I first discovered kombucha while visiting a friend. She noticed my curious glances over at the rather strange looking “floater” in a large jar of what seemed to be tea sitting on her counter. She explained that the floater was indeed a scoby and that she was brewing kombucha. Then she asked if I would like to try some. For sure!
It was very much like drinking a fruit champagne. She had flavoured hers with pear and ginger. It was delicious! Needless to say, I went home with a scoby and instructions on what to do. Since then I have experimented with many different flavours and shared many a scoby with fellow booch enthusiasts.
Chances are you have tasted Kombucha and you want to learn how to brew your own “booch” at home. Alternatively, you have run into some initial challenges and want some guidance. Well, you have come to the right place. I have put together this article with the intent of keeping things as simple as possible. I am no expert, but I can speak from my own experiences and share what I have found to be most useful. Feel free to add your own tips and suggestions in the comments section.
What is Kombucha?
In a nutshell, kombucha is a fermented tea containing live probiotics and cultures. It can be flavoured or unflavoured, fizzy or not so fizzy.
The main star of kombucha is the SCOBY which is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.The scoby feeds off the sugar and the tannins in the tea, in turn creating a fermented living tea with a long list of purported health benefits. Don’t worry, you don’t have to lovingly caress your scoby like I do, you can use your wooden spoon to gently handle her if she creeps you out a little. I have to give you a great big virtual hug if you are brewing kombucha while still being a little creeped out by the scoby. Good on you!
THE BREW STATION
I would suggest the first thing you do is set up a brewing station.
Kombucha likes to be warmed by the sun but not in direct sunlight.
Choose a spot that is suitably warm and conveniently placed. While there isn’t a lot to be done while the scoby does her thing, you do want to be able to keep an eye on your brew and when the time comes to strain and refill your brew, you want to be able to do so without much fuss.
If you are brewing or fermenting other yumminess in your kitchen, set your station apart from the rest to avoid cross contamination. For this reason, I also like to keep my booch brew away from the wind and windows.
HOW MUCH TO BREW
I encourage beginners to start off small and expand as their scoby’s reproduce – if they want to. Brewing can be as simple or as complex as you like and to start off with there is nothing stopping you from enjoying a small home brewing system. My suggestion is starting off with a 3L brew.
THE BREWING VESSEL
Clear glass vessels with wide necks (so you can handle your scoby easily) are best. Kombucha does not like brewing in plastic or metal.
Make sure your vessel is 100% clean but free from any soapy residue.
The best method that works for me is boiled but not boiling hot water (don’t want to crack the glass!) with some added white spirit vinegar and a tiny bit of elbow grease.
GATHERING THE NECESSARY SUPPLIES
Apart from your brewing vessel there are a few other necessary supplies you will need:
- Some clean breathable fabric – kombucha needs air flow while brewing and this fabric will protect your brew from critters who like your brew as much as you do.
- Elastic band to secure the fabric over the opening of your brewing vessel
- A wooden spoon – to stir the tea and help dissolve the sugar – remember, kombucha is not a fan of metal
- A ceramic bowl – to place your scoby on if need be.
- A plastic sieve – for straining your tea. While Kombucha does not like to sit in plastic (who would?!) it doesn’t mind a quick strain through a plastic sieve. Just give her a little kiss afterwards to make up for it, mkay.
- Dark Glass Bottles with lids – for the second ferment stage where your brew gets fizzy
Now that you have the right tools, it’s time to choose the best tea and sugar.
Ok, so you have your scoby and all your supplies. The only thing we need now is tea and sugar. Yes, I know…. sugar. It’s not my favourite thing at all. But after doing some research I came to the conclusion that if sugar is good for anything, it’s good for kombucha. The sugar is broken down by the scoby and turned into glucose and then further fermented. I encourage you to do your own research to see if you want to brew kombucha. Alternatively, you can brew JUN using green tea and honey. It’s exactly the same principle except the brewing time is quicker in my experience.
CHOOSING THE BEST TEA
Kombucha loves black tea, although some of my best brews were made with rooibos tea.
Choose a tea that is organic and not in a yukky bleached teabag.
Kombucha doesn’t like oily herbal teas such as earl grey so they may not last for more than a few brews. Having said this, I have heard from people who say they have had good success with herbal teas – kombucha is a funny thing. You will get to know what works for you over time.
CHOOSING THE BEST SUGAR
Unrefined, organic sugar is obviously the best route but kombucha isn’t fussy and any sugar will work. I have used both white and brown sugar and both have worked. When using large grained sugar, make sure you dissolve the sugar properly before adding the scoby.
Which leads us to Part 2 of the Kombucha Beginner’s Guide
- A Beginner’s Guide to Kombucha Part 2: The First Ferment
- A Beginner’s Guide to Kombucha Part 3: The Second Ferment
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