I love kombucha. The problem is, each bottle costs $4 and each bottle is a single serving. If I wanted to have a bottle each day, that would set me back $28 a week, and $1,456 a year. Obviously, that would not be an intelligent way to spend my money.
Home-brewing my own kombucha was the obvious answer. I’d tried it once before without much success, but after talking to friends and reading more about it, I felt like I could pull it off.
I started out by purchasing a bottle of plain, raw kombucha. The GTs brand is good because there are a lot of yeast filaments floating about in the bottles and that’s what you need to start your own “mother.” The mother is called a SCOBY, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, and it is this that you are feeding to create your kombucha elixir. I started out by taking a one-gallon glass jar and pouring the entire contents of my store-bought kombucha in. Then, I made it something to eat.
SCOBYs eat sugar in the form of sweet tea. For my one bottle of kombucha, I fed it one cup of tea, sweetened with about two tablespoons of white sugar. It is important that the kombucha and sweet tea are at the same temperature when they are combined. Once the tea was cooled completely, I removed the tea bag and added the tea to the kombucha in the jar. Covering the top of the jar with a piece of cheesecloth and a tight rubberband (to keep bugs out), I then placed it in a warm, dark, safe spot. It is good to keep it out of direct sunlight.
After about a week, a thin film formed over the surface of the liquid. After two more weeks, I had an honest-to-goodness kombucha mother. It was at this point (about 1/4 inch thick), that it was time to feed the mother again.
This is the part that requires patience. The kombucha is still not ready to drink, but it is worth the wait. I promise. If you get really impatient at this point, just come over to my house and I will give you a bottle to placate you in the interim.
This time, I made a larger amount of tea, probably closer to a quart. This was sweetened with about 1/2 cup of sugar and steeped with two or three black tea bags. Again, I let the tea cool totally before combining it with my SCOBY. This part was slightly trickier, because now I had a real kombucha mother to handle. I poured the mother, complete with all her accompanying liquid, very gingerly into a large bowl. I then poured the cooled sweetened tea into the glass gallon jar. I strained the kombucha from the bowl back into the jar with the tea, and then gently lifted the mother with my hands and placed it on top of the liquid. My goal was to keep the mother from sinking.
I failed. She dropped like a bomb.
But it was totally okay.
If the mother sinks, partially or fully, there is no cause for alarm. Within what seems like minutes, it will start to form a kombucha baby on the surface of the liquid.
Once my new batch of SCOBY food was introduced, I was really close to being able to taste it. I waited about another week before I started sampling the brew. The first time I tasted it, it was still slightly sweet. I was looking for a flavor that was more vinegary than sugary. If it still tasted sweet, that meant that the SCOBY hadn’t yet digested and converted all the sugar into beneficial enzymes and nutrients. I gave it more time.
The following week, the flavor was just where I wanted it to be. I was ready for my second fermentation.
Now, a second fermentation is only necessary if you want to carbonate your kombucha. If you don’t care about fizziness, then you can flavor your kombucha however you like and drink it right then and there. Me, I wanted bubbles.
For the second fermentation, I ladled my kombucha into bottles, leaving about two inches at the top. Next, I added slices of fresh ginger and a splash of fresh apple cider. You can add any fruit or juice that you like. I happen to like A LOT of ginger and we are swimming in apple cider right now, so it was the logical thing to use. Once the bottles were filled, I tightened the caps as much as possible and stored them at room temperature for another week.
If you brew another batch of sweet tea to feed the mother at the time of bottling, you can keep the process moving so that you are never without ready-t0-drink kombucha.
After your second bottling has fermented for about a week, you can check it for flavor and carbonation. Once both are where you want them to be, you can refrigerate the bottles until you are ready to drink!
Mine is gingery and fizzy and wonderful over ice.
The best part about making kombucha yourself is that the mother never stops making babies. The babies come in the form of additional layers on the mother which you can peel off and share with your friends!