How to make homemade Kombucha
There’s a lot that takes place in the quiet and invisible world of the mold, yeast, and bacteria responsible for fermentation. An ancient technique, fermentation has helped to preserve food across different cultures and countries for centuries! The process of fermentation is still used to produce foods like wine, cheese, sauerkraut, and Kombucha. Recently it has become more popular due to increased awareness of the benefits that fermented foods can have for your health and gut health in particular.
Consuming a wide range of foods that have been fermented can help promote diversity across the microbial cultures that live in our bodies. This stimulates a kind of micro-biodiversity. Imagine that your body is an ecosystem. It thrives and functions best when populated by diverse species of microorganisms. Thought to boost immunity, aid with digestion, and help your body to synthesize and produce essential vitamins, there are lots of reasons to experiment with fermenting foods.
One thing that we love about fermentation is how “low-tech” the process can be. In a world where we feel constantly online and connected, the practice of fermenting foods is a great way to unplug and spend time in a more “natural” world. The art of fermenting foods is a ritual that has been passed down over generations. Here, we share one of our favorite recipes for homemade Kombucha.
Cleanliness and Safety
Before buckling up on the ride to making our first batch of Kombucha, we need a clean space. While having a clean and sanitary setup for any kind of cooking and food preparation is fundamental, it’s even more important in a fermentation space. We need to prevent any pathogens from entering the ferment as they will cause it to taste bad and can even be a hazard for someone to ingest. If a ferment ever smells potently strong and bad, it’s best to let that batch go and start over.
When making Kombucha we need to make sure that our glass mason jars and glass bottles have been thoroughly sterilized. If you’re not sure how to sterilize a glass jar you can check our quick guide here. During the process of Kombucha brewing, we want to avoid touching the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) with our hands. If handling it we can do so with latex gloves on. Do not use metal containers as they react negatively with the acid in the Kombucha. Glass containers work well as they are safe and allow us to see the whole process taking place inside the container.
With these points in mind, we can start brewing our first batch of homemade Kombucha. Below, we have shared a recipe adapted from the NOMA book of fermentation for 2 liters of delicious Lemon Verbena Kombucha.
What you will need
- Medium size pot
- A glass mason jar
- Cheesecloth or breathable kitchen towel
- Large rubber bands
- Fine mesh sieve
- 1.76 kilograms of Water
- 1 SCOBY
- 240g of Sugar
- 20g of dried Lemon Verbena (You may substitute this for other flavorings, for example, wild rose petals, fresh elderflowers, or even just apple juice or black tea bags)
- 200g of SCOBY liquid (also known as unpasteurized Kombucha)
- Dissolve the sugar in the water. In a medium-size pot, bring the water to a boil and dissolve in the sugar. Remove the pot from the heat and add in the flavoring tea of your choice. We use fresh lemon verbena, allowing it to steep for 10 minutes.
- When the tea has finished infusing, stir in the remaining water. Allow to cool before straining the infusion through a fine-mesh sieve or chinois into the clean fermentation vessel.
- Next, add in the SCOBY liquid and stir well with a clean spoon.
- With your gloves on, carefully place the SCOBY into the liquid. It should float, but don’t worry too much if it sinks, often it returns to the surface after 1-2 days.
- Carefully cover the top of the glass mason jar with a cheesecloth or breathable kitchen towel. Secure it with a rubber band. Fruit flies and gnats love the smell of the acids produced during the Kombucha fermentation process and will be attracted to your Kombucha brewing. Keep this cloth in place to help keep them away.
- Label the Kombucha with its flavor and date so that you can carefully track its progress.
- SCOBY’s do their best work in warm settings. This is why fermentation tends to be faster during the Summertime, so keep the jar somewhere at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. It also helps to keep it in an area where it won’t get jostled and spill over.
- Allow fermenting for about 7-10 days. You will see that the SCOBY grows significantly each day as it is fueled by the sugar in the liquid. If you notice the top of the SCOBY drying out, pour a little bit of liquid over it. The liquid keeps the SCOBY acidified, staving off mold growth.
- There are many ways to measure the progress of your Kombucha. The best way is to taste it, which you can usually begin to do after 7 days. Look for the right balance between tartness, sourness, and sweetness. Simply put – it’s ready to bottle when you decide that it tastes good!
- Before bottling your Kombucha, we suggest preparing a fresh batch of tea as you did in steps 1 and 2. This will help you to prepare for your next batch of Kombucha.
- Gently remove the SCOBY and leave it on a clean plate and set aside some starter liquid for the next batch.
- Strain the fermented Kombucha and pour it into glass bottles with a swing top closure or glass mason jar with a strong sealing closure. You will want to leave about a half inch of head room in each bottle.
- You can then store this bottled Kombucha at room temperature and out of direct sunlight for 2-3 days while it carbonates. Once you are happy with the carbonation, you may keep it in the refrigerator to prevent it from carbonating further and consume within 1 month.
There are lots of online resources and forums for fermentation and Kombucha lovers! Below are some of our favorites: