Making your own kombucha is easier than you might think. And if you follow the simple steps as outlined below, your new kitchen project will be so rewarding. This is because home-made kombucha is first of all very healthy. Secondly, you can make it at a fraction of the cost of buying it from your local grocer or health store, and lastly, it is really simple to make, requiring only 20 minutes of your time every 10 – 14 days. The result? A 100% raw, delicious and jam-packed probiotic powerhouse soda. How cool is that?
We lived in the United States for 2 years and one thing is certain: I became addicted to this delicious health drink called kombucha. I liked it so much that it became one of my love languages. (Buy me a bottle of kombucha, then I’ll know that you really love me…) When we arrived back in South Africa, the fact dawned upon me that it is not as readily available here as in the US. And if you are lucky enough to find it, it is pretty expensive. So the search was on to make my own homebrew ‘bucha’!
WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha is a fermented beverage of black tea and sugar. It contains a colony of bacteria and yeast (called a “SCOBY” that looks like a slippery pancake). The SCOBY is responsible for initiating the fermentation process once it is combined with sugar. After being fermented, kombucha becomes carbonated and contains vinegar, b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of healthy acids (acetic, gluconic and lactic). Some of the main benefits include: improved digestion, weight loss, increased energy and immune support.
Although it’s usually made with black tea, kombucha can also be made with green tea. Please note that kombucha can not be made with herbal tea or any tea that contains an oil, such as Earl Grey. One of the things I really like about kombucha is that you can flavour it. Furthermore, it is a wonderful and healthy fizzy drink.
The SCOBY is the essential ingredient when you make kombucha. After fermenting for about 1 – 3 weeks (depending on the temperature of the environment), you will end up with a vinegar / champagne-like bubbly health soda. Higher room temperatures will speed up the fermentation process.
You can buy the SCOBY online or at some health food stores. The SCOBY duplicates every time you make kombucha, so there is a chance that you might even get a SCOBY from a friend who is also passionate about kombucha. Because the SCOBY duplicates itself, you will quickly have a lot of SCOBIES. If you were like me, you would like to make as much kombucha as possible, but you can also make a SCOBY ‘hotel’ by putting your SCOBIES in a glass jar filled with enough kombucha to cover all the SCOBIES. You can simply put the SCOBIES on top of each other and keep them in the glass jar until they are ready to use.
WHAT ABOUT THE SUGAR IN THE KOMBUCHA?
I was shocked when I discovered that one of the main ingredients in kombucha is sugar. I am extremely health conscious and try to never consume refined sugar. My initial idea was to use more natural sources of sugar such as raw honey, 100% maple syrup or even stevia. But I quickly found out (after doing some research) that the SCOBY does not thrive (or might even not survive) if you use other sweeteners besides sugar. But just because you need sugar to brew kombucha does not mean that YOU will be consuming sugar. The sugar is only food for the SCOBY. Through the fermentation process, the SCOBY turns all (or most of the sugar) into a delicious mixture of probiotics, B-vitamins, enzymes and organic acids (that are great for weight loss). The longer the tea ferments, the less sugar it contains.
There are a few types of sugar you can use for feeding the SCOBY, but cane sugar is the most recommended by seasoned brewers. I use organic raw cane sugar and it works very well.
KOMBUCHA FERMENTS. DOES IT CONTAIN ALCOHOL?
Booze will be produced whenever you ferment anything sweet with yeast – that is part of nature. However, depending on how long it ferments, kombucha generally does not contain a lot of alcohol. The end product will have anything from 0,5% to 1% alcohol by volume.
MY FAVORITE PART – THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF KOMBUCHA
Kombucha is a cocktail of good bacteria that interacts in a unique way to produce unbelievable health benefits. I can honestly say that every time I drink kombucha, I can feel life and health filling my body. Be warned, if you start drinking kombucha, you will most probably like to do it for a lifetime because it gives you so much joy. But enough about how it makes me feel. What do the lab tests and experts say about this health elixir?
7 BENEFITS OF DRINKING KOMBUCHA
1. Improved Digestion
Kombucha is a probiotic drink that supports the healthy bacteria in your gut and improves your digestion dramatically. Because kombucha contains a high level of enzymes, it not only promotes healthy digestion, but also helps with nutrient assimilation. An article published in the journal, Food Microbiology, established that the following probiotics are present in kombucha:
• Gluconacetobacter (>85 percent in most samples)
• Acetobacter (<2 percent)
• Lactobacillus (up to 30 percent in some samples)
• Zygosaccharomyces (>95 percent)
2. Weight Loss
Kombucha is incredibly nutrient rich and is relatively low in calories compared to other sodas. I will not recommend it as a meal replacement, but after consuming kombucha, I feel quite full, which in turn helps me to eat less.
