Kombucha


This is the start of my Kombucha making.  I started drinking in about 6 months ago but at $3.50 a bottle, I decided to make it myself. I found a good website that showed how to grow your own Scoby which in an acronym for “Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast”. A good website can be found at The Kitchen – Scoby. You will need to purchase a bottle of plain Kombucha from a store or find someone with a Scoby and ask if they will share.  The basic recipe is:

Ingredients

  • 7 cups water
  • 1/2 cup white granulated sugar (see Recipe Notes)
  • 4 bags black tea, or 1 tablespoon looseleaf (see Recipe Note)
  • 1 cup unflavored, unpasteurized store-bought kombucha

Equipment

  • 2-quart or larger saucepan
  • Long-handled spoon
  • 2-quart or larger glass jar, like a canning jar (not plastic or metal)
  • Tightly woven cloth (like clean napkins or tea towels), coffee filters, or paper towels, to cover the jar
  • Rubberband

Directions

  1. Make the sweet tea. Bring the water to a boil. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar until it is completely dissolved. Add the tea and allow to steep until the tea cools to room temperature. Remove and discard the tea. (Alternatively, boil half the amount of water, dissolve the sugar and steep the tea, then add the remaining water to cool the tea more rapidly.)
  2. Combine the sweet tea and kombucha in a jar. Pour the sweet tea into the jar. Pour the kombucha on top — if you see a blobby “baby scoby” in the bottom of your jar of commercial kombucha, make sure this gets transferred. (But if you don’t see one, don’t worry! Your scoby will still form.) Stir to combine.
  3. Cover and store for 1 to 4 weeks. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of tightly-woven cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels secured with a rubber band. (If you develop problems with gnats or fruit flies, use a tightly woven cloth or paper towels, which will do a better job keeping the insects out of your brew.) Place the jar somewhere at average room temperature (70°F), out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Sunlight can prevent the kombucha from fermenting and the scoby from forming, so wrap the jar in a cloth if you can’t keep it away from sunlight.
  4. First, bubbles will gather on the surface. For the first few days, nothing will happen. Then you’ll start to see groups of tiny bubbles starting to collect on the surface.
  5. Then, the bubbles will collect into a film. After a few more days, the groups of bubbles will start to connect and form a thin, transparent, jelly-like film across the surface of the tea. You’ll also see bubbles forming around the edges of the film. This is carbon-dioxide from the fermenting tea and a sign that everything is healthy and happy!
  6. The film will thicken into a solid, opaque layer. Over the next few days, the layer will continue to thicken and gradually become opaque. When the scoby is about 1/4-inch thick, it’s ready to be used to make kombucha tea — depending on the temperature and conditions in your kitchen, this might take anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks.
  7. The finished scoby: Your finished scoby might look a little nubbly, rough, patchy, or otherwise “not quite like a grown-up scoby.” It’s ok! Your scoby will start to smooth out and take on a uniform color over the course of a few batches of kombucha — take a look a the before and after pictures of a baby and grown-up scoby in the gallery above.
  8. Using the liquid used to grow the scoby: The liquid used to grow the scoby will likely be too strong and vinegary to drink (and if you’re not used to drinking kombucha or very vinegary beverages, it can give you a stomach ache). You can use it to start your first batch of kombucha, or you can use it as a cleaning solution on your counters.

Once you have your Scoby, you can start on your batch of Kombucha. The website I used my Kombucha can be found at The Kitchen – Kombucha. The first batch I made is as follows:

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 cup sugar (regular granulated sugar works best)
  • 8 bags black tea, green tea, or a mix (or 2 tablespoons loose tea)
  • 2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought kombucha (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored)
  • 1 scoby per fermentation jar, homemade or purchased online
  • Optional flavoring extras for bottling: 1 to 2 cups chopped fruit, 2 to 3 cups fruit juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons flavored tea (like hibiscus or Earl Grey), 1/4 cup honey, 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh herbs or spices

Equipment

  • Stock pot
  • 1-gallon glass jar or two 2-quart glass jars
  • Tightly woven cloth (like clean napkins or tea towels), coffee filters, or paper towels, to cover the jar
  • Bottles: Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids, 6 swing-top bottles, or clean soda bottles
  • Small funnel

Instructions
Note: Avoid prolonged contact between the kombucha and metal both during and after brewing. This can affect the flavor of your kombucha and weaken the scoby over time.

