For those of you who are new to the growing kombucha trend, kombucha is a fermented black tea drink. The effervescent drink is made using a SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The microbial compositions of each SCOBY can vary, but Saccharomyces, a probiotic fungus, is usually found in these colonies. Although there are purported health benefits to drinking this fermented tea, there are risks that come with brewing at home. There have been reports of adverse events related to homebrewing, possibly from contamination, so it is of utmost importance to control the environment and keep it as clean as possible when brewing your own kombucha.
Personally, I can’t objectively say I’ve seen any “health benefits” to drinking kombucha, and I really only like drinking kombucha for its effervescence and slight alcoholic content. Recently, I’ve started brewing my own kombucha after deciding that the amount of money I spend on store-bought kombucha was putting a serious dent in my pocketbook. For this recipe, you’ll need to find someone who already has a SCOBY and some starter tea or buy a SCOBY and starter tea online. My awesome sister who started brewing her own kombucha hooked me up with a starter SCOBY and set of instructions that I’ll detail below. Here it is:
- 3 1/2 quarts water
- 2 tbsp black tea (unflavored)
- 1 cup sugar (organic cane sugar works best)
- 1 SCOBY
- 2 cups starter tea
- 1 gallon glass jar
Brew 2 tbsps black tea in 1/2 quart water. The ideal temperature is 195°F for 2-3 minutes. Remove tea ball if using. Stir in sugar until dissolved. Add tea to gallon jar and then add remaining 3 quarts of cold water. Take temperature of sweet tea (it must be between 75-80°F). If the desired temperature is reached, add the starter tea. Next, with clean hands, remove SCOBY from the package and gently place in the jar. Cover the jar with muslin or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band around the top. Place the jar in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area. Depending on the temperature, it will take 7-14 days to brew. Make sure that the brew’s temperature doesn’t exceed 85°F and doesn’t fall below 70°F.
Taste the brew after seven days. The brew should be tart but still slightly sweet. It it becomes too vinegar-y, the yeast will die off from starvation and you will have a harder time with the second fermentation. Please see Second Fermentation instructions for more information. When performing another batch, reserve 2 cups of the tea to add to the second batch.