Looking to create your own batch of tasty, gut- healthy fermented tea known as kombucha?
In this guide, we’ll walk you through the fundamental steps for making this lovely fermented drink, without the need for elaborate equipment. Let’s get started!
What is kombucha?
It’s a sweet tea that undergoes natural fermentation. It has been enjoyed for centuries since its discovery in Asia. Its popularity continues to rise due to its health benefits, delightful flavour, and the convenience of making it at home.
What is the key kombucha ingredient?
The key ingredient in making kombucha is the SCOBY, which is a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. When combined with sweet tea, these microorganisms consume the sugar, resulting in the creation of effervescence and a delightful, mildly acidic taste.
How to brew kombucha at home?
Fed up with spending £3/$5 per bottle when you could easily produce it at home for a fraction of the cost? Let’s dive into the simple kombucha brewing process!
Creating homemade kombucha involves three key stages (click the links below to navigate through the article):
- SCOBY Formation (1 to 4 weeks) – Cultivating the essential “mother”
- Initial Fermentation (6 to 10 days) – Crafting the actual fermented tea
- Secondary Fermentation (3 to 10 days) – Carbonating the fermented tea
How to make a kombucha scooby?
Creating a Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) is a simple process. The SCOBY acts as the “mother” that initiates each kombucha batch and safeguards it from potential contaminants such as dust and debris. While you can purchase a pre-made SCOBY online or from platforms like eBay or Amazon, making your own is a quick & easy.
- 7 cups (1.6 L) of water (tap water works fine)
- ½ cup (100 g) of white sugar (for fermentation)
- 4 bags of black tea
- 1 cup (240 mL) of unpasteurized, unflavoured store-bought kombucha
These ingredients will be the foundation for developing a healthy SCOBY.
SCOBY making supplies
- A large glass or ceramic container holding at least a few litters of liquid.
- Tightly woven cloth such as coffee filters, paper towels, napkins, or cheesecloth to cover the container.
- Rubber bands to secure the cloth over the container.
- A large pot for boiling water.
Let’s proceed with the steps to make a SCOBY:
- Bring 7 cups (1.6 L) of water to a boil in the large pot.
- Remove the pot from heat and add 4 bags of black tea to steep in the hot water. Allow the tea to steep for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the tea bags and add ½ cup (100 g) of white sugar to the hot tea. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Let the sweetened tea cool to room temperature, make sure it is not exposed to direct sunlight.
- Once the sweetened tea has cooled, pour it into the large glass or ceramic container.
- Add 1 cup (240 mL) of unpasteurized, unflavored store-bought kombucha to the container. This acts as a starter liquid to introduce the necessary bacteria and yeast for SCOBY formation.
- Cover the container with the tightly woven cloth and secure it with rubber bands to prevent any unwanted contaminants from entering.
- Place the container in a warm, dark area where it can ferment undisturbed for about 1 to 4 weeks (room temperature : 70-75 degrees F, 21-24 C) . During this time, the SCOBY will form on the surface of the liquid (¼ inch (½ cm) SCOBY should be formed by then).
- After the required fermentation period, your SCOBY should be thick and healthy, ready to be used for brewing kombucha.
Following these steps will help you successfully create your own SCOBY at home. Happy brewing!
Things to watch out when making your kombucha SCOBY
- Avoid decaf tea: The SCOBY prefers regular caffeinated tea and may not grow as well if fed decaffeinated tea.
- Stick to black tea: The SCOBY thrives best with black tea and may not develop optimally with green or fruity teas. Once your SCOBY is larger and established, you can experiment with using green tea, but initially, it’s best to stick to black tea.
- Avoid honey: Honey can potentially contain botulism bacteria, which can multiply rapidly when combined with the bacteria and yeast in kombucha. It is safer to use sugar as a sweetener. Once your drink reaches the second fermentation stage, with a higher population of beneficial bacteria, you can consider incorporating honey.
By following these guidelines, you can ensure the successful growth and development of your kombucha SCOBY while maintaining a safe brewing environment.
1st Fermentation of kombucha
Let’s dive into the first fermentation!
