The lazy (or busy) girl’s guide to kombucha
You’re probably making kombucha more difficult than it has to be. So let me teach you my quick guide to kombucha
And ain’t nobody got time for that!
So I’ll show you how I make my kombucha in less than 5 minutes of active time each week, first a written tutorial and then a video I made earlier this year and never posted for you. Yea, sorry about that.
For those that don’t know what it is:
- Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea, rich with probiotics. (which means it’s healthy for you)
- It’s made with a starter culture and SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Yeasts and Bacteria)
- The yeasts and bacteria consume the sugar in the tea causing fermentation to occur. This is similar to how a yogurt culture consumes the lactose (milk sugar) in yogurt.
You can find it in most health food stores as well as bigger box stores now, but making it at home will make it the best for you. Not only can you control the type of sweetener used, but you can also control the flavor and the level of fermentation.
Although somewhat new here in the U.S. and modern western world, it has been popular in Russia for some time and dates as far back as 250 bc in China. Throughout the centuries, Kombucha has been used for its medicinal purposes.
Benefits of Kombucha
When Kombucha is correctly fermented, it consists of acetic acid, carbonic acid, vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, B15, various beneficial enzymes and essential amino acids, folate, glucuronic acid and lactic acid, as well as usnic acid-a natural product of fermentation, suppressing development of micro-organisms not belonging to the Kombucha culture. B vitamins, including folate, are pivotal in a healthy reproductive system, while glucuronic acid (which is also made by your liver) binds itself to the toxins in your body, to which they can then be expelled.
How to make kombucha in just a few minutes
- SCOBY and 1/2 cup of kombucha
- 3-5 black tea bags
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1-gallon jar (I use one like this from Amazon)
1. Boil one quart (four cups) of water and remove from heat.
2. Steep the tea in the hot water for about 5-10 minutes.
If you forget about the tea, no worries. I forget All. The. Time. You won’t ruin your kombucha, it will just have a slightly stronger flavor. I try to do other things in the kitchen while I wait (prep food for later meals, empty the dishwasher, clean the counters, etc). This way I remember more often than not.
3. Take out the tea bags and stir in the sugar.
4. Pour hot/warm-ish sweetened tea into a one-gallon jar.
5. Add 2.5 quarts of cold water to the jar.
Hot water + cold water = room temperature water which = no waiting for it to cool down.
6. Add the 1/2 cup of kombucha and stir.
7. Place the SCOBY on top.
8. Put the lid back on the jar and screw it on just so it won’t fall off, but isn’t closed tightly.
9. If you’ve never made it before, taste it every day so you can taste what’s happening.
10. After 7-10 days (or a few days longer if you’re like me and completely forget….) take the SCOBY and 1/2 cup of kombucha out for another batch.
Either make another batch right away or stick it in the fridge. If you do refrigerate it, be aware that it begins to slow down and hibernate, so your next batch may take a day or two longer.
11. Pour the kombucha into quart size jars with fruit or fruit juice if you’d like, put a two-part canning lid on it, screw all the way closed, and let sit for an additional 24-48 hours if you want a bit more carbonation, otherwise, you can drink it right away.
12. Start back at step one to make another batch!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe during pregnancy and for small children?
While many people disagree on this fact, there are women and small children who drink kombucha. If you are one of the ones that decide this is a safe practice for your family, you can buy a kombucha test kit to make sure it is fermenting properly.
Can I use green tea/herbal tea/does it have to be black tea?
From what I understand, and have experienced myself, you need at least 3 black tea bags or the pH may not be acidic enough and will cause it to mold. So use a few black tea bags and then add a couple of green tea (or your favorite naturally flavored tea/herbal tea) bags to the mix for a lighter flavor.
What’s the best way to cover it while it brews?
Stop messing around with towels or coffee filters and rubber bands if it’s cumbersome. I never had good luck with rubber bands keeping out fruit flies and I’ve lost many batches due to contamination from flies so I no longer use them. If it works for you, great. If not, just use a lid.
