DIY: Kombucha

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10​ ​easy​ ​steps​​ ​to​ ​make your​ ​own​ fermented​ ​tea​ ​at home

Don’t let the term “brew” scare you off—making your own kombucha is easy. The process is a bit nuanced, but it also leaves room for error and for getting creative with flavors. Making kombucha does, however, require some patience (i.e., waiting seven days for it to ferment). For those questioning why they should take the leap, the cost savings alone is a solid motivating factor, as well as the ability to control sweetness and a chance to experiment with herbs and flavor combinations. Fans of this delicious fermented drink will never want to go back to commercial brands again.

But first, there​ ​are​ ​some​ ​key​ ​points​ ​that​ ​must​ ​be​ ​followed​ ​to​ ​be​ ​a​ ​successful​ ​“booch” maker:

Use​ ​only​ ​black​ ​or​ ​green​ ​tea.​ ​Herbal​ ​teas​ ​harm​ ​the​ “scoby” ​(symbiotic​ ​culture​ ​of bacteria​ ​and​ ​yeast​),​ ​also​ ​known​ ​as​ ​the​ ​“mother”​ ​culture.​ ​But​ ​flavoring​ ​can​ ​be​ ​added after ​the​ ​initial​ ​brewing​ ​process.

Use​ ​only​ ​glass​ ​jars​ ​for​ ​brewing​ ​and​ ​bottling;​ ​plastic​ ​leaches​ ​and​ ​metal​ ​doesn’t​ ​work well​ ​with​ ​the​ ​acidity​ ​that​ ​starts​ ​the​ ​brewing​ ​process.

Patience!​ ​When​ ​the​ ​recipe​ ​says​ ​keep​ ​the​ ​brew​ ​in​ ​a​ ​warm​ ​place​ ​​undisturbed ​for​ ​a week,​ ​this​ ​matters.​ ​Once​ ​your​ ​brew​ ​is​ ​bottled​ ​(and​ ​if​ ​you​ ​can​ ​find​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​more patience)​ ​let​ ​it​ ​sit​ ​in​ ​the​ ​fridge​ ​for​ ​a​ ​few​ ​days.​ ​You’ll​ ​be​ ​rewarded​ ​with​ ​a​ ​smoother flavor.

This​ ​recipe​ ​requires​ ​a​ ​gallon-sized​ ​glass​ ​jar​ ​(recycled​ ​pickle​ ​jars​ ​work​ ​well)​ ​and single-serving​ ​glass​ ​bottles​ ​(I​ ​use​ ​recycled​ ​commercial​ ​kombucha​ ​bottles​ ​because​ ​I​ ​used​ ​to buy​ ​a​ ​lot​ ​of​ ​kombucha​ ​before​ ​I​ ​started​ ​making​ ​my​ ​own).

As​ ​for​ ​the​ ​scoby,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​many​ ​options​ ​online​ ​to​ ​find​ ​this​ ​gelatinous​ ​mother​ ​culture.​ ​If you​ ​can​ ​find​ ​a​ ​friend​ ​who​ ​is​ ​actively​ ​brewing,​ ​that’s​ ​best.​ ​If​ ​not,​ ​look​ ​for​ ​a​ ​culture​ ​that​ ​is golden​ ​in​ ​color​ ​(or​ ​a​ ​bit​ ​darker)​ ​and​ ​about​ ​3 inches​ ​in​ ​diameter.​ ​Read​ ​reviews​ ​about the​ ​seller​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​who​ ​has​ ​healthy​ ​active​ ​cultures.​ ​(Check​ ​out​ ​this​ ​helpful​ ​link​ ​with photos​ ​of​ ​what​ ​good​ ​and​ ​bad​ ​cultures​ ​look​ ​like​ ​before​ ​you​ ​buy​ ​one​: goo.gl/1FJVs6​.)

Everything you’ll need to make kombucha. Photo by Wendy Almeida

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

• 1​ ​gallon​ ​glass​ ​jar
• 1​ ​coffee​ ​filter
• 1​ ​rubber​ ​band
• Large​ ​pot
• 10​ ​tea​ ​bags, (black​ ​tea​ ​is​ ​best​ ​to​ ​get​ ​a​ ​new​ ​culture​ ​started)
• 1​ ​cup​ ​sugar​ ​(no​ ​substitutes,​ ​although​ ​raw​ ​or​ ​refined​ ​sugar​ ​is​ ​fine)
• 1​ ​gallon​ ​of​ ​water*
• 1/4​ ​cup​ ​of​ ​white​ ​distilled​ ​vinegar​ ​(for​ ​first​ ​batch​ ​of​ ​a​ ​new​ scoby ​only)
• 1​ scoby ​(symbiotic​ ​culture​ ​of​ bacteria​ ​and​ ​yeast)​ ​mother​ ​culture
*There are mixed reviews on using filtered or unfiltered​ water. I have used both tap water from our well and bottled water without issue.

STEP 1: Steep the tea bags.

Step1: Steep the tea bags. Photo by Wendy Almeida

Boil​ ​the​ ​water​ ​in​ ​a​ ​large​ ​pot.​ ​Remove​ ​from​ ​heat​ ​and​ ​add​ ​the​ ​tea​ ​bags. Steep​ ​the​ ​tea​ ​bags​ ​for​ ​at​ ​least​ ​10​ ​minutes​.

STEP 2: Add the sugar.

Once​ ​the​ ​tea​ ​has​ ​cooled​ ​(cool​ ​to​ ​the​ ​touch,​ ​add​ ​a​ ​couple​ ​of​ ​ice​ ​cubes​ ​to​ ​speed​ ​up​ ​this​ ​part), add​ ​the​ ​sugar​ ​and​ ​stir​ ​until​ ​dissolved.​ ​I​ ​wait​ ​until​ ​the​ ​tea​ ​is​ ​steeped​ ​to​ ​add​ ​the​ ​sugar​ ​so those​ ​tiny​ ​little​ ​bugs​ ​(they​ ​always​ ​seem​ ​to​ ​be​ ​around​ ​even​ ​when​ ​my​ ​kitchen​ ​is​ ​at​ ​it cleanest)​ ​aren’t​ ​attracted​ ​to​ ​sugary​ ​tea​ ​mixture.​ ​Also​ ​note that one​ ​cup​ ​of​ ​sugar​ ​seems​ ​like​ ​a​ ​lot, but​ ​the​ ​scoby​ ​needs​ ​all​ ​the​ ​sugar​ ​to​ ​ferment​ ​and​ ​very​ ​little​ ​is​ ​left​ ​when​ ​the​ ​brew​ ​is​ ​ready for​ ​bottling.

STEP 3

Put​ ​tea​ ​into​ ​the​ ​glass​ ​jar.​ ​Leave​ ​about​ ​an​ ​inch​ ​of​ ​headspace​ ​from​ ​the​ ​top​ ​to​ ​allow​ ​for​ ​the scoby​ ​and​ ​its​ ​starter​ ​liquid. Note: If​ your scoby only has​ 1/2 cup of liquid​ with​ it,​ you’ll need​ to add​ 1/4 cup​ of vinegar to the first batch. This helps kick-start​ the culture.

STEP 4: Add the scoby.

Step 4: Add the scoby. Photo by Wendy Almeida

Check​ ​temperature​ ​of​ ​tea​ ​in​ ​jar​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​it​ ​is​ ​about​ ​room​ ​temperature​ ​(too​ ​hot​ ​and​ ​it​ ​will kill​ ​the​ ​scoby).​ ​If​ ​the​ ​temperature​ ​is​ ​OK,​ ​add​ ​the​ ​scoby​ ​to​ ​the​ ​jar.​ ​​Do​ ​not​ ​stir!​ ​​Let​ ​it​ ​sink​ ​to the​ ​bottom​ ​and​ ​leave​ ​it​ ​alone. During​ ​the​ ​fermentation​ ​process​ ​it​ ​may​ ​float​ ​to​ ​the​ ​top ​or​ ​not.​ ​Either​ ​way​ ​is fine.

Note: A​ ​health​ ​scoby​ ​is​ ​about​ ​3​ ​inches​ ​in​ ​diameter​ ​and​ ​a​ ​light​ ​golden​ ​color.​

STEP 5

Step 5. Photo by Wendy Almeida

Carefully​ ​wipe​ ​the​ ​top​ ​of​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​so​ ​it​ ​is​ ​completely​ ​dry.​ ​Then​ ​put​ ​the​ ​coffee​ ​filter​ ​on​ ​top​ ​and secure​ ​with​ ​a​ ​rubber​ ​band.

STEP 6

Step 6. Photo by Wendy Almeida

Put​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​in​ ​warm​ ​place​ ​for​ ​6-7​ ​days.​ ​I​ ​have​ ​tucked​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​into​ ​a​ ​dark​ ​corner​ ​of​ ​my kitchen​ ​counter​ ​but​ ​in​ ​the​ ​colder​ ​months,​ ​I​ ​put​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​my​ ​dryer.​ ​I​ ​also​ ​wrap​ ​it​ ​in​ ​a dish​ ​towel.​ ​The​ ​scoby​ ​can​ ​be​ ​exposed​ ​to​ ​sun​ ​(but​ ​not​ ​directly)​ ​but​ ​the​ ​fermentation​ ​process works​ ​faster​ ​when​ ​the​ ​scoby​ ​is​ ​kept​ ​in​ ​the​ ​dark.​ ​The​ ​towel​ ​seems​ ​to​ ​maintain​ ​warmth​ ​as well.

STEP 7: Don’t move the jar.

Do​ ​not​ ​move​ ​the​ ​jar.​ ​​This​ ​can​ ​not​ ​be​ ​stressed​ ​enough.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​leave​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​completely alone,​ ​a​ ​baby​ ​scoby​ ​has​ ​a​ ​chance​ ​to​ ​develop.​ ​A​ ​delicate​ ​white​ ​film​ ​on​ ​the​ ​top​ ​of​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​is​ ​an indication​ ​of​ ​a​ ​baby​ ​scoby,​ ​which​ ​means​ ​in​ ​another​ ​batch​ ​or​ ​two​ ​you​ ​can​ ​have​ ​two​ ​scobys to​ ​brew​ ​at​ ​a​ ​time.

STEP 8: Taste test.

Step 8: Taste test. Photo by Wendy Almeida

After​ ​6​ ​days,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​taste-test​ ​time.​ ​Dip​ ​a​ ​wooden​ ​spoon​ ​into​ ​the​ ​brew,​ ​being​ ​careful​ ​not​ ​to​ ​rip the​ ​white​ ​film​ ​that​ ​may​ ​form​ ​on​ ​the​ ​top​ ​(that’s​ ​the​ ​baby​ ​scoby).​ ​You’ll​ ​know​ ​the fermentation​ ​has​ ​done​ ​its​ ​job​ ​if​ ​the​ ​brew​ ​is​ ​more​ ​tangy​ ​than​ ​sweet.​ ​If​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​think​ ​the taste​ ​is​ ​quite​ ​right,​ ​leave​ ​it​ ​alone​ ​for​ ​another​ ​day.

STEP 9: Time to bottle.

Step 9: Time to bottle. Photo by Wendy Almeida

Once​ ​you’ve​ ​taste-tested​ ​the​ ​brew​ ​after​ ​7​ ​days​ ​and​ ​like​ ​the​ ​flavor,​ ​it’s​ ​time​ ​for bottling. Remove​ ​the​ ​scoby​ ​and​ ​put​ ​into​ ​a​ ​bowl​ ​along​ ​with​ ​2 ​cups​ ​of​ the ​liquid​ ​and​ ​set​ ​aside​ ​(used​ ​for your​ ​next​ ​batch).​ ​Pour​ ​the​ ​remaining​ ​brew​ ​into​ ​single​ ​serving​ ​glass​ ​bottles​ ​and​ ​secure​ ​the plastic​ ​caps, and be​ ​sure​ ​to​ ​rinse​ ​all​ ​your​ ​bottles​ ​in​ ​hot​ ​water before​ ​bottling​ ​to​ ​ensure​ ​they​ ​are​ ​clean​ ​and​ ​free​ ​from​ ​any​ ​soap​ ​from​ ​their​ ​previous washing.​ ​Then​ ​refrigerate.

OPTIONAL: Add herbs.

Optional: Add herbs. Photo by Wendy Almeida

Or, if​ ​you​ ​want​ ​to​ ​flavor​ ​your​ ​brew,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​add​ ​herbs.​ ​I​ ​like​ ​dried​ ​lavender​ ​or chamomile​ ​flowers​, ​but​ ​you​ ​can​ ​choose​ ​whatever​ ​fresh​ ​or​ ​dried​ ​options​ ​you​ ​like.​ ​Once​ ​you add​ ​the​ ​herbs​ ​(1​ ​tablespoon​ ​of​ ​dried​ ​herbs​ ​per​ ​quart),​ ​steep​ ​in​ ​the​ ​jar​ ​on​ ​the​ ​counter​ ​for another​ ​24​ ​hours​ ​with​ ​a​ ​plastic​ ​lid​ ​on​ ​top.​ ​Strain​ ​out​ ​the​ ​herbs​ ​and​ ​bottle​ ​into​ ​single serving​ ​jars​ ​and​ ​move​ ​to​ ​the​ ​fridge.

STEP 10

Enjoy a glass of homemade kombucha!

Wendy Almeida is a freelance writer from Standish.

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