY develops mold or dies.
  • To have on hand for friends who want to make kombucha too.
  • To have for experimenting with different types of tea.
  • To have for when you go on vacation and need to store your SCOBY until you’re back.

 

To maintain your SCOBY hotel, you will have to follow these steps:

  1. Feed your SCOBY hotel every 6-8 weeks. You can either add 1-2 cups of sugar to the SCOBY hotel or add more sweet tea base.
  2. Clean the SCOBY hotel container every 8-12 weeks. Here’s how:
      • Remove the SCOBYs from the hotel, and place them in a glass bowl filled with some of the kombucha it’s been sitting in. If the bottom layer of the SCOBY is looking old, peel it off. It may be necessary to trim some of the SCOBYs, in particular the top SCOBY that forms a lid at the top of the container. Trimming it will allow oxygen into the kombucha for the rest of the SCOBYs. You may also need to trim your SCOBYs to get rid of dead parts of the SCOBY.
      • Pour the kombucha from the container through a non-metal strainer into another glass container. This will remove any extra yeast strands. 
      • Clean out your container and then rinse with distilled white vinegar.
      • Add the SCOBYs to the container and then pour in the kombucha.
      • Cover with a tightly woven dish cloth or coffee filter, securing it in place with an elastic band.

HOW TO DIVIDE YOUR SCOBY

Dividing a SCOBY is very simple. You have two options: either gently peel apart the layers that naturally form or, using a stainless steel knife, cut the SCOBY in half. Don’t use metal as it can shock the SCOBY. 

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A fully brewed batch of kombuca. The SCOBY layer on top is the baby SCOBY that grew over the 10 day brewing period.

 

That’s basically all there is to making homemade kombucha. It can sound a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s really so simple. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. Also, if you’re in the lower mainland area and want a SCOBY, let me know. I have lots of extra SCOBIES to share!

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