How To Make Kombucha

by Ann Marie Michaels on August 14, 2009

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How To Make Kombucha

Ever wanted to make your own kombucha? Making kombucha at home is easy and very inexpensive. It costs just pennies to make. And it’s environmentally friendly since you’re not constantly lugging home plastic soda bottles or aluminum cans. You just reuse glass bottles or mason jars.

What’s kombucha? It’s a naturally carbonated, sweet and tangy drink. It’s essentially a mildly fermented, fizzy sweet tea. It is not alcoholic, though, and has very little caffeine. Since it’s naturally fermented, it’s a living food with active cultures. Good for the gut!

Best of all, I love knowing that kombucha is so healthy. It’s full of probiotics, B-vitamins, and enzymes. I even give it to my toddler in a sippy cup. She loves the bubbles!

I used to be addicted to Diet Coke. But not anymore. Ever since I learned how to make kombucha, those days are over.

Notes on How to Make Kombucha

I modified this recipe from the recipe in Sally Fallon-Morell’s cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. She uses a glass bowl in her recipe, which you can do if you don’t have a gallon-sized glass jar. I prefer using a glass jar because it’s a little easier, and it’s easier to make room for it in your kitchen. I stick the gallon jars out of sight in a cupboard.

It’s not always easy to find a gallon glass jar. You might look for them on the internet. I just did a search for glass jars online and got four shipped to me practically overnight — and they were cheap!

I recommend getting more than one gallon glass jar. I often double or even triple this recipe so I can make bigger batches. I also find that it’s very handy to use the gallon jars when I’m making chicken or beef stock — they take up a lot less room in the fridge.

It’s important to use organic sugar and organic black tea, and you must use filtered water, not tap water. Tap water is chlorinated, and chlorine will kill your starter culture. Sally Fallon-Morell writes in Nourishing Traditions, “White sugar, rather than honey or Rapadura, and black tea, rather than flavored teas, give the highest amounts of glucuronic acid. Non-organic tea is high in fluoride so always use organic tea.”

You’ll also need a starter culture (also called a scoby or mushroom) to make kombucha. But here’s the neat thing, once you have a starter, you only need one for life. Every time you make kombucha, the starte grows another starter. You can give them away to friends or throw them in your compost.

How to Make Kombucha

How To Make Kombucha

Makes about 2 quarts

Equipment:

Large stainless steel stockpot (not aluminum)
1 gallon glass jar (or a 4-quart glass bowl)
Thin dishtowel or cheesecloth (or a coffee filter)
Rubber band
Mason jars or glass bottles for bottling

Ingredients

Filtered water (3 quarts)
Refined white sugar, organic (1 cup) — where to buy refined sugar
Black tea bags, organic (4) — where to buy tea where to buy organic black tea
Kombucha starter culture (1) — where to buy starters
Kombucha from a previous batch (1/2 cup) — you can use store-bought kombucha

Directions

1. Add the filtered water to the stockpot, cover, and bring to a boil.
2. Turn off the heat, pour in the sugar until it is dissolved.
3. Add the tea bags, remove the stockpot from the heat and place it on a trivet or pot holder on a counter or table. Let most of the steam out, then cover and let cool (this takes a few hours).
4. When the tea is at room temperature (if it’s too hot, it can kill your starter culture), pour it into the gallon glass jar. Add 1/2 cup of kombucha from a previous batch (or store-bought kombucha), and add the starter culture.
5. Cover with a dishcloth, cheesecloth or coffee filter (this is just used to keep the bugs and dust out — but it needs to be porous so air can get in) and wrap a rubber band around it to keep it on there.
6. Leave it in a warm dark place for a few days, tasting it every so often. Depending on how sweet or sour you like your kombucha, it will be ready as early as three or four days, and can take as long as two weeks. It also depends on how warm your kitchen is. You can make kombucha faster in summer and it may take longer in wintertime when your kitchen is cold. One trick I use in the winter is a “reptile mat”. I bought one at a pet store. You just plug it in and set your gallon jar on it.
7. When the kombucha tastes the way you want it to (I like mine a tad bit sweeter than some store-bought brands I’ve tasted… and my husband and daughter don’t like it when it’s too sour and vinegary), remove the starter culture and put it into a bowl or another gallon glass jar. Pour enough kombucha over it to make sure it’s completely covered.
8. Pour the kombucha into glass bottles or mason jars, seal, and store in the fridge.

One last thing: If you want to take a break from making kombucha, just leave your starter culture in the gallon jar covered with kombucha and a dish towel. It will stay alive for many weeks or months with very little attention (I know, because I’ve left mine in there for months.) You can always pour a little store-bought kombucha in there if you want to make sure it stays alive. Or brew a few cups of tea and add sugar and throw it in if you’re too busy to make a batch of kombucha and you’re nervous about killing your starter.

Where to Buy Kombucha Starters and Kombucha Kits

Where to buy kombucha starters and kombucha making kits

Photo credits:Zero-X on Flickr
Disclosure: cmp.ly/4 and cmp.ly/5

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