How to make your own kombucha

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So this one time, I was at a yoga party, and my friend showed us her scoby. If you don’t know what a scoby is and are thinking weird thoughts: a scoby is an amoeba-like wad of cellulose formed by bacteria and yeast. It floats in kombucha while fermenting.

If you don’t know what kombucha is and now think I’m weird: Kombucha is sugary tea that has gone through fermentation and turned into a tart, effervescent and soul-awakening beverage.

Anyway, at this yoga party, my friend showed a few of us how to start our own home-brewing process. And she gave us each a layer of her scoby to make it happen. I named mine Septimus. (Alliteration is important.)

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And then, guided by my friend’s wisdom (she has been brewing for quite some time) and various readings, I started to brew my own kombucha.

My incentives to make it

– I drop a little too much cash to feed my kombucha craving and, while I don’t plan to stop buying professionally crafted kombucha, I would like to curb that habit a bit. Lenny Boy generally costs $3.29 for 12 fl. oz. at Harris Teeter. At Publix, GT’s costs $3.49 for 16 fl. oz. And if you think about buying one kombucha bottle each day for the rest of your days… Well, I don’t like to do math.

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– Probiotics! Kombucha has been referred to as the “Immortal Health Elixir” (I thought that was red wine?), and since it is fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, it contains probiotics believed to improve digestion, reduce overgrowth of harmful yeast, benefit mental clarity and enhance mood stability.

My ingredients

– White sugar (I read raw doesn’t do well).

– Black tea bags.

– 1-gallon (ish) glass jar with wide neck.

– 1 gallon of filtered water (better for taste than tap water, I’m told).

– The scoby! For it to be properly prepared, it should be stored in an airtight glass container with liquid from a previous batch of kombucha. (My friend took care of this step for me.)

Brewing process for 1 gallon

Boil 1 gallon filtered water per 1 cup sugar in a large pot.

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– Turn off stove, steep 8-10 black tea bags (I used nine. Balance.). Let cool, approximately 2 hours. I went to our Blue Blaze Brewing #C5Underground event to pass the time.

Pour the cool tea into your glass container and leave about an inch of room at the top. Take the kombucha the scoby is stored in and pour it into the container, leaving just over an inch of room at the top.

– Place the scoby (gently, so gently) in the liquid at the top of the container. It should float at the top, but if it turns sideways, or sinks, that’s totally cool. Do not freak out.

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– Cover the container with a tightly-woven cloth or kitchen towel wrapped around the neck with a rubber band (this keeps flies out).

– Ferment for 7-10 days, keeping the container at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Check the kombucha and scoby from time-to-time. Floating scoby sediment is normal, as is the formation of a new layer of scoby. (The new layers are what my friend could peel off to share with friends. You know, normal social practice.)

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– Start tasting the kombucha after 7 days until it matches your preferences. Then it will be time to bottle it, talk about flavoring and start your next batch. I’ve been fantasizing about Lenny Boy’s flavor profiles for their kombucha, like touches of ginger, rose petals and lemongrass.

[Related: How to make your own kombucha, part 2: Flavoring and carbonating.]

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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