Image sourced from WholeFoodsLab.com
Kombucha is an elusive drink that has been around since the 1800s (or possibly earlier) in Eastern Asia before slowly making its way into the rest of the world. Fast-forward to present day, and kombucha is everywhere!
What is kombucha? Essentially this health celebrity is fermented sweet tea which uses a fermenting culture known as the “mother,” or SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY fuels the fermentation process by creating healthy bacteria and enzymes believed to be beneficial for digestion.
Some people buy kombucha for its tart apple cider or carbonated taste, some buy it to recalibrate on a road trip. However, with each bottle over $3, this habit can quickly get expensive. For those of you who enjoy a D.I.Y. project, here are the steps on making your own kombucha.
What you need to know before brewing
- Cleanliness is key: As with any fermentation process, your gear should be sterilized to prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria. Rinse your SCOBY in distilled water before placing into tea, and make sure not to use any materials that could collect bacteria — like a wooden spoon — in the kombucha making process.
- Probiotic power: The SCOBY produces healthy bacteria, known as probiotics. Check in on your kombucha throughout the process. Brown stringy goop on your SCOBY, or floating down to the bottom of the jug, is completely fine. Your SCOBY will even grow during fermentation, sink or float. The red flag you want to look for is mold growing at the top of the liquid, whether it is black, grey, or any other typical mold color. If this happens, you’ll need to start over with a new culture.
- Alcohol content: An important note — for those sensitive to alcohol — kombucha fermentation can create up to 1% alcohol content.
Make D.I.Y. homebrewed kombucha:
- 2 large glass jars, 2 quarts (1.89L) each, or 1-gallon (2L) glass jug. (Using glass is important to ensure cleanliness and to prevent contamination. Steel will denature the culture.)
- One stockpot
- One plastic spoon (not wood, which could carry unhealthy bacteria)
- Six x 16oz (500ml) sealable bottles for post-fermentation (Save and sterilize old kombucha bottles or buy new bottles in a local u-brew store)
- Paper towel or clean dishtowel
- Large rubber band
- Plastic funnel
- 8 bags (or 8 Tbsp loose leaf) black or green tea (herbal teas, unfortunately, do not do the trick)
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 SCOBY
- 2 cups of kombucha starter (raw, unpasteurized kombucha – can be store bought)
- 3 ½ quarts (3.3L) of distilled water
- Sterilize your glass jug in boiling water (boil for 5 minutes)
- Brew tea in stockpot: bring water to a boil then remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add tea and steep until liquid is completely cooled. Remove tea.
- Add the kombucha starter (this will add acidity to the batch preventing the growth of bad bacteria).
- Pour into glass jug for fermentation; add the SCOBY and cover with paper towel, sealing the jug with a rubber band.
- Ferment for 7 to 14 days. At day 7, start tasting your kombucha. It will be sweet at the beginning and sour near the end.
- When it’s reached your desired taste, remove and pour into your 16oz (500ml) bottles using a plastic funnel. To build carbonation, seal and let sit on counter for 4 days before refrigerating. Enjoy!* To flavor your kombucha you can add herbs or fruits to the 16oz bottles before sealing. Ginger and hibiscus are my personal favourites.
Megan Wollenberg, RHN
Megan Wollenberg is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and specializes in digestive health, and individualized nutrient dense diets. Passionate about food policy and local foods, she encourages getting back to basics when it comes to food. When she’s not tending her herb garden, she can be found cycling and stretching on her yoga mat.
Do you drink kombucha? Have you ever made your own?