This simple step-by-step recipe makes the fizziest kombucha. If you can make Southern sweet tea - you can make kombucha!
I was first introduced to kombucha while vacationing in the backwoods of Downeast Maine. I was offered this lightly tan liquid poured from a ceramic jug by an older lady who was a family friend of the person I was visiting with. "Would you like some Kombucha?", she asked with the sweetest grin. My friend responded with a quick, "yes, please!" and I followed suit. I had heard of kombucha before but had never really mustered up the guts to try it. As it turned out, this woman was my friend's kombucha teacher. Kombucha brewing seems to still be a skill lovingly passed down from one friend to another. Beth was her name and I feel in love with her kombucha tea that day. So much so, that I've been making it myself for years! Now, I'm passing my knowledge to you.
A BIT OF HISTORY
Kombucha has gained a lot of mainstream popularity within the last 10 years. It may seem like a strange come and go dietary fad, but the truth is, kombucha has been around longer than you may expect. This fermented black tea beverage is said to have originated in Northeast China around 220 B.C. As one story goes, kombucha gets its name from a Korean physician named Dr. Kombu, who brought the fizzy tea to Japan. It is said that kombucha made it's way to Europe through various trade route expansions. Other stories state that kombucha was invented as a tea of "immortality" by the Qin Dynasty for the Emperor. Whatever the true origin, Its popularity was mainly due to the belief that the beverage had medicinal benefits. Some of these benefits have been proven true and others remain folklore.
OKAY...BUT WHAT IS IT?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink that is made by fermenting sweetened black tea with a mother mushroom or SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). This fizzy drink has a slightly sweet, sour, and tart flavor. It's made much like wine, beer, or ginger beer. Small remnants of yeast and healthy bacteria can often be found floating in it of settled at the bottom. Kombucha is highly acidic, contains sugar, B vitamins, and antioxidants, as well as some alcohol that results from the fermentation process.
There have been a lot of health claims thrown around about kombucha since it's invention/discovery. Many of which are a little outlandish, so we will only stick to the proven facts. When consumed raw or unpasteurized (from a reliable source) kombucha is extremely gut healthy. Like yogurt, it's rich in healthy bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics have been proven to benefit your overall health and boost your immune system. A healthy gut often means a healthy mind, higher energy levels, and a healthy weight. The unfortunate part is that this healthy and beneficial bacteria rarely survive the pasteurization process. This means that your store-bought kombucha is probably lacking the most important part of this beverage
GROW YOUR OWN SCOBY
A SCOBY isn't the most beautiful thing to look at but I promise you'll be in love with this disk of bacteria as soon as you grow one. A SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast is a completely naturally occurring living thing that's home to all the good bacteria that transforms sweetened black tea into fizzy fermented kombucha. The recipe below will make a very large SCOBY. I personally like to brew big batches, because well...I love the stuff. You can choose to drink this batch or not. I typically don't. The growing batch can run a little vinegary for my liking depending on how long it takes for the SCOBY to form. The SCOBY certainly helps your beverage along in its fermentation but you might be surprised to learn that it isn't necessary so long as you have a happy healthy starter tea.
Basic Super Fizzy Kombucha
This recipe is made using both black & white tea. This will give you a flavor closest to what you're accustomed to drinking when you buy it from the grocery store. Its flavor is neutral and it's super-duper fizzy! It makes a whopping 1 1/2 gallons of kombucha because that's how we do.
Author: Megan Thompson Aston
Yield: 1 1/2 gal.
1 1/2 cups of plain kombucha
1 1/2 gal of filtered water
8 Regular sized black tea, organic
8 Regular sized white tea bags, organic
1 1/2 cup unbleached sugar, organic
A tea towel large enough to cover the lid
2 gal. glass jug with spout
6-8 airtight glass bottles ( I prefer flip-top bottles as they're the safest)
Making The Tea & First Fermentation
Be sure to wash all your pots and utensils extremely thoroughly. A dishwasher is preferred to avoid the transfer of germs from sponges. You also want to avoid soap residue.