Another exciting weight loss benefit of kombucha is the powerful acids that it contains. The glucuronic acid that is present in kombucha is a great liver cleanser. You might ask, what does a clean and healthy liver have to do with weight loss? Quite a lot. In a nutshell: your liver is your fat burning organ. If it is tired and toxic, who will burn the fat in your body? That is why the acids that are present in kombucha are playing such an important role in your body and weight. The malic acid also detoxifies the liver, while usnic acid protects against viruses through its antibiotic properties. Acetic acid inhibits the action of harmful bacteria. Therefore, you cannot go wrong when consuming kombucha on a daily basis if health is a priority for you.
3. Increased Energy
Drinking kombucha has an energizing effect on your body and many people report having success in being relieved from symptoms of chronic fatigue and other conditions such as allergies, metabolic disorders and hypertension, which can influence your energy levels.
4. Cleansing and Detoxification
The acids in kombucha have powerful body cleansing and detoxifying properties.
5. Immune Support
As mentioned, kombucha improves liver function and also reduces oxidative stress in the body. After doing lab tests, kombucha has also been shown to have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties.
6. Reduced Joint Pain
Many people reported that symptoms of arthritis relief by drinking kombucha.
7. Cancer Prevention
Kombucha helps to keep your cells healthy and keep your overall body in a healthy state. However, please note that your body is so delicately put together and there are many factors that contribute to cancer and also many things you can do (such as looking after your body by exercising and eating healthy) that can help to prevent cancer. I do not recommend using kombucha as a medicinal cure for cancer. It can help, but please see a doctor and find professional help if that is the case.
Be sure to share your own kombucha brewing journey in the comments below! Happy brewing!
Clean and dry your brewing vessel. Use soap and hot water to sterilize your jar. Be sure to rinse it very well. Even a tiny amount of residual soap can harm the SCOBY. Alternatively, you can also wash your brewing vessel in the dishwasher.
Place the tea bags and sugar in the brewing vessel. Fill the glass jar with enough boiling water to cover the tea and sugar. Gently stir to dissolve the sugar.
Cover with a paper cloth and let it set for 15 – 20 minutes so you get a nice strong brew.
Carefully press the tea bags to extract any remaining tea, and then remove the tea bags. Stir the tea again in case there are any sugar crystals that have not been dissolved.
Add cool, filtered water until the glass jar is about two-thirds full and stir.
When the tea reaches room temperature, you are ready to add your SCOBY. It is important to wait until the tea and sugar mixture is at room temperature. If the temperature of the SCOBY and the tea mixture are not the same, it can damage the SCOBY. Something else that might happen when the temperatures are not the same is that your SCOBY will sink to the bottom (it usually floats). If it sinks, don’t stress – mine did too – it usually goes up and floats after a few days.
Next you can add the starter liquid (the prepared liquid in your SCOBY pack or 1 cup leftovers from your previous batch of kombucha). In general, the starter liquid should be about 10% of your total liquid.
With clean hands, gently place the SCOBY in the jar. If the SCOBY goes sideways, or sinks, don’t worry, it will settle and eventually float its way to the top in due time.
Cover the jar with the paper towel and secure it with the rubber band. This is important to keep pests like fruit flies away.
Now you are allowed to LOOK but not TOUCH the kombucha brew in the glass jar. Leave the kombucha alone for at least 5 – 7 days. Disturbances can interrupt the fermentation process. After 5 or 6 days you can test your kombucha, but try to do it with minimal disturbance of the liquid and SCOBY. When your kombucha has a vinegary, sharp but sweet taste, you are ready to bottle it (or start with your second fermentation). You can test the taste by using a plastic straw. This works well to taste it without disturbing your SCOBY. Brewing kombucha can take anything from 7 – 21 days depending on the season, temperature and the batch characteristics. You will also notice that a new “baby” SCOBY should form as another distinct layer attached to the primary SCOBY and/or at the surface or the fermented mixture. The new SCOBY can eventually be peeled off from the ‘mother’ SCOBY (but do not tear it off the with force – do it with love!). The new SCOBY can be used with a new batch of kombucha, or your can store it in the leftover kombucha mixture until you want to use it again.
THIS STEP IS OPTIONAL. You can bottle or drink the kombucha after the first fermentation (after you have removed the SCOBY), but if you want to add flavour or add more fizz in your kombucha, you can do a second fermentation as explained below:
Firstly, you will need glass bottles with tight sealing lids (cleaned and ready).
Carefully fill the bottles with the kombucha. If you want to flavour your kombucha, now is your chance! You can add a cup of juice or about a handful of fruit such as pieces of pineapple, berries, peaches or ginger, etc. Seal tightly.
Place the bottles out of direct sunlight at room temperature for about 2 – 5 days. During this time it is important to ‘burp’ your kombucha every day, otherwise you might have an unwanted explosion on your hands. In time, bubbles will form and you will have a wonderful, flavoured, fizzy probiotic drink!