I make kombucha fairly regularly and swear by it. It’s a magical gut-healing drink packed full of probiotics and good bacteria - and when I drink it daily I notice an unquestionable improvement in general digestive health. And the best part about a homebrew kombucha is that it’s ridiculously cheap to make.
There are a few different ways you can make kombucha, but my tried and tested go-to is a green-tea based brew fermented with organic ginger. It comes out tasting like a ginger beer - but one that you can have before breakfast!
12x organic green tea bags
5L mineral water (I’ve tried using filtered tap water and it doesn’t work; perhaps it’s all the gunk in London’s tap water. So if you’re reading this from NZ you can try using filtered water - but for a failsafe option go with bottled water.)
1.5 cups of organic cane sugar
A handful of organic ginger (how much is really up to you!)
Your SCOBY and its starter liquid
Bring the water to boil on a stove top
Add your green tea bags and brew for 15 minutes
Remove the tea bags, squeezing each tea bag strongly to make sure you leave as much flavour as possible in the pot
Stir in your sugar until it has completely dissolved
Let the sweet tea cool to room temperature (this is VERY important)
Transfer the sweet tea to a glass container (not metal or plastic as they’re not SCOBY-friendly)
Add your SCOBY and the starter liquid
Wait! (How long depends on the weather and how sweet you like your kombucha.)
Once your brew is ready, it’s time for the secondary fermentation. Decant the brew into four 1L glass bottles (make sure your bottles have lids, or swing tops). Fill the bottles almost to the top, leaving about 1cm of space as there will be a build-up of CO2.
Add a handful of chopped ginger to each bottle, and leave it out of the fridge to ferment for another three days.
Your kombucha is ready to drink! Move the bottles to the fridge and consume at your pleasure. There’s no real time limit you have to drink these, as kombucha doesn’t really go off. However be aware strength of the brew will still increase the longer you let it sit.
What's a SCOBY...?
The first and most important ingredient you’ll need to make kombucha is a SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast and looks pretty disgusting - but I’m telling you, that’s where all the good stuff happens. What’s great about a SCOBY is that it will double in size every time you brew a fresh batch of kombucha, so if you already know someone who brews kombucha, you can ask them for the kombucha ‘baby’ the next time they make a batch. Make sure you also grab some of the kombucha that the SCOBY has been sitting in. This will not only ensure your SCOBY doesn’t dry out during transportation, but you can use this as starter liquid for your first brew.
Err, OK. Where can I find one?
I managed to find my SCOBY through an online list of random, lovely people willing to give away their SCOBY baby - and rocked up to someone’s house one Sunday with a container in my hands! Traditionally, SCOBYs are meant to be given away (it’s all about the good vibes), but if you’re really struggling then it is possible to buy a starter kit online. It’s normally a dehydrated SCOBY and will come back to life with the first brew.
How long should the kombucha brew during the initial fermentation?
As a general rule, I’ll check my kombucha for flavour after about 10 days in summer, and after about three weeks in winter. Make sure your brew is out of direct sunlight during this process.
What happens during the first fermentation?
The longer it sits, the stronger (and healthier) the brew gets, moving from a sweet tea flavour to an apple cider vinegar taste. How strong you like it is up to you - and this will probably change the more you drink it. I personally like a very vinegary-type brew, but my flatmates find that far too overpowering.
I thought kombucha was healthy - why do I add 1.5 cups of sugar?
Don't stress. The sugar is essential as it feeds the SCOBY during the primary fermentation, and if you leave it to sit long enough your brew will no longer taste sweet. However, having some sugar left in the brew during the secondary fermentation means you’re more likely to get a nice, fizzy kombucha as the end result. So, it’s a fine line deciding when to pull the plug - and that’s something you’ll get better at with time.
How do I know if my kombucha if the fermentation process has started?
You’ll know your brew is fermenting properly if you start to see a thin translucent layer forming on the top of the kombucha brew after 2-4 days. This is the SCOBY having a baby, and the layer will thicken the longer you let it sit and ferment. Once it’s thick enough to handle and transport, you can share the love and give your baby SCOBY to a friend to start their own brew. Alternatively, you can just leave it in your brew and use it for your next batch. But don’t worry, if you do give it away, you can still use your original SCOBY mother for the next batch too. There’s really no limit on how many times a SCOBY can be used, but as good practice I generally rotate mine every few brews.