Regardless of the many pro-biotic and other health promises that kombucha devotees claim, I just like the taste and the little energy jolt that doesn’t cause a crash later. And it’s fizzy! At $3.89 a bottle, I have to limit my store bought intake to just the once in a while variety. So, like any cheap but sort of crafty person, I decided to see what goes into making it myself.
Turns out, it’s relatively easy, made from just a few basic ingredients.
Kombucha starts out as tea that is fermented with sugar and a special culture called a SCOBY, or a ‘mother,’ similar to the mother that is used to ferment wine into vinegar.
The SCOBY (a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) is a weird, rubbery bit of cellulose that grows as you feed it and transforms ordinary tea into mystical, carbonated kombucha. Using black tea makes the liquid acidic so that other, potentially unfriendly bacterias won’t grow.
All the other ingredients necessary for making kombucha at home are pretty commonplace, but to get a mother, I had to ask around, and look on Craigslist. I ended up ordering one from Amazon because it was the easiest way to go. The kombucha mother arrived two days later in a sealed plastic package, looking decidedly creepy and alien-like, swimming in a bath of brown liquid. Despite her strange appearances she performed admirably, and is now waiting to ferment the next batch.
How to Make 1 gallon of Kombucha
- 1 SCOBY
- 8 bags of regular black tea
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups store-bought kombucha (acts as a starter)
- 3 1/2 quarts of water
- 1 gallon glass jar or sun tea jar
- Clean glass bottles with re-sealable lids
Start by making your tea base: Add the tea bags and sugar to the one gallon container, add boiling water to cover the tea bags, fill the rest of the way with tap water, then let cool. Or just add water and tea bags and sugar to the sun-tea container and place in the sun for several hours.
When the tea returns to room temperature, discard the tea bags and add two cups of the starter kombucha. Add the SCOBY and cover the jar with cheese cloth, or a paper towel, secured with a rubber band (the mother needs to breath). Move the jar to a spot out of direct sunlight and allow to ferment for 7 and possibly up to 30 days.
After 7 days, begin tasting the kombucha by pouring a little off into a glass. Sometimes, it may take up to 30 days to get to the desired balance of sweet and tart, especially if the weather is cool.
I enjoyed the taste of my first batch of kombucha after 10 days, so that’s when I bottled it, but it’s a matter of personal preference. My jar has a pour spout, so I just put the bottles under the spout and filled them up. For jars without a spout, remove the SCOBY with clean hands and let it rest on a plate while bottling the contents of the jar.
This is the time to add juice or other flavorings. Fill the bottles to within 2 inches from the top, then add fruit juice, honey, herbs, or cut up fruit for flavor. Seal the bottles and store them in the refrigerator for a few days to allow for time to carbonate; then enjoy!
Save two cups of your kombucha to act as a starter for the next batch if you’d like to ferment again right away. Otherwise, the mother can be stored in a sealed container with 1/2 cup of kombucha to feed it for frighteningly lengthy periods of time—up to years in the refrigerator.