Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that probably originated in ancient China. The active culture is called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), also known as a “mother” or a “mushroom” (although it is not actually a mushroom or fungus).
There can be one or two fermentations in the kombucha-making process. In the first fermentation, a new SCOBY is formed from the original and feeds on the sugar in the tea. The first fermentation takes between 7 and 21 days depending on the weather (warmer=faster, colder=slower).
In the second optional fermentation, you can customize your kombucha with additional flavors. You pour off the tea into jars or bottles and then add any flavorings. This secondary fermentation takes a few days, and usually adds some carbonation to the final drink.
Where to get your SCOBY? I got my original culture from Kombucha Kamp and love it (Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Kombucha Kamp), but you can ask a brewing friend for one (they reproduce like rabbits!) or check craigslist for a local source.
- 1 SCOBY (kombucha culture)
- 1 gal. filtered water
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 4-5 teaspoons loose tea (black, white, or green), or 4-5 tea bags (Note: must contain real tea leaves– “herbal” tea won’t work)
- (Optional) Flavorings (e.g. berries, fresh fruit, fruit juice, coconut water, herbs, ginger, etc.)
- 1 one-gallon or larger glass jar or ceramic container (preferably with spout at bottom, but not essential)
- tea kettle or pot to boil water
- Sanitizing tools (pot, tongs, stove)
- Storage containers 1L/1qt. sized– bottles with lids, mason jars, or Swing-top bottles (like these from Ikea)
- patch of breathable cloth (or paper coffee filter) to cover container (not cheesecloth) and rubber band to secure it
- funnel (for bottling)
- Boil 1 quart of filtered water.
- Add tea (bags or add loose tea to a tea bag) to jar.
- Pour boiling water on tea. Let steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove tea bags. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Pour cold water into container until it’s 3/4 full. Wait until the temperature drops to about 100°F/38°C (you don’t want to kill the SCOBY!)
- Carefully add the SCOBY (clean your hands with water or vinegar first before handling) to the jar. Pour the starter liquid from the SCOBY on top of the contents.
- Cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band. Store in a well-ventilated area.
- (Optional) If you want to sing or play music to your SCOBY like this guy, we think it soothes the savage SCOBY (it is a living colony after all!)
- Taste after 7 days (4 days in summer) by inserting a straw into the jar (gently push the SCOBY aside). If it’s too sweet, let it ferment longer. If you like the taste, it’s ready for bottling (see next section). If you don’t plan on a secondary fermentation, then move it to the fridge (to stop further fermentation) and enjoy!
- If it’s too tart, then adjust the time next batch. If it’s WAY TOO TART, then you can use it for other purposes like vinegar. I save some for salad dressing, or as holding liquid for extra SCOBYs.
Secondary Fermentation (optional)
- If you want to flavor the tea, you can do the secondary fermentation after dispensing into bottles.
- Sanitize storage jars or bottles (boil water enough to submerge jars, bottles and lids as well as tongs). Bring them back down to room temperature.
- Add flavorings to jars, then carefully dispense kombucha into each jar.
- Cover and store for a few days (in a cool dark place). Note that carbonation will build up; “burp” the jars or bottles to release pressure every day or so.
- Move to refrigerator and enjoy (or swap with your fellow Fermenters)!
Copyright © Fermenters Club.
Microformatting by hRecipe.
Need a SCOBY? Check out Kombucha Kamp’s Organically grown authentic Kombucha Starter Cultures
Kombucha Flavor Gallery