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the first fermentation:
- 14 cups (3.3 L) of water (tap water is suitable)
- 1 cup (200 g) of white sugar
- 8 bags of black or green tea
- 2 cups (480 mL) of unflavored kombucha (either from a previous batch or unpasteurized, unflavored store-bought kombucha)
- 1 SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)
With these ingredients, you’re all set to begin the first fermentation process and create your delicious fermented tea drink!
Here are the instructions for the first fermentation of your kombucha:
- Prepare Sweet Tea: Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it. Add the tea bags and allow them to steep for at least 20 minutes or until the tea has cooled.
- Cool to Room Temperature: Let the hot tea cool down to room temperature. You can speed up this process by boiling only 4 cups of water, dissolving the sugar, and steeping the tea for 20 minutes. Then add the remaining 10 cups of cold water, which will help bring the mixture to room temperature faster. Test the tea’s temperature by drawing out a sample with a paper straw, using your finger to hold the kombucha inside the straw. Be patient and ensure the tea is at room temperature as hot water can harm your SCOBY.
- Empty the Jar: Using clean hands, transfer the SCOBY to a clean plate. If this is your first batch of kombucha, reserve 2 cups of the liquid the SCOBY was growing in as your starter kombucha. Discard the remaining liquid, as it is highly acidic and not suitable for consumption.
- Add Starter: Pour the sweetened tea into your jar, then add the unflavored starter kombucha. With clean hands, gently place the SCOBY back into the jar.
- Cover: Cover the jar with a few layers of tightly woven cloth and secure it with a rubber band.
- Ferment: Place the jar in a dark, undisturbed area with a room temperature of around 70-75 degrees F (21-24 C). Let it ferment for 6 to 10 days. Starting from day 6, you can begin tasting the kombucha by drawing out some tea with a paper straw (using your finger to hold the tea inside the straw, not using your mouth). The taste should be mildly sweet and slightly vinegary. The fermentation time can vary based on the temperature, with warmer temperatures resulting in faster fermentation. As the tea ferments longer, more sugar molecules will be consumed, resulting in a less sweet taste.
- Prepare for Second Fermentation: Reserve 2 cups from this batch as the starter kombucha for your next batch. Leave it in the jar along with the SCOBY. The remaining kombucha can now proceed to the second and final fermentation stage.
Following these steps will lead you through the first fermentation of your kombucha, setting the foundation for a delicious and healthy brew.
Things to watch out during the first fermentation
- Tea Varieties: You can experiment with different types of tea in this step. Feel free to try green, white, oolong, or even combinations of these teas. If using fruit teas, it’s recommended to mix them with a few black tea bags to provide the necessary nutrients for the SCOBY to thrive.
- Growing a Second SCOBY: As your SCOBY grows thicker, around an inch in thickness, you can peel off a few layers to create a second SCOBY. This can be used to start another batch of kombucha or gifted to a friend who wants to make their own.
By keeping these points in mind, you can explore different tea varieties and expand your SCOBY collection while enjoying the art of brewing kombucha.
2nd fermentation of kombucha
Now let’s move on to the exciting final step of the homemade kombucha-making process: the second fermentation! This is where you can add flavours and achieve delightful carbonation in your drink.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for the second fermentation:
- Homemade kombucha from the first fermentation
- Sweetener (fruit, honey, or sugar). The general ratio we use is 1 cup of kombucha to:
- 1 to 2 tablespoons of mashed fruit or fruit juice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of the natural sweetener/honey or sugar
For the second fermentation, you’ll require a few supplies:
- Flip-top fermentation bottles: These bottles are designed for fermentation and have an airtight seal, which helps retain carbonation. If you don’t have these, canning jars can work, although they may not provide the same level of airtightness.
Now, let’s go through the instructions for the second fermentation:
- Bottle: Use a funnel to transfer the kombucha into the bottles, leaving about 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) of headspace at the top.
- Sweeten: Add your preferred sweetener to the bottles and seal them tightly.
- Ferment: Place the sealed bottles in a dark area at room temperature and allow them to ferment for 3 to 10 days. This is where the carbonation develops and the flavors infuse.
- Serve: If desired, you can strain out any fruit before serving. To slow down the carbonation process and chill the kombucha, store the bottles in the refrigerator before serving.
With these steps, you’ll achieve a wonderfully flavoured and effervescent kombucha through the second fermentation.
