How to Make Kombucha at Home
by Anita Goossen
It was Dr. Anne who first suggested I drink kombucha. I was looking for a good source of probiotics other than supplements. So I bought a bottle at the health food store, but didn’t really like the taste. She also told me I could make it at home. I went online and found a recipe. My husband Lloyd was very skeptical about the whole thing and teased me about setting up a brewery. That was then. Now he likes it so much he doesn’t want to run out, and he helps make it.
My daughter-in-law got a starter kit from me and began making it too. They are a family of seven and go through a lot of it. Her husband has been able to quit taking antacids since he’s been drinking kombucha. Overall, I’d say we’re all healthier because of it. Even when we get sick it doesn’t last long.
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that was first used in China around 221 BC. It was known as the “Tea of Immortality.” To make it you place a SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, in a sweetened black or green tea. The culture turns the tea into a mixture of good bacteria, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and organic acids. The finished product tastes like sparkling cider.
Donna Schwenk, in her book Cultured Food for Health, outlines the many benefits of drinking kombucha. Some of them are:
- It contains acetic acid, which helps stabilize blood sugar.
- It contains an analgesic (pain reliever) and anti-arthritic compounds that help remove the accumulation of toxins in the joints, which can cause pain and inflammation.
- It assists the liver in removing toxins, which helps detoxify the body.
- It can help you lose excess water weight.
- It contains the beneficial yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, which is resistant to stomach acid and cannot be killed by antibiotics. This makes it incredibly useful for maintaining a healthy gut when treating an illness with antibiotics. However, S. boulardii doesn’t stay in the body indefinitely. It lasts only two or three days, it must be replenished regularly.
When starting to drink kombucha you want to take it slowly at first. Drink about ¼ cup the first day and see how you feel. If you feel okay have some more; if not, wait a day or two before trying again.
Once you get the hang of it, kombucha is easy and fun to make, besides tasting wonderful, and you won’t want to be without it.
Equipment you will need:
- 4 or 5 quart pot or kettle
- 1 gallon jar (glass iced tea containers are good for this)
- Coffee filter
- Rubber band to fit around neck of jar
- Starter (SCOBY, symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)
- 1 cup of fermented kombucha tea. *The SCOBY and fermented tea can be bought online.
- Glass bottles used for brewing. (I have 1 pint jars with clamp down lids and 1 quart growlers which I like best. The bottles need to be strong enough so they don’t explode from the pressure of fermenting.)
- 2 quart wide mouth Mason jar with lid for the SCOBY hotel (see #13 in recipe notes)
- 4 quarts filtered water (not distilled)
- 1-1/3 cup Sucanat, white sugar or coconut sugar
- 8 small tea bags (I use organic green tea but black or herbal tea works too.)
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 cup fermented kombucha tea (saved from your previous batch)
- 2 cups 100%, no sugar added fruit juice, if second fermenting (see #15 in recipe notes). Grape is our favorite.
- Make sure all utensils are clean and well rinsed.
- Bring water to a boil in kettle.
- Add sugar and boil 5 minutes.
- Remove kettle from heat and add tea bags. Cover and let steep for 15 minutes.
- Remove tea bags and let tea cool to room temperature. Heat will kill the SCOBY, so do not place it in the hot tea. I make the tea in the morning and it is cooled down by evening. Or I make it in the evening and by morning it is ready to use.
- Pour cooled tea into gallon jar.
- Add 1 cup of fermented kombucha tea. Stir.
- Add the SCOBY, smooth side up.
- Cover jar with coffee filter and secure with rubber band.
- Place the jar in an undisturbed, well-ventilated and dark place with a temperature between 65° and 90° for 6 to 10 days. (If your house is about 74° it takes about 7-8 days, possibly less time for warmer rooms and more time for cooler rooms.) You can buy a brew belt online to keep the temperature stable. I had a heating mat for starting seedlings and that has worked fine. Winter has been the only time I have needed to use it. I let my kombucha ferment approximately 1 week or more. You can taste it with a straw after 4 days. It needs to be tart not sweet, but not overly sour either. It should taste like sparkling apple cider.
- Move jar to kitchen counter.
- Remove SCOBY or SCOBYs and 1 cup fermented kombucha tea. (A new SCOBY usually forms during the fermenting, which you can share with your friends.)
- Place SCOBY and fermented tea in a 2 quart jar to begin your SCOBY hotel, which is where your SCOBYs will live when they aren’t making kombucha. Next time you start a new batch of kombucha, take 1 cup kombucha tea from the hotel and add 1 cup just brewed sweet tea to the hotel to feed the SCOBYs. Use the kombucha tea from the hotel and a SCOBY as starter for the new batch of kombucha. If not using your SCOBYs regularly, feed them with a cooled tea brew: 2 cups water, 2-2/3 T. sugar and 1 tea bag.
- Store the hotel in a dark, room temperature cupboard.
- To make your kombucha more carbonated, a second ferment is needed.
- To every quart add ½ c. juice.
- Cap bottles and let sit in a dark cupboard for several days. After 2 or 3 days check to see if the carbonation is to your liking. When it is, place the bottles in the refrigerator. Kombucha can be stored in the refrigerator for one year or longer, but will eventually turn to vinegar.