Weekend Project:

Make Kombucha Tea

So, what is Kombucha? It is a fermented black tea that many people consider a health tonic. There are a lot of claims and myths, both good and bad, that surround Kombucha, which can make it difficult to make an informed decision regarding its consumption. I found this particular article very helpful in separating fact from fiction, “Kombucha: Myths vs. Truth” on the blog Phoenix Helix.

Now get ready to make some fermentation magic happen!

Materials:

Large pot

1 gallon of water

4 t. loose leaf black tea (preferably unflavored), or the equivalent in tea bags. It can be made with green tea for a different flavor.

Reusable muslin tea bag (optional)

1 c. sugar

1 gallon glass jar (or ½ gallon if you cut the whole recipe in half)

Kombucha mother (These can be ordered online, you can get one from a friend who already has one, or you can grow your own, which I’ll tell you how to do in next week’s post.)

Cultured Kombucha tea from a previous batch (roughly 1 c.) Or alternately, about 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

Wash cloth

Rubber band

 

Method:

First, there are as many methods for making Kombucha as there are people making it. Just like any recipe, each person finds their own ways that work best for them. This is my preferred method. For other options, just do an internet search and you’ll find tons of variations.

  • Pour the one gallon of water into the large pot and put it on the stove over high heat. Put the black tea into the reusable tea bag. Once the water is boiling, turn the stove off and put the tea bag into the water to steep. If you are not using a bag or some sort of container for the tea leaves, you can just put them into the boiling water loose and strain them out after steeping. Allow the tea to steep for at least 10 minutes.
  • Remove the tea bag (or strain out the leaves), and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. (The sugar is the food for the Kombucha culture.)
  • Allow the sweetened tea to cool to room temperature.  Then pour the sweetened tea into the clean, one gallon glass jar. Add the Kombucha mother and the Kombucha tea from a previous batch (or the apple cider vinegar).
  • Cover the jar with a wash cloth and secure the wash cloth around the jar rim with a rubber band. (Air needs to be able to go in and out of the jar, but you want to keep dust or bugs out.)IMG_9489
  • Put the jar away somewhere dark that it won’t be disturbed for about 7 to 12 days. The warmer the area where it is stored, the more quickly it will reach maturity – the colder it is, the longer it will take.
  • After 7 days, pour some Kombucha out and taste it. It should be bubbly, tart, and cider-like.  If not, let it continue to ferment for a few days.
  • Pour the finished Kombucha tea into a glass container with a lid or cap. Some people like to leave this on the counter for another day or two to allow more bubbles to build up before refrigerating. I don’t like the bubbles that much myself, so I put mine straight in the fridge after pouring it into a glass container.

Be sure to leave about a cup of Kombucha tea in the original one gallon jar along with the Kombucha mother, to be ready for your next batch. To make the next batch, just brew the tea, add the sugar, allow it to cool and then pour it in the one gallon jar along with the Kombucha tea and mother that you left in there last time. Then let it sit for 7 days again. You can store the mother and the one cup of tea in the one gallon jar on a shelf for at least a week before you start another batch, if you want. It will be fine. (I’ve left mine even longer than that with no problem.) Or you can make the next batch immediately; it just depends on how fast you consume it.  If it will be a long time before you make another batch, put the mother and the cup of Kombucha tea in the refrigerator until you are ready. It can store in the refrigerator for months.

IMG_9016Each time you make a new batch of Kombucha tea, the mother culture will grow a new layer on top. So, over time it gets thicker and thicker. You can peel off the older layers from the bottom and give them away to others who want to start making their own Kombucha, or you can throw them in the compost. There are people who grind them up and eat them! (Doesn’t seem appetizing to me.)

What is the Kombucha mother?

Some people call it the Kombucha “mother”, “pancake” or “mushroom.” It is a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). This SCOBY feeds on the sugars in the tea slowly turning the tea into a fermented drink.

Contamination:

The Kombucha environment is pretty inhospitable to outside organisms and in the 8 years I’ve been brewing and culturing it, I’ve never had a problem. The tea I make now is from the very same original SCOBY I started with (although many hundreds of generations removed). However, it isn’t inconceivable that it could become contaminated, and the most common contamination I’ve heard of is mold. If you see mold growing on the surface of your brewing Kombucha (fuzz and all), throw it all out and start fresh. I always keep a layer of Kombucha SCOBY in a glass jar with a cup or so of cultured Kombucha tea in my refrigerator, just in case I need to start over from scratch. Three or four times a year, I swap this spare culture with a fresh one to make sure I always have a viable one on hand. So far, after 8 years, I’ve never needed it.

Keep your hands and supplies clean, of course. There is no need to sterilize your supplies or jars, but wash your hands and supplies with soap and water. After brewing and harvesting several batches of Kombucha, I remove everything from the gallon jar and wash it again with soap and water before returning the SCOBY and tea to the jar for the next batch.