How to Brew and flavor Kombucha

This is the second post in a series requested by Spencer at PullingforHealth.com. It will also be published there. Check it out!

It has been one whole week since I said that I would have this article on how to brew Kombucha published. I am so sorry to those of you that waited! In the meantime, I did brew and bottle one batch of Kombucha that I also flavored with blueberries and raspberries. In this article I will teach you how to brew Kombucha as well as flavor it! If you missed last week’s post on the benefits of Kombucha and more, you can find it here.

As I mentioned last post, there are only a few ingredients needed to make Kombucha. These are: tea, sugar, water, a SCOBY, and time.

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Black tea is preferably used due to the maturity of the tea leaves, but you can find out about choosing the right tea in last week’s post. Flavored tea is not recommended because the tea may contain essential oils for flavoring, such as bergamot in Earl Grey, that could harm your SCOBY.

Table sugar is the preferable sweetener to use because it has everything the SCOBY needs to thrive and nothing more. For instance, honey contains natural antibacterial properties that could interact with and possibly harm your SCOBY.

Now, we move on to how you can obtain or make your own SCOBY.

The method that I used was to buy a bottle of raw, unflavored, unpasteurized Kombucha from the store. Unpasteurized, raw Kombucha is needed because pasteurization kills bacteria, and therefore you would not be able to grow a SCOBY. It should says whether it is raw or not on the bottle. I used High Country raw unflavored Kombucha, which is conveniently made in Gypsum, Colorado, about 30 mins away from me! Yay shopping locally!

The next step is to sanitize a glass jar with hot water and vinegar (I used a mason jar) and pour the contents of the store-bought Kombucha inside. Use a clean cloth secured with a