If you’re not familiar with kombucha, it’s a fermented beverage you can make at home, with just a few simple ingredients and a kombucha culture. It’s been made for thousands of years and is reported to be a health tonic, whatever that means. I drink it because it should reasonably be expected to have the same type of health benefits as apple cider vinegar and other fermented foods. The basic ingredients of kombucha are black tea, water, white sugar, and a kombucha culture, or “scoby” (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The kumbucha culture eats the sugar, leaving behind an acidic tea, similar to a very mild apple cider vinegar type of drink, and can be made naturally carbonated.
As usual, please google kombucha and read for yourself the pro’s and con’s. Here’s a negative article from someone at the Mayo Clinic demonstrating exactly why so much information from sites like their site can be completely useless when doing your own research. In the short article, the writer notes that since kombucha is generally made at home, it is subject to contamination and should be avoided. He doesn’t mention store bought kombucha, or that really any food made at home is subject to contamination, or really any food made anywhere is subject to contamination. You would expect a doctor to have more common sense, or at least expect us to have some.
I have never been sick from my homemade kombucha in the many, many years we’ve made it at home, nor have I gotten sick from any store bought kombucha. However I have gotten food poisoning several times from restaurants that are regulated by the government, and the Mayo Clinic is not recommending against my eating out at restaurants. Again, it is wise to review a wide variety of sources and make your own decision.
On the pro side, the wiki has a more detailed report on what is actually IN a finished batch of kombucha, so you can research for yourself the asserted health benefits of B vitamins, active enzymes, amino acids and beneficial bacteria. Wiki also notes that kombucha may have even been referenced as far back as 220 BCE in the Chinese Qin Dynasty, where it was reported as, “a beverage with magical powers enabling people to live forever.”
I don’t believe my kombucha has any magical powers, but it can be magically delicious. That’s a fact.
Some precautionary thoughts: To avoid contamination you should use the same kind of hygienic process you use for other food. If you often get sick from eating food you prepare yourself, you may want to avoid making your own kombucha, or simply learn better cooking skills. You should clean everything that will come in contact with your kombucha. I clean my equipment with white vinegar and a paper towel. The tea in the kombucha changes the pH of the water, making it less susceptible to pathogenic (bad) bacteria while the kumbucha culture is taking over the new batch of tea. This is also one of the reasons to include some finished kombucha from a previous batch as a “starter” since this immediately lowers the pH of the tea. When you buy a new culture online they often ship with a small amount of starter liquid, which you should not discard, but use as a starter. Finished tea can have a pH of around 3, which is good for kombucha, but inhibits the growth of mold and pathogenic bacteria.
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Also make sure that the culture does not rise too far out of the liquid during fermentation or you may get mold growing on the culture, making it unfit for consumption (DO NOT KEEP A MOLDY CULTURE OR KOMBUCHA MADE WITH A MOLDY CULTURE). The culture can sometimes lift out of the liquid when large gas bubbles are trapped under it. Simply push it back down with a clean finger to let the gas escape. Make sure your brew is always covered so dust and fruit flies can’t get on the culture. As you can see in my video, I use a coffee filter with a rubber band to secure the top of my sun tea jar. Keep your kombucha in a ventilated area. I made the mistake once of keeping 4 bowls of kombucha in a small, closed cabinet for two weeks, and the inside door hinges turned from silver to green (yes I have pictures). I’m not sure of the science behind what happened there, but remember that acidic liquids like vinegar have an effect on metal, like using vinegar to clean a copper penny.
You will need a kombucha culture, also called a Scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). There are many sources to buy them online but I haven’t bought one in many years so I can’t recommend any. If you’d like to recommend a good online source please post it in the comments section. You can also get one from a friend, because bacteria is a gift that keeps on giving. In my video I show splitting a scoby into two for a second batch.
The basic How To:
- 1 gallon of distilled water, or water with as little chlorine as possible
- 1 cup of white sugar
- 6 tea bags, for beginners use black tea like good old Lipton’s Tea
- Kombucha scoby
- About a 1/2 cup to a full cup of kombucha as a starter
- Something like a Sun Tea container
- A coffee filter, or other breathable cover for your container
- A rubber band, or something to secure the cover
Making kombucha is just about as simple as brewing a pot of tea.
To start, brew a pot of tea using the six tea bags. Pour the tea into a (heat safe) glass bowl, stir in the cup of white sugar, and let the tea cool to room temperature.
Next, pour the tea into your glass sun tea container that you’re using to brew. Add the 1/2 cup of starter kombucha, then add the scoby. Add distilled water to fill up the remainder of the gallon container, leaving a couple of inches of space at the top.
Seal of the top with your high-tech coffee filter and rubber band lid, and wait. In my video, you’ll see that I have a brown paper bag “tube” that I slide over the sun tea jar. This is to block out sunlight, which is generally something that will inhibit the growth of the culture.
Side note: The old scoby will usually sink to the bottom of the container, and over the next couple of days, a new scoby will form on the surface of the tea at the top of the container.
When you check on your kombucha over the next couple of days you will see bubbles forming inside the container, and within a week, you should see the thin film of a new culture starting on the surface of the tea. If a large amount of bubbles become trapped under the culture, to the point where they are pushing the culture up out of the fluid, just push the culture down gently with a clean finger, back to the surface of the tea.
Kombucha can be ready in as little as 7 days, depending on the temperature where you are brewing – it will brew faster in warmer temps, slower in colder temps. The longer it brews, the less sugar will remain and the more like vinegar it will taste. If you leave it for too long, the kombucha will run out of food and eventually die. I’ve left mine for a long as 4 weeks. I don’t want the sugar in the drink, but after 4 weeks it’s very strong. You can dilute the drink with water, pour some over ice, or just drink it straight.
Sometimes I will do a “second ferment” by adding a little more sugar into a finished batch, and transferring the kombucha to some old Grolsch bottles. After several weeks it will become naturally carbonated. Here is a good kombucha recipe that shows how they do a second ferment with fruit juice.
If fermenting projects sound a little scary, or you’re unsure of what kind of personal commitment you’re making, checkout some youtube videos before you start. I have one on Kombucha if you’d like to watch mine. I try to make them absolutely as short as possible so you can see the basics.
How to video
What the new culture looks like one week later video