Anyone who has ever been to the store Whole Foods has seen their iconic display of brightly colored kombucha gracing the checkout lanes. You can get flavors like ginger pomegranate, blueberry chia seed, or grapefruit. The price tag always gives me a bit of pause though — at almost $4 a bottle, it’s an expensive habit to have.
But what really is kombucha, and why are people paying $4 a bottle for the stuff?
Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea full of gut healthy probiotics. And no, you can’t just use the fuzzy green tea you forgot at the back of the fridge last month. That’s not the type of fermenting we’re talking about.
This is made with a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, or SCOBY, for short. It’s fizzy and has a sweet, tangy taste. The longer it brews the healthier it is, but the more sour it gets.
There’s been lots of talk lately about how important it is to have good gut health and fermented beverages are a great way to boost your body’s probiotic count. Boosting your probiotic count boosts immunity, helps digestion and absorption of nutrients, and can even reduce yeast infections (source).
I’ve made milk kefir and even dabbled in sourdough bread, but I didn’t have the time to check the cultures every day. Both the sourdough starter and my milk kefir grew mold from my lack of attention. The nice thing about kombucha though, is that you only need to brew a new batch once every few weeks. This is the perfect
lazy busy person’s fermented beverage!
I got my first SCOBY from Culture’s For Health. They’ll send you a high quality, dehydrated SCOBY to use. You can also get one from a friend since they multiply. You can find a Facebook group that shares cultures. Often someone will share one for just the price of shipping.
Learning how to brew kombucha is actually easier than it sounds and once you start, you’ll be hooked. Goodbye $4 kombucha bottles!
- It may be tempting to make this “healthier” by reducing the sugar, but don’t do it! This is what feeds the culture. Once it’s done fermenting, the sugar will be gone.
- Place the water and sugar in the pot and heat until the sugar is dissolved and the water is at least simmering. Turn off the heat and add your tea leaves. Let steep 10 minutes. I’ve only ever used black tea, as it’s the classic kombucha flavor. However, many people enjoy the taste of kombucha made with green tea.
- Strain the tea leaves out.
- Cool the tea to room temperature, no hotter than 85 degrees.
- Pour the tea into your glass jar. SCOBY’s can be sensitive creatures, so make sure the jar has been washed in vinegar, not soap. Repeat, do not use soap!
- If this is your first batch of kombucha, add 2 cups of pasteurized vinegar. DO NOT use raw vinegar since it can kill your SCOBY! For future batches, you’ll add 2 cups of starter tea, which is already brewed kombucha from your previous batch. Just reserve the 2 cups each time you make a new batch.
- Rinse your hands in vinegar and carefully place your SCOBY on top of the tea. If the tea isn’t the same temperature as the SCOBY, it may sink down a little bit, but this won’t affect the brewing process.
- Cover the jar with a tea towel or coffee filter secured with a rubber band and let sit for 1-4 weeks out of direct sunlight. For me, 3 weeks is the perfect brewing time for 1 gallon of Kombucha. Taste it once or twice a week and see how it’s doing. Containers with a spicket at the bottom are perfect for brewing in since you can easily remove the liquid as needed without disturbing the SCOBY.
- If you have a regular jar, just slip a straw down into the brew and take a sip. If it still tastes really sweet, it’s not done yet. There’s a sweet spot where it’s still a little sweet, but tangy and fizzy and amazing! If you let it brew too long, it will taste like vinegar.
Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, you can make flavored kombucha.
Add some berries, ginger or juice to a flip-top bottle like this one (or if you’re lacking creativity, here are 20 ways you can flavor your kombucha). Cover with kombucha, leaving 1/2 inch of space at the top. Tightly close the bottle and let it brew for 3-7 days. Once it’s done it can be chilled before drinking. Be careful opening it as it can get really fizzy! I once had kombucha shoot all over the dishes I’d just washed, the walls and even the ceiling!
You can combat explosions by “burping” the bottles every day or so to help release excess gas that causes the explosions. Burp your bottles simply by opening it and then closing it back up.