Kombucha is made from fermenting tea and the best way to make it is using a combination of green and black tea so you get the sweet taste and benefits of enhanced brain activity from the green tea and the full ‘body’ flavour of the black tea. It is a highly acidic beverage which has been reported to cleanse the blood and liver. It has a detoxifying effect and is great to those people who are sensitive to dairy products. You can watch my Part 2 video about how to make kombucha here:
On a chemical level, kombucha contains glucuronic acid which can bind toxins and remove them from your body via your kidneys. It is reported to help with weight loss, allergies, boosting your immune system and helping with joint and digestive problems.
Equipment: See last week’s article for utensils. Some people use a ceramic water filter (minus the filter) in order to use the continuous brew process.
Culture: Saccharomyces cerevisae & gluconacetobacter xylinus (Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Brettanomyces bruxellensis, Candida stellata, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, Torulaspora delbrueckii, and Zygosaccharomyces bailii.)
Time period: Of course, it varies for your location. General time periods are 3-4 days in summer, 4-5 days in autumn or spring, 5-8 days in winter, 14 days maximum.
Testing the pH allows you to check the acidity of the culture and this should range from 6 at the start, to 2.5 once it has converted the tea to vinegar. Most people enjoy kombucha at pH 3-3.5 when it has a sweet tea and mild vinegar flavour.
I use a pH test kit I developed to help me see how things are going. It’s in our store now.
Steps: To start your own culture, you need someone to give or sell you their “mother”. This is the circular disc, or SCOBY, that grows / floats on the top of the media. Once you have one of these you can grow litres and litres of Kombucha by following a simple recipe. This is one given to me by my SCOBY provider:
1 SCOBY plus 100ML of Kombucha tea (from SCOBY provider) is added to a fresh sweet tea brew. The sweet tea brew contains of 2 tea bags (1 green, 1 black) with ¼ teaspoon sugar and 1L water in a vessel at least 1.5L in size. First you make the sweet tea and let it cool before adding the SCOBY and 100ML tea above and let it ferment for at least 3 days depending on temperature. Remember to taste a bit every day and keep some tea from your previous batch to make the next one. The SCOBY will divide and make a new one every few weeks. So you can give it away or store it in a “hotel”.
The starting dose should be as low as possible. First, try a shot glass and see how it makes you feel. It is wise to build up slowly and stop drinking it if it causes headaches, dizziness or any other strange effects. Be warned! Poisoning can occur if glucuronic acid builds up in the body (present in kombucha) and can cause heart problems or worse. Drinking kombucha vinegar (what is leftover once your fermentation runs for 10+days) is not recommended! Google the Herzheimer reaction.
- Best way to grow / store – continuous kombucha method in a ceramic filter.
- When you get more confident you can increase your vessel size and switch to a continuous brew if you want to make larger volumes.
- Kombucha and vinegar prefer to be in the dark so find a nice dark place, like a cupboard. If it is kept warm it will grow faster for you.
- Excess brew can be watered down for salad dressing or use as a garden fertiliser (1/50).
- You can cut up the mother / scoby too and put it on your plants for an extra boost of nutrients.
Once your fermented brew is strained and bottled we can experiment to create different flavours and drinks. This stage is called the second fermentation when the mother is removed but the brew continues to ferment the sugar and spices added and gain more carbonation (bubbles). This second stage should rarely last more than a day or two.
Start by straining your brew into swing-top bottles as below and add your spices. The swing top bottles are ideal to prevent breakage as they don’t explode from pressure build-up as easily as other bottles. Plastic homebrew bottles are also great at this stage as they don’t explode either.
The bottles can be left out in sunlight at room temperature (speeds fermentation) or left in the fridge (slow method). The brew needs to be ‘burped’ daily by opening the bottle to release gas.
Pictures above from Yemoos.com
Apple cinnamon – soothing calming mix
Green tea raspberry – raspberries are delicious
Rosehip hibiscus – match perfectly with tea
Chai- a teaspoon of vanilla extract or bean, cinnamon stick, star anise and a few slices of fresh ginger
Using fresh fruit juice means you don’t need to add additional sugar to the brew. Grape juice is outstanding and can add extra fizz but might be better in water kefir than kombucha.
How to change the flavour of your drink without doing a secondary ferment:
Squeeze in fresh lemon, lime or orange juice to the brew. Remove any fruit pulp as the yeast can coat this and make it stringy. Not a nice texture in your drink. Add honey, agave, alternative sugars or stevia to sweeten your drink. The yeast finds it difficult to ferment stevia so it is normally not recommended.
Good luck with your first brew. Please comment below if you have any recipes you would like to share!