How to Make Home-Brewed Kombucha

Kombucha is a cultured tea beverage full of zing and health boosting ingredients. Learning the art of cultured foods is definitely a worthy endeavor for anyone who seeks true health.

“Culturing” is a natural process that increases the nutrient content of foods and the degree of their assimilation into the body. Kombucha possesses an impressive list of such nutrients including enzymes, antioxidants, polyphenols, probiotics, glucosamines, B-vitamins, and glucuronic acid.

Drinking kombucha supports a healthy body in many ways. It has been noted to improve digestion, ward of degenerative illness (including cancer), build healthy gut flora, increase immunity, detoxify the liver, build cartilage, ease arthritic-type conditions, and provide an abundance of B-vitamins essential to effectively dealing with stress.

The reasons to drink kombucha are plentiful, known by many celebrities such as Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Halle Berry. They have been drinking it for years. Furthermore, Nobel Prize winner, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, has credited Kombucha with curative properties in his book, The Cancer Ward, which is said to have influenced Ronald Reagan’s consumption of  kombucha during his bout with cancer—a liter per day.

Considering the average price for a 16-oz bottle of kombucha is $4, you’d be wise to brew it up yourself unless your pockets are as deep as the aforementioned aficionados.

Required Equipment

  • Large pot (gallon)
  • Spatula or large utensil (wooden; not plastic or metal)
  • Wide-mouth glass beverage dispenser or sun tea container (~1 gallon)
  • Cheesecloth, organic natural fibers if possible
  • Rubber band, preferably large & thick
  • Funnel, metal (plastic ok, if funnel only cooled tea)

Ingredients

  • Gallon of purified water
  • Green or black tea, organic (4-5 sachets or equivalent)
  • 1 cup of sugar, organic recommended
  • Starter- approximately 16 oz’s of kombucha tea (from prior batch or a store bought brand such as GT’s;  approximately 10% of starter is ideal, not less than 5%).
  • 1 scoby (a.k.a. “mother”). Find a trustworthy local source that uses sterile practices, order online (do your research), or make one yourself (below).

Directions

1) Sterilize cooking equipment (pot, funnel, utensils, beverage container); easily accomplished with boiling water. Wash your hands thoroughly.
2) Bring approximately 3/4-1 gallon of purified water to a boil; remove from heat.
3) Add 4-5 tea bags & steep for approximately 20 mins.
4) Remove tea bags.
5) Add 1 cup of organic sugar to tea while still hot, stir until dissolved.
6) Cool to room temperature. This will take approximately 2 hours. Cooling time can be shortened by steeping a stronger tea in less water and adding cold (purified) water to lower the temperature quickly.
7) Transport the new batch of sugar-tea to the wide-mouth vessel–necessary to support kombucha’s fermentation process which takes place on the surface where the oxygen is present. To assure sufficient oxygen, the vessel should be filled no more than 80-90%. With steady hands you can pour direct, otherwise use a funnel.
8)  Add the kombucha starter to the beverage dispenser.  Recycled kombucha tea from a prior batch acts as the best starter, or you may use a 16oz store bought brand, such as GT’s, when necessary.

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Elixir Katz (a great reference) offers the use of vinegar to acidify the tea and support the same process. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar is a smart choice.

**Do not proceed to the next step of adding the scoby until the tea’s temperature has dropped near body temperature! It will damage the scoby.

9) Add the scoby using a non-metal utensil. A metal object will harm the scoby. Ideally, two utensils used like chopsticks will assure you don’t drop the scoby, especially onto a non-sterile surface.

The “mother” scoby may sink to the bottom temporarily or lie sideways with its tip at the surface as it grows a new skin.  If if doesn’t rise and float on the top surface or grow new skin (a baby scoby) after a few days, the mother is no longer viable.

(Make your own scoby: Purchase a quality commercially sold kombucha, non -flavored. Ideally pick one with noticeable amounts of “mother” in the bottom of the bottle. If you’re lucky you may find a bottle with a miniature scoby already growing inside the bottle. Place entire contents into a sterile quart-sized glass jar and cover with a clean cloth, cheesecloth is ideal. In about a week, a skinned layer of film should form on the top, that is  your scoby. Welcome to motherhood.)

10) Cover the wide-mouth opening of the dispenser with a sterile cloth, cheesecloth preferred. Secure in place with a rubber-band.
11) Culture 7-10 days minimally, taste occasionally to discover your preferred flavor. You can culture up to 28 days but this can create a more pungent taste, not palatable to most folks. Yet, in cooler temperature many days may be required for a typical kombucha fermentation. In warmer climates, longer brew times will create a kombucha that begins to taste quite vinegar-like over time.

The perfect temperature for culturing kombucha is 75-85 degrees. Within this range, proper culturing will likely be achieved in 7-10 days. Cooler temperatures will require longer fermentation and periodic tasting to monitor its readiness–find your proper taste. The warmer it is the faster it cultures, the cooler… the slower.

12) When the taste is to your liking, you have options. You can seal the beverage dispenser with its original lid and place it into the refrigerator and drink freely. When your dispenser empties down to the last 10% (~16 oz’s), it’s time to brew again!!

Placing it in the refrigerator slows the fermentation process and the mother becomes temporarily dormant. This option creates ease as you can keep the starter and scoby in the same dispenser ongoing and merely add cooled sweet tea when it reaches its final 10% mark.

13) Or, if you love kombucha and want to drink it in abundance, funnel the kombucha into sterile glass jars & refrigerate! Then, start another batch immediately and with any luck, it will be ready by the time you’ve finished off the prior round.

If you need a few days to initiate your next batch, you will need to store the mother in 16 ounces of kombucha tea. You can store it on the counter in a wide-mouth glass jar (cloth-covered) for a few days, but if you do so for any significant period of time, you will need to continue to feed her fresh sugar tea to maintain viability and safety. It’s much easier to store her in the refrigerator for a few days with a tight lid and let her nap.

* note: Ideally, always maintain at least 16 ounces of kombucha tea as a starter for the next batch. If not, you’ll have to borrow some, buy a store bought version, or test out the vinegar option to get the process going again.

If you enjoy making sun tea and want to stay out of the kitchen, simply make a gallon batch of sun tea in a sterile container, then add sugar and stir to dissolve while it’s still warm. Add the scoby and starter and you’ve got yourself some sun-brewed kombucha–the best of its kind!

Once you get the hang of it, have some fun by adding a few herbs and/or fresh garlic or ginger. Create new flavors as desired, but do so after the fermentation process to assure that you don’t negatively affect the quality of the culture and the future viability of the mother.

Consumption

For those battling illness or major body ailments, enjoy throughout the day for best results!! The continuous brewing method is definitely the easiest in effort once you create a habit of consistent brewing. It’s really as simple as making a large batch of sugar tea and allowing the magic to happen.

Drinking Kombucha out of a wine glass or beer mug makes it all the more enjoyable. In fact, if you’re the silly type, you can even pretend you’re Madonna or President Reagan for a moment—laughter really is the best medicine.

Enjoy the fizzily pop of Kombucha and the fact that you’re alive. Gratitude, along with effort, goes a long way when your goal is to possess true health.

Further Reading: The Benefits and Drawbacks of Drinking Kombucha.