Kombucha doesn’t need yeasts from the air like sourdough does, but it does need to “breathe” in order to release… I dunno. Whatever gases the yeasts and bacteria produce as fermentation occurs. (I’m super scientific if nothing else!)
Can I use well/tap water?
If you have well water – Yes. If you have a high mineral content it may negatively affect your kombucha or give it an “off” taste though. I’ve been brewing it with well water for over 6 years with no issue, but we also have a water softener, so it will depend on your specific well.
If you have “city” municipal water – Yes, but… you should boil all of the water and let cool (so not quite as quick). This way the chlorine will off gas. You can also fill a one-gallon jar with water and let it off-gas overnight.
What type of sugar do I need to use?
I’ve used everything from regular supermarket white sugar to organic cane sugar to whole sugar (sucanat/rapadura). White or evaporated cane sugar will give it a lighter flavor while whole cane sugar will have a richer/stronger flavor. Any sugar works, but whole cane sugar does provide more minerals for the SCOBY.
What do I do with all the SCOBYs?
Stop pulling them apart! I have friends that pull them apart and start making jars upon jars of kombucha at one time. Having multiple SCOBYs in the jar may cause it to ferment slightly faster, but it won’t hurt it at all. I only take mine apart every couple/few months or when a friend needs one (whichever happens to come first).
Each batch will produce another SCOBY, so one becomes two, and two become four, and four becomes eight… I know ladies who “breed” SCOBYs like Henry Huggins bred guppies (remember that book? Check Amazon for a reminder if you don’t), and you will quickly run out of counter space! If you want to brew more kombucha, get a bigger container, there’s no need to have multiple jars taking up space.
If you do end up with a super thick SCOBY and no one to give it to, you can dehydrate one for later use or do like I do and place them in a glass jar with sweet tea in the fridge. I’ve had no problems leaving them in the fridge for 6+ months, tossing in a couple of tablespoons of sugar now and again.
Do I have to worry about metal utensils?
Many tutorials mention that you shouldn’t use anything metal near kombucha. I’ve used a metal strainer and/or spoon to stir mine for many years without a problem, but what do I know. 😉
I do not, however, use a metal or plastic container to brew it in – always use glass for that.
Can you brew it too long?
Yup. If the culture runs out of sugar the whole batch will begin to turn.
How long is too long? That’s going to depend on a lot of things: how warm it is, the type of sugar used, and how strong the starter kombucha was. I’ve left mine out on the counter for over a month with no problems, though the longer it sits, the more like vinegar it will taste and I normally just dump it out (except for 1/2 cup to start a new batch).
If you are going for consistency, make sure you remember how long you’re brewing it.
It’s fizzy after the first brewing, should I still allow it to “second ferment”?
No. If you routinely let it ferment (with or without fruit or juice) a second time after taking the SCOBY out, and it’s already fizzy, don’t put it in bottles or jars with tight lids.
Unless you’re trying to get the jar to explode.
Once it’s fizzy, flavor as you wish and put it in the fridge.
How do you remember when it’s done?
I don’t. Heh.
Seriously, some batches ferment for a week, other batches ferment for two. I basically just brew a new batch when we need more to drink. (which is anything but consistent and also leads to slightly inconsistent tasting kombucha, but we’re ok with that) That way my fridge doesn’t get overwhelmed with massive amounts of kombucha AND I don’t have to try to remember when I made it.
Our family goes through one batch (3.5 quarts) in 1-2 weeks, so this works well for me. If you go through more, I’d suggest getting a bigger jar. If you go through less, get a smaller jar.
Basically, just use a container to ferment that will hold what you would regularly drink in a 7-14 day time span and you’ll never have to look at a calendar or write yourself notes. You’ll just make a new batch when you’re done!
Have some kombucha tips or brewing questions? Leave them in the comments!