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What is Kombucha?
Kombucha, also known as mushroom tea, has nothing to do with mushrooms and everything to do with gut healthy probiotic goodness.
Kombucha is, simply, fermented sweet tea. Less simply, during the brewing process, sweet tea ferments into a lactic acid drink filled with probiotics, which improves digestion and your digestive systems microbiome.
You can easily find kombucha at nearly any grocery store these days. However mass produced kombucha beverages are usually heavily sweetened, and are generally not organic. Plus, they are simply expensive! At $3-6 per bottle, it would not be wallet friendly to purchase premade kombucha daily. Fortunately, you can save a TON of money by brewing your own homemade kombucha. It’s a simple process that requires minimal effort and little equipment.
Kombucha is a versatile beverage. Once you get the hang of making your own, there is an endless number of flavors, tea and sugar combinations and you won’t be limited to the expensive variety found at your grocery store.
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Kombucha Health Benefits
- Improved gut health
- Reduced cancer risk
- Reduced infection risk
- Anti Inflammatory properties
- Improved mental health
- Lowered cholesterol
- Weight loss
- Healthier liver
- Diabetes (Type 2) management
Drinking as little as 4 ounces a day may improve your mind and body, plus kombucha tastes good! So, consider swapping your soda or other sweetened drink for one that benefits your body.
Does Kombucha Have Caffeine?
The final fermented may have caffeine, depending on what kind of tea you used to make it. Black tea is the most common, and after the fermentation process is complete, about one third of the caffeine remains. This is much less than most other teas, coffee or soda.
Does Kombucha Have Alcohol?
Kombucha, being a fermented beverage, does have a trace amount of alcohol. In most cases, the alcohol content is 0.5%, which is not enough to cause any intoxication. For comparison, most beer is the in 3-6% range.
What Do I Need To Start?
In order to start brewing your own kombucha, you’ll need to following:
- Brewing vessel
- Kombucha scoby
- Starter Tea
- Kombucha Tea
- Filtered Water
You can brew kombucha in nearly any glass container, be it canning jars or any size or glass beverage dispensers.
I personally use a glass beverage dispenser with a stainless steel spigot, as I brew continuously (more on that later).
Canning jars also work well. If you don’t drink much kombucha, you can use a quart or half gallon jar.
Kombucha needs air to ferment, so you’ll want to cover your vessel with a coffee filter, cheese cloth or tea towel, secured with a rubber band. Basically you want a breathable cover that will keep household dust and fruit flies out of your brew.
Plastic, Ceramic and Stainless Steel Vessels
Generally speaking, you want to keep your kombucha in glass. Because it is acidic, placing it in plastic can result in chemicals being leached into your tea. There are a few safe ceramic and stainless steel options, but I find it easier to just stick with glass.
If you use a container with a spigot, be sure your spigot is high quality stainless steel and not plastic!
SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Cultures Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s the weird brown stringy thing you’ll see floating on top of the kombucha tea. Some think it looks like a mushroom, which is why kombucha is sometimes called mushroom tea.
There are several options you can choose from when selecting a kombucha scoby. Some are sold as a thin sliver of scoby, some have small amounts of starter tea, and others are sold dehydrated.
The best scoby is thick and comes with a generous amount of starter tea. Because the scoby is used over and over again, I highly recommend purchasing an organic scoby.
The diameter of the scoby does not matter too much, as the size of the container in which the scoby was made will determine how wide the scoby can be. More importantly is the thickness. The scoby should be at least 1/4″ thick. While that may not sound like much, a scoby that is 2″ wide and 1/4″ thick is more than enough to brew a gallon of kombucha. The starter scoby is the “seed” or “kombucha mother”, and when you start to brew your own, the scoby will grow and expand to fill your individual container.
Note: It is not recommended to touch your scoby with your bare hands. To reduce chances of mold or contamination, use gloves or tongs to handle your scoby.
If you’d like to start your kombucha brew with a thick, healthy organic kombucha scoby with lots of starter tea, check out our scoby available here.
Starter tea is the concentrated tea that your scoby is shipped in. Generally, our organic scobys come with 2 cups of organic starter tea. However, that volume can vary. If you need more starter tea for larger batches, you can use distilled white vinegar to make up the difference. So, if you need a total if 2 cups of starter tea, and your scoby came with 1 cup, you can use 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to total 2 cups starter tea.
It is important that you only use distilled white vinegar, and not apple cider vinegar or any other types. Organic distilled white vinegar is best.
If you don’t have any starter tea, you can use distilled white vinegar for the entire starter tea volume.
Sugar is the food source for the scoby, and the important ingredient for fermentation. In most cases, especially when you are just starting out, you’ll want to use granulated white sugar. Again, I highly recommend organic sugar.
Once you get more comfortable, you can brew kombucha with maple syrup or honey!