  1. Make the tea base: Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled. Depending on the size of your pot, this will take a few hours. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the pot in an ice bath.
  2. Add the starter tea: Once the tea is cool, remove the tea bags or strain out the loose tea. Stir in the starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents unfriendly bacteria from taking up residence in the first few days of fermentation.)
  3. Transfer to jars and add the scoby: Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar (or divide between two 2-quart jars, in which case you’ll need 2 scobys) and gently slide the scoby into the jar with clean hands. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers tightly-woven cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels secured with a rubber band. (If you develop problems with gnats or fruit flies, use a tightly woven cloth or paper towels, which will do a better job keeping the insects out of your brew.)
  4. Ferment for 7 to 10 days: Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Ferment for 7 to 10 days, checking the kombucha and the scoby periodically.
  5. It’s not unusual for the scoby to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways during fermentation. A new cream-colored layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. It usually attaches to the old scoby, but it’s ok if they separate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the scoby. This is all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.
  6. After 7 days, begin tasting the kombucha daily by pouring a little out of the jar and into a cup. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle.
  7. Remove the scoby: Before proceeding, prepare and cool another pot of strong tea for your next batch of kombucha, as outlined above. With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate. As you do, check it over and remove the bottom layer if the scoby is getting very thick.
  8. Bottle the finished kombucha: Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha (straining, if desired) into bottles using the small funnel, along with any juice, herbs, or fruit you may want to use as flavoring. Leave about a half inch of head room in each bottle. (Alternatively, infuse the kombucha with flavorings for a day or two in another covered jar, strain, and then bottle. This makes a cleaner kombucha without “stuff” in it.)
  9. Carbonate and refrigerate the finished kombucha: Store the bottled kombucha at room temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Until you get a feel for how quickly your kombucha carbonates, it’s helpful to keep it in plastic bottles; the kombucha is carbonated when the bottles feel rock solid. Refrigerate to stop fermentation and carbonation, and then consume your kombucha within a month.
  10. Make a fresh batch of kombucha: Clean the jar being used for kombucha fermentation. Combine the starter tea from your last batch of kombucha with the fresh batch of sugary tea, and pour it into the fermentation jar. Slide the scoby on top, cover, and ferment for 7 to 10 days.

Equipment notes: I found the bottles with the wire stoppers and a one gallon large mouth bottle at a local beer & wine making supply store. The bottles at 16 ounce with wire flip tops.

My First Batch

For my first batch, I followed the directions listed above without any additional fruit or seasonings. I left it set out for 3 days after bottling. I found that it did not have much carbonation but it did taste the same as the store bought.

My Second Batch

For my second batch, I added a hand-full of fresh lemon balm sprigs when I added the tea and removed it when a took out the tea.  When I bottled it, I added 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle before I added the liquid. That batch is currently in the closet for at least another day.  We will see how th carbonation is on that batch.

Update on Second batch: The 1/4 tsp. sugar worked. This batch had nice carbonation

My Third Batch: My third batch is still in the gallon jar.  I used a hand-full of peppermint sprigs in this batch.

I think the next batch may include fruit.

I was doing more research and found that you should use unflavored Kombucha when making new batches. This maks sense since carry over flavors may cause conflict. I think my next batch may just be plain.
Update: 07/22/16 -My Kombucha routine is now going strong. The 1/4 tsp.of sugar in each bottle is working well. I have not tried fruit yet, but I have a batch plain working now so I may keep one of those bottles as a starter and make some with fruit next.

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