I've been brewing my own kombucha at home for over four years now, and I hope I never have to be without it. This probiotic drink sells for $3 – $4 (or more) in the store, whereas you can brew an entire gallon for just $1 -$2 at home. It's great for your digestion, and has helped more than one person kick the soda habit because it is carbonated, can be lightly sweetened if desired and lends itself to a variety of flavors. In this post I share some kombucha basics that should provide you the information you need to brew your own kombucha.
What is Kombucha?
Just in case you've read this far but have no idea what I'm talking about. 🙂 Kombucha is a probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. The culture using for brewing the kombucha is commonly referred to as a SCOBY, (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). The kombucha culture is also known as a mushroom, mother, starter and various other names – the basic brew has been around a long time and been enjoyed by many people. As you can see in the photo below, the SCOBY is a weird, mushroom/pancake looking thing. A new one forms at the time of the container each time you brew, so if you have a healthy culture and brew regularly, you will have baby cultures to share.
What Does Kombucha Taste Like?
Kombucha is always somewhat acidic (that's one of the ways that you know it's brewing – the tea changes from sweet to tart). The final flavor varies greatly with the age of the brew, the tea you start with, and whether or not you add additional flavorings. Leave your brew too long and it'll taste more like vinegar.
I like to use loose leaf organic tea. The flavor is better, you know you're getting good quality and you're not paying for extra packaging. I keep one batch of Orange Pekoe (which is a black tea) and one batch of Almond Blossom Oolong tea going all the time now. The black tea kombucha has a stronger flavor and has been used traditionally for brewing kombucha. The oolong is more mellow and fruity without adding any fruit juice for flavoring. I often drink the almond Blossom Oolong “as is”, without additional flavorings, and add my flavors only to the black tea brew. Over the years I've come up with flavor blends from Pumpkin Spice to Pina Colada – the only limit is your imagination. Just don't brew your kombucha with flavored teas that contain oils, like Earl Grey. These can kill your SCOBY over time.
Can Kombucha Bottles Explode (Like Wine Bottles)?
While I have never had shattered glass, I have fired the contents of a bottle of kombucha from the kitchen to well across the dining room. I am pretty sure there are still some chunks of raspberries in one of the under cabinet light fixtures. In warm condition, carbonation can build up very quickly. Make sure to burp your bottles to let off excess gas, or keep them chilled to slow down gas production. Otherwise you may end up like the gentleman below, or worse.
What Do I Need to Brew Kombucha?
All you need is a starter culture, some tea, some sugar (the culture eats the sugar), clean water (no chlorine!), a container (preferably glass) and something to cover the opening of the container (I use a flour sack towel and rubber band). In about 7-10 days, you'll have kombucha.
Where Should I Brew Kombucha?
I keep mine in a corner of my kitchen, at least five feet away from other live cultures. You want a spot that is between 70 and 80 degrees F where the culture will not be disturbed. Colder temps will lead to slower brewing. Some folks keep the brew on top of the fridge for extra warmth. My brother kept his on top of his TV. Do keep your kombucha out of direct light. Indirect light or darkness is fine. Some air flow is a good idea. (Don't put it in a jar with a tight lid.)
Is Kombucha an Alcoholic Beverage?
There is a very small amount of alcohol in kombucha – that's what yeast does to sugar. It should be less then 0.5%. If you add a lot of fruit juice and put it somewhere warm, you can probably drive this number up, but I've never had any batch get close to what I would consider “winey”. This is “booch”, not “hooch”.
Brew Your Own Kombucha Info Roundup
How to Make Kombucha – step by step instructions for brewing kombucha at home. You can purchase a starter through Kombucha Kamp, or google “buy kombucha SCOBY” or “free kombucha SCOBY” and your area to look for local places to buy or possibly get one for free in your area. There is also a Kombucha SCOBY Exchange page on Facebook. If you purchase through Kombucha Kamp, I earn an affiliate payment at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting this site!
Water Kefir Versus Kombucha – What’s the difference between water kefir and kombucha? Both are probiotic beverages you can brew at home, but which one is best for you?
Flavoring Kombucha and Kombucha Testimonials – Tips for flavoring kombucha and stories about how people I know have been helped by kombucha
Kombucha Q and A and More Flavoring Ideas – More flavoring ideas and all the Q and A from the comments in a more readable format
How to Flavor Kombucha – Holiday Flavors – Fun seasonal flavor ideas.
How to Make Coffee Kombucha – use extra SCOBYs to transform coffee into a probiotic beverage. Great for making iced coffee (don't heat it up, or you'll kill the beneficial bacteria).
The SCOBY Cure – Home Remedy for Cradle Cap – how I used a kombucha SCOBY to cure my son's cradle cap.
Continuous Brew Kombucha
If you'd like to set up a kombucha continuous brewing system, where finished brew is drawn off and new tea is added to an existing jar rather than cleaning the jar each time, check out the following articles:
They site the benefits of a continuous kombucha brew as follows:
- A continuous brew system is less maintenance as they only need to be cleaned periodically. Adding new sugared tea to an existing jar already containing the starter tea and Scoby is far easier than starting with a brand new container.
- A continuous brew system allows for the greatest chance of a successful batch. Maintaining the ecosystem created during the fermentation process provides the best defense against the development of mold and invasion by transient yeasts and bacteria.
- A continuous brew system provides the healthiest environment for the Scoby. Rather than disturbing the ecological environment through moving to new containers and regular cleaning cycles, the yeast and bacteria are allowed to develop relatively undisturbed with a consistent supply of new food.
- A continuous brew system provides a more consistent supply of Kombucha for your family. A specific amount can simply be harvested every few days, once a week, etc.A continuous brew system allows for a balance between the benefits of short and long fermentation periods. Shorter fermentation periods (1-2 weeks) will generally yield a more sweet and pleasant tasting Kombucha. Longer fermentation periods yield Kombucha with a much stronger vinegar-like taste but also a wider array of beneficial bacteria and enzymes. A continuous brew system allows you to reap the benefits of both.
Kombucha Continuous Brewing System @ Pickle Me Too – Melanie's system keeps about one gallon of kombucha going at all times, drawing of a quart at a time as needed. She keeps a gallon of sweetened tea in the fridge to add to the brew as she draws off the finished kombucha.
Continuous Kombucha from Cultured Palate @ Real Food Forager – Dina-Marie has a larger volume system to keep her large family in a steady supply of kombucha. She maintains two 4.75 gallon glass dispensers, which she drains into a keg for easy access for the kids. This is quite possibly the coolest brewing setup I've seen.Translate the Site