I first learned how to brew Kombucha a few years back, while taking a break from drinking alcohol. At the time, I’d bottle it up, pop it in my handbag and head on out to social occasions, enjoying the small buzz it gave me while my friends got tipsy on wine and Aperol Spritzers. I even concocted my own “Blood Orange ‘Bucha” so as not to feel left out.
Back then, bottled Kombucha was only available from the humble shelves of health food stores and trendy cafes. Fast forward to 2018, and you can find it nestled earnestly amongst the sugary sodas and bottled juices of any supermarket or convenience store.
Yet unbeknown to most, Kombucha is ridiculously easy (and really cheap) to brew at home. Not just that, but as brewer, you have full control over its strength, fizziness and flavour.
Why drink Kombucha?
The health benefits of Kombucha are touted to be endless, but for me it’s all about increasing good gut bacteria. Kombucha is brewed with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria) that “eats” the sugars in sweetened tea and creates an acidic, vitamin and probiotic-rich beverage. The second major win for me is the energy kick I get when I drink it, without the crash I get from guzzling coffee or energy drinks.
So, what is a SCOBY?
Well, it looks and feels exactly like one of those clear, round, blubbery jellyfish you find washed up on Aussie beaches. SCOBYs are mysterious things. You can’t make a SCOBY from scratch, you have to either be gifted one, or, these days, you can buy a Kombucha homebrew kit online. No one actually knows where the first SCOBY originated (the Chinese have been brewing Kombucha for thousands of years, so go figure) – all we know is that you can’t actually physically make Kombucha without it.
The brilliant thing about a SCOBY, however, is that with each brew, a baby SCOBY is born. My biggest advice for hunting down a free SCOBY is to ask around (maybe post on social media) to see if any of your friends are brewing Kombucha, or find a local forum where you can ask a fellow brewer to pass one on, OR if all else fails, simply buy one, which seems fairly easy these days (not the case when I first started SCOBY hunting).
Once you have your SCOBY and starter liquid, you can get brewing. The recipe below uses 300ml of starter liquid. If you find you have less than 300ml, simply adjust the ingredients accordingly (eg. for 100ml, divide by three).
What you’ll need
- A clean glass jar or vessel to brew in
- Kombucha SCOBY and stater liquid from a previous batch
- 300ml starter liquid
- 3 litres of chemical/ chlorine free water. Don’t use tap or chlorinated water unless it has been boiled for 10-15 minutes and then cooled to room temperature.
- 5 teabags or 2.5 teaspoons of organic leaf tea in tea bags (I recommend only using plain black tea, green tea, rooibos or Oolong, Avoid using tea with extra ingredients, like Earl Grey. Going for plain black teas like Darjeeling or Orange Pekoe is perfect.)
- 1 cup of organic white or raw sugar. Do not use Rapadura sugar
- 1 large saucepan
- 1 funnel
- Clean glass bottle or flip top bottle (for storage of the brewed Kombucha)
- For the second ferment (in 7-21 days): Your choice of fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs or spices (see suggestions below)
- Bring the water to the boil and turn off the heat
- Add the tea bags
- Add 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve. Let it all sit and brew
- Remove the teabags after 15 to 60 minutes (depending on how strong you like your brew!).
- Cool the liquid to body temperature
- In your clean jar, add the sweetened tea, the starter liquid and place the SCOBY on top
- Cover the top of the jar with a loose, clean cloth such as muslin or cheesecloth and secure it tight with an elastic band or string.
- Cover the jar with a clean tea towel to block the light. Store it on a shelf, away from direct sunlight
- Brew for 7-21 days depending on the flavour you prefer and the air temperature (if it’s warmer, you might want to brew for less. If it’s cooler, longer. Optimum temperature is 22-24degrees.) You can start to taste test after 6 days, but do not disturb the new SCOBY while fermenting.
- When your brew is ready, remove the original SCOBY and new SCOBY and some of the fermented kombucha as a new starter liquid.
- Pour the remaining liquid into clean flip top jars and add your flavour (fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs or spices) for a second ferment. Favourite combinations of mine are below.
- Second ferment for 24-48 hours depending on air temperature and potency of flavour.
- Remove any fruit or vegetables from the second ferment and place in a bottle in the fridge,
- After it chills, pour a small glass and enjoy your first brew! It’s best to start with a small amount daily, and observe your body’s reaction. Over time, increase your intake. If you are pregnant and haven’t tried Kombucha before, please only test a very small amount in a tablespoon.
Kombucha recipe ideas
Suggestions for your second ferment (adjust the amount depending on your strength preference):
- Pineapple and Cilantro with sencha green tea
- Strawberry and Mint with Darjeeling
- Cucumber and Ginger with green tea and Oolong
- Manuka Honey and Apricot with Rooibos (caffeine-free)
- Cinnamon and Orange with organic black leaf tea and Rooibos
- Blueberry and Star Anise with Orange Pekoe
- Lime and Jalapeno with green tea
- Red currants and Allspice with Oolong
- Blood Orange with organic black leaf tea
Some important things to note while brewing
- It’s ok if the original SCOBY sinks during the fermenting process
- Avoid using teas containing oils or spices – they can upset the SCOBY
- To save space, you can store youre excess SCOBYs in one jar with starter liquid. Just ensure you remove and replace the starter liquid with each brew
- The shorter you ferment, the more sugary your Kombucha will be. The longer you ferment, the more vinegary it will be.
Share pics and Insta Stories of your brew with @the_tealady on Instagram