I've mentioned a couple times that as part of my (mostly) Paleo lifestyle, I've been getting into fermented foods and probiotics. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that's chock full of healthy bacteria, much like yogurt. It was invented in the Qin dynasty to help give Samurai more energy on the battlefield. The probiotics in it have helped put an end to a lot of my stomach issues and have all but eliminated my lactose intolerance symptoms.
The taste is hard to describe…something of a cross between pear juice and apple cider vinegar. I love it and drink this stuff every single day.
Much like yogurt, beer, sourdough and vinegar, kombucha is made by adding a bacteria culture into a liquid. Most kombucha is made by adding a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) into a sugar-tea concoction and letting it ferment. The sugar actually vanishes during the fermentation process, so you're not left drinking a sugary drink. I've found that the process of getting the sugar-to-tea ratio cooked and cooled can be a little overwhelming for first time kombucha-makers, so I've developed a super-simple kombucha recipe that anyone can follow!
Super-Simple Kombucha for Beginners
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 cup kombucha
- 6 bottles Pure Leaf sweetened tea
- Combine kombucha and tea in a gallon jar.
- Gently add in scoby.
- Cover with a loose-weave cotton.
- Ferment for 7 to 10 days, bottle in a glass jar and serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for one to two months.
First, get a kombucha culture and some pre-made kombucha liquid. Anyone who makes homemade kombucha will have extras (hit me up if you live around San Diego!) or you can buy them online at Kombucha Kamp. I met Kombucha Kamp owner Hannah at Craftcation several months ago, and she's the one who got me into kombucha. She knows everything there is to know about it.
The first step of creating kombucha usually requires that you brew four to six black and green tea bags into one gallon of water sweetened with one cup of sugar. But this can be a long process, and you need to cool the concoction completely before adding the culture. I recommend skipping this step initially and just buying bottled fresh brewed sweet tea. I use Pure Leaf, which has the perfect sugar ratio ranging from 18-26 grams of sugar per 18 ounces of tea. It's all-natural, totally sustainable tea with no preservatives. It's VERY important that you don't use anything sweetened artificially, as the SCOBY feeds off of the sugar to fuel the fermentation process and create more beneficial bacteria.
The Not Too Sweet Peach is soooo good. For my easy kombucha, I just blended five bottles of what I had on hand: traditional Sweet Tea, Not Too Sweet Honey Green Tea, Unsweetened Black, Not Too Sweet Peach and Lemon. It's really not an exact science.
Add a cup of pre-made kombucha liquid and your SCOBY.
Top with a loose-weave cotton (I cut up pieces of an old t-shirt and secure it with a rubber band – just don't use cheesecloth) and let it sit in a dark, warm place for about a week. The longer it goes, the stronger the taste is until it eventually turns into something akin to vinegar.
During the fermentation process, the SCOBY will actually reproduce. The “baby SCOBY” sometimes grows directly on top of the original mother SCOBY. If that happens, gently pull them apart.
You can store your extra SCOBYs indefinitely covered with kombucha liquid in a mason jar with a plastic lid (or with a metal lid lined with plastic wrap to prevent metallic condensation from dripping onto your kombucha).
Little yeasty bits often remain in the brewed kombucha, so I usually strain mine through a cheesecloth into a mason jar or old wine bottle.
Depending on your brewing conditions, your kombucha may turn out fizzy or flat. You'll eventually learn all the variables that can affect your kombucha taste and consistency, and you can go ALL kinds of crazy with double-fermentation batches and flavoring methods.
Got any burning kombucha questions?