Until about a year and a half ago, I had never heard the word kombucha. But then I started hanging around (and by hanging around, I mean getting to know via blogaverse) a bunch of really crunchy people. And I mean crunchy in the best way possible. Kombucha-brewing, saturated-fat loving, raw milk drinking, no-poo-ing, liver-eating, cloth-diapering crunchy folks. So I’d read about how beneficial kombucha was for my health about fifteen times before I decided I should definitely try to incorporate this tangy fermented beverage into my diet. So I set out to find some. It’s not the kind of thing that you can find at the local supermarket, unless of course your local supermarket happens to be a Whole Foods.
Thankfully, there happened to be a brand new Whole Foods just down the street from my apartment in Nashville (my blessing and my curse- in Nashville, a.k.a. Cashville, they call Whole Foods Whole Paycheck, and that it is). Sure enough, I found the kombucha….for $4.79 a bottle! Nonetheless, I purchased a couple of bottles to see how I liked it. I got in to my car, cracked it open…..and it exploded all over me! Ugh! I just wasted $2 worth of kombucha! Oh well. Live and learn. Once I got over the explosion, I took a drink and I was not at all prepared for what I was about to experience! When you drink kombucha, you don’t just taste it. You feel the bubbles in your nose and all the way down to your stomach. It’s pleasantly refreshing and fizzy! I had to figure out how to make this stuff at home, because $4.79 a bottle would totally blow my grocery budget. The good news is, you can make it for about 25 cents a bottle. And I’m going to show you how, step by step. But first, how about a little kombucha FAQ?
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is an ancient Chinese elixir made by fermenting sweetened tea with a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (a.k.a. SCOBY, but may also be referred to as a mushroom, a mother, or a starter).
Where is kombucha come from?
It’s believed that kombucha originated in China sometime around 220 BCE. At some point, it made it’s way to Russia, and has really only made it’s way over here to the western hemisphere in the last 50-60 years.
What are the health benefits of kombucha?
Kombucha is a living, enzyme-rich drink. It’s full of probiotics, which are incredibly beneficial for gut health and balancing the digestive system. Since about 80% of your immune system lives in your gut, kombucha also provides a major boost to your immune system. It’s a VERY potent detoxifier. For this reason, if you’re new to kombucha drinking, start slow with just 1-2 ounces at a time. Kombucha has a ton of B vitamins and amino acids. It’s also antioxidant rich and provides an amazing energy!
Why should I drink kombucha?
Other than the awesome health benefits I just listed, kombucha may also help fight sugar cravings. It makes an excellent replacement for those wanting to get off of the soda. It’s rather expensive at the store, but you can make your own for pennies a bottle, making it a very cost effective supplement.
Speaking of supplements…
That’s just what kombucha is. It’s an aid that’s meant to supplement a balanced, nutrient-dense diet. It’s not a cure-all. And it’s not my only source of probiotics. I still consume other probiotics in the form of kefir, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and fermented veggies like kraut, etc.
Kombucha making is a two step fermentation process. In the first step, the tea ferments for anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. At the end of this step, you’ll have two SCOBYs- your original SCOBY and a baby SCOBY. The baby isn’t any smaller than the original. It’s just called a baby because it’s born of the original SCOBY. The second ferment is where you add the flavor and the fizz! Kombucha is kind of like chili in that everyone has their own recipe and way of doing it. This is the way I do it and I’ve never made a bad batch. So let’s get on with it, shall we?
What equipment will you need?
- a 1 gallon glass or ceramic container. This is the one I use.
- a large pot
- a wooden spoon
- a tea towel or flour sack towel (like this).
- a large rubber band
What ingredients will you need?
- 4-5 bags of organic tea. You can use green or black. I like a combo of both. I use this kind of black, and this kind of green. You can use other types of tea, but this is the kind I like.
- 1 gallon of filtered water
- 1 1/2 cups organic cane sugar. Do not use honey or any other sweetener here. The sugar is not for you. The sugar is for the SCOBY to “eat” so to speak so that it can grow. When the kombucha is finished, there will only be about 2-3 grams of sugar per serving.
- 1 cup of already brewed kombucha. You only need to buy a bottle of already brewed kombucha for your first time making it. After that, you’ll use the kombucha that you have brewed. You can use any flavor and if you can find it at your local health food store, get it there. If not, you can get it here.
- 1 kombucha SCOBY. I got mine at a local farmer’ market. If you have kombucha-brewing friends, ask for one of their extras. You can also get them from Cultures For Health.
*This may not need to be said, but I feel compelled so I’ll say it anyway. Before you start the process, make sure everything is very clean. You are culturing bacteria and yeast. If there is undesirable bacteria, that will flourish in this environment just as the good bacteria will. So keep it clean folks.
Step 1: Boil some water
Add your gallon of filtered water to the pot and bring it to a rolling boil.
Step 2: Make some tea
Remove the water from the heat. Add in your tea bags. Add the sugar in and stir it with a wooden spoon until it’s well dissolved. Let the tea steep for 5-10 minutes.
Step 3: Cool the tea
After the tea has steeped, remove the tea bags and allow the sweetened tea to cool to room temp. This will take a couple of hours.
Step 4: Add your starters
When the tea has cooled, transfer it to your glass jar and pour in the kombucha. Add your SCOBY on top. It may sink to the bottom or float on the side. You can see in the picture below that mine sank a bit. It wont affect the fermentation process at all.
Step 5: Cover and let it do it’s thang.
Cover the glass jar with the tea towel. It needs to be a thin cloth because the tea needs oxygen to ferment. The cloth is really just to keep out bugs and dust and whatnot. Place the jar in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. It should not be in direct sunlight, and it shouldn’t be anywhere that’s close to a heat source like your oven. This first ferment will take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks. It depends on the heat, humidity, and how tangy you like it!
Make sure to look out on the blog for the second ferment! That’s where the magic happens! That’s when we add the flavor and the fizz! TO BE CONTINUED…..
If you want more info on all things kombucha, check out some of my favorite kombucha resources:
- Health Benefits of Kombucha by Food Renegade
- Cultures For Health
- Kombucha: What it is and How to Make it by The Healthy Home Economist
Click HERE for Easy Kombucha Making Part 2: The Second Ferment!
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