The most basic kombucha is brewed with regular black tea. There are also flavored options available. For the best quality kombucha blends like Cherry City Chai, Ginger Lemon Gumption, Farmer’s Market Strawberry Green Tea or Apple Pie, I recommend Farmhouse Teas kombucha blend teas.
No matter what tea you chose, as usual, I recommend sticking with organic options.
Tap water is filled with chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and traces of pharmaceuticals that can kill or contaminate your kombucha scoby. In fact, these chemicals can negatively impact your gut flora and body in general. For best results, I recommend brewing kombucha with natural spring water or filtered water.
Not all water filters eliminate the contaminants in your tap water. I use a Berkey water filter in my home, and use it as the only water source for drinking, cooking, watering plants, and brewing kombucha and water kefir.
Now that you’ve brewed your kombucha, you have a few options. If you like the flavor you have now, you can simply bottle and refrigerate it and drink as is. Bottling your brew stops the fermentation process, so the flavor won’t change. Also, by bottling your kombucha, you can start a new batch of tea. Lastly, you don’t want to add any flavoring in the same container as your scoby- it could negatively impact your scoby.
I like to use these swing top bottles for my kombucha and water kefir. Especially if you are making a carbonated drink, you need a bottle with a tight seal.
How To Brew Kombucha
Ok, now that you have gathered all of your supplies, how do you actually get started?
Below are the general steps. For specific tea/water/sugar amounts, just scroll down a little further.
- Heat half of the filtered water to a boil. Remove from heat
- Soak your tea bag or strainer in the hot water for 10-20 minutes. Remove tea
- Add sugar and stir until dissolved
- Add the other half of filtered water to the sweetened tea
- Place your scoby and starter tea (or vinegar) in a cleaned brewing vessel
- Once the sweetened tea has cooled to room temperature, carefully pour it into your brewing vessel with the scoby and starter tea.
- Cover vessel with a breathable cloth, and secure with a rubber band or tie
- Place vessel in a warm location out of direct sunlight
|Starter Tea or |
|1 Gallon||2 cups||13-14 cups||2 tablespoons loose or |
8 tea bags
|1/2 Gallon||1 cup||6-7 cups||1 tablespoon loose or|
4 tea bags
|1 Quart||1/2 cup||2-3 cups||1 1/2 teaspoon loose or|
2 tea bags
|1 Pint||1/4 cup||1-2 cups||3/4 teaspoon loose|
or 1 tea bag
Download A FREE Printable Recipe Chart
Download the printable kombucha recipe chart to keep in your kitchen for quick & easy reference!
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Now is the hard part- the wait! Place your kombucha brew in a warm, dark place away from direct sunlight and drafts.
After about a week, taste your kombucha. The speed at which it ferments will be related to your temperature. Kombucha prefers 70-80 degrees F. Cooler than this and the fermentation process will take longer (up to 30 days), and warmer will speed it up.
The longer you leave your kombucha to ferment, the less sweet and more vinegary it will become.
Continuous Brew Vs Batch Brew
There are two distinct brewing styles- continuous or batch brewing.
Batch brewing is when you only make what you need. For example, you brew a half gallon of kombucha. When that batch finishes, you bottle the fermented tea, and brew a new half gallon batch. The advantage of this is you have a regular rotation and a set amount of tea to plan for. The disadvantage is you have to wait for the tea to ferment, so if you drink kombucha daily, this may not produce enough tea for you and your family. When you are just starting out, batch brewing is the easiest method.
A continuous brew is when you only use a potion of the fermented tea, and top off what you pour out of your vessel. This is what I do. I have a 3 gallon brewing vessel. When I pour off a half gallon of finished tea, I add a half gallon of unfermented tea. The benefit of continuous brewing is that you don’t need to wait as long for your tea to finish. the disadvantage is you have more tea, so you need to use it more often or you’ll end up with a drink that is too vinegary.
Kombucha Second Fermentation
If you’re like me, this is where the magic happens! Want a carbonated, flavored beverage? Then you have one more small step- a secondary fermentation!
A secondary fermentation takes place after you have finished tea, outside of your main brewing vessel, and is when you bottle and add the flavorings.
If you like your kombucha the way it is, you don’t need to secondary ferment. You can just bottle and refrigerate your batch right out of the brewing vessel. However the secondary fermentation is an easy and fun way to create any flavor of kombucha you can think of, and most folks enjoy the carbonation.
To read more about flavoring and secondary fermentation, take a look at this post on The Prairie Homestead.
Taking A Break
If you need to take a break from kombucha for a while, it is easy to do so. Just place your scoby in a Scoby Hotel, and it’ll be waiting for you whenever you’re ready to start again.
This post is meant to be just a basic introduction to getting started in brewing kombucha at home. For more information on brewing kombucha, please take a look at at these resources:
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