Kombucha

08/28/2013

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Although many claim health benefits from the fermented tea drink called Kombucha, the scientific jury is still out proving “probiotics” help keep the digestive tract functioning well. Nevertheless, Kombucha is lumped in the “live culture” food group along with yogurt, kefir, kimchi, pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, and others. Because I love these sour foods, it makes sense I gravitate toward Kombucha, too. And because I dislike paying the $3.75 per pint at our local grocery store, it makes sense to brew a batch myself.

I got this recipe from my dear friend Melissa, who runs Forage Farm and is also a DIY queen. Yes, it looks scary, but it’s easier to make than you think. (Just don’t look at the fermentation part too long, or it will freak you out.)

Ingredients:

1 SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)
10 c water
10 black tea teabags (DO NOT use Earl Grey; the bergamot oils mess up the fermentation)
1 c sugar
Juice concentrate of your choice
1 T ginger

Directions:

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The scary SCOBY, or Mother, is the culture grower that will make your sweet tea into Kombucha. You can find or make one of these in a number of ways. They sell them online, you can get one from a friend (like I did), or you can start one yourself. If you start one, all you have to do is buy a pint of Kombucha at the store, and drink it until half an inch of liquid resides on the bottom. Cover the top with a cloth, and let the bottle sit on the countertop for about a week. You’ll soon get your culture growing that you can use for making your own batch.

To make your Kombucha, combine your water, teabags, and sugar in a large pot and heat over the stove until the water is nearly boiling. Let cool until the tea is at room temperature. Put into a jar with a wide lid, and cover with a cloth. Melissa suggested that using a cloth napkin to cover the top is better than cheesecloth, for cheesecloth holes can sometimes be too large.

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Put in a dark place, and wait for 3-7 days. This time will shift as the temperature fluctuates–in the summer it may take 3 days, and in the winter it may take a week or two. The readiness will be dependent on your taste preference; if you like it sweeter, use less time, if you like it more sour, use more.

I’m actually not a fan of Kombucha at this stage, for I like it carbonated. To do this, you need a second fermentation. I use a large beer bottle with a rubber capper. Pour out the Kombucha from the large jar into another vessel that is easier to pour into a bottle with a small neck. Melissa suggested straining it at this point just in case there may be Chunks-o-Mother that I’m, personally, not particularly fond of drinking. Leave the neck of the bottle empty. Melissa’s recipe than adds one tablespoon of blueberry juice concentrate, and a tablespoon of chopped ginger. I got the ginger from my yard. The extra sugar provides energy for the carbonation, which will leave your Kombucha fizzy and wonderful. Cap tightly, and drink within 5-7 days. Refrigerate after opening. Bottoms up!

6 Comments

  • Lauren

    Thanks Anna (and Melissa!). Love this recipe!

    When I made my batch,I had to leave town on around the 7th day after bottling, so I put one bottle in the fridge and left the other in the pantry. We just drank the bottle in the fridge and it was delicious!!! Especially when just opened and super foamy. I’m hoping the one in the pantry will still be good; any thoughts on that?

    The above also left me with an idle SCOBY – do you have any idea how best to store the mother when it’s not actively making a batch of Kambucha? Right now, mine is in the pantry with about 1 inch of residual liquid from the first batch. I know Melissa said you could put it in the fridge if you wanted it to stop growing, so maybe that’s the best place for it while idle?

    Thanks!

    Lauren

  • Melissa DeSa

    I’ve left my scoby idle a couple different ways and they’ve both been OK. One method is just to leave it with some residual liquid like you said, in the place where you usually ferment it. So somewhere dark, cool and undisturbed. I’ve also stored them in the refrigerator (also with residual liquid) if I was going to take a longer break and want it to slow down. Seems both have worked, but I guess I would recommend the refrigerator if you’re going to leave it for more than a couple of weeks. And still keep the cloth napkin on top so it can breathe.

    • Lauren

      Thanks Mel! Could you also give us newbies some guidance re. how best to store after bottling for ~7 days? See the 2nd paragraph of my post…

  • Melissa DeSa

    After that many days of being in a bottle it will be super fizzy especially in the summertime when fermentation is faster. I would probably put them in the fridge after several days of being bottled, to keep the probability of explosion down, and also to slow the ferment. I’ve left some too long in the bottle at room temperature (a couple weeks or more maybe?) and they got more vinegar tasting than I like and were too fizzy and explosive. It takes a bit of trial and error as everyone’s conditions and tastes will be a little different.

  • Lauren

    Thanks again Mel!!!

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