Kombucha Tea 101: How to Make it at Home

Have you ever wondered what kombucha tea is or how it is made? Well, I can tell you since I learned and witnessed the home-brewing of kombucha, I was intently intrigued by the whole process and flavor.

Over the years, I have developed a love for the tea and have certainly enjoyed my fair share of it this summer; not for the probiotics or other health benefits, but simply for the delicious flavor.

Let’s start from the beginning and talk about what is kombucha tea because it’s not your typical green or black tea you would have each morning with breakfast.

What is Kombucha Tea?

Kombucha is a handmade Chinese Tea that starts out as a sugary tea, which is then fermented with the help of a SCOBY. You may be asking yourself now, what the SCOBY, certainly we are not talking about cartoons? No, we are not talking about cartoons! “Scoby” is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” The SCOBY bacteria and yeast eat most of the sugar in the tea; therefore, transforming the tea into a refreshingly fizzy, yet a slightly sour fermented beverage, that is relatively low in calories and sugar.

Probiotics?

Next question: what’s actually in kombucha? Kombucha is wholeheartedly full of probiotics and other wonderful things that our intestines love and will help boost our overall health. The health benefits of kombucha include stimulating the immune system, preventing cancer, improving digestion and liver function, memory loss, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), joint pain, aging, loss of appetite, AIDS, cancer, high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, constipation, and hair regrowth.

It is also used for increasing white cell (T-cell) counts, boosting the immune system and strengthening the metabolism. Although, people use kombucha for “medicine,” there is no scientific evidence in the medical field that kombucha is an effective treatment for any one of these conditions. But really, what does scientific evidence have to do with anything. All of our bodies are different and if you see/feel kombucha is working for you, then don’t stop what your doing, keep doing what works for you!!

Kombucha Safety

As with any foods and recipes that are homemade, care must be taken during preparation and storage to prevent contamination. Keeping the kombucha brew safe and contamination-free can be accomplished by having a clean environment, proper temperature, and a low pH.

In every step of the preparation process, it is important that hands and utensils (or anything that will come into contact with the scoby/culture) be well cleaned to prevent contamination of the kombucha. Kombucha can become very acidic, so the food-grade glass is the best container to brew the tea, to prevent unwanted and potentially toxic materials.

An important factor to keep in mind for home brewing is maintaining the correct pH levels. The pH of the kombucha tea batch should be between 2.5 and 4.6. A pH of less than 2.5 makes the tea too acidic for normal human consumption, while a pH greater than 4.6 increases the risk of contamination.

Feeling a little nervous right now about contamination? That is to be expected. So, I am here to tell you that there is an easy way to keep the pH between the normal ranges. Simple use of fresh “starter tea” and/or distilled vinegar can be used to control the pH, so you and your family do not have to worry about acidity or contamination.

The Kombucha-Making Process

I will break the process up into small pieces, so it may look long and complicated, but it is actually very straightforward. Once you get into the groove of it, bottling a batch of kombucha and preparing the next will only take about 20 minutes every 7 to 10 days.

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Kombucha Tea

Kombucha Tea How to Make it at Home
  • Author: Nancy Heart
Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 8 bags black tea (green, white or yerba mate works as well)
  • 2 cups starter tea from last batch or store-bought (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored) kombucha
  • 1 scoby per fermentaion jar
  • Optional flavoring extras for bottling: 1 to 2 cups chopped fruit, 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh herbs or spices

Instructions

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 may 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. Stir in the starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents unfriendly bacteria from creating a home in the first few days of fermentation.)

3. Transfer to Jars and Add the Scoby: Pour the mixture into a 1-galloon glass jar (or divide between two 2-quart jars, in which 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 of cheesecloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band.

4. Ferment for 7 to 10 Days: Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get moved around. Ferment for 7 to 10 days, checking the kombucha and the scoby periodically.

It’s not unusual for the scoby to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways. 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 okay if they seperate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby; this is normal and signs of healthy fermentation.

After seven 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 for you, the kombucha is ready to bottle.

5. 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.

6. Bottle the Finished Kombucha: Measure out the starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. pour the fermented kombucha (straining, if desired) into bottles, along with any fruit or herbs you may want to use for flavoring. Leave about a half inch of head room in each bottle.

7. 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.

8. 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. The whole process starts all over.

Notes

Equipment:

  • Stock pot
  • 1-gallon glass jar or two 2-quart glass jars
  • Bottles: Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids, 6 swing-top bottles, or clean soda bottles

Keywords: Kombucha, Tea

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