If you follow me on Instagram, you’re probably aware that I brew my own kombucha and drink it pretty much every day. I get loads of messages from people asking what kombucha is, what are the health benefits of it, what a SCOBY is etc.. so in this post I am going to try and address these common questions so you have a better idea of what kombucha is, as well as a quick tutorial so you can start boochin too.
***disclaimer: yes, all these photos are taken in my room. I do all my brewing in the kitchen but the lighting just wasn’t doing it for me in there***
So first up… what actually is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink made from black or green tea, sugar and a kombucha culture – better known as a SCOBY. It originated in China over 2000 years ago and is known for its positive effects on gut health due to its high probiotic content.
What is a SCOBY?
SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. It is slimy, flat and slightly alien looking. The SCOBY replicates and regenerates every time it is used to brew, so with each batch you make a new baby SCOBY should be born! The SCOBY is essential in the fermentation process, as the bacteria and yeasts it contains converts the sugar in the tea to beneficial organic compounds and chemicals, such as glucuronic, gluconic, lactic, acetic, butyric, malic and usnic acid; vitamins, in particular vitamins B & C; as well as active enzymes, amino acids and polyphenols. The yeast in the SCOBY also produces ethanol, so some kombuchas may be mildly alcoholic, however the bacteria usually consume most of this (to produce the acetic acid aka vinegar). In short, the SCOBY is essential and you cannot make kombucha without one.
How does it taste?
The taste of kombucha will vary depending on how long it has been brewed for, what tea base is used and if any flavourings have been added. I like to compare green tea kombucha to cider which is naturally slightly sweet. Black tea based, the type I make most often, tastes sour and slightly vinegary, but fruity and sweet at the same time.
What is a second ferment?
The second ferment is done to flavour the brewed kombucha and make it fizzy. I will explain how it’s done further down in this post.
*Important to know* – do not use metal with kombucha, remove jewellery, clean everything with vinegar (preferably apple cider vinegar), wash your hands before handling the SCOBY and make sure you are super sterile. You don’t want to introduce germs onto your SCOBY and find out it’s gone mouldy!
What you need:
- 180g granulated sugar (I use this brand)
- 8 teabags
- 1.5-2 litres boiling water
- 1 large glass jar (I use this one)
- Apple cider vinegar
- 1 scoby
- 1-2 tbsp starter liquid (from a previous batch of kombucha)*
- A cloth and elastic band to cover the kombucha
- Swirl some apple cider vinegar around a jar to clean it, then lightly rinse with warm water.
- Pour the sugar and teabags into your large glass jar and top with boiling water (you can do this in a large plastic container too as glass can often crack, but this has never happened to me so I do it straight into my jar).
- Stir with a clean wooden spoon (I have my own wooden spoon for my kombucha that I strictly do not cook with, its this one!).
- After 30 minutes, remove the teabags and leave for a further 2-3 hours for the water to cool down to room temperature. You do NOT want to add the SCOBY to hot water as it can kill it!
- Once cooled, add the SCOBY, lighter side up (although it doesn’t matter if you can’t tell!). It may fall to the bottom, rise to the top or sit awkwardly in the middle. No need to worry about this!
- Place the cloth and elastic band over your jar and leave in a room of constant temperature, out of sunlight for 7-14 days.**
*if you buy your scoby online, it will be sent out with all the starter liquid you need. Just make sure you don’t pour it down the drain!
**the time it takes to brew will depend on the room temperature, your SCOBY, your personal taste and a load of other factors. I suggest you dip a clean finger into the kombucha after 7 days. If it still tastes very sweet and fruity, leave it for a few more days. If it tastes slightly sour/vinegary, it is ready. You can also tell from smelling it! Just don’t let it over brew as it will taste too much of vinegar and won’t be plesant to drink. The first few ferments you do may take slightly longer as the SCOBY will still be warming up, but by the third ferment you will be familiar with how long it takes and how you like it to taste.
I always second ferment my kombucha. Not only does it mean you can flavour it with whatever your heart desires, it also makes the kombucha fizzy. This is because the second ferment is done in a sealed bottle under anaerobic conditions, which gives the kombucha a chance to carbonate.
Here’s a list of my favourite flavour combinations:
- Strawberry & lime (approx 3-4 strawberries and 1/4 lime per bottle)
- Chilli & ginger (1/2 a chilli, 1 tsp ginger)
- Hibiscus (1 tbsp dried hibiscus)
- Ginger & lime
- Mango (1 tbsp pureed)
- Loads of other combinations ideas are available online!
What you need:
- Remove the SCOBY from the jar and set aside in a plastic bowl, covering with some of the kombucha from the jar too (to be used as starter liquid for your next batch).
- Prepare your flavourings and add them to the glass bottles (I usually prepare 3 bottles).
- Pour the kombucha into bottles using the funnel – do not fill to the top. I like to fill each glass by 2/3-3/4.
- Close the bottle tightly and allow to second ferment for 3-7 days.
- IMPORTANT: make sure you burp your second ferment bottles regularly or they may explode due to the increased pressure from carbonation. To burp, I simply open the bottle for a few seconds to allow some of the carbon dioxide to escape, and then I reseal. I typically do this twice a day, once in the morning and once before I go to bed. If you forget to do this for a few days, make sure you open the bottle carefully and over a sink. Don’t make the same mistakes that I have – BURPING IS ESSENTIAL!
- After 3-7 days, you can refrigerate the kombucha. I usually leave it at room temperature and add a couple of ice cubes to a glass when I’m ready to drink.
And that’s everything you need to know! I remember when I started off making my own kombucha, I found it difficult to know what I was supposed to be doing. I hope this has provided you with some guidance if you are stuck, or maybe even inspired you to get on the booch hype! If you have any questions, leave a comment on this blog post or send me a message on Instagram!