What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a raw, fermented, naturally carbonated tea known for its probiotic content. You may know it best in these bottles:
Kombucha most likely originated in ancient China, dating as far back as 200 BC. It became a common elixir in the states in the 1970s and has been acclaimed as a health beverage ever since.
It can be homebrewed from five simple ingredients: Tea, sugar, water, a SCOBY, and some kombucha from a previous batch (store-bought or homebrewed). Many people like to add flavors, as it can be rather acidic-tasting. You can flavor kombucha by using fruit juice (real, organic juice) or even adding pieces of fruit to the fermented tea.
I suggest considering where you get your tea from and purchasing organic, loose leaf, and local when possible.
The Mother aka “SCOBY”
What the heck is it?
SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Pretty neat, huh? You may hear folks referring to it as a mushroom, or THE MOTHER, which I think is a pretty awesome name.
The SCOBY is squishy, rubbery, slippery, dense, and almost like a big slab of fat. It looks very strange and may be a bit freaky at first. But this is what brings the good bacteria into the kombucha and really gets the fermentation process going.
Where/How can I get one?
The best part about this little (or big) gal is that it reproduces! I like to say that it has babies. After you brew a batch of kombucha, you will likely see that it is thicker than it was when you began. If you put it into a container with a larger surface area than it can cover, it will actually grow and expand to the circumference of the container. Then when you are finished with your batch, you can gently peel off the new growth and pass it on to a friend!
If you’re new to this process, ask some of your health-monger friends if they have any extras. If you still have no luck finding a local SCOBY, you can purchase a SCOBY online from a reputable source like Cultures for Health. You can also get them from sites like Amazon, where you can get a full kombucha brewing starter kit, but I recommend Cultures for Health.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha is pretty amazing in a lot of ways. Because we tend to be overdosed on antibiotics in our society, it is a wonderful way to get ahold of vital probiotics that our bodies need to thrive. It also does a few other neat things . . .
Fermented foods (like kombucha) are great for digestion. Kombucha is loaded with probiotics that ward off bad bacteria. Kombucha enhances immunity by inoculating your gut with healthy microorganisms and flexibility while protecting against free radical damage (source).
Detoxifies the Body
Kombucha contains bacterial aids and enzymes necessary for detoxifying your system. It can also prevent your liver from becoming overburdened and help you maintain a healthy liver over time.
Increases Energy Levels
Kombucha’s detoxifying qualities enable the body to function more efficiently, thus increasing and improving energy levels.
Promotes Weight Loss
Kombucha has the ability to increase metabolism. A higher metabolism promotes weight loss, as does a healthier body in general.
Make Your Own Kombucha
8 cups water
1/2 cup organic sugar
2 tablespoons (or 4 teabags) loose black or green tea
1 cup kombucha
1 kombucha SCOBY
*Begin by making sure anything you are using during this process is completely sanitized (including your hands!)
1.) Mix water and sugar together in a pot and bring to boil
2.) Turn off heat, add loose leaf tea or tea bags, cover and let steep for about 15 minutes
3.) Pour tea (strain) into the container you’ll be using for the fermentation process. I use a glass bowl, but some people like to use old pickle jars. Whatever you use, stay away from plastic or heavy metals and make sure it is clean.
Let cool to body temperature. A great (and simple!) way to test this is to dip your *clean* finger into the tea; if it feels about the same temperature as your finger, you’re good to go!
4.) Gently add the scoby/mother/mushroom to the tea mixture with clean hands.
5.) Let ferment for 7-14 days. Store in warm & clean part of your kitchen or home, covered. Keep it out of direct sunlight and in an area where it won’t get bumped around.
Bottling & Flavoring Kombucha
Once your kombucha has fermented to the point where you like it (think, the longer, the more acidic/stronger) you can add it to bottles. I ferment mine for about 10 days.
Bottling kombucha gives it the fizziness that I happen to find very pleasant. I have a plethora of bottles that I’ve saved from store-bought kombucha just for this purpose. So try reusing old glass bottles before you go out and purchase new ones! If you have no other option for reusing, I recommend these cool vintage-y brown glass bottles.
1.) Sanitize bottles just prior to using them
2.) Pour fermented kombucha into bottles (a funnel or measuring cup works great!) – Save some kombucha for your SCOBY to “live in” until you make your next batch (see below for more info)
Fill 2/3 bottle with kombucha, and the other 1/3 with fruit juice
4.) Cap tightly
5.) Let sit 2-5 days
This tastes better than store-bought?
So I said you can make your own kombucha that tastes better than store-bought. I know, this is a pretty hefty claim.
My experience when I first tasted this homebrew with 100% mango fruit juice added in the ratio & process above was filled with surprise and pride. It definitely tasted just like, and ultimately better than, my favorite brand of kombucha’s mango flavor. For real!! The “better than” part comes from it being your very own home-brew – it will taste better to you because you are the proud mama (or papa).
That being said, for those of us who entered the kombucha fan club reluctantly, we know that it is an acquired taste. And of course, with each batch, results will vary. The point is that you really can make your own kombucha at home that tastes delicious. I wasn’t a believer at first, after many many batches of not-so-awesome brew. Stick with it, and don’t hesitate to get creative with flavoring!
Now what do I do with my SCOBY?
If you’re making more kombucha . . .
Save some kombucha, about a cup or so (enough to keep the SCOBY moist) and let it remain in the bowl with your SCOBY until you make your next batch. Store as you stored your kombucha – covered, in a mild-temperature room in between batches. It’s best to get started on your next batch within the next week.
If you need to find a home for some SCOBY babies . . .
Feel free to pass on any extra babies that have developed to friends . . . or strangers!
How do I separate a SCOBY baby from its mother, you ask? You can do so by cleaning your hands thoroughly, then simply finding the point where it looks like the new growth has formed (there should be somewhat apparent separate formations) and pull until you end up with two pieces! It’s okay to tear the SCOBY a little. Be sure to store each (or as many as you have!) of your SCOBies in kombucha while they are awaiting a new home.
If you don’t have any friends/acquaintances to pass along your SCOBY(ies) to . . .
You can post on Craigslist that you have extra SCOBY to avoid throwing any away.
If you have run out of uses for your SCOBY. . .
If you end up having way too much SCOBY (it continues to grow with each batch), then you can compost it, or even eat it if you are feeling brave!! I’ve never done this, so do some research first.
Here are some other handy uses for your extra SCOBY(ies).
Do you make kombucha? What are some of your tips & tricks?
What do you use to flavor your kombucha?
Share in the comments below!