Kombu-what? Brew your own kombucha

by Andrea Cooley

kombucha brewing supplies

In case you missed Monday’s post, for the next couple weeks I’ll be sharing how we are a “kind of crunchy” family. We definitely aren’t extreme–we don’t have chickens in our backyard and our kids are vaccinated–but there are some things we do that aren’t exactly mainstream.

One of those things is that most days Adam and I drink kombucha.

I first heard about kombucha from one of my “crunchiest” friends. I love hearing about her latest natural living experiments (like not shampooing her hair, making her own deodorant, and raising tilapia in her basement to eat), so when she asked if I wanted to try her kombucha, I said sure!

Kombucha (pronounced: käm-ˈbü-shə) is essentially a fermented sweet tea. It is made with tea, sugar, yeast and bacteria. It tastes a little vinegary, a little sweet, and a little sour. It’s an acquired taste, but we like it!

So, why do we drink this crazy sounding drink? The drink originated in China some 2,000 years ago and it is supposed to have lots of health benefits. You can read more here.

I was interested in adding kombucha to my diet because it is a probiotic, it helps with digestion, and it is full of anti-oxidants that can boost your immune system.

The main reason Adam and I drink “booch” (as we call it) is because it keeps us “regular” if you know what I mean. I also like having a semi-sweet and bubbly drink with dinner.

You can buy kombucha at health food stores and Whole Foods, but a 16 ounce bottle usually costs $3 or more. For that price I don’t care how healthy it is! I might shell out that kind of money for a good latte, but not for bubbly drink I can easily make at home.

The foundation of making kombucha is the “scoby” (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). I’ll warn you, scobys are weird. They are kind of slimy and rubbery and have brown strings that hang off of it that make it look like a mutant jellyfish. But don’t let that scare you away! The bacteria and yeast in the scoby eat the sugar in the tea and make it fermented (I imagine this is similar to how beer is brewed).

Once you’ve started brewing, it takes about 15 minutes a week to keep it going. Here’s how you can brew your own.

kombucha

Ingredients:

1 gallon water

6 tea bags

1 cup sugar

1 scoby

Supplies:

1 gallon glass jar

Swing top glass bottles (I found mine at TJ Maxx for $2.99 each)

Glass pitcher

Strainer

Directions:

Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil. Pour in the sugar and stir to dissolve. Turn off the heat. Brew the tea for 5-10 minutes and remove the tea bags. Pour the tea into a glass jar and let cool completely. When the sweetened tea is completely cool, add the scoby along with 1 to 1 ½ cups kombucha (I always save some from my previous batch). Cover the glass jar with a coffee filter or cheese cloth and loosely seal. I use a rubber band. I mark the date on the front of the jar and put it in a warm, dark place for 7-10 days. You can test it after 7 days and see if it’s tangy enough.

It is important that the tea is completely cool before you put the scoby in or you will kill the scoby. The scoby might sink initially, but it usually floats to the top and forms a new layer by the end of the brewing cycle.

When you are ready to drink the komucha, remove the scoby and set aside for your next batch along with 1 ½ cups of brewed kombucha.

Strain the kombucha and store in a glass pitcher. I keep mine in the refrigerator, but you can drink it room temperature if you prefer.

The scoby grows additional layers with every batch. You can divide it into multiple scobys. I store additional scobys in a covered glass container in the refrigerator with 1 ½ cups of brewed kombucha. If I don’t think I’ll use the extra scoby I get rid of it.

Notes:

I use organic white tea from Trader Joe’s. I’ve also made it using loose leaf tea, but that adds an extra step of straining and I’m all about keeping it simple! You can also use black tea.

I use organic sugar. I bought a 10 pound bag at Costco and it lasts forever since I use regular white sugar for baking.

Sometimes I filter the water, but usually I just use a gallon of tap water.

I store the brewing kombucha in a lower cabinet that is over a heating vent. You can also use a low-watt heater. The key is to keep the kombucha in a dark, warm place.

I will drink the kombucha after its initial brewing, but it’s too sour for Adam, so I started infusing it with 100% cherry juice (any 100% fruit juice will work). I put 1/3 cup juice in a glass swing top bottle and fill the rest with kombucha. Then I let that brew for another 3-5 days. It gets nice and bubbly and is a little sweeter.

Does anyone else drink or make their own kombucha? I have an extra scoby if anyone wants to start brewing!

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Andrea Cooley

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