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Making Kombucha

Health Benefits or Kombucha - Making it at home

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a sour, fermented beverage made from sugar-sweetened tea.  The sweetened-tea is fermented by adding a community of organisms to aid in the fermenting process.  This community is called a scoby or mother and resembles a rubbery disk.  The scoby is added to the sweetened-tea and floats on the surface of the liquid.  A scoby is much like a "mother" that is found in raw vinegars as the by-product of the fermenting process.

If you've never tried kombucha, you should head to your local grocery store and check out the selection!  Five years ago, kombucha would have been hard to find but nowadays, there are tons of brands, flavours, and styles of kombucha available in the store.

Why is kombucha so great?

Like any ferment, kombucha contains many probiotics and healthy bacteria that can paly a role in replenishing and maintaining your gut health.  Kombucha has a unique, tart flavour that you will love (or hate) and can be flavoured in so many unique ways!

Why make your own kombucha?

If you've ever bought kombucha at the store, you'll know that a small bottle of kombucha can cost anywhere from $3 to 5!

Making your own at home can be quite inexpensive once you have the supplies and a kombucha scoby.  After that, it's just the cost of the tea leaves and sugar.

How is kombucha made?

Kombucha is made from brewing black or green tea, sweetening the tea, adding a little bit of mature kombucha, then tossing in a kombucha scoby.  The mixture is left to ferment at room temperature for about 7 to 14 days until the kombucha flavour is the right level of acidic for your liking.  This initial fermentation of just the sweetened tea is called "primary fermentation".

Kombucha ferments under "aerobic" conditions (with air/oxygen) unlike many other ferments that happen in "anaerobic" conditions (without air/oxygen).  The fermentation happens at the surface of the liquid where oxygen is available.  You will want to use a wide mouth fermentation vessel to allow maximal exposure of the liquid to oxygen.  A 1 gallon glass jar works well for this stage.  Avoid metal vessels as they can corrode in the prolonged presence of acid.

The fermentation process gives off gases and you'll want to allow for those gases to escape.  Secondly, you want air to be able to enter the vessel to allow for the aerobic fermentation.  As such, do NOT cover your fermentation vessel with a solid, airtight lid.  Cover the fermentation vessel with a light, porous cloth (tea towel, cheesecloth, muslin, etc.) secured with a elastic - this will allow air to enter the vessel freely without allowing fruit flies, mold spores, and other contaminants to get in.

It is important to add a little bit of mature kombucha to your sweetened tea mixture along with the scoby.  This will acidify the tea and adds in kombucha organisms.  Acidification of the liquid will set up the mixture to be optimal for growth of the kombucha organisms and sub-optimal for other harmful contaminants from developing.  Each time you make kombucha, save a little bit of the mature, unflavoured kombucha to use for your next batch.  {This can be accomplished by storing each scoby in about a cup of unflavoured kombucha.  More on storage later.}  Add 5 to 10% kombucha liquid to the sweetened tea.  For example, if you are making 1 gallon of kombucha like the recipe below (1 gallon = 4 litres = 16 cups), you will want to add between 200 and 400 mL of mature kombucha liquid to the tea.

After the "primary fermentation" stage is complete, you can simply remove the scoby, bottle, refrigerate, and drink your kombucha as is.  Or you can add flavourings, fruits, and herbs, and continue to ferment the mixture to create unique variations of kombucha.  This flavouring step is called "secondary fermentation".  Remove the scoby from the kombucha, the you can mix the kombucha with fruit juice, a sweetened herbal concoction, or add fruit directly to the kombucha. 

Secondary fermentation can be aerobic in a wide-mouth container like the primary fermentation, or you can transfer the mixture into sealed vessels (something like a grolsch-style glass bottle with a flip-top lid).  In a closed vessel, the kombucha will continue to ferment, giving off gases, which will in turn carbonate the kombucha.  A caution at this step:  over-carbonation can lead to the bottle exploding so you will want to be watchful of how long you ferment in a closed vessel.  Check the carbonation on a daily basis (open the lid SLOWLY and see how much bubbles are in the kombucha) and transfer to the fridge to slow/halt fermentation once the desired carbonation is reached.

