How to Make Kombucha – 101
You think you have what it takes to brew your own kombucha at home? Well, you’re probably right. This ancient elixir has been brewed for thousands of years, and the hearty mothers have survived far worse than you can likely muster 🙂 So roll up your sleeves, and let’s make some fermented tea!
After reading part one, How to Brew Kombucha – Kombucha Brewing Supplies, you have all the equipment, ingredients, and kombucha brewing supplies you need to brew a healthy and delicious hand-crafted beverage right where you are – so let’s get started!
All kombucha, sometimes referred to incorrectly as mushroom tea, starts out with the same basic process – brewing a sweet tea. The type of tea and the strength that you brew your tea will have an effect on the flavor and fermentation process, so experiment with white teas, green teas, and black teas (or any combination of the three) to learn how to make kombucha tea that you and your family and friends will enjoy. We suggest starting with a healthy serving of black tea (several tablespoons) in about one gallon of filtered or distilled water steeped for 6-10 minutes for the first time you brew your own kombucha.
Flavor your fermented tea – Don’t ferment your flavored tea
The fact that you found this page tells us you are full of flavor! But your tea probably shouldn’t be. In our experience, it is best not to use a flavored or herbal tea when making kombucha as this can affect the SCOBY, or kombucha culture. In the next installment of our DIY Kombucha series we will discuss a number of methods to flavor kombucha and bottle kombucha to share with friends and family.
After, you have steeped your tea it’s time to add the sugar. In this recipe we call for 1 cup of white or raw sugar per 1-gallon batch of kombucha. Stir in the sugar until it’s dissolved completely in your warm tea, then allow your tea to cool. Other recipes, many mentioned in Hannah Krum’s Big Book of Kombucha, can call for other sweeteners like honey or agave. These, just like different teas, will have a different effect on the flavor and fermentation process. Try them out to see what variety you like best!
Time to ferment your tea and make Kombucha
If this were an episode of MTV cribs we would say, “This is where the magic happens!” Be sure your tea is completely cooled to room temperature and transfer it to your one-gallon glass jar or fermenter. Tea that is too hot can harm the yeast and bacteria in the SCOBY. Now it’s time to add your SCOBY, starter tea, and turn it into kombucha tea.
After you have added your SCOBY and starter tea, cover your glass fermenter with the muslin cloth and use a rubber band to keep it tight. The muslin cloth will allow the SCOBY to get fresh oxygen, vent carbon-dioxide put off throughout fermentation, and prevent particulates or insects (fruit flies) from getting into the sweet tea. Next, place your gallon of tea in a warm place, out of the way of too much dust or direct sunlight. According to Hannah Krum from Kombucha Kamp, kombucha brews best between 72 and 84 degrees fahrenheit. A cupboard or a countertop will work great!
When is my Fermented Tea done fermenting?
The best way to determine if your kombucha is done is by tasting it. Because the perfect taste is different for everyone, every batch of kombucha will vary in how long it takes to be “done.” In general, the longer your tea ferments, the less residual sugar will remain, and the more vinegary or medicinal the flavor. However, how long it takes to taste more like vinegar will largely depend on the environment it is fermented (warm or cool, well ventilated or stagnant air). This is also where you can use your heating element to better regulate your fermenting space. All that being said, it’s probably good to start sampling your first batch of kombucha around 5-7 days.
If you have found a flavor profile that you enjoy, a good way to produce a consistent tasting kombucha is by measuring the pH of your fermented tea, and trying to recreate that pH in following batches. Simple pH strips are a good place to start for a home-brewer looking for consistency.
After you determine your tea is done, be sure to remove the SCOBY and at least 1 cup of starter tea for your next batch. Then transfer your finished kombucha into a great serving vessel, and that’s it! You have kombucha – no fairy dust needed! 🙂
Here’s the recipe short and sweet:
- Steep 1 gallon of tea using white, green, and/or black tea (a few TBSPs)
- Mix in 1 cup of sugar until fully dissolved, then cool the sweet tea to room temperature
- Combine your sweet tea, starter tea, and SCOBY in 1 gallon glass jar (fermenter)
- Cover with muslin cloth, and place in a warm place to ferment
- Start tasting the product after 5-7 days, and remove the SCOBY and starter tea after it reaches the desired flavor profile
Now that you have kombucha, it’s time to flavor it, bottle it, and share it with your friends and family! Read all about it in the third installment of the DIY Kombucha series discussing the ins and outs of flavoring and bottling.