Have you ever tried kombucha? This little powerhouse drink is packed with probiotics and so good for you. Here’s a tutorial to make your own homemade kombucha and add flavors during a second fermentation to make it extra delicious.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that aids in digestion with beneficial probiotic cultures. It originated in China about 2,000 years ago has become popular in recent years and can be found in health food stores. While it’s really good for you, it can be pricey – typically going for about $5 for a 12 oz bottle. But it’s so easy to make! I’ll show you how to do it but first let’s talk about the basics…
How to Make Kombucha
Kombucha starts out as a sweet tea with the SCOBY (acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) or starter culture. The SCOBY eats the sugar in the tea (that’s why you have to use organic sugar, molasses or maple syrup – no artificial sweeteners, stevia or xylitol – and surprisingly no honey because of its anti-bacterial properties) and yields a slightly fizzy, fermented drink that’s high in probiotics.
I admit I didn’t like handling the SCOBY the first time – just from an ick factor since it was like a slimy pancake – but I got used to it. After making a batch of Kombucha tea, I ended up with a another SCOBY or baby culture floating on top. So essentially over time, I could have dozens of SCOBYs to use for brewing more Kombucha tea or to share with friends and family. Leftover SCOBYs should be stored in the last batch of Kombucha tea it fermented in with about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of tea in a mason jar. Apparently, plastic is problematic for SCOBYs – glass containers are best. SCOBYs can even be composted in the garden.
Brew too much kombucha? Check out these 8 non-traditional uses for kombucha.
How to Make Your Own SCOBY
You can make your own SCOBY by buying two bottle of the original GT’s Kombucha from the store. It has little remnants of the mother (the SCOBY) at the bottom. Follow the recipe below but do half a batch – which is about 2 cups of water and about 3-4 bags of black tea and 1/4 cup of sugar. Make sure the tea is at room temperature before you add the original GT’s kombucha.
Store for about 1 week. You should start to see the SCOBY forming together, possibly even into a thin circle. Pour out 3/4 of the mixture (yes you can drink it but it’s not the finished kombucha yet) and then repeat the process (2 cups of water, 3-4 black tea bags and 1/4 cup of cane sugar). Add the remaining 1/4 with the SCOBY to the new tea mixture.
Store for 1-2 weeks and you should start to see the SCOBY getting thicker. Keep repeating until the SCOBY gets about 1-inch in thickness and then do a full batch as noted below.
I’ve tried this myself and it worked so well.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha is rich in antioxidants, and studies have shown that it protects the liver from toxicity. It’s also rich in tea polyphenols and acetic acid, which have both been shown to suppress the growth of undesirable bacteria and yeasts.
It’s also a great alternative to sugary fruit juice or soda. The secret to making kombucha more palatable is to do a second ferment. Keep reading to learn how to do that.
How to Make Homemade Kombucha – Step by Step
1. Make a batch of tea. Boil 4 cups water with 6-8 organic black tea bags. Let the tea cool down for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bag.
2. Add 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar and stir until dissolved.
3. Let the tea cool down to room temperature. Add SCOBY starter and the tea it was stored in to the 1/2 gallon mason jar. Add the cooled down tea just brewed and fill the mason jar.
4. Cover with a cloth (not cheese cloth – it’s too thin) and put a rubber band around it.
5. Let it store for 1-2 weeks. The more time the kombucha ferments, the more acidic it tastes. At 10 days, I thought my kombucha tea tasted almost like apple cider vinegar.
How to Store SCOBYs and Kombucha Tea
1. Once done fermenting, taste your tea by sticking a straw into the liquid and tasting it.
2. You’ll notice a second SCOBY growing on top when you open the jar. It’s perfectly normal for the SCOBY and liquid to be brownish and have grayish particles in it. If you see black spots, that’s mold – you’ll have to throw the whole batch away, including the SCOBY. Remove both SCOBYs and store in a mason jar with some of the existing Kombucha tea and set aside. You can use this for future Kombucha tea brewing.
