I enjoyed half of the bottles before I remembered to take pictures!

Homemade Kombucha (Yes, you can!)

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I like everything about Kombucha except the price, so fortunately for me homemade Kombucha is cheap and easy to make!  If you are not familiar with this drink, Kombucha is a fermented and slightly fizzy tea drink.  It has a sweet/tart taste that seems to be a love it or hate it experience, in my house we are split 50/50 on whether it is wonderful or “blah”.  Besides the refreshing sweet/tart/fizzy flavor, it is also full of those tummy enhancing probiotics that we are all hearing about lately.

The problem with Kombucha is that is very expensive when you buy it at the health food store, a 16oz bottle usually costs close to $4!  That is simply too much of an extravagance to make Kombucha a daily drink in my house but there is a great, low cost way to enjoy this yummy and healthy drink – make it yourself!

The process is very simple but it does require patience as the brew has to sit and ferment for days or even weeks depending on your ambient temperature and sweet:tart flavor preferences.  It also requires obtaining the yeast/bacteria starter culture called SCOBY.  These cultures are widely available online but it is also quite easy to grow your own from a bottle of store bought Kombucha, so that is what I did following the advice that I found on multiple websites.  In all steps of Kombucha brewing, cleanliness is vital for a successful batch.  Take the time to sterilize all of the equipment you will be using with boiling water and keep your hands super clean too!

To grow your own SCOBY:

  • Buy a bottle of a raw and unpasteurized Kombucha such as GT’s and pour it out into a mason jar.
  • Cover the mason jar with a coffee filter and rubber band and then let it sit undisturbed in your cupboard for about 4 days to let the SCOBY begin to form.
  • After 4 days, add in sweet tea that you made with 1 cup of water, 1 tea bag and 1/4 cup of sugar (make sure the tea is completely cooled before you add it in).
  • Recover the jar and let it sit another week to 10 days to let the SCOBY grow.  The SCOBY will look like a cloudy film at first and then will thicken into a gelatinous disk that either floats or sinks in the tea solution.
  • The SCOBY isn't pretty but it is a hard worker!

    When the SCOBY is at least 1/8 of an inch thick, you can put it to work brewing Kombucha for you. (The SCOBY is always rather strange looking but if it ever looks moldy, throw it out and start over!)

Once you have a SCOBY there are two different ways you can begin brewing your drink; batch brewing or continuous brewing.  The difference in the two methods are basically the volume and the fact that in batch brewing you must handle the SCOBY while in continuous brewing you do not disturb the SCOBY.  I chose continuous brewing so that I could have a large amount brewing in one convenient container.

Here is what I did to start my continuous brewing system:

  • 1 gallon "sun tea" jar works great for continuous brewing of Kombucha.

    I used a 1 gallon glass sun tea jar with a spigot at the bottom. The jar must be clean but with no traces of soap so give it an extra good rinse and then a final rinse with vinegar.

  • Make a large batch of sweet tea using 5-6 tea bags (regular, unflavored tea), 3 quarts of water and 3/4 cup of sugar. Let the tea cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next step.
  • When the tea is cool, add the entire contents of the SCOBY jar (SCOBY plus liquid it grew in). No need to stir.
  • Cover the mouth of the container with a coffee filter and rubber band and then place it in your cupboard to brew undisturbed for 7 – 10 days.
  • Begin tasting around day 5 by drawing off a small amount through the spigot at the bottom.  As the SCOBY feeds on the sugar in the tea, the drink will become increasingly more tart.
  • When the flavor has reached the sweet:tart degree that you like, you can pour it out into glass or plastic bottles for secondary fermentation.  This is the stage where you can flavor it with fruit pieces or juice and also where the carbonation can build up to give your drink its characteristic fizz.
  • The tightly sealed bottles should sit in your cupboard for 2 – 4 days to build carbonation and then move them to the refrigerator to slow down the activity.  It is not unheard of for bottles to break occasionally during the secondary fermentation process so you may want to “burp” them by quickly opening them and re-sealing them to let out excess gas every day or other day.  If you use plastic bottles, you can tell how carbonated they are by how firm the sides of the bottle become (similar to soda).
  • I enjoyed half of the bottles before I remembered to take pictures!

