Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. Although it’s sometimes referred to as kombucha mushroom tea, kombucha is not a mushroom — it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast.Kombucha tea is made by adding the colony to sugar and tea, and allowing the mix to ferment.
That is a copy-and-paste from Google. Simply put, kombucha is tea fermented with yeast and bacteria(sorta like a sour beer!) The bacteria and yeast come from something called a SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic-Culture-of-Bacteria, and-Yeast. Getting a good SCOBY is the most difficult part of making kombucha. I got mine from a great customer named Krystina(thank you). She also gave me a great recipe.
You add a SCOBY from a previous batch to the new batch and a new SCOBY will form. The original SCOBY is called the mother, the new SCOBY is called the Baby.
Here’s what a SCOBY looks like:
The first pic is a mother from a mason jar. In the background you can see a much larger mother in a 1 gallon container. The second pic is the baby SCOBY that formed in our new batch. This is super easy to do but before we go any further please be aware that there may be some issues for you to consider before brewing and/or consuming kombucha. As with any edible, you may be allergic to it or you may have an adverse response to it. I did not, but you may. If this is a concern then I must refer you to someone smarter and more highly compensated than myself. Probably a physician or microbiologist. That said, there are thousands of people who drink kombucha and I have been unable to find any record of a death due to kombucha ingestion. Moving on.
Here’s how you do it:
- Brew your tea. Black tea is the norm but any type of tea that does not contain any additives such as spices or oils can be used. That means no Earl Grey and many others. Look at the ingredients. If it lists anything other than tea you cannot use it for kombucha. I use Harris Teeter Organic Black Tea. I used 8 bags for a gallon batch.
- Remove from heat, remove the bags and add your sugar. I use 1 cup of sugar for a 1 gallon batch. Stir to dissolve.
- Pour you tea into a sanitized glass container. Never ferment in a metal container. Some are OK but it’s too complicated to explain so just avoid them all. I use Star-San to sanitize whether it’s beer, wine or kombucha. It’s works on everything! I used a 1 gallon jug that I use for brewing mead but I would suggest using a wide mouth container. I will explain why later on. Top off to almost 1 gallon but leave room for about 2 cups of starter tea from the previous batch. Cover the lid loosely with aluminum foil, a coffee filter or similar means. Let it cool by putting it in the fridge until is is cool to the touch. Too hot will hurt the SCOBY.
- Once cool you’ll need to oxygenate the tea. I sprayed sanitizer on my hand and used my palm as a cap and gave it a good shake for a few seconds. Feel free to use whatever method works for you. Add the mother and 2 cups of starter tea to the new batch and cover with a breathable material that will allow the bacteria to use oxygen in the air but will also keep bugs out. I used a sanitized paper towel on top secured with a rubber band. Put the kombucha in a dark place like a kitchen cabinet.
- Wait. Most batches will take 1-2 weeks. Pour a sample and taste after 1 week and see if it is where you like it. If it’s ready, bottle it. If not let it keep going. When to bottle is based solely on your personal taste preference. Kombucha will be sweet at first and will get progressively more tart and vinegar like the longer you let it brew. My wife prefers sweet kombucha, I prefer it a little more tart. I used 1/2 liter EZ Cap bottles because they are resealable so I can have a serving then seal it back up.
After brewing a few batches I have learned a few things. First, and most importantly, I would not suggest brewing in a jug like this. The bacteria need oxygen and the small opening does not allow for enough exchange with the air in the atmosphere. It will probably ferment eventually but it will take a very long time and that can lead to contamination by wild yeast and bacteria. The other reason to avoid a narrow mouth container is it is difficult to get the mother SCOBY in there. We had to cut ours to make it fit, not ideal.
Second, don’t be afraid to leave you old SCOBY in the container with a little of the left over tea. It will store for quite a while this way but don’t let it dry out. If you plan on storing a SCOBY for more than a week or so, brew a small batch of tea so the SCOBY has something to eat and add it to the old container.