Every time you make kombucha, your scoby will grow an additional layer on it.  This additional layer can be pulled off and shared with a friend!  Make sure you store any scobies in a little bit of unflavoured kombucha liquid to keep them alive.

How do I store my scoby?

 Each time you make complete the primary fermentation of kombucha, remove and hang on to your scoby for making your next batch (or start your next batch right away)!  Place your scoby into a clean pint (500 mL) or quart (1 L) mason jar and top it off with a cup or two of the unflavoured kombucha liquid.  Cover with a clean clothor coffe filter secured with a rubber band and tuck into a cool, dark area of your kitchen (where you won't forget about it!).

Use your scoby along with the reserved liquid to make your next batch of kombucha within a couple of weeks.

If you don't plan to make your next batch of kombucha within a couple of weeks, you will want to "feed" your scoby.  Similar to sourdough, the scoby will require a new supply of tea & sugar to keep it active and alive.  You can brew a small amount of tea, sweeten it, and allow it to come to room temperature before adding it to your scoby.  You can continue to feed your scoby every 6 to 8 weeks.

It is suggested to NOT put your scoby into the fridge to let it go dormant for later use.  There is some risk that the humid, cool environment may lead to mold or spoilage.

Where do I find a scoby for my kombucha?

You can find scobies at local health stores, fermenting and canning supply stores, farm stores (we carry them at the Lazuli Farms on-farm store), or Amazon.  Or ask a friend to share a spare scoby from their scoby hotel!

You can also make your own scoby!  Pour a store-bought, unflavoured kombucha into a wide mouth mason jar, cover with a cloth secured with an elastic, and wait a week for a mother/scoby to form on the surface of the kombucha.

Making Homemade Kombucha Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 24 grams black assam loose leaf tea
  • 8 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 1 scoby
  • 1 cup kombucha (saved from previous batch)
  • 4 litre (1 gallon) glass jar plus layers of linen or cheesecloth & elastic for top
  • grolsch style bottles for second ferment (355 to 1 litre bottles)

Instructions for First Ferment:

1. Measure 24 grams of tea and place in 2 litre heat-proof container.

2. Boil water, then pour over top of tea.  Stir together.  Steep for 10 minutes, then strain through a metal sieve into the 4 litre (1 gallon) glass jar.

3. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.

4. Add 8 cups of water (room temperature or cold).

5. Set aside to cool to less then 90F or close to room temperature.  The scoby is a living thing and heat can kill it.  Make sure you allow the tea mixture to cool before adding it in.

Making Kombucha at Home Easy

6. Add the scoby and the 1 cup of reserved kombucha.

7. Cover the jar with the the linen or cheesecloth and secure to the jar with an elastic band.  You will want to make sure the cheesecloth doesn't have a holes that fruit flies can get through.  A thicker woven piece of material will work better.  Or fold the cheesecloth over to make many layers.

8. Set the jar aside in a warm-ish location and let ferment for 7 to 10 days.

9. Once you hit 7 days, start taste testing a small amount of your kombucha daily.  Once you have hit the desired sourness & flavour, you can move onto the 2nd ferment.  At this point, your kombucha is drinkable as is.  The 2nd fermentation step allows you to add flavour and to create carbonation in your kombucha.

Instructions for Second Ferment:

1. Remove the scoby.  Remove 1 to 2 cups of kombucha for each scoby and put into a pint or quart sized mason jar.  You'll need this for your next batch of kombucha.  You'll have a 2nd layer or scoby that has grown on your original scoby.  You can keep those together for your use or separate and gift the second scoby to a friend!  Just make sure both scobies have some of the kombucha liquid in the jar with them.  See info above about scoby storage.

2. Add flavorings/fruit to flip top bottles, then pour kombucha over top up to 1" to the top.

3. Close the flip lid.  Let sit at room temperature to ferment and get bubbly for 2 to 4 days.  Start testing the flavour and carbonation at about 2 days.  You will want to pop the top slowly so that the liquid doesn't bubble out (a sign of lots of carbonation) and check to see how much the solution bubbles.  A word of caution on over-fermentation since excess carbonation in the bottle can explode the bottle!  Once carbonated to your liking, move the bottles to a fridge for storage.  This will slow down the fermentation & carbonation proccess.

4.  Enjoy!

Kombucha Bottles How to Make at Home

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