Kombucha, pronounced com-boo-cha, has been around for centuries. The earliest record is 221 B.C. in China, Japan, and parts of Europe. Originally, it was used to make alcohol but was later used as a way to preserve produce.
So, what IS kombucha?
Kombucha is a healthy, living drink made from black tea and sugar. It is an every day, refreshing drink that transforms into a powerhouse beverage full of benefits that can also transform your health.
Kombucha contains many beneficial ingredients. One of the top game-changers is probiotics. These are the colonies of good bacteria necessary to populate the gut and keep bad bacteria under control. Bad bacteria break down the gut lining causing a host of problems like autoimmune diseases, skin problems, weight issues, digestive problems, allergies, and the list goes on and on.
The magical ingredient in making kombucha is the S.C.O.B.Y. This stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It is a living organism that feeds off the sugar in the tea. As it ferments, it continues to grow and will form another smaller SCOBY, which seals off the brew from outside bad bacteria while it ferments. The SCOBY is also known as the Mother (you'll recognize this term from Apple Cider Vinegar with THE MOTHER). It's what makes your brew the highly beneficial beverage it becomes.
Benefits of Kombucha
One cup contains about 20% of the recommended daily allowance of B vitamins
Improves digestion and alleviates constipation and diarrhea
Improves nutrient assimilation (what's the use in taking in nutrients if your body is unable to actually use them?)
Contains an antibiotic-resistant yeast that can help protect the gut lining even when taking antibiotics
Protects the stomach lining
Reduces joint pain
Aids the kidneys
Has preventive effects on the heart, blood glucose, weight and cholesterol
Contains polyphenols which are antioxidants and detoxifiers
Contains glucuronic acid which detoxifies and transports nutrients; makes nutrients available to be absorbed
Contains vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12, and C10
Contains acetic acid which prevents pathogenic bacteria and fungus from growing
Contains 2 essential amino acids, leucine and isoleucine, which aid in muscle repair and in balancing blood sugar
The process is simple.
To make one gallon, you need:
1 One Gallon Jar or 2 Half Gallon Jars
1 One Gallon-Size Tea Bag or 2-4 Family-Size Tea Bags
1 Cup of Sugar
Cloth to cover each jar (I used flour sacks found on the dishtowel aisle at Walmart; dishtowels work, too)
Rubber band to hold the cloth on the jar and keep bugs out
Do not use metal when working with fermented food and beverages. You'll need a plastic strainer and plastic or wooden spoon when straining your finished product.
Brew tea on the stovetop just as you would if you were making a pitcher of tea for dinner.
I removed my tea bag and added a cup of sugar while the tea was still in the pot. You can also go ahead a make your gallon of sweet tea.
Let your tea cool completely before adding your SCOBY. Remember, it is a living organism and heat will kill it.
Once your tea has cooled, add your SCOBY and 1 cup of kombucha to your jar. If you're using 1/2 gallon jars, add 1/2 cup of kombucha to each. You'll need 2 SCOBYs if you're using two jars.
If this is your first time making kombucha, you will need to get a SCOBY from a friend or you can purchase one online. Here are a couple of places I've purchased related items from: CulturedFoodLife.com and CulturesForHealth.com.
If you are local or regional to me, I have a lot of SCOBYS and will be happy to share. First come, first serve until they're gone.
Once your tea has cooled and you've added your SCOBY and previously fermented kombucha, place your cloth on top and secure it with your rubber band. Your tea is now ready for the fermentation process to begin.
Place your jars in a dark space that stays warm. 75°-85° is ideal. It will take 7-10 days to brew. If the space is cooler, it will take longer to brew. If the atmosphere is too cold, it will cause the organisms to slow down too much and they will not be able to maintain their dominance in the tea. This will cause bad bacteria to take over and will cause mold to grow on your SCOBY. If that happens, it has to be disposed of and a new batch will have to be made using a new SCOBY.
After 7 days, you should be able to smell the top of your jars and tell it's not as sweet as it was in the beginning. Generally, 10 days is perfect for a tart drink. The sugar will have been consumed by the SCOBY and the brew will be bubbly.
I like the way kombucha tastes after 10 days but, if it has brewed properly, it's ready to drink after 7 days. The longer it sits, the more tart it gets. Once you've found the sweet spot, remove the rubber band and cloth and put a regular lid on your jar. Place it in the refrigerator.
Once your kombucha has been moved to the refrigerator, the fermentation process will slow way down but it won't stop completely. The kombucha will continue to become more tart the longer it sits in the fridge and it will become less powerful as time goes by. I have drunk kombucha that had been in my fridge for more than a month and it was still very tasty.
But, wait! There's more!
If you want a soda-like drink with flavor and carbonation, the second fermentation is for you. This is where you get to experiment with flavors and degrees of carbonation.
To ferment your kombucha the second time, remove your SCOBY and place it in your SCOBY hotel (more about hotels at the end of this post). In a jar, add fruit or a small amount of juice. I usually fill 1/8 of my jar with fruit or juice. Your brew is full of live organisms (probiotics...remember the colony?) that will consume the sugar from the fruit or juice. As it does this, the brew will become flavored and naturally carbonated.
If you want a small amount of carbonation, use your cloth and rubber band as before. But, if you want a lot of carbonation, put a lid on your jar and tighten it up. Place your jar(s) back in the dark storage space for 3 more days.
If you use the lid to increase carbonation, be sure to burp your jar every day. As you can imagine, burping it simply means open the jar and let it release some of the pressure build-up. It will make the sound opening a soda bottle makes. If you don't do this and too much pressure builds up...KABOOM!!! Burp your jars every day.
After the 3 day fermentation period, strain your kombucha into a new jar and throw away the fruit. You now have a fruity, carbonated drink that you can enjoy guilt-free with no harmful side effects. You can find many great ideas for flavored kombucha as well as how people bottle it for individual use online. Try new flavors until you find what you and your family like. Enjoy!
WELCOME TO HOTEL SCOBY!
I know this looks like some kind of science experiment. This is actually my SCOBY hotel. The more kombucha you make, the more SCOBYs you will accumulate. Don't toss them! Put them in a jar and add 1 cup of kombucha for every SCOBY you add. You will be able to make kombucha until the end of time. Be sure to share them with your friends and family. Once you get good at brewing, you'll want to tell everyone about the great taste and health benefits. It won't be long you'll be sharing your SCOBYs, too!
My kombucha has finished fermenting. I left mine for eleven days because it was in the laundry cabinet and I forgot about it. It happens. I'm happy to say it is perfectly delicious. I have left it as long as two weeks. The longer you leave it, the more tart it becomes.
This is a picture of the new SCOBY forming after about five days. All those little dots will come together to form a new "mother". You can see the original SCOBY floating near the top. This is normal but it's also perfectly fine if it sits near the bottom.
Here's the SCOBY after eight days.
And, finally, the fully formed SCOBY. This was small and thin because I brewed my kombucha in two 1/2 gallon jars. When I use a pickle jar, the SCOBY formed is as round as the pickle jar.
Brew Dr. Kombucha. (2019, September 18). Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://www.brewdrkombucha.com/blog/the-history-of-kombucha/
Wells, K. (2016, August 12). Benefits of Kombucha Tea & How to Make it At Home: Wellness Mama. Retrieved August 07, 2020, from https://wellnessmama.com/23994/kombucha-benefits/
Schwenk, D. (n.d.). What is Kombucha? Retrieved August 10, 2020, from https://www.culturedfoodlife.com/the-trilogy/kombucha/what-is-kombucha/