For me the ultimate benefit of drinking Kombucha is the health it promotes in the digestive system, which in turn affects our mental, physical and emotional health, hence our overall health and vitality. Why is it so important to nourish our gut bacteria ? The digestive system is the core of our immune system. An unhealthy digestive tract shows up as allergies, food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, inability to absorb nutrients from our foods, lethargy, mood disorders, emotional predispositions, nervousness, anxiety etc. etc. etc. These ailments indicate that the level of good bacteria and enzymes in our gut is simply too low to adequately digest our food. One quick, easy and tasty way to replenish them, in addition to cashing in on a whole lot of other health benefits, is by drinking Kombucha!
To really harness the power of this wonder drink, you should be consuming it regularly, however the cost of buying will soon put you off making this a daily go-to-beverage. Hence I have compiled these step-by-step instructions to take you from zero to hero in your very first batch!
You will need
- SCOBY culture
- Kombucha starter tea or vinegar
- Organic black teabags
- Organic sugar
- Large pot
- Glass jar
- Tea towel
It’s helpful to note that each person makes their Kombucha different to the next, and swears by their recipe! Choose a method and technique that suits you, and go with your own preferences. In time you will find out what works for you, and you will have developed your own technique and recipe! As long as you follow the basic guidelines, there’s no need to fear going wrong.
- Always wash your hands and utensils thoroughly. We do not want any bad bacteria to contaminate our SCOBY or Kombucha
- Use Black Tea to make your brew. Black tea contains fully fermented tea leaves and an optimal balance of minerals and nutrients required for a healthy culture
- Use sugar, not sugar substitutes. The culture feeds on the sugar, and breaks it down into beneficial acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and carbon dioxide (gas that gives it the fizzy taste). Sugar substitutes do not provide the same nutrients to the SCOBY, and compromises the health and ph balance of the kombucha
- Always ferment and store Kombucha in a glass vessel. The acid in the fermentation reacts with metals and plastic, and toxic substances may leach into the kombucha
- Make sure the brewed tea is cool before putting the SCOBY in. The SCOBY is a living culture and will die if exposed to heat
- Always ensure the glass vessel is covered with either a tea towel or a loose fitting lid when fermenting. If sealed too tight, the buildup of gas from the fermentation process will cause the jar to burst. Additionally air must circulate within the jar during the fermentation, which is easy to achieve with a teacloth
- Once your tea is ready to be fermented, place it in a warm isolated place away from direct sunlight. Do not move the glass vessel as the movement causes the newly forming baby SCOBY to break apart, and will thus take longer to reform again.
- Duration of the fermentation process is completely dependent on the room temperature. In warmer climates and summer conditions the duration is considerably shorter than in colder climates and winter months. You can taste with a straw to determine if your batch is ready
These quantities are for 1 batch of Kombucha that yields 3.5 litres. Once you are on your way, you may multiply the quantities to suit your need. I currently triple this recipe to meet my kids’ weekly demands, so the pictures below show my yield for 3 times this amount.
- 3.5 litres water
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 4 organic black teabags
- 1 SCOBY culture
- ¾ cup Kombucha starter tea or Vinegar
- Boil the teabags in the water for approximately 20 minutes. You want the flavour of the tea to be well infused in the water. If you are in a rush, boil only half the water, and reserve the other half to use in step 4.
- If you do not have a pot large enough for all the water, go with your largest pot anyway. You can always dilute the brewed tea with water after, to make up 3.5 litres of tea.
- Once brewed, remove the teabags and stir the sugar in until completely dissolved.
- Wait for the tea to reach room temperature. To speed this up, you can add some ice cubes or the reserved cold water, assuming you reserved some from step 1.
- Pour the cooled tea into your glass vessel. I use a small dish or container to scoop the tea out of the pot and then pour into my glass jars with a funnel. This is quick, easy and mess-free!
- Add the starter Kombucha tea. If you do not have any then you can use vinegar. This introduces immediate acidity into the brew to prevent any harmful bacteria from forming.
- Cover the vessel with a tea cloth and fasten the mouth of your jar with a rubber band to seal from wandering insects. I alternative between this and a loose fitting lid, to give my teacloths a chance to get washed in between batches.
- Leave the tea in a warm place, away from direct sunlight, and where it will not be moved, for 7 days.
