My Kombucha!

My days of buying $3 bottles of deliciously addictive kombucha are over!  Now that I’ve learned how easy it is to make my own, I’m not going back.  You see, about a month ago I bought a kombucha starter kit for Jeremy and myself: (1) as a fun thing for us to try together and (2) because it was getting to the point where he was buying a bottle nearly every day.  That adds up.  The kit cost $18 dollars and included a SCOBY (stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast…yum?), a huge ginger pear tea bag, enough organic sugar for the first batch, and detailed instructions.  I also had to buy a gallon-sized glass jar.

I ended up with about 7 bottles-worth of kombucha, which would normally cost $21 dollars!  So I pretty much broke even on the first batch.  Future batches just require extra tea bags and sugar.

The verdict?  Delicious.  The only downside is that each batch takes about a month, so I’ve got to be patient 🙂

Here are kombucha-making instructions as I understand them:

1. Get a SCOBY.  They are sometimes also referred to as “mothers”.  This is what makes the kombucha magic happen.  You can buy them in kits, like I did, or ask for a piece from someone who’s already on the kombucha train.

2. Bring a gallon (16 cups) of water to a boil on the stove.  Add 8-10 tea bags.  You can use black, green, or herbal teas.  Brew tea according to package instructions, being careful not to over-brew black and green tea as this will make it bitter.

3. Add 1 cup of sugar and dissolve.  This is what my kombucha-making kit recommends, but I might decrease the amount a bit for future batches.  The sugar is important to feed the SCOBY and the final product will contain less sugar than you’d think because the SCOBY will digest a lot of it.  I’m just trying to figure out what works for my tastebuds right now.

4. Pour the tea into a very clean gallon-sized glass jar and cover with a clean cloth.  Remember, this is going to sit out at room temperature for up to a month and so you really want to avoid any bad bacteria growth.  My understanding is that the SCOBY helps to fend off bacteria growth but I’ve seen people end up with moldy kombucha batches before.  You’ll know it’s bad mold if it’s powdery, dusty, or a different color than your SCOBY.  Cover the jar with a clean cloth so that the kombucha can breath.

5. Let the tea come to room temperature.  This can take a couple of hours but don’t put the SCOBY into too-hot liquid.  You don’t want to fry the little guys!  Once it’s cool, add the SCOBY, cover with a clean cloth attached with a rubber band, and find a spot for it to hang out for 2-4 weeks.  The ideal spot would be warm (maybe close to a heater vent) and out of the way so you can avoid getting weird looks from visitors.  The longer it sits, the less sweet and the more “vinegary” it will get.  We like ours on the vinegary side so we went for 4 weeks.

6.  Enjoy your kombucha and share pieces of your now fully-grown SCOBY with friends!

In other news, today was the perfect Saturday.  It was the beginning of my 3-day weekend, meaning that schoolwork pressure was off!  I went to an amazing yoga class this morning, baked some peanut butter cookies (recipe forthcoming!), walked the dog, and cleaned the apartment and went shopping with Jeremy.  Now it’s 8:30 at night, so I guess I could get started with some reading for class…

Does anyone else out there make their own kombucha?  Are there any flavor combinations or techniques I should try next?

* I added this post to the Weekend Gourmet, Real Food 101, Gluten-Free WednesdayFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways, and Monday Mania.

14 thoughts on “My Kombucha!

  1. I have made kombucha before….a continuous brew type, so after it was “ready,” I could take out 16oz each day (or every two days), and then I had to add the same amount of tea. It was wonderful! I drank it every morning when I woke up. Over time, though, it got darker and darker…and I decided after about 4 months that I needed to start over. It is certainly worth the little bit of effort!

  2. We started making kombucha at the beginning of the year and have made several batches. We just set up continuous brewing this week, but will be drawing off about 3 quarts at a time every couple of weeks instead of a little daily.

    Our favorite batch so far was made with Goji-Pomegranate Green Tea. We also made some where we added candied ginger to the bottle and did a second fermentation. It was also very good. We like ours strong, so I always leave the loose tea or tea bags in until the tea has cooled completely. I’m sure other people wouldn’t like it that strong, though.

    So glad to hear someone else is making it, too. 🙂

  3. I have questions. I make homemade brewed tea all the time. My tea starts to go “Off” after a couple days of sitting on the counter in a warm house (meaning the part that does not get drunk). Is this what Kombucha taste like? I am so weirded out by the bacterial colony idea but I would LOVE to make my own. alsl, I am diabetic so I can not have large amounts of sugar in it. (any would be better) I understand the concept of needing the sugar to feed the SCOBY and that the SCOBY breaks down most of the sugar but I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts about how MUCH sugar might be in the finished product and how little sugar was be necessary? Thanks for any help. I know that most of the answers (if any) are likely to come in the form of “you’ll have to try it yourself”.

    • I definitely understand how it might seem strange to let something sit at room temperature for weeks and then drink it! I accidentally leave regular, brewed tea out all the time and have seen it go “off” as well. Kombucha is not the same thing. The process of making kombucha is similar to fermenting other foods, such as cabbage for sauerkraut or apple cider for apple cider vinegar. In fact, I would say that kombucha tastes a bit like sweet tea with some apple cider vinegar mixed into it. Some people love it…some people not so much. Are there any stores near you that sell it? It may be worth buying a few bottles to see if it appeals to you.

      As for the sugar question, I can say that store-bought kombucha usually has somewhere in the range of the 2 grams per serving, depending on the brand. I put that in the “not bad at all” category. As for what I made at home, I’m afraid I don’t have any way to measure how much sugar was left in the final product. I suppose you could always try it and monitor your blood glucose after drinking it, although I’m not sure self-experimentation is a good idea with a chronic illness like diabetes. I hope this helps!

  4. Hi, I started making my own kombucha recently also. I noticed that you said you can use herbal tea but I’ve read several places that you should do that because they usually have oils in them and the oils can cause mold to grow.

    You can make kombucha in a 5 gallon food grade bucket which would probably work pretty well for you since you like to let yours sit for so long.

      • Hmmm, that’s definitely interesting information. My starter kit mentioned that herbal teas were ok, but perhaps some herbal teas are safer than others? Thanks for passing that along…I will definitely be doing some more research before I decide to use an herbal tea base!

      • I have read that both herbal teas and flavored black or green teas shouldn’t be used, AND I have read that both can be used. I think that it would be the teas with oily flavorings (like Earl Grey or some orange or cinnamon teas) that would cause problems.

        I have successfully made kombucha with goji/pomegranate flavored green tea. It was very good. I will probably try an herbal tea sometime soon.

  5. Make sure you research more. I’ve read that you can only use green, black, or oolong teas. I’ve made several batches and love it. Our favorite so far is using dried elderberries and ginger root on it’s second ferment. It tastes wonderful! We’ve also used star anise with ginger root and blueberries with ginger root. Enjoy your experiments!

  6. I have made it regularly with chamomile tea and sometimes with other herbal teas. I was told to use black tea every third or forth batch. It is ready much quicker in the warmer months. I used decaf black tea every forth batch as I can’t have caffeine. I’ve never had trouble with mould or a bad batch. Hope this helps.

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