Kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea that has been around for centuries. It has a tangy and sweet flavor and can be double fermented with fruit or juice to make a fizzy drink similar to soft drinks.
This ancient beverage has surged in popularity in recent years and is now available in many grocery stores and health food stores. Store-bought kombucha often costs $3-5 a bottle, so making it at home is a great way to save a lot of money.
If you’re a fan of this probiotic and enzyme rich drink, try brewing it at home for just pennies a cup!
Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha fans attribute a wide variety of benefits to kombucha and claim that it helps with everything from joint pain to cancer. These claims are largely unproven, as there are very few studies about kombucha, but we do know that it contains a variety of vitamins and beneficial acids.
In fact, it is considered a good source of antioxidants, b-vitamins, probiotics and glucaric acid.
Downsides of Kombucha
Kombucha is brewed from sweetened tea, and the recipe contains a cup of sugar per gallon of tea. Understandably, some people worry about the sugar content.
Too Much Sugar?
During the fermentation process, the beneficial colony of bacteria consumes most of the sugar, so it has minimal effect on blood sugar. The sugar is simply the food for these beneficial bacteria and the beneficial acids, enzymes and probiotics are a result of the fermentation.
Caffeine and Alcohol?
If caffeine is a concern, kombucha can be made with caffeinated or decaf tea, and even with green tea or herbal teas. To protect the culture, it is good to use at least 20% regular black tea though.
Note: Kombucha can contain very small amounts of alcohol, typically around 0.5% or less, which is similar to an over-ripe banana. Some store bought brands contain more alcohol and are typically sold in a different section of the store and require ID for purchase.
Why Make Raw Kombucha at Home?
As I mentioned, it is significantly less expensive to make Kombucha at home. Some store brands are also pasteurized, killing many of the probiotics and enzymes present in raw kombucha. Here are some of the reasons you may considering making kombucha at home:
Great Soda Alternative
While the health claims about Kombucha have not been confirmed by western medical research, there is no denying that it is a healthier and lower sugar drink than soda. It has natural carbonation and provides some B-vitamins and beneficial enzymes that aren’t present in soda as well.
Easy to Customize
My favorite part about making kombucha at home is how easy it is to customize and make different flavors. Add grape juice or apple juice for a slightly flavored version. Add some fresh or frozen strawberries for a super carbonated tangy taste. Or even add some raisins and a vanilla bean for a taste similar to a leading soda that starts with Dr. and ends with Pepper.
Store bought kombucha is expensive. Homemade is not. You can make an entire gallon at home for less than the cost of a single bottle in stores. Since you control the brew time and flavors, you’ll probably also get a more flavorful and more nutrient dense brew at home too!
The one potential problem with making kombucha at home is the possibility of a harmful bacteria or mold growing in the fermentation vessel. To avoid these problems, it is important to follow the correct procedures for brewing and to carefully sanitize all equipment before use. Also, starting with a high quality culture and plenty of strong starter liquid helps.
That said, I’ve personally made kombucha and have never had any problems with it.
How to Get a SCOBY
The Kombucha is brewed with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria) that “eats” the sugars in the sweetened tea and creates an acidic, vitamin and probiotic rich beverage.
SCOBYs are living and thriving colonies of bacteria and unfortunately, you can’t just pick one up a high quality one at your grocery store. There are several ways to acquire a SCOBY.
- If you know anyone who already brews Kombucha, ask them for an extra SCOBY and they will probably be glad to pass one on. The SCOBY has a “baby” every batch or two and this baby can then be used to brew more Kombucha. Just make sure that they include at least one cup of strong starter liquid with each SCOBY. If you plan to continuous brew, you’ll want one cup for each gallon of liquid you will brew.
- You can order a SCOBY from an online source. Just make sure the source is reputable. Avoid dehydrated SCOBYS that require a long rehydration period and produce a weaker brew.
- Grow your own. This may or may not be successful and can be done using a pre-made bottle of Kombucha that you can get from a health food store. (This takes several weeks and may not work, so I don’t personally recommend this option).
Courtesy of The Big Book of Kombucha, here is a handy chart for batch and container size:
How to Make Raw Kombucha: Batch Method
Once you have a SCOBY, the actual process of making Kombucha is very easy!
Notes: Make sure all ingredients, materials and your hands are clean. If you already ferment other things (kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, beer, etc.) in your kitchen, make sure all the jars are at least a few feet apart to prevent cross-contamination of the cultures.
Equipment & Ingredients Needed
- a gallon size glass jar– (or other suitable brew vessel) One gallon is the standard size but you can brew smaller or larger. Make sure its really clean! I like to rinse with white vinegar to make sure.
- Brewed sweetened tea -(ratio: 1 cup of sugar per gallon of tea) – I love this tea blend that is specifically created for brewing Kombucha but regular black tea works too.
- a SCOBY- and 1 cup of liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha for each gallon of sweetened tea
- Fermentation cover– Like the ones here or a coffee filter or thin cloth and a rubber band
prep 15 mins – total 15 mins- author wellness mama – yield 16 +
A naturally carbonated fermented tea drink packed with enzymes, probiotics and beneficial acids. Make it at home for less than half the price of store bought. This recipe is for one gallon. Scale up or down to make as much as you need.
- Gallon size glass jar (make sure it’s really clean!!)
- 1 gallon of brewed sweetened tea (ratio: 1 cup of sugar per gallon of tea) I use regular black tea, though I’ve heard of others using green or herbal teas
- a SCOBY and 1 cup of liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha (I bought by SCOBYs here)
- Fermentation Cover or coffee filter or thin cloth and a rubber band
- Prepare the sweet tea. I use 1 family size tea bag or 8-10 small bags per gallon of water. Add 1 cup of regular sugar (organic preferably). Do not use raw honey as it can interfere with the cultures in the SCOBY!
- Let tea cool to room temperature and make sure it is really cool! This step is very important as too hot of tea can kill your SCOBY.
- Once tea is completely cool, pour into glass jar, leaving a couple of inches of room at the top. Pour in 1/2 cup liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha or if starting from a dehydrated SCOBY, pour in 1/2 cup from a store-bought bottle of Kombucha.
- With very clean hands, add the SCOBY and the starter liquid to the top of the jar of tea. It may sink or float and it makes no difference as the new SCOBY baby will eventually grow on the top.
- Cover the jar with the fermentation cover or coffee filter or cloth and rubber band tightly (flies love this stuff!)
- Put the jar in a warm corner of the kitchen where it is at least a few feet away from any other fermenting products. 75-85 degrees is the best for the brew. If you need some extra heat, you can use a heating mat that heats from the sides like these.
- Let sit to ferment for around 7-10 days, though the length of time may vary depending on your temperature and batch size. You can test the Kombucha by placing a straw in the jar carefully (slide under the SCOBY) and sipping. It should taste tart but still very slightly sweet also.
- At this point, Kombucha is ready for a second ferment. If you aren’t doing the second ferment, just pour the kombucha into another jar or jars with airtight lids and seal until ready to drink.
If making into soda, you’ll also need:-another gallon size jar or 5 quart sized jars-about 1 quart of fruit juice- (we prefer grape or apple for this) or 1/2 cup frozen berries