How to Make Kombucha
Supplies you’ll need:
– a glass jar (at least one gallon capacity, no plastic or metal)
– a piece of cloth to cover the mouth of the jar (must be at least at thick as a t-shirt…cheesecloth will result in an unfortunate fly-breeding situation)
– a rubber band
Ingredients you’ll need:
– a mother SCOBY, aka mushroom (I LOVE love love the Happy Herbalist. Good luck navigating the website, but if you can figure it out, it’s an amazing resource. You can easily make your own from a bottle of the store-bought stuff, but it takes a couple weeks and I am personally an impatient sort)
– 1 cup of starter kombucha (if you order from the Happy Herbalist, it will come with starter ‘buch; if you make your own…you’ll have your own starter…)
– about 3.5 quarts of good clean water
– 5-7 tea* bags (15 grams of loose tea)
– 1 cup of sugar
* keep it simple in the beginning, and make sure your tea has ample caffeine. Green tea and black tea are the easiest bets. Flavored tea, herbal tea and, oddly, Earl Grey won’t do the job (the bergamot has a type of oil that gets in the way). Chinese teas are a safe bet; Pu-Erh, Oolong, etc. My favorite kombucha is produced from loose organic jasmine pearl, but since I make big old batches of the stuff, it runs pretty pricey. The next best thing, in my opinion, is loose organic jasmine tea…very affordable in bulk! The HH also sells tea.
1. Boil the water.
2. Steep the tea. (Five minutes or so, as long as you normally would for a good, strong brew.)
3. Mix in the sugar.
4. Remove the tea bags or ball.
5. Cool the tea to room temperature. (You can speed it up in the fridge or freezer, but don’t let it get cold.)
6. Pour the sweet tea into your jar or container.
7. Add the mother SCOBY and the starter tea
8. Cover opening with cloth and secure in place with rubber band
9. Set aside, and don’t disturb. The container should be away from direct sun, but room light is fine.
The Brew Process
[The kombucha is happiest between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit; below 70 degrees is “not recommended” by the HH. It’s best practice to monitor the brew cycle with a thermometer and, especially in colder climates, keep an eye out for mold. Mold is a deal breaker. I’ve read that you can salvage a moldy SCOBY, but that seems like asking for big-time health problems, so I advise tossing it all out and starting over. You should have a back-up “kombucha hotel” after things get humming anyways, so that will keep you from having to drop more cash.]
Sit back and watch! Kombucha will develop a new “mother” SCOBY on top of the brew. The original SCOBY may sink, float, or even change position! Mine generally sink. Keep your eyes peeled for tiny little bubbles (a good sign!) and a ghostly SCOBY (pictured below) that eventually becomes opaque.
The first round will take about 2 weeks to establish itself and become drinkable. If you’re into pH testing, it should be around 2.5 to 3.5. It should smell cidery and taste semi-sweet.
Drain, siphon, or pour** off the tea and bottle (I recommend Grolsch-style swing-top bottles). Refrigeration halts the fermentation process, so you don’t have to worry about things like glass exploded all over the place. If you’re concerned, loosen the caps or open your containers from time to time, but remember that this decreases the enjoyable fizzy carbonation. I’ve never had a problem as long as I’ve kept it refrigerated! I’ll talk about secondary fermentation soon, necessary to get that truly bubbly zip found in store-bought ‘buch.
** Make certain to reserve at least one cup of the finished product to use in your next kombucha brew!