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Why Brew Kombucha at Home
Brewing kombucha at home is easy and fun! You might be wondering, just what is kombucha and why would you want to brew it at home. Kombucha is a healthful fermented tea that is often used for medicinal purposes. It is a type of fermented food, where bacteria and/or yeast digest the sugars in a food to create different compounds that are anecdotally thought to support health.
Kombucha is tea and sugar that is fermented using something called a scoby, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The scoby digests the sugar in the tea, creating acetic acid (vinegar) and glucuronic acid, which is one of the components of kombucha that may be responsible for its purported health benefits. Once fermented, kombucha contains multiple species of yeast and bacteria along with active enzymes, amino acids, organic acids, and polyphenols produced by the yeast and bacteria. It can contain a small percentage of alcohol.
Brewing kombucha at home is much less expensive than buying it in the store, supporting goals of self-sufficiency for homesteaders. It is also easy and fun. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, kombucha is a natural fit (as are all fermented foods!). Just set up the brew and let time and the scoby do the work.
In the photo above you see a scoby. Scobies are sometimes called "mother cultures" or "kombucha mushrooms." To brew kombucha, you will need to get a scoby. You can grow one from a bottle of commercial kombucha, but ideally, you will get one from a friend or local kombucha brewer. As you make kombucha, more scobies grow, so home or commercial kombucha brewers often have an extra scoby or two around.
You can also buy a scoby online.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
Gather Your Supplies
The first step to homebrewing a batch of kombucha is to gather your supplies. We are going to brew one gallon of kombucha tea. You will need:
- A wide-mouth glass jar or bowl, preferably at least a gallon in size. What you see in the photo is a pickle jar. You can also use a sun tea jar which can be purchased inexpensively. The spigot on a sun tea jar is nice for taste-testing your brew and bottling but can be hard to keep clean. You want a container that is as wide as possible at the top for your scoby. A tall, narrow jar is not good. Metal or plastic are not recommended as they can react with the kombucha.
- Five to six tea bags per gallon. Black or green tea is traditional for kombucha and helps maintain a consistent pH level which discourages the growth of molds. Teas with oils such as Earl Grey can cause your kombucha to mold, so avoid these. You can use herbal blends along with black and green teas once you have your kombucha well-established, but do not use herbal blends alone because they will not maintain pH to the level needed to favor only good bacteria and yeast.
- White sugar, one cup per gallon. Use white sugar or evaporated cane sugar. No honey, maple syrup, or turbinado sugar. Again this goes back to the need to maintain a consistent pH level to encourage the growth of only healthful bacteria and yeast and discourage mold growth.
- Brew pot for tea. Self-explanatory—something you can boil a gallon of water in.
- Two cups of kombucha tea. When you get your scoby, it will often come with at least a couple of cups of kombucha from the last batch that was brewed with it. This helps "start" the culture. If you don't have it, you can use white, apple cider or other kind of vinegar instead (not balsamic!).
- A paper towel or clean cloth and rubber band or string. You will cover the brewing jar with these after you get your brew set up.
Clean your brewing jar and a large spoon for stirring the tea and sugar with hot water, dish soap, and then a vinegar rinse. Also make sure before handling the scoby that your hands are clean, and if you can rinse them in vinegar without skin irritation, do so.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
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Brew Your Tea
Bring three quarts of water to a boil, then turn off the heat. Place the tea bags in the water and allow to steep for ten minutes or more. You can let the tea steep for longer, but if you do, you will want to skip ahead to the step where we add the cup of sugar and add it to the hot water before the teabags so that the sugar will dissolve easily in the hot water. If allowing the tea to steep for a long time, be sure to cover it so that bugs don't get in it.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
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Remove the tea bags. Add one cup of white or evaporated cane sugar and stir well to dissolve.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Cool Down Tea
Before you add your scoby, you need to let the brewed tea and sugar mixture cool to room temperature. Adding a scoby to hot tea will kill it! If your tea is not already in your brewing jar, go ahead and carefully pour it in.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
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Add Scoby to Tea
When your tea has cooled to about room temperature, gently add the scoby to the brewing jar. Also pour in the two cups of kombucha tea from the previous batch, or vinegar, now.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
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Cover and Let Brew
Cover your brewing jar with a paper towel or tightly woven, clean cloth and secure with a rubber band or tightly tied piece of string.
Set your jar in a place that is at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit and out of the way, where it won't get bumped or moved a lot. If your house isn't 70 degrees, it will just take longer. Allow the kombucha to brew for 7 to 14 days or up to 30 days in a very cool spot (not less than 63 degrees or so or it might not brew properly). 7 to 14 days is the average.
You can use the spigot, if your brew jar has one, to taste test your kombucha. If you don't, use a straw and your finger to pull up some brew without disturbing the scoby too much. It's ready when it has a sweet-tart taste. You can also use pH strips or a pH meter to test the kombucha—it's ready when the pH is 3.0.
You will see a new scoby forming on top of the liquid, a thin white layer that grows thicker as the brewing process continues. If you see green, orange, blue or black spots, it might be mold—when in doubt, throw it out. Brown spots are usually okay.
Your original scoby may sink. This is okay, not to worry!Continue to 8 of 8 below.
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Bottle Your Kombucha
Now comes the fun part! You can bottle your kombucha in flip-top bottles or jars. If you have a flip-top bottle with a rubber seal, you may let your kombucha brew for a few more days at room temperature to develop more bubbles. This is called secondary fermentation.
At this point, you can bottle your kombucha with berries, a bit of fruit juice, or other flavorings. Get creative!
If you don't like the brownish floaty things in the brew, you can strain it before you bottle it.
When you want fermentation to stop, refrigerate the kombucha.
Your scoby can be stored with two cups of kombucha in a tightly covered glass container at room temperature, or put in the refrigerator. If you store it in the fridge, it might go dormant and take a few brews to come back to life. And it's best to keep it going by continuously brewing kombucha.
Enjoy brewing some delicious, healthy kombucha! Cheers!