Things to watch out during the second fermentation:
- Pressure Control: It’s crucial to be cautious of the pressure build-up inside the jars, as they can explode if it becomes too high. Especially in your initial batches when you’re still familiarizing yourself with how kombucha reacts to your specific environment, it’s advisable to bottle a portion of it in a plastic bottle. This plastic bottle will serve as a gauge for the others. When the plastic bottle feels rock solid, it’s an indication that the rest of the bottles are likely done. To release some pressure, “burp” each bottle by opening it slightly, and then place them in the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.
- Fermentation Time: Keep in mind that the fermentation process can vary based on factors such as temperature and the amount of sugar or fruit used. Warmer temperatures and higher sugar or fruit content generally lead to faster fermentation, while the opposite conditions will slow it down. Adjust your fermentation time accordingly, considering these factors.
- Troubleshooting Flatness: If you notice that your drink lacks fizz during the second fermentation, it could be because of :
- You’re not using the right bottles
- You need to adjust your first fermentation time.
- You’re not letting the second fermentation go long enough.
- Your fermentation station is too cold.
- You’re leaving too much air in the bottles.
- You’re not stirring the drink before bottling.
- You’re filtering the kombucha before bottling.
- Your tea isn’t strong enough.
- You’re not adding fruit or sugar.
- You’re burping the bottles too much.
By being mindful of pressure control, considering fermentation factors, and troubleshooting as needed, you’ll ensure a successful and enjoyable second fermentation experience.
What kind of tea do you use for kombucha?
Black tea is commonly used to make kombucha. It has a strong flavour that can stand up to the fermentation process. Green tea can also be used, but it will have a milder flavour. Other types of tea, such as oolong tea, white tea, and herbal tea, can also be used, but they may not produce the same results as black or green tea.
Black tea is the most popular choice for making this drink because:
- It has a strong flavor that can stand up to the fermentation process.
- It is rich in antioxidants.
- It is a good source of caffeine.
- It is relatively inexpensive.
- It is a tried-and-true method that will produce a delicious and refreshing drink.
Can I use English breakfast tea for kombucha?
English breakfast tea can be used for making kombucha. It is a blend of black teas with a robust flavour that can withstand the fermentation process, resulting in a rich and flavourful drink.
Here are some helpful tips for brewing kombucha using English breakfast tea:
- Opt for loose leaf tea instead of tea bags to have better control over the tea’s strength.
- Steep the tea for approximately 5-7 minutes, allowing enough time for the flavours to fully develop.
- Allow the brewed tea to cool down to room temperature before introducing the SCOBY and starter tea. This precautionary step helps protect the SCOBY from potential heat damage.
- Ferment the kombucha for a duration of 7-10 days. This timeframe allows the bacteria and yeast to effectively ferment the tea, resulting in the distinct and characteristic flavour of kombucha.
Can I use Earl Grey tea for kombucha?
Yes, Earl Grey tea can be used for making kombucha. Earl Grey is a black tea variety flavoured with bergamot, which gives it a distinctive citrusy and floral aroma. Using Earl Grey tea can infuse your kombucha with unique and aromatic flavours.
Experimenting with different tea varieties can lead to exciting flavour combinations in your homemade kombucha.
Using Other Teas for Kombucha?
A wide variety of teas can be used to create excellent kombuchas.
Oolong tea, for instance, produces a kombucha that is less bitter than black tea but more robust than green tea. It strikes a well-balanced flavor profile and is a cost-effective choice.
In contrast, white tea yields a delicate kombucha. It pairs wonderfully with floral additions such as rose or jasmine flowers to enhance its flavor.
When it comes to making kombucha, there are numerous options to explore, each offering its own unique taste and characteristics. Feel free to experiment and find the tea that best suits your preferences!
Is it possible to make kombucha using herbal tea?
While tea is typically the preferred choice, it is sometimes feasible to use herbal teas and plant infusions for kombucha production.
Herbal teas and infusions like verbena, hibiscus, rooibos, mate, or even coffee can be considered. However, it is generally not recommended because the long-term health of the kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) could be affected if the chosen plant is not suitable.
Nevertheless, if you have an ample supply of kombucha SCOBYs or if you’re keen on experimenting, there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a try! Remarkable results can indeed be achieved.
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