Kombucha 101

A healthy-looking SCOBY

Already in the Tsin-Dynasty, 221 BC, it was known and honoured as a beverage with magical powers enabling people to live forever.  —Kombucha–Miracle Fungus

Okay, maybe kombucha doesn’t make people live forever, but it does have some health claims. Some of these are improved digestion, better body pH (it’s alkalizing), detoxifying effects and liver supportive, as well as having antimicrobial properties, and is believed to support the immune system. (Note: the FDA does not support these health claims.)

I have an old kombucha bottle that has some nutrition facts on it, and it claims that per 8oz  serving % Daily Value: folic acid 25%, vitamin B2, B6, B1, B3 and B12 all 20%. I don’t know how they get those exact amounts of B vitamins in there, but at least you have an idea of what nutrients kombucha provides. I assume these come from the probiotic content of the beverage. The bottle also says it contains a probiotic count of Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086: 1 billion and S. Boulardii: 1 billion. From what I understand, these are both beneficial in digestion, particularly in regards to stool quality.

So how do you make it? Well, first you need a starter called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that you buy or get from a friend, plus a cup or so of already made kombucha. You can also just use a bottle of kombucha from the store (assuming it’s not too old) to grow a SCOBY. I started my own kombucha when I bought a quart on tap from a little tiny health food store, and tried to stretch it out for a few days. Soon, I noticed brown stringy things growing at the bottom of the bottle. I realized then that I could probably grow a SCOBY from it, and so I did.

How to Brew Kombucha

I use green tea for brewing kombucha because I have read it grows the strongest SCOBYs, which I then use for my Rooibos Kombucha. You can also use black tea. Do not use tea that has oils added to it, such as Earl Grey. The oils can affect how the beneficial organisms grow. To grow a SCOBY from a bottle of kombucha, click here.

Equipment and Ingredients

  • Gallon glass jar or glass bowl (you can use two half gallon jars as well, but will need to divide everything between them, including the SCOBY)
  • SCOBY plus one cup or more of kombucha
  • Pot for brewing tea
  • 3 quarts filtered water
  • 4 tea bags of green or black tea (may use more, if desired–do not use decaffinated)
  • 1 cup of cane sugar (refined or unrefined are both fine)
  • tea towel, layers of cheese cloth, paper coffee filter or paper towels
  • large rubber band or kitchen string

Step 1

Brew the tea using the filtered water. You may reserve half the water and use it to cool down the tea after you’ve added the sugar (see step 2)

Step 2

Add one cup of sugar and stir till dissolved.

Step 3

When tea is cooled to room temperature or no hotter than lukewarm, pour into your jar or bowl and add the one cup of kombucha plus SCOBY.

Make sure your hands are clean when handling the SCOBY. It’s okay if the SCOBY sinks. During brewing, a new SCOBY or “baby” will form at the top, or if your mother SCOBY floats, it may form underneath. You can give these away or use them to start more batches. You can also use them to make rooibos kombucha.

Note: The kombucha you add to the brew is very important. It should be fairly tart. You need sufficient acid in the brew for proper brewing and to prevent mold growth. It is normal for the SCOBY to have brown spots and stringy things hanging from it, but no mold!

The "SCOBY hotel" - where I keep healthy SCOBYS in green tea kombucha until I need them
Layers of SCOBYs.

Step 4

Cover the jar or bowl. If using a jar, I find paper coffee filters to be really easy to use. Secure with rubber band or string. (This keeps the bugs out)

Step 5

Place jar in a safe warm place away from light. I like to use the cupboard above the microwave.

Allow to brew for several days. Temperature makes a huge difference in how fast it brews. The size of SCOBY can also make a difference. Adding more already fermented kombucha to the brew can also speed up the process. My kombucha brews in 5-7 days in the heat of summer, and 14 days or longer in winter.

Step 6

Taste test your kombucha when you think it might be getting close to  ready (after about 5-7 days is a good starting point). I like to use a straw for this. Taste once every day until it’s just slightly too sweet. Bottle the kombucha, reserving one cup for the next batch (which you will want to start right away or within a day or two if you are lazy like me).

Step 7

Allow bottles to carbonate by keeping at room temperature for a couple days before refrigerating. Enjoy!

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