Kombucha is a fizzy, fermented tea, enjoyed not only for its delicate flavour, but for its health benefits as well. Your daily kombucha might make you feel great, but it certainly isn’t going to do your bank account any favours. The teas are typically $4 a bottle, which can really add up over time.
Luckily, brewing your own kombucha is a very simple and cost-effective process. It also allows you to experiment with different flavours and levels of fermentation until you find your perfect combination!
Here are some quick things to note before you get started:
What is a SCOBY?
As Michael so eloquently shared in our latest #MyHollyburn video, the acronym SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This firm, rubbery disk is the star of the show in the creation of kombucha. The culture metabolizes sugar as it ferments the tea, creating carbonation and the tangy flavour you know and love.
Where to find a SCOBY:
SCOBY’s are easier to find than you may think. And better yet, a new one is formed with every batch of kombucha you brew! This means that if you know anyone who already brews kombucha, they likely have more SCOBY’s on their hands than they know what to do with! If not, they’re also readily available online and in most health food stores. You can even grow one from a bottle of original store-bought ‘boocha, though this method tends to take quite a bit longer. NOTE: the ½ cup – 1 cup of starter liquid that the SCOBY comes in will be important later, so don’t get rid of it!
Without further ado – let’s make some kombucha!
Step 1: Getting Ready to Brew
Before you get started, you’ll need to sterilize your brewing supplies. WARNING: soap can kill the delicate balance of bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY, so make sure to avoid it while cleaning any of your brewing supplies, or hands. Boiling water and/or white vinegar are the best way to avoid contamination.
Step 2: Brew Your Sweet Tea Mix
Combine the 4 cups of water and 6 teabags in a pot. Brew for about 10 minutes, then remove the teabags and stir in the 1/3 cup of sugar until dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, as heat can startle the SCOBY.
***Don’t worry if this seems like a ton of sugar – most of it is “eaten” by the SCOBY during fermentation!
Step 3: First Fermentation
Pour your SCOBY, starter tea, and sweet tea mixture into a wide-topped glass jar. Cover it with a coffee filter, tea towel, or cotton t-shirt (anything that is breathable but will keep the SCOBY safe from outside bacteria) and secure with a rubber band or string. Make sure not to seal the jar with a lid, as the kombucha needs oxygen to ferment properly.
Now it’s time for the SCOBY to work its magic. CAREFUL: the sun can disrupt the fermentation process, so keep your brew tucked away from direct light. The first fermentation typically takes 5-10 days, depending on your household conditions. The best thing to do is taste the mixture regularly after the first five days of fermentation. If it’s still very sweet, it means that the SCOBY hasn’t eaten enough of the sugar and it needs to brew for longer. If the kombucha is vinegary, you can reduce the brewing time of your next batch.
Step 4: Flavouring & Second Fermentation
Now for the fun part! Once the tea has reached your desired level of fermentation you can start to flavour the kombucha. First, remove your SCOBY and make sure to reserve at least a cup of the tea to act as a starter for your next batch! Take your flip top bottles, funnel in about another teaspoon of white sugar and your kombucha along with any flavourings you want to use. You can get creative at this point, using fruit juice, fresh fruit, herbs, or anything else you can think of! Here are a few of our favorite flavour combos (each are good for a 16oz bottle, but you can adjust the ingredients to your preferences):
- Lemon Ginger (1 tsp. fresh chopped ginger, 2 tsp. lemon juice)
- Berry Good (1/4 cup mixed berries, 2 tsp. lemon juice)
- Apple Ginger (1/4 cup apple juice, 1 tsp. fresh ginger, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon)
- Blueberry Vanilla (1/4 cup fresh/frozen blueberries, 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract)
- Pineapple Peach (2 slices fresh/frozen peaches, 2 chunks of pineapple)
- Strawberry Basil (1/4 cup fresh/frozen strawberries, 3 large basil leaves)
- Raspberry Lime (1/4 cup fresh/frozen raspberries, 2 tsp. lime juice)
TIP: If you’re using fruit, mashing it before adding it to the bottle will help to release the flavour into the tea.
Once you have the kombucha and flavourings in the flip top bottle, tuck it away again for another 3 days to carbonate. After those three days, pop the top of the bottle to BURP the kombucha and release any pent-up carbonation and put it in your fridge. The kombucha will be ready to drink as soon as it’s cold!
Step 5: Second Batch/Storing Your SCOBY
Now that your first batch of kombucha is chilling in the fridge, it’s time to get your next one brewin’. Both the mother and baby SCOBY’s can be used to make more batches, so you can quickly double your production. Simply split the tea saved from your last batch between two containers and repeat the process!
If you need a break from brewing, or you find yourself with tons of SCOBY’s, you can store the extras in a SCOBY hotel. This is simply another glass jar, filled with starter tea and a batch of sweet tea – just like if you were making regular kombucha. Add your SCOBY’s, cover the jar, and they should stay fresh for months! The liquid from the hotel can be used as your starter tea but be sure to top up the mixture with fresh sweet tea every few weeks so that the kombucha cultures will have something to eat.
Ready? Now you should have all the information you need to successfully craft your own kombucha! What are you waiting for…go get brewing!
Here’s what you’ll need:
- SCOBY & ½ cup starter tea
- 6 black tea bags (Tetley’s or Red Rose will work great!)
- 4 cups water
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- White vinegar
- Flavourings (eg. Fresh fruits, spices, juice concentrates, etc.)
- 2 large glass jars (1L or bigger)
- Tea towels/coffee filters
- Rubber bands
- Flip top bottles
Watch as Aliesha and Michael create a refreshing lemon-ginger kombucha:
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