Once everything has been cleaned and inspected, bring 1/2 a gallon of your filtered water to a boil with your 16 tea bags. This with brew a strong concentrate.
Once water is at a boil, turn your burner off while leaving the pot there to continue to steep and cool.
Once the tea has steeped and cooled slightly, remove the tea bags and stir in your sugar until it's completely dissolved.
Once cooled slightly, add sugar water to tea in a glass jar. Allow the two to cool COMPLETELY.
Once the sweetened tea is completely cool - add your cup of plain kombucha.
Cover the top with a tea towel and secure with a large rubber band or tightly tied string. You want and need air. Without it, your SCOBY and Kombucha will become unhealthy.
Store in a dark cool place away from sunlight and the possibility of fruit flies. A cabinet or pantry works well.
After a few days, you will notice a cloudy film developing over the top of your kombucha. That's your developing baby SCOBY! Over time, this will become thicker and thicker.
After about 2-3 weeks, you can taste your tea from the spout. You'll know that it's ready to be bottled for its second fermentation when the flavor is slightly sweet with a very small undertone of tang. This can sometimes take a bit longer to achieve during the weather months. Note that at this point, it may have some effervescence but that will mostly come from the second fermentation.
Once your kombucha is ready for its second fermentation, carefully remove the SCOBY and put it into a jar or well-sealed plastic bag for storing. If this is your first batch, the SCOBY may not look like much. Save it anyway,
Stir your kombucha and measure out 2 cups to store with your baby SCOBY. You'll use this as your starter tea for your next batch.
This is the point in which you can start having fun with flavoring your kombucha. Have all your clean bottles out and ready to go.
Fill each bottle about 1/8 of the way full of fresh fruit puree or juice. If you want a plain kombucha, simply add up to a tbsp of sugar. Sugar, whether from fruit or not, will feed the bacteria and create the effervescence you want.
Seal tightly and store in a cool dark place for up to a week.
After about 4 days, you can start to test the effervescence of your brew. Put one bottle in the refrigerator and allow to chill completely before opening. If you open it without chilling you will risk a major tea explosion (like in our TikTok above) or losing all the carbonation you've been working so hard for.
If you arent using a flip-top bottle, always open your kombucha bottles with a towel over the lid to catch it in case the carbonation sends it flying.
If the kombucha has reached your preferred level of carbonation, move all your bottles to the refrigerator and enjoy! If not, allow them to ferment a touch longer. Checking every 2 days.
Kombucha naturally has a bit of a sour smell. However, the only sour smell it should have should be reminiscent of apple cider vinegar.
Some recipes will recommend that you "burp" your second fermentation bottles every day. I don't recommend this. I've found that it prolongs the process and inhibits effervescence resulting in a sour and slightly flat brew.
You must wait until the tea and sugar water has completely cooled before you add your kombucha and SCOBY. You don't want to harm all those bacteria and yeast that you worked so hard to grow.
Healthy yeast and bacteria should be white, tan, and brown. If you have any other colors, discard, retrace your steps on where you may have gone wrong, and start again.
If you happen to get a fruit fly infestation from not using the proper cover - you MUST discard and start over. I've had my best luck with tea towels and my worst luck with cheesecloth.
Your kombucha needs air to grow and thrive. Do not over the kombucha with a lid that seals it from oxygen. If you do so, you'll grow unhealthy mold and bacteria instead of a happy baby SCOBY
Always save about a cup of your plain Kombucha for the next batch.
Store extra SCOBY in another jar covered in plain Kombucha.
FAVORITE FLAVOR COMBINATIONS - Fresh Strawberry, Lemon, + Basil - Beet + Hibiscus - Lemon, Ginger, + Honey - Apple, Lemon, Ginger, + Cinnamon (this tastes just like apple cider) - Watermelon + Mint