Like many things, I have wanted to start brewing kombucha since I started hearing about it a few years ago. Well, I finally met the right person; someone to get a scoby from and I was off and running. I was getting my photos ready (ahh, 4 weeks ago) and started writing up my post over on my personal blog when I read Miranda’s, “Who’s your Mother?” where she talked about making vinegar and a mentioned kombucha. I figured I would follow her lead and post about my kombucha experiences here instead of over at Sincerely, Emily
With my new scoby in hand I was ready to get started. I better back up a bit… what the heck is a scoby? You may remember from Miranda’s post about vinegar and its mother; it is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast or scoby, and it turns a simple brew of tea and sugar into an amazing beverage. Kombucha is one of those wonders of the world I think. Chalk full of great stuff like beneficial enzymes and probiotics. Amazing things that will help with your entire body. Seriously, it is that good for you!
I am not the first at NDIN to write about kombucha. You can read a great post about it called “Kombucha” that was posted back in August of 2008. I encourage you to read that post, it is full of a lot of the details and benefits about kombucha so I won’t repeat it. Even though I had read a lot about it, I still had questions, so I wanted to share with you about the things I didn’t find in the books I read.
My friend handed me the smaller jar like you see in the above photo with an odd looking “thing” inside with some liquid. That “thing” is the scoby. The liquid is there to keep the scoby moist and alive, but that liquid is also used to start your new batch of kombucha. I didn’t go home with much more information. All she said was keep the scoby in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it (slows down the growing process.) Brew some strong black tea with sugar, let it sit over night and once it is at room temp you can add your scoby. How much tea? How much sugar? What do I put it in?
When I have seen scoby’s advertized on Craig’s List most of them come with and a gallon glass jar (the kombucha will react with metal and it will absorb things from plastic, so always use glass), so I had already figured out I need the jar, now I needed to figure out what recipe to use. I have two books that touch on kombucha, but both have very different recipes in them. Here is the recipe I use:
- 3 quarts of filtered water
- 1 cup of sugar (I use organic cane sugar) everything I have read advised against using honey
- 4 scoops of black tea (I use organic loose tea, but you can use 4 tea bags also)
Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add tea. Let steep until liquid is at room temperature. Remove loose/bag tea and pour liquid into gallon-size jar. Add your 1/2 cup of kombucha that your scoby came in (or from your previous batch), place scoby on top of liquid and cover with a cotton dish towel. You want your towel to do two things; cover the opening in the jar to keep dust and critters out, yet allow it to breath and also to keep the entire glass jar covered and the contents in the dark.
Brewing your batch can take anywhere from 7-10 days. I initially went with 10 days, but after 2 batches I realized that 7 days worked much better because of the amount of heat in our house. I found that brewing it for 10 days the outcome was a very sour, vinegary tasting kombucha, while the 7 day brew was a bit tart and tasted much like a tart apple cider or apple juice and had quite a bit of fizz that had developed. I imagine as the fall temps start creeping in I will need to increase my brew time.
So, I set out and brewed my tea liquid and was ready to start the following morning. Some of my loose tea escaped through my tea ball so I strained the liquid as I added it to the jar. Next was to get the scoby out of the smaller jar. I wasn’t prepared for the feel and texture of it. It was much firmer than I expected, and spongy/fleshy (sorry). I was trying to gently get it out of the jar with out damaging it. I thought it was a tender, delicate “thing.” My brain kept telling me “it’s alive” and I as I was nervously laughing, I had to keep saying out loud, over and over, “it’s ok, you can do this” like it was going to suddenly move or wiggle. I finally got it into the larger jar and it looks like a big flat pancake in there (just like Miranda’s Mother), although this one looked like it had been used for a few batches (and that ok) and was sort of frilly around the edges.
On day 9 I brewed up another batch of tea/sugar and let it cool overnight. When day 10 came along, I was ready. I had peaked on and off at the kombucha brew as the 10 days went by and I could see the new baby “mother” forming. It was very white and creamy compared to the darker tan on I started with. I started by trying to separate the baby from the original scopy while it was still in the jar. I have since figured out it is easier to get it out, place it in a bowl and do the separating then. I poured the brewed kombucha into bottles and set them in the refrigerator to cool down. I washed my gallon jar and was ready for my second batch. I poured in the tea/sugar mixture and then set out to separate the two scobys. That first time was interesting. The were still quite attached to once another and it took me a few seconds to get them separated. My new baby scoby came off with a hole in it about the size of a quarter. I still used it and placed it in the new liquid helping it to lay on the top and then added some of my newly brewed kombucha. The older mother I placed in a jar along with addition kombucha and placed it in the refrigerator. I needed to make another batch of tea/sugar and then I could use that mother too.
I checked on the new baby after a day and noticed it was not floating horizontally on top of the liquid, but it was completely submerged and floating vertically. Vertically! What?! I think that happened because of the hole in it. The batch still formed a new scoby horizontally at the top of the liquid. It was so perfect and smooth that is was amazing looking.
I also now stagger my batches or I run out of empty bottles to use and run out of room in our refrigerator.
Brewing your own kombucha is easy, very affordable and very healthy.
- Cost: One 16 oz bottle of kombucha in the store is anywhere from $4-5. I can brew 4-16 oz bottles for the price of 4 tea bags and 1 cup of sugar.
- Scoby: You can buy a scoby online or get one from a friend. I was thrilled to find a scoby from a friend. Now I have a several scoby’s in my refrigerator just waiting to go to new homes. I will keep a few in there as back up, but the rest go into the compost pile.
- Vacation: after you brew a batch, just place your scoby in a glass bowl w/lid or jar and cover it with kombucha. Store it in your refrigerator. It will be waiting for you when you get home.
- How long does a scoby it last?: The scoby can be used for many, many batches. If you start to notice any black spots or the entire scoby turned black, it is time to discard it because it has become contaminated. Your newly developed scoby is so white and creamy in color, but it be more brown after your first batch with it, that is normal. If you batch isn’t souring properly, it is also time to toss that scoby and start with a new one.
- How long does the kombucha last once you have bottled it?: I haven’t tested this yet. We drink the kombucha withing 3-4 days.
If you get a scoby from a friend or order one to get started, I hope you have fun with it. Even though you can buy kombucha in most health food stores (in the refrigerated section) you will find that making it yourself, at home, is very inexpensive and easy to do.
I think making ginger beer will take a back seat to kombucha in our household. They are both super easy to make at home, but I think, once you have a scoby, kombucha is so much easier and I think the benefits far out weigh those in ginger beer.
One book I read cautioned about allergies noting that some people may have a reaction to kombucha. With anything new (and fermented), it is always best to go slow. Try a bit and see how you feel and how your body reacts before you jump in head first. I remember an experience when I was younger that involved homemade sauerkraut. Eating too much right away lead me to spending a bit of time in the bathroom. So…. start with a little and work y our way up to more. Your body will appreciate you thoughtfulness.
Have you made kombucha before? Do you have anything you’s like to share about your experiences with it?
You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.