Yes, kombucha is a little strange and intimidating to start. I had never heard of it before my first year at McGill, but after my West Coast friends convinced me to try it three or four times, it suddenly started tasting less like vinegar and more like some kind of delicious fermented tea. Still strange, but also pretty good after all.
I spent what was probably an extraordinary amount of my meal plan on kombucha at school, but it was only in the last year that I learned that it is possible to make it yourself! So after years of spending $4 on every bottle, I finally made the decision earlier this month to purchase my last bottle in order to start my own brewing system, with some help from Paprika’s blog, Cultures for Health, and the Reddit kombucha page.
It’s a multi-week process, but it comes out just as good as store bought and in much larger quantities! Plus you can choose your own flavors!
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp black tea or 1 bag of black tea*
- 1/2 cup raw kombucha, plain or gingered, with filaments in it
- Heat one cup of water to boiling, then pour into a glass quart or pint jar.
- Stir in the sugar until dissolved, and add the tea.
- Cool to room temperature, and remove the tea.
- Add in the kombucha, cover with a cloth, and secure the top with a rubber band keep in a warm, dark place for at least a week.
Day Seven (or when the film on top of the kombucha is about an eighth of an inch thick)**:
- Heat four cups water to the boil, add 1/3 cup sugar, and steep with 2 tea bags or 2 tablespoons black tea.
- When the liquid cools completely, remove the tea leaves and put the baby kombucha and all the liquid and sediment in a large glass jar or bowl with the tea.
- Cover the mixture again and watch it carefully. The kombucha mother should thicken significantly over the space of two weeks (it will be about the thickness of one of the layers in this picture:)
Day Twenty One (or when the mother is between 1/4 and 1/2″ thick): Making Kombucha!
- Boil three quarts of water.
- Add 1 cup sugar and dissolve. Add 4 tea bags (or 4 tablespoons looseleaf) black tea. Let cool completely to room temperature.
- Remove the tea bags or leaves, and put it in a one-gallon glass jar. Pour in a cup or two of finished kombucha liquid from the last batch (to keep everything acidic) and place the kombucha mother on top. It’s okay if it sinks.
- Cover the mixture securely with cloth and a rubberband, and place it in a warm, dark cupboard for a week or ten days. A new kombucha baby will grow on the surface of the liquid.
- When the kombucha baby is about 1/8″ to 1/4″ thick, if the kombucha doesn’t taste too sweet, you can harvest the liquid (saving some for the next batch) and repeat the process. Pour the liquid off the top of the jar to consume, and keep the SCOBY (baby kombucha) and some liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter for the next batch.***
- To flavor your tea, add in fruit, fruit juice, or ginger after this second fermentation. Allow the tea to rest for two days, seal, refrigerate, and enjoy!****
- *I don’t suggest trying this with Earl Grey because there is some thought that the essence of Bergamot will affect the culture’s growth.
- **At this point the kombucha needs another little boost of food. It’s not yet strong enough to culture a lot of kombucha for you to drink — right now it’s just growing. This time, make a quart of tea as per the guidelines below.
- *** In order to make new batches, see the quantities below.
- One-Quart Batch:
- 1½ teaspoon loose tea OR 2 tea bags
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2-3 cups water
- ½ cup starter tea or vinegar
- Half-Gallon Batch (2 Qts):
- 1 tablespoon loose teaOR 4 tea bags
- ½ cup sugar
- 6-7 cups water
- 1 cup starter tea or vinegar
- Gallon Batch (4 Qts):
- 2 tablespoons loose teaOR 8 tea bags
- 1 cup sugar
- 13-14 cups water
- 2 cups starter tea or vinegar
- ****See some recommended flavor combinations below! Close, shake, and let sit for two to seven days. Remember to strain before enjoying!
- Lemon Ginger
- 2-3 Tbsp cut and peeled ginger
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp Orange (or another) Juice
- Strawberry Lime
- 3-4 cut strawberries
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1/2 tsp syrup or honey
- Chocolate Raspberry
- 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp raspberry jam