- After 7 days, you may taste your kombucha to decide if it is the right balance of sweet and tart. Do this by using a straw to move aside the newly formed Baby SCOBY, insert the straw all the way down. Block the top end of the straw with your finger then pick the straw up. You will now have a straw full of kombucha that you can taste without contaminating your brew, or upsetting your Baby SCOBY.
- Once you are happy with the taste of your kombucha, you can decide if you want to immediately make another batch of kombucha, or store your SCOBYs to use another time.
- Your new Baby SCOBY will be on top, and the original SCOBY may either be somewhere inside the vessel or infused to the new one. You can gently separate them so you now have 2 SCOBYs to use. Place both in a glass jar and top up with sufficient Kombucha for 2 batches (1.5 cups). Store this in the fridge until required.
- Use a wide mouth funnel to pour your Kombucha into glass bottles for use. Seal tightly to keep the fizz from escaping. These must now be stored in the fridge.
- Once you are comfortable with the process of making your own Kombucha, you may want to explore a technique called the Second Ferment, where you add fruits and other flavours to enhance the taste and benefit of your Kombucha. However I have been drinking this for close to a year now, and I am still enjoying the original taste of it, hence have not bothered to dabble in this technique as yet. I am eager to explore a ginger-ale flavour though, so watch this space!
Can I use Herbal Teas instead ?
Black tea contains the optimal mix of nutrients required for the SCOBY to thrive. Green tea is a close second, and you may want to use perhaps 3 green teabags and 1 black teabag to keep a balance.
Herbal teas do not contain the right balance of nutrients and may result in a contaminated or unsuccessful ferment. You may want to experiment with perhaps 4 black teabags and 1 herbal teabag to get the flavour in.
Avoid herbal teas that have oils in them for flavouring, such as the Earl Grey blends.
What teas and sugars can I use that are organic ?
I have been using brands such as Qi and my T Chai, and Buchu is also available. However the price of these is a bit too steep for me considering the volume of Kombucha I churn out every week. I have just recently discovered Pick n Pay’s store brand Organic Black tea which has gotten me really excited. I am always on the lookout for cheaper organic alternatives that do not compromise on the quality, so now I feel comfortable with my triple batch a week!
I used to buy organic sugar from Woolworths – they were even strangely cheaper than the same brand at Pick n Pay. However I now see that Pick n Pay has their store brand Organic Sugar, which is much cheaper, and I usually clear out the shelf when I see them!
Why should I use Organic ingredients ?
Organic means that the produce has been grown and harvested without the use of chemical or artificial fertilizers, pesticides and toxic substances. These may be successful at warding off pests and weeds, however they greatly diminish the nutritional value of the produce, and they inject the produce with toxic chemicals that are harmful to our health. There is tons of information available on the effects of these on our body and health, as well as evidence linking the substances to dreaded diseases. It is definitely more expensive to buy organic, but you cannot put a price tag on the savings you get from preventing possible future diseases.
What do I do with the extra SCOBYs ?
Every batch of Kombucha creates a new baby SCOBY, which can be used in your next brew. However there will come a time when you’ve accumulated more SCOBYs than you can use, and there’s only so many friends and family members you can pass them on to! SCOBYs make excellent compost. Add them to your bokashi bin, compost heap, or just toss it in some soil to enrich your garden. It would be a shame to throw any away. You could always advertise them on websites such as Gumtree for anybody else looking out for some.
Where can I get a SCOBY and starter kombucha from ?
If you know of anybody who makes their own Kombucha, you can always ask them for a SCOBY. This is the cheapest and easiest way, however be aware that your SCOBY may be compromised because of the pesticide and contaminants found in commercial teas and sugars used to create the SCOBY and Kombucha. If you are looking for high quality, organic SCOBYs and starter Kombucha, You can order from me here!
Links to more information
To learn more about the benefits of Kombucha and why you should be incorporating this into your day, click here.
Below are some references I found helpful when I first started off, and I am sure you will too!
Got any questions or information to share?
Post your questions here, or share your Kombucha stories here! If you have recommendations on products, places or prices, I would be thrilled to learn more from you! Sharing is caring, and knowing there is a community out there with experiences to add, inspires others to take a leap of faith and try something new too 🙂