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Make: Kombucha

Make: Kombucha

Probiotic, good for your gut, but also really refreshing and tasty! I have been a two bevs in my hands or on my desk kind of girl since forever.

I started buying lavendar melon kombucha a couple of summers ago and they were such a treat on car trips and fishing Saturdays. And then I wanted to have them more often, but at $4-$6 a bottle (or more outside of the Midwest), it was becoming an expensive habit. 

So I decided to make it instead! I have got myself an easy little routine to follow now (after some trail and error of course). Because I am giving away some of my scoby's (see definition below..) to first time brewer's, here are a few streamlined steps to making your own batch! 

What it is:

The drink is from China, named after a Korean doctor and prized for health benefits. It is a fermented tea made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to a pot of sweet tea and allowing it to mix and ferment.

There are no magic health benefits, and also people are cautious to the home brew as it's not in a sterile facility. And it should be in moderation as everything else in the world. Just don't go wild, folks. Your body doesn't want THAT much of anything - except water.

Materials Needed:

  • Fermenting vessel - must be glass or ceramic and at least 1 gallon in size - I bought this pickling crock
  • SCOBY - Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast - You can get this from a friend who has been brewing (they produce "baby scoby's" after a few brews) or you can buy it online. I bought this one from Amazon 
  • Starter Liquid - about 1 cup of already fermented kombucha - You can also get this from your friend or most scoby's come with some
  • Filtered water - 1 gallon - From your local fill up station! 
  • Organic Sugar - 1 cup - Wherever you attain that in your day to day or here
  • Black or Gray Tea - I use a black tea from the bulk bins at my supermarket + this little bag to steep the leaves in - or you can get bags of tea like these and use 8 of them for 1 batch (still cheaper than buying it, guys!)
  • The perfect towel - Needs to be breathable but has to be thick enough to cover the opening of the vessel and keep out bugs and dust - I use a flour sack towel like this with a rubber band
  • Growlers or mason jars or big glass jars of some sort - like these here
  • Thermometer application - this is not necessary but it's good to gauge the actual temp of your fermenting vessel wherever you have placed it. I realized I have a lot of cold cupboards in my apartment. I got this one here

First Step-Fermentation:

1. In a pot over the stove, bring 3/4 of a gallon of filtered water to a boil. Turn it off once boiling and dump in 1 cup of sugar + your black tea (I dangle my loose leaf tea bag down the side). Stir in the sugar for a bit. 

2. Let it cool completely - warm sweet tea can burn your scoby.

3. Once completely cool (2 hours later), prepare your vessel for merging the two together. Dump your scoby as well as your 1 cup starter liquid into the glass. Add the cool sweet tea to the glass as well. 

4. Cover with your towel and secure with a rubber band.

5. Place in a dark warm spot (68-78 degrees is ideal). After 1 week, take a taste of it to see how it is fermenting. 

6. Everyone likes different tastes, I personally like a hard vinegar taste. So I end up leaving my batch brewing for 2-3 weeks and tasting every few days to see if the sweetness has gone away. If you like more sweet mild, 1.5 weeks is when you will most likely want to pull it.

Second Step-Second Fermentation:

1. In your glass jar or growler, fix a funnel on top and pour in your liquid (NOT YOUR SCOBY) until the jar is about 3/4 of the way full. Leave about 1 cup of liquid in your fermenting jar. This is your starter liquid for the next batch.

2. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to each bottle.

3. Add your flavorings here! I prefer to start with a few slices of ginger and some lemon slices to get the feel for what it tastes like. Later on, you can try fruit + herbs + ginger for a good balanced kombucha. Google kombucha flavorings and there are a ton of ideas out there.

4. Put the lid on your jars and place them back in the same dark warm place that your first batch was in. 

5. Check them every day with a straw to your liking. I usually let them sit for 3-4 days to allow the bitter kombucha to eat the sugar and fruit and become a bit sweeter. 

6. Once you decide it's time, put them in the refrigerator - this stops the fermenting process.

Third Step-Bottling/Drinking:

1. When you are ready to drink, you should gather some mason jars or re-used store bought kombucha jars for drinking. 

2. We take ours to work with us, so leftover kombucha bottles are the best. 

3. You will want to use a small mesh strainer (not plastic) to take the liquid from the growlers to the bottles. You do this because there tends to be long strands or stings of liquid that have formed during fermentation. I bought this little tiny mesh strainer that fits on top of the kombucha bottles. 

Do's and Don'ts:

DON'T use metal, stainless steel, or plastic to ferment or store 

DON'T use a cheesecloth as a cover

DON'T refrigerate your scoby! This will kill it. 

DO keep your fermenting kombucha in a warm dark place (between 65-80 degrees)

DON’T keep using your scoby if it’s black or green. It will take form of a lot of odd shapes and colors, but if it looks like mold, throw it out and start a new batch.  

Okay there are a ton of little nuances and things that people differ in when making their kombucha at home! It will feel foreign and strange at first (unless you already home brew something else). After a few times, you'll find your rhythm of brewing and bottling and how long and what tastes the best. 

Ask me any questions! If I can produce a decent tasting option in my little windowless apartment kitchen, you can do it too. 

- Cheers! Emily  

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