How to Make Kombucha Tea Step By Step
Kombucha landed on the shores of America with a splash. Commonly associated with a long list of health benefits and prominently making appearances at restaurants and celebrity events, kombucha is a powerhouse that offers a distinct flavor. Bubbly, slightly syrupy and both sour and sweet, kombucha tea is a lesson in contrasts and the power of tea when it comes to pleasing the palate.
This beverage leaves a lasting impact and it's hard to forget the first time you take a sip of this fizzy fermented tea. While it can be an acquired taste, each batch delivers new flavors and the opportunity to experiment with ingredients that can increase the fruity flavors or sweetness of this drink.
What Is Kombucha Tea?
Kombucha, pronounced kom-boo-cha, is a fermented tea that contains beneficial cultures for health. With origins in northeastern China, kombucha tea is most widely consumed in Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe. This tea features a wide range of potential health benefits including liver detoxification, streamlined digestion and increased energy without the negative side effects of caffeine.
You can find brands that sell their own manufactured blends of kombucha tea, but making this healthy elixir at home increases the health benefits and can be a fun cooking experience.
Kombucha tastes tangy, fizzy and lightly sweetened. It features a deep amber hue and a tart aroma with distinctive hints of ginger and fruit infusions. Often described as similar to sour beers or vinegar, this beverage is tart and effervescent thanks to its fermentation process.
Kombucha tea is made by brewing green tea, herbal tea or black tea infusions during the second fermentation process. Kombucha making doesn't have to be a difficult process, even if it is a longer process than most other teas. Follow the guidelines and instructions below and you'll have a tasty brew of kombucha within one month.
How Is Kombucha Tea Brewed?
Kombucha tea is made through a process of fermentation. That means that you'll have to be patient as making kombucha from scratch can take a few weeks. First, you'll make the kombucha SCOBY, also known as the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This step is the most time intensive, ranging from one to four weeks, depending on conditions.
Next, you'll complete the first fermentation, which will last anywhere from six to 10 days. This is the step that actually begins to develop the kombucha. Finally, you'll repeat the fermentation process a second time in order to add carbonation to the kombucha liquid.
Tips for Success
There are a few standard rules and guidelines when it comes to kombucha brewing. From using the proper containers to regulating temperatures and avoiding bacteria growth, follow these tips below for a perfect brew of kombucha tea every time.
1. Use the Right Container
Before brewing your kombucha, you want to make sure you use the right container to avoid reactions that can alter the flavor and consistency of kombucha. Make sure to avoid plastic containers, which can promote bacterial growth leading to mold and also avoid metal containers, which can react with the acid in kombucha and damage the SCOBY. Use a glass jar or container for the best results.
2. Monitor the Room Temperature
The fermentation process varies in length largely due to temperature. Kombucha brewed in warm climates brews much more quickly than those brewed in cold climates. Even if you live in a cold region, you can brew kombucha more quickly by increasing the room temperature and ensuring the kombucha brew doesn't get too cold.
3. Focus on Keeping Things Clean
Brewing kombucha involves encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria, so keeping things clean is essential. Without proper cleanliness, bad bacteria can enter your kombucha and grow just as rapidly as good bacteria. These bad bacteria can alter the flavor and health benefits of kombucha and can even lead to serious illness.
Make sure to brew with clean hands and utensils for a healthy kombucha tea. If for some reason you discover any mold growing in your kombucha, throw out all of the liquid and start over.
4. Use the Right Proportions
The kombucha recipe below is design to make at least two different SCOBYs and is for larger batches of kombucha tea. If you wish to make less or more kombucha, just make sure to stick to the proper proportions. The standard amounts you can double or halve for different sized kombucha batches are: 7 cups of water, 1 cup starter liquid, 4 bags of tea and 1/2 a cup of sugar.
How to Make Homemade Kombucha Tea
Step 1: Prepare the Ingredients for the SCOBY
The SCOBY in kombucha is known as the mother, similar to the acetic acid and cellulose substance found in apple cider vinegar. The SCOBY is essential in the fermentation of kombucha tea and contains a blend of yeast and healthy bacteria. These compounds ferment the tea, fight off outside contamination and lend the fizzy carbonation to this beverage. For the SCOBY, make sure to use only black tea bags. Green tea bags don't develop the SCOBY well, but they can be used later in fermentation if you prefer the flavor.
To make the SCOBY, you'll need the following ingredients:
- Rubber bands
- 1 glass jar (minimum 1/2 gallon capacity)
- 1/2 cup of cane sugar, organic sugar or white sugar
- 1 cup unflavored, unpasteurized store-bought kombucha (available at health food stores and local grocery stores)
- 4 black tea bags (can substitute 1 heaping tablespoon loose leaf tea instead)
- 7 cups water
- 1 woven cloth
Step 2: Make the SCOBY
Add 7 cups of water to a clean pot and bring to a rapid boil. Once boiling, remove from heat and add 1/2 cup of sugar and allow to dissolve in the hot water. Next, add 4 black tea bags and allow the tea to steep until the pot reaches room temperature. Make sure to avoid using decaf tea as it will not develop the SCOBY well. This process will take about 4 to 5 hours.
Next, combine the tea liquid with the store-bought kombucha in your glass jar. Make sure to scrape out any chunks from the bottom of the pot — these are good bacteria that you want for fermentation. Cover the mixture with a tightly woven cloth. You can also use a paper towel, coffee filter or fine cheesecloth. Secure with the rubber bands.
Place the kombucha in a dark cabinet at room temperature — about 70 to 75 F — where it won't be moved, disturbed or exposed to direct sunlight for one to four weeks. Don't worry if the baby SCOBY turns sideways or sinks, leave it alone until it has reached maturity. You'll know the SCOBY is ready when you see 1/4 inch of the yeast and bacteria substance. Once you are ready to ferment and brew kombucha, throw away the tea mixture, as it will be too vinegary to make a good kombucha tea.
Step 3: Gather Ingredients for the First Kombucha Fermentation
For the first fermentation process, you'll need the following ingredients:
- Rubber bands
- 1 cup white, organic or cane sugar
- 1 new SCOBY per container
- 2 cups unflavored starter tea (use previous batch or a new batch of store-bought, unpasteurized kombucha)
- 8 black or green tea bags (Or 2 teaspoons loose tea)
- 14 cups water
- 1 large glass jar (minimum 1 gallon)
- 1 tightly woven cloth
Step 4: First Fermentation
Start by boiling 14 cups of water, remove from heat and add 1 cup of sugar. Add 8 tea bags and steep until pot reaches room temperature. Make sure to let the pot cool completely as hot water can kill the SCOBY.
Next, clean your hands exceptionally well before removing the SCOBY from the tea and placing on a clean plate. Then pour the sweetened tea into a glass jar and add in the starter tea. Move the SCOBY to the glass jar, cover with the woven cloth and secure with rubber bands.
Place the glass jar back into the dark cabinet at room temperature for six to 10 days. Take a straw and taste the kombucha tea after six days to evaluate fermentation. The tea should be a blend of sweet and vinegary flavors. The longer the tea is allowed to ferment, the less sweet it will be. Again, temperature will affect fermentation times so check flavor regularly after six days.
Step 5: Prepare Ingredients for Second Fermentation
The second phase of fermentation allows you to play with flavors and create unique kombucha tea every time. Here, you can use a variety of tea bags, including fruity flavors. Just make sure to keep fruity tea bags to half the total amount in order to allow proper fermentation. This stage is also where carbonation is added to the kombucha, resulting in the delicious fizzy sensation of this tea.
For this fermentation, you'll need:
- Kombucha from the first fermentation
- Sweetener (try mashed fruit, fruit juice, a few tablespoons of honey or a piece of ginger)
- Fermentation bottles (canning jars or similar airtight containers can be used instead)
Step 6: Second Fermentation
Start by straining the kombucha into the fermentation bottles. Make sure to leave 1 1/2 inches of space at the top. Next add the sweetener and screw the lid on tightly. Allow the mixture to ferment anywhere from three to 10 days in a dark place at room temperature. Be careful as the bottles can explode as the pressure from fermented gases build. Monitor the glass jars and release air if necessary. Enjoy your finished kombucha!
Side Effects of Drinking Kombucha Tea
There are several documented side effects of kombucha tea consumption. Most of these side effects can be avoided by consuming in moderation, paying close attention to how the tea is brewed and using the proper tools.
Drinking too much kombucha can lead to the presence of too much acid in the human body. Excess acid can cause severe illness including heart problems and even death. Acidosis can occur in the blood or in other human body tissues leading to a variety of health problems. Symptoms of acidosis include headaches, confusion, tiredness and tremors.
Deaths from acidosis related to kombucha tea consumption resulted only in cases of excessive consumption both in frequency and quantity of use. To avoid this side effect, consume kombucha in moderation and avoid drinking daily. When brewing at home, make sure to test for pH levels and only consume homemade kombucha with pH between 2.5 and 3.5. Pay attention to cleanliness when brewing as well.
Lead poisoning can occur when kombucha tea is brewed using jars or containers that contain ceramic, lead crystal or paint coatings. These compounds react with the acid in the tea and can release harmful chemical and compounds that can make you sick. Make sure to only use clear glass jars for storage and fermentation. Use pans that are free from paints and coatings and make sure to avoid lead-glazed ceramic pots for preparation.
Since kombucha is fermented, there is a small presence of alcohol in each tea brew. The alcohol content of kombucha generally ranges from 0.5% to 2%, while a normal beer contains around 4% to 5% alcohol. If you suffer from alcoholism or have allergies to certain alcohols, it’s best to avoid drinking kombucha.
People With Weak Immune Systems
Kombucha is made using bacteria and fungus growth that can cause people with weak immune systems to get sick more easily. If you suffer from an immune disease or conditions such as AIDS or HIV, avoid drinking kombucha. Pregnant women should also consult with a doctor before consuming.
Make Kombucha Easy By Brewing Smart
One of the most delightful fermented foods, kombucha tea is a great way to boost overall health while consuming a fizzy, tangy drink. Whether you like to make a gallon batch or smaller amounts for individual consumption, this recipe can be tweaked to suit your individual needs.
The SCOBY can be divided as it grows to one inch and used several times for continuous brewing without having to make a new SCOBY each time. You can also use the SCOBY portion of this recipe to make multiple batches and store them in a sort of SCOBY hotel where you always have good yeast and bacteria on hand for your next kombucha brew. You may also want to take a break from brewing kombucha and having a SCOBY hotel makes it quick and easy to start back up when you’re ready.
To make a SCOBY hotel, follow the same steps as you would to create a SCOBY. Next, add starter tea or reserve kombucha from a previous brew, cover with a cloth and secure with a rubber band. Always use a glass container for your SCOBY hotel and store at a cooler temperature — like in the refrigerator — to slow down the growth of bacteria. The starter tea will usually evaporate over time so add a bit extra every month or two to keep all the SCOBYs covered.
This kombucha recipe is an fun way to enjoy homemade kombucha all year long. Take a break and cool off with this fizzy, tangy tea drink and toast to your health.