I am pleased to share the next step in our homemade kombucha adventure and our recipe. If you are wondering what got us started on the kombucha and fermented foods craze you can find out more here or why kombucha is known as the miracle health elixir read more here.
As I wrote about previously, before you can brew your own batch of kombucha you need a starter. You can either buy one somewhere online (which apparently isn’t as good since live bacterias are killed off in transport), get one from a friend/ company locally or simply grow your own.
Since a kombucha SCOBY is a raw live bacteria culture that can easily be contaminated with unknown mater I felt better being 100% responsible for the growth and sanitary conditions of mine rather than trusting the technique and working conditions of another person I didn’t know. What you decide to do will depend on your own comfort level of course.
Before you start your brew be sure you have a large, unleaded wide mouthed jar to hold your brew. Also take time to sterilize your jar and materials so your brew and SCOBY aren’t compromised.
Once your slimy starter is done you can follow the steps below to begin brewing.
To Make 1/2 Gallon of Kombucha
- In a large 1/2 gallon, non-leaded glass jar or container begin your brew with 8 cups of hot water and 4 tea bags. Brew your tea and let it cool to room temperature, preferably overnight. You can use green or black tea from what I’ve read. I used black tea for mine.
- Sweeten your tea with 1 cup of sugar and mix till dissolved. I used Sugar in The Raw for mine since I had it on hand to use up but my recipe called for white sugar. Note, more natural sugars will work differently than white sugar. I believe my brew needed a bit more time since I didn’t use white sugar but it still worked out great.
- Pour 1 cup of the reserve kombucha (that your SCOBY grew in) in your sweetened, brewed tea. Reserve your SCOBY’s leftover fluids though (and recover with a cloth), it will grow a backup SCOBY on top and will later be your SCOBY’s “hotel”.
- Transfer your SCOBY from it’s growth jar to the sweetened, brewed tea jar. Place on top but know it is fine if the SCOBY sinks or floats. Mine was floating initially and then sank but then came back up.
- Cover with a cloth, secure cloth and wait 5-7 days for it to brew. Taste test it from about day 5 on. If it is too sweet it needs to brew longer. It will go from sweet to vinegar like as it brews so frequent taste tests will allow you to end the initial brew when it suits you. Mine was ready at day 6 this round. Don’t let it get to vinegar like, you may not be able to stomach it. It should taste like the unflavored kombuch sold in stores but without the fizz. The fizz and carbonation happens in the next ferment.
Secondary Fermentation & Flavoring Your Kombucha
Your secondary fermentation happens once you bottle your Kombucha and add any flavorings to it. Here is how we did ours:
- Sanitize about 6 swing-top/ flip-top bottles or you can use regular mason jars.
- Move your SCOBY and about 1-2 cups of kombucha back to your kombucha “hotel”. A new SCOBY will likely have begun to form on top while your kombucha was brewing, this is great. Just reach in and grab your SCOBY even if it appears to have a thin milky film on top of it.
- Once your SCOBY is out of the brewed kombucha it is time to add some flavoring. The easiest way is to add fruit purees to the kombucha. We added a kiwi, strawberry, banana puree this time. Add about 3/4 cup for your half gallon of kombucha and mix. Don’t be alarmed about foam and any bubbling reaction. Ours produced quite a bit of “head” on top of the kombuch once the puree was added, we just bottled it that way. We also didn’t opt for straining the fruit puree before adding, this did result in quite a bit of fruit pulp in our kombucha but we think the added fiber and nutrients are great. Strain if you prefer a less pulpy drink.
- Next siphon or use a funnel to fill your jars with brew. My half gallon of kombucha ended up making 5 bottles of finished brew. Or fill your mason jars and cover them with their lids.
- Allow the flavored, bottled brew to sit out on the counter for an additional 3 days for the secondary fermentation process. This is when the brew becomes carbonated.
- Once your 3 days of secondary fermentation is up transfer the bottles to the fridge for a minimum 1/2 day so the carbonation settles a bit and your brew gets cold. Opening the bottle prematurely is reported to cause major kombucha sprayage much like a shaken soda does so you’ve been warned ;P
- Lastly, enjoy your kombucha and start a new batch
Be aware that refrigeration will slow fermentation, but it will still occur – so if you drink your kombucha over months instead of days or weeks, be sure to release the pressure and excess carbonation every few weeks, and realize that it will continue to consume sugar and grow more tart, even vinegar-y, over time.
We learned this the hard way with some older bottles of brew. I am still cleaning off the walls and ceiling!
Stay tuned for other fermented food adventures shared like saurkraut, kefir and cheese. You can subscribe to the blog updates at the very bottom of this page.