3. Pour Kombucha tea (filter out particles using a strainer or cheese cloth) into glass jars and bottles and refrigerate to enjoy
How to Flavor Kombucha / Second Fermentation
If you want to flavor or sweeten your kombucha, you can do a second fermentation. Pour kombucha into smaller glass bottles with gaskets and add fruit such as frozen or fresh-cut strawberries, blueberries, oranges, ginger, etc. Store kombucha in the refrigerator for 2-3 more days, and then enjoy.
Favorite Flavor Combinations
- Berry Fizz: add 1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
- Orange Ginger Fizz: add 1/4 cup mandarin orange + 1/8 tsp freshly grated ginger
- Apple Cinnamon Fizz: add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple juice + 1 cinnamon stick
How to Enjoy Kombucha Tea
1. Add your favorite fruit juice to kombucha tea. I tried orange and apple, and it was delicious.
2. Make popsicles with kombucha tea and fruit juice.
3. Use kombucha tea instead of vinegar to make salad dressing.
4. Use kombucha to make homemade gummy snacks for the kids. Just use it in place of the fruit juice.
Can You Make Kombucha Without Sugar?
Unless kombucha has turned to kombucha vinegar, regular kombucha will always contain a certain amount of sugar. The more mature the kombucha is the less sugar it will contain. If you are brewing kombucha to a fairly mature level where the dominant flavor is tart rather than sweet, and have no health concerns with regards to sugar, you should be in the clear.
While there has been a bit of hype with regards to sugar content, and kombucha always contains sugar, the quantities are not that high. So although it is always good to watch your sugar intake and try to make sure that it comes in the healthiest and most nutritious form possible, there isn’t usually a need to be concerned over the levels in kombucha, particularly homemade kombucha.
In fact, a glass of well-brewed kombucha will contain less sugar than an apple.
Reduced Sugar Kombucha
If you wish to make your kombucha 100% sugar-free you will have to allow it to ferment until the sugar has all been eaten up. This can result in some seriously sour kombucha. But, if you want to try this, here are some methods you can use to try and minimize the sourness while still eradicating a lot of sugar.
- Allow your kombucha to ferment at a really low temperature. This will slow everything down, and result in a more rounded sourness once fully mature rather the sharp sourness which comes with a fast and furious ferment.
- Try to reduce the sugar in the sweet tea. This is a tricky area, as if you reduce the sugar too much the yeasts and bacteria will not be able to carry out fermentation properly. This will then result in a brew which actually has MORE sugar. However, if you take things slow, and just adjust it batch for batch, you might find that you can strike a happy balance.
- Do a long first ferment. Fermenting your kombucha longer means it will become less sweet and more tart. Be careful though as leaving the booch fermenting too long will give you a very sour flavor. Wait long enough and you end up with Kombucha vinegar — good on salads, but too sour to drink.
- Do a long second ferment. Second ferments are milder and generally slower in pace than primary ferments. By doing a regular primary ferment, and then a super long secondary ferment (up to 3 weeks) you can arrive at a kombucha which has less sugar left in it but does not have as sharp a sourness as kombucha would usually have if left to ferment for so long. We recommend this over doing a super long first ferment.
Top Tips For This Homemade Kombucha
- If you are a beginner, you can purchase a kombucha starter kit online.
- Make sure your tea is cooled down to room temp before adding SCOBY.
- Make sure you cover with a thick enough cloth to ferment, don’t go with something like cheesecloth as it’s too thin.
- Store for 1-2 weeks.
More Recipes You Might Like
Guide to Homemade Kombucha + How to Flavor It (Second Fermentation)
- Glass Mason jar
- Glass bottles with gaskets
- Cheese cloth
- 6-8 bags organic black tea
- 4 cups water
- 1/2 cup cane sugar
- 1 SCOBY
- 1/4 cup frozen mixed berries
- Make a batch of tea. Boil 4 cups water with 6-8 organic black tea bags. Let the tea cool down for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bag.
- Add 1/2 cup of organic cane sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Let the tea cool down to room temperature. Add SCOBY starter and the tea it was stored in to the 1/2 gallon mason jar. Add the cooled down tea just brewed and fill the mason jar.
- Cover with a cloth (not cheese cloth - it's too thin) and put a rubber band around it.
- Let it store for 1-2 weeks. The more time the kombucha ferments, the more acidic it tastes. At 10 days, I thought my kombucha tea tasted almost like apple cider vinegar.
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