If you follow along on Instagram, you’ll know I’m a pretty big kombucha fan. It’s a fizzy fermented tea that’s full of healthy bacteria meaning it’s good for the gut, but more importantly, it tastes delicious and is refreshing served cold. I’m not really one to drink juice or sugary soft drinks, so for me, it’s the perfect alternative. If you pick it up at health store or whole foods supermarket, you can expect to pay a hefty £4-5 a bottle, which is crazy, but the good news is you can make it yourself at home. It’s easy and it’s cheap!
To give a little explanation, kombucha is fermented tea, which, though trendy now is said to have originated in the Far East over 2000 years ago. The fermentation process creates a load of healthy bacteria, called probiotics, which help gut health and support your overall immune system. It’s crazy but 80% off our whole immune systems are located in our gut, meaning maintaining a healthy gut goes a long way in keeping the rest of you in working order, keeping illness, infection and even allergies at bay. It’s the rich source of probiotics that make kombucha a health drink.
So let’s get started!
First up, you’re going to need to get your hands on a SCOBY (aka, a ‘symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast’), which looks and feels like a piece of slime, but you can buy cheap and easily on Amazon. It’s the SCOBY that ferments the tea, and you re-use it each time you make a new batch. When you brew kombucha, you actually create a new scoby as a byproduct, which can be stored for future use (which is what I do), used to make multiple batches at once, or given to a friend to help them get started.
BREW YOUR BASE TEA IN A SAUCEPAN. Use black tea, green tea, or a mix of both. I found green tea made a lighter coloured, slightly more fragrant kombucha which I preferred. You can use teabags or loose tea — aim for 5-6 teabags for a full pan of water, or two tablespoons of loose tea. I tend to use Newby Teas Oriental Sencha Loose Leaf tea. You need to use filtered water or if you don’t have a filter, you can boil water in a kettle and use that.
ADD SUGAR. Sugar is needed to activate the scoby and start the fermentation process. Pour 1/3 cup of sugar into the pan and stir well until fully dissolved in the tea. Don’t worry, almost all of the sugar is ‘eaten’ by the scoby during the process.
COOL THE TEA AND ADD YOUR START KOMBUCHA. Leave the tea to cool to room temperature and add 1 cup of shop bought (or previously made) kombucha. The starter kombucha makes the liquid acidic, stopping any unfriendly bacteria growing in the first few days of fermentation. Going forward, you can always just save a cup from each batch to use to make the next batch. Simples!
TRANSFER TO A JAR. Pour the mixture into your large glass container, and assuring it’s cool, pop in your scoby. (You need to be sure not to use any metal with the tea from now, as it damages the scoby) Cover with a muslin cloth or paper towel and you’re good to go! Leave in a dark spot at room temperature for 7-14 days.
You’ll want to check on the brew and your scoby every couple of days but it’s totally normal for the scoby to float at the top, bottom or even sideways. Sediment might start forming at the bottom of the jar, and pale, creamy-coloured layer of the scoby will start forming a few days in, but don’t worry, these are all healthy signs of fermentation.
SECOND FERMENTATION (MAKE IT FIZZY): once you’re happy with how the kombucha tastes (the sweetness should be gone, it should be slightly tarte, but not vinegary), you can do your second fermentation. This is where you make it fizzy and can add flavours. I haven’t been so adventurous in this step so far, so but I’ve tried with apple juice that works well and tastes delicious. Remove the scoby (using clean hands) and store this in a Kilner jar with enough kombucha to cover it. If you cover this with muslin or paper towl, it will become a ‘scoby hotel’, continuing to ferment and make more scoby babies! Pour the rest of your newly brewed kombucha into a pop-top glass bottle, adding a dash of flavouring (try apple juice, orange juice, ginger or berries) and leaving an inch of head room at the top of the bottle. Leave in a dark, room temperature spot for a few days and the kombucha will begin to carbonate. You’ll need to ‘burp’ it every other day by releasing the cap, or else the bottle will explode!
REFRIGERATE AND ENJOY. Once you’re happy with its fizziness and taste, you can store your kombucha in the fridge, which will stop the carbonation process. It’s ready to drink and is delicious served cold! Consume within a month.
REPEAT! And now you’re ready to start all over again. As kombucha takes 10-14 days to brew from start to finish, it’s worth getting into continuous cycle, and always have a batch on the go. I promise it gets less complicated and more intuitive after a few times of making it, and you can mix it up trying out different flavours and strengths.