    When you draw off the Kombucha to fill your bottles, be sure to leave at least 20% of the total volume in the brewing container and then refresh it with another 3 quarts of cooled sweet tea. No need to stir.

  • The brewing time may be shorter after your first batch so begin checking after 3 days.

I am not a Kombucha expert, but I have managed to get my continuous brewing system up and running with minimal effort.  This is a basic outline of how to get started with Kombucha but there is so much more to learn about this delicious and healthy drink!  There is a lot more information available online about how to care for your new living drink; how to flavor it, how to bottle it, how to troubleshoot the brewing process and how to store it.  I highly recommend that you read more about it on the many different websites available online to help you decide if this is something you want to include in your diet.  I referred to the directions I found on Cultures For Health to help me get started with my Kombucha.

 

This post is participating at Fat Tuesday, Heart and Soul, Traditional Tuesdays, Tout It Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Healthy 2day Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesdays, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Works for me Wednesday, Home Is Where The Heart Is, Allergy Free Wednesdays, Whole Foods Wednesday, Full Plate Thursday, Keep It Real Thursdays, Freaky Friday, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, The Gallery of Favorites, Inspire Me Fridays, Feasting in Fellowship Friday, Get Schooled Saturday, Show and Tell Saturday, Foodie Friday, Prudent Projects and Smart Solutions, Nifty Thrifty Sunday, Monday Mania, Melt in Your Mouth Monday, Must Try Monday, On the Menu Monday, Homestead Barn Hop

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20 Comments

  1. Thank you so much! I’ve been reading various sites directions for a few weeks and have been nervous to try, but this sounds really easy. I like the continuous brew idea. I drink a half bottle a day, and it is getting to be an expensive habit!! I have my GT’s original in the fridge ready to try to make my on SCOBY.

    • Katie,
      Remember that patience is one of the key ingredients in making Kombucha. I’m so glad to have the spigot on my jar so I can taste a sip every 12 hours to see how it is developing, otherwise I would make myself crazy wondering if it was ready yet!

      • I am definately investing in the jar with spigot. Thanks!

        • Made my first batch! It was good, but not carbonated. Then I realized I didn’t do the secondary ferment after bottling, I put it straight in the fridge.. Oops! I got a spigot jar, and hopefully the second batch will be more bubbly!

          • Katie,

            I am so excited that it worked for you! If you have any bottles left from the first batch, just pull them out of the fridge for a few days and they will probably bubble right up. Keep us up to date on how the next batch turns out :)

  2. Great tutorial! Thank you so much for sharing your experience making Kombucha at home.

  3. I’ve heard about this drink from another blogger and I really liked the idea. Your tutorial is awesome. I am so going to make it… or at least try. :) thanks

  4. Very impressive!! My husband just tried it this weekend and YES $4. YUM!! Thank you for sharing with us at Healthy 2Day Wednesday. Hope to see you next week.

  5. Hi Jen,
    Your homemade Kombucha looks amazing, I can’t wait to try this recipe. Hope you are having a great week and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Come Back Soon!
    Miz Helen

  6. I love kombucha but have never made it! Thanks for the great tutorial, you make it look so easy.

    I would love it if you would share this at the Smart Solutions linky party. You can link up here:

    http://theprudentpantryblog.blogspot.com/2012/08/prudent-projects-and-smart-solutions.html

    Have a great day!

  7. Thank you for writing this helpful post. I just got a scoby this week to play with.

  8. amazing! I can’t wait to try this!!!
    Thank you for linking up @ Inspire Me Fridays!

  9. So interesting! You bring such a great view point to Must Try Mondays. So glad to have you linking up!

  10. Thanks for sharing this on foodie friday … I love the drink too but not the price.

  11. Very thorough tutorial! I’m pinning this for future use.

  12. I have been making Kombucha for several years now and was always told not to use anything that was metal,plastic or rubber. I have a similar sun tea jar and the spigot has plastic and rubber on the inside where the Kombucha ferments. I do not want to cause any alarm but it’s probably leaching nasty stuff into your Kombucha.

    • Thanks for the heads up. I realized that I might be having a problem there so I switched to a different jar. It’s too bad because it is SO MUCH easier with the spigot :(

  13. Pingback: Making Kombucha Part 1 – Batch Brewing | Stuff and Such

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