Kombucha – first of all what is it? Well, hard to find in most UK supermarkets for one! and when you do find it, it’s pretty expensive. Described by the ancient Chinese as the “Immortal Health Elixir,” Kombucha is a type of sweetened tea that’s been fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Known mainly for its enriching health benefits like preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases.
So we attempted to make our own and it’s actually pretty straight forward to begin with…
We bought a starter kit from happykombucha.co.uk but I reckon if you were organised you could buy all the bits and bobs quite easily.
Ingredients and Utensils as advised by Happy Kombucha
• A Kombucha Culture (or scoby)
• A glass container/jar of some description, we use jars that hold approx 2.5litres, all the information below is geared towards brewing in a 2.5 litre container.(making 2 ltr of Kombucha)
• 6-8 Tea bags – we use organic tea but that is not really important, it is however imperative that all brewing is done using a base of ‘real’ tea, be it green, black, white etc.
• 160-200g Sugar – granulated.
• A tight weaved cotton or muslin cloth and elastic band to cover your jar
Recipe as advised by Happy Kombucha
Okay, boil a kettle full of water. Put 6 to 8 tea bags into your container, (please ensure that the container is suitable for boiling water – glass containers can break! – we used a plastic bowl then decanted into the glass container once it was brewed) and then add between 160 and 200 grams of sugar to the container.
With tea bags and sugar in your container pour the boiling water into the container. Stir your container full of tea and sugar, then wait half an hour before removing your tea bags, and then leave to cool.
Wait until the container’s liquid is cool to touch, by that we mean, if you stick your little finger in, it feels no more than barely warm, and closer to cold. Cold is best, but naturally cold, not freezing. With the tea bags removed, put into the glass container then place your Kombucha in the top of your container and pour in the liquid from the scoby.
Your Scoby should be added with the lightest side upwards (don’t worry too much if this is hard to gauge). The Kombucha will either float, sink or something in between, all good (the position of your scoby in the brew will not influence your brew in any way). If the tea starts to seep over the side of your container with the addition of your Kombucha, it’s fine to let some of the tea out. With your Kombucha floating in the tea, put a piece of cotton or muslin over the container top, like you do with homemade jam. Then find a spot for your container, this should be somewhere out of direct sunlight and of a relatively balanced temperature.
It’s when it’s fermenting it gets a bit tricky as each batch could be different to the next. Here’s a few tips below to follow during the brewing process.
Now, judging the readiness of your Kombucha drink is not a scientific process. You will come to ‘know’ when it is brewed, but don’t worry, before you have gained this knowledge for yourself, we offer this advice. Your Kombucha will take between 5 to 18 days to brew. Take a look at the darkness of the tea when you first put your Kombucha into it, then note how the liquid changes colour over the passing days. The colour will change, to a degree, and the liquid will become slightly cloudier. Our recommendation is that, after three or so days you pour a very small amount into a glass and have a sip. If the brew tastes fruity and not tea like, it’s ready, if not, leave it another day and try again and keep doing this until the kombucha has reached a flavour that you like. The longer you leave it the less sweet more sour it will become. As you get more experienced you will come to learn the brew duration that best suits your taste buds and palette. Kombucha should taste fruity/sour/tarte. Its flavour is a little similar to apple cider vinegar and it should smell vinegar like and a bit yeasty.
When you feel your brew is ready, pour your brew into the container you plan to keep your drink in, but remember to leave the scoby sitting in a small amount of the brew in its brewing jar (this should not be less than 125ml or about 1/4 of the jar). Put your drink into the fridge; leave it for a few hours and then drink! The longer you leave it in the fridge, the fizzier it will get, and it can be left without going off so drink at whatever pace suits. Kombucha does not “need” to be refridgerated but it can get very fizzy if kept at room temperature in a sealed bottle so either do not fully seal the bottle or burp* the bottles regularly.
While your Kombucha sits in its jar in the small amount of its own juice, either boil the kettle and brew another batch straight away (you will need to do this if you are planning to keep a constant supply going), or if you are not ready to brew some more, cover the top of the jar with your brewing cloth and leave your scoby sitting in its juice. The scoby should be stored at room temperature while it is stored like this and it should not be stored like this for longer than 5 days. You will need to keep checking on your scoby regularly to ensure that it is always covered in liquid as it should never be left to go dry as this will harm the scoby.
