Thursday, May 16, 2013

How To: Kombucha Tea

See the new scoby forming on top??
Most everybody has heard of probiotics these days, but many people have no idea you can actually culture them yourself in your very own kitchen.  One way to do so is by making kombucha, a fermented, fizzy drink that has a slight kind of an apple cider taste to it.  It can also be cultured longer for it to turn into vinegar & can then be used in your recipes that call for vinegar or apple cider vinegar.  Good stuff with so many uses!!

I have been making my own for some time now... I have tried some other recipes out & have come to find a routine that works for me... feel free to tweak it to meet YOUR needs as well.  I'd love to hear from you how you like it & what changes, if any, you made to the recipe!!

You CAN use a smaller jar, but will obviously need to figure out the right ratio of starter, to water, to tea, to sugar for a smaller batch. 

-    -   1 gallon glass jar (plastic & ceramic can leech toxins from them into the kombucha drink) – you can use a smaller jar, just use less tea,  sugar, & starter – you can use the same size scoby and the new one will be the size of the smaller jar, if you use a smaller jar; I use an old pickle jar
-    -  3 qts filtered water (no fluoride & no chlorine especially)
-    -  1 ½ c sugar (some recipes call for less sugar, but I find it just won’t work right if I use less, as much as I’d like to use less sugar)
-    -   4 tea bags or 2 T. loose tea (decaf okay, no herb/flavored/or fruit tea)- some say organic is okay, some say not as they claim claim organic tea will cause it to mold- I personally think the issue is not letting the tea cool enough before putting it in the jar… if it is cool, it should not mold... I had 2 batches mold (2 different times, some months apart) & both times I was too antsy & didn't let it cool long enough
-    -    1 scoby culture 
-    -    6 -12 oz starter (per gallon jar… so if using a smaller jar you can use less, of course) -- if you use more starter the faster it will ferment & I am all about faster!! 


1.       boil 1 qt water until rapidly boiling (lid on) – save the other 2 qts for another step
2.       stir in 1 ½ c sugar until completely dissolved
3.       turn off stove 
4.       add 4 tea bags & leave to steep w/lid on for 20-30 mins (longer is okay if you forget about it, but ideally not for more than 2 ½ -3 hours)
5.       remove tea bags & allow to cool for 2 ½ - 3 hours (if you steeped for 20-30 mins… if you left it steep longer, don’t let it steep & cool off for a total of more than approx 3 ½ hours or you risk it molding – advice varies on that, but I like to be cautious)
6.       add cooled sweet tea to glass jar
7.       add 2 more qts of room temp water
8.       add 6 oz starter
9.       add culture
10.   cover w/a coffee filter or thin piece of fabric, secured by a rubber band around the neck
11.   place in a warm, dim/dark place for approx 7-14 days – the warmer the place, the faster it will brew (start tasting after 5-7 days & every 1-2 days thereafter to check for the right taste you like… I brew until about 12-14 days until it gets fizzy & a bit tart, but that may take longer w/your 1st brew or 2 until the culture adjusts to your water & brewing environment--- a dim/dark place is a must to keep the culture alive—I keep mine in a pantry that is opened several times a day, so complete darkness is not a must)

When completed to your liking, pour into glass jars & store in fridge (it stops the fermentation process).  Do NOT store on counter or pressure can build as it continues to ferment & you risk explosion of the jars.  Be sure to reserve 6 oz of your brew for your next batch.  Use the culture from the TOP layer to start your next batch (you can use the one underneath too, but the top one is freshest), & you can even do a double batch using the other culture, just be sure to save 6-12 oz of kombucha for the next batch you want to brew (remember to save some from every batch for each successive brew following... so you brew a batch & then save 6-12 oz., then you save 6-12oz from the next brew, & so on).

You can compost any extra cultures, sell them, dehydrate them, give them away, store 1 or more in some sweet tea (no kombucha needed) in the fridge, or throw them away (GULP! LOL  I have thrown them away myself before I had a compost bin & didn’t know of anybody else to share them with before I found out how many people on Freecycle are crazy about them too! LOL).  I advise you to keep at least 1 extra one in the fridge as a back-up.

I found it is pretty hard to kill your culture, so don’t worry too much!  Use CLEAN hands only to handle the culture & while making the brew.  NO metal utensils (I do use a very fine, mesh metal strainer to strain my brew when complete & have not had any issues… it never touches the actual culture).  

Have YOU ever had kombucha tea??  If so, did you buy it or make it??  Around here they sell small bottle of kombucha tea for $4-5... yes, PER BOTTLE!!  Do you take probiotics or eat any certain foods/drinks known to contain probiotics (yogurt, milk kefir, water kefir, etc.)??  Do you think you will try making your own kombucha tea??