It’s official. I’m expecting my Super-Crunch level hippie-hipster membership card in the mail any day now, made from an up-cycled wooden pallet and sustainable, soy-based ink. And it’s all because my kitchen now has its very now Kombucha Korner.
I’ve been riding the kombucha train for a few years now, enjoying the fizzy, fruity, and faintly-vinegary fermented beverage in store-bought bottles. After my local health food store began carrying the stuff on tap, I bought a growler so fast it’d make your head spin. Sadly, they always seemed to be out of it and, when we could procure our probiotic punch, our buch seemed to be intensely tart – like, almost undrinkable. (Looking back, this is probably because it traveled all the way from North Carolina in a keg.)
So, after consulting with my bestie, who has been brewing buch for her family for a few months, I started planning on brewing my own. The process was quite simple – once you get the steps down, it’s an easy and predictable weekly process, much like loading and unloading the dishwasher. Here’s how I make my buch:
- 1 large glass container w/ plastic spout (metal is no good for your precious SCOBY)
- 8 black tea bags
- 1 cup sugar
- 14 cups of water
- 1 cup of plain kombucha (store-bought or gifted by a friend)
- 1 SCOBY (it’s best to get this from a friend, or you can search for the best ways to procure one online)
- coffee filters
- large rubber band
Feel free to double up on your supplies, like I did, if you know you and your housemates will be drinking a lot of the stuff. I find this is helpful in ensuring we have several bottles each week, as we started fermenting our second batch a week after the first.
1. Brew your black tea! Black tea is best to start your brewing, but there are some who enjoy experimenting with green or other teas. Grab a stock pot and add 14 cups of hot water (you can also boil the water, but steeping the tea just a little longer in not-boiling water works out fine). Mix the cup of sugar into the water until it is dissolved. Steep the tea bags in the water for about 10 minutes or so (don’t worry – if the tea is super-dark, the SCOBY is going to eat some of the caffeine, leaving a lighter hue once the batch is fermented and ready to drink). Let cool to room temperature.
2. Start your batch! Pour the tea and cup of kombucha starter into your (clean) glass container. Add in the SCOBY, or Symbiotic Colony of Yeast and Bacteria. The SCOBY might float to the top, in the middle, or somewhere near the bottom – any of which are okay, and it will usually make its way up to the top, anyway. As your batch ferments, you will notice white cellulose being formed on top of your SCOBY – that’s another SCOBY forming! Unless you notice anything black, green, yellow, or otherwise alarming (like foul smells), your SCOBY should remain healthy.
You can see how my SCOBY has become quite large! I probably should have separated it a little earlier, but most of the layers have fused together. I’m going to see how it looks after this next batch to see if I can separate it into 2 SCOBYs.
3. Secure your buch! Place a coffee filter over the top of the glass container and secure with a rubber band. This is so bugs, mold, and other particles can’t find their way in, but your batch can still breath while it ferments. You can also use a clean tea towel. Do not use cheesecloth, as the mesh is too big.
4. Let your buch brew! This quantity of kombucha takes between 7-10 days to brew at room temperature – a little warmer and it’ll go more quickly, a little cooler and it’ll take longer. Keep your fermenting brews out of direct sunlight and away from air conditioners or heaters. The spouts are handy for tasting your batch as time goes on – during the first few days, it will taste like really sweet tea. Once it gets closer to being ready, you’ll notice a pleasant tartness develop. Your batch will be ready when your taste buds are.
5. Bottles up! Once you’re ready to bottle up your buch, start back at step one and prepare your black sweet tea. Once that is ready, get your bottles ready for filling. Don’t forget to set aside 1 cup of kombucha from your fresh batch to use in the next. I like to put 1/2 – 1 inch of fruit juice at the bottom of my bottles, or some fruit chunks. Some of my favorite flavors to create are grapefruit, ginger lemonade, mango, and orange citrus. Remove your SCOBY from the container with tongs and set on a plate. Fill your juiced-up containers, leaving at least an inch of space at the top, and tightly affix the lids. Let these bottles carbonate for 1-3 days on your counter (start with one day and experiment with burping your bottles to avoid explosion – over time you’ll get the groove of how long they can stay out). Once they’re adequately carbonated, refrigerate them and enjoy!
6. Start your next batch! Once you’ve cleaned out your container, you are ready for your next batch. Pour in your sweet tea and cup of kombucha starter and place your SCOBY into the jar again. Relatively quickly, your SCOBY should start to produce a new one on top of itself – these can be saved for later in a SCOBY hotel, given to a friend, or composed/discarded.
A few notes:
- Kombucha brewing has its own time schedule. When your batch is ready to go, you have about 24 hours to bottle it up before it starts to get progressively more vinegary. If this happens, it’s no biggie, as you can save the batch for a SCOBY hotel or starter for other batches.
- Each of your bottled buch containers will eventually start to grow their own SCOBY over time. It will look like a little gelatinous blob that forms on the surface, or near the bottom, of your bottle. It’s harmless to consume, but might be a textural turn-off. For this, and the problem of avoiding pouring fruit chunks, ginger, or other sediment into our glasses, we purchased a small mesh tea diffuser ball and disassembled it. We pour our buch through the mesh half-circle and into our glasses. This way we avoid a cloudy cup of refreshment and can find the tiny SCOBY babies more easily.
- We tend to drink one half to one full bottle, each, per day. This is because we are used to drinking kombucha and don’t experience any weird reactions. If you are just starting out, try drinking just a few ounces each day and go from there.
- Experiment with different flavor combinations – juices, herbs, and whole fruit. But remember: sometimes the best flavors are the most simple.
What are your kombucha brewing tips and what is your favorite flavor to drink or create?