It is normal for “fuzz” or “bits” to form during the brew, these are yeast chains and are not harmful, they can sometime attach themselves to your baby scoby or your mother. We generally advise filtering the brew into your storage container but this is optional. You can use a filtering funnel/ Plastic sieve/muslin or coffee filter papers for this and its normal for a small sediment to form at the bottom of the jar.
The good thing about the SCOBY is you can ‘re use’ it and it also might have babies that you can give as presents to your friends. SCOBY baby tips below…
During your brew you will notice that a new scoby will start to form as a thin white layer on the top of your brew (or as a new layer on the top of your scoby if your scoby is floating on the surface of your brew).
This scoby should be gently removed when your drink is ready and stored with the mother scoby. (don’t worry if mother and baby are fused together just leave them joined and your mother scoby will get bigger and bigger!) You then gently place the new scoby in your next batch. Keep doing this until your baby scoby is about ½ to ¾ inch thick. It is then ready to be used independently to brew with. Either use it to replace the mother Scoby or start another brew and make even more delicious Kombucha.
Please be careful when you start brewing with baby scobies as if you try to brew too much Kombucha with too small a scoby you risk getting Mould. Start with small batches and work up to a bigger volume as your scoby grows.
Some Advice from Happy Kombucha…
If you are new to kombucha and are drinking it for the first time you need to introduce it into your system slowly.
To start with drink ½ a small glass per day (approx ¼ pint) for the first week.
Then drink a small glass per day (approx ½ pint) for the next week.
After this you can drink as much as you like.
Kombucha tastes best fresh from the fridge!
As Happy Kombucha is Raw and unpasteurised it is normal for ‘bits’ to develop in the drink. These are not harmful although they can be removed with a filter (non-metal) if you prefer.
Please consult your doctor before drinking Kombucha if you are diabetic or taking medication.
Please note: Kombucha is a naturally sparkling drink. We therefore advise that when storing Kombucha in airtight sealed bottles it is best to release the fizz from the bottles on a regular basis (daily if possible) to avoid a build up of fizz in your Kombucha, or store your kombucha is a non airtight container so that some of the fizz can naturally escape.
* burping bottles
Kombucha can be kept either refrigerated or at room temperature for up to 2 years (consume within 10 days of opening), although watch out for the build up of naturally occurring carbonation if kept at room temperature!The naturally acidic pH of ripe Kombucha means conditions are favourable for the growth of the kombucha culture, and inhibit the growth of moulds and bacteria. In fact, as long as your Kombucha has been kept in an appropriate container (glass is best) it will just continue to mature and will eventually become Kombucha vinegar which has a multitude of uses of its own: use it in salad dressings, as a hair tonic / rinse to de-toxify and get rid of product build-up, as a non toxic cleaner or as a marinade.
BEWARE EXPLODING KOMBUCHA!!!
IN WARM WEATHER PLEASE ALLOW YOUR KOMBUCHA TO CHILL BEFORE OPENING. Open with extreme care if you do not refrigerate.
As the weather gets warmer, the kombucha will naturally get more carbonated. At Happy kombucha we have experienced this ourselves and bottles have been known to empty their entire contents over the ceiling (yes really!) if the following steps aren’t taken into account:
There are a few things you can do to minimize loss or wastage when you open them! Keeping them somewhere cool will help (i.e. not next to the oven / radiator). Even if they are kept at room temperature they will be fine, but it is a good idea to “burp” the bottles. This just means holding the stopper down but releasing the lever slowly until you hear the “pssst” of some of the air escaping. Then secure the lever quickly to retain the liquid. You will start to be able to tell by the ferociousness of the “psst” whether it’s a lively bottle or not! If it is, then you may want to do this a few times until it calms down enough to open it – don’t worry, it will still be fizzy when it’s poured out). Lastly, when you are ready to drink it, making sure it’s very cold (has been in the fridge overnight or for a least a few hours) will also minimize the overflow. And of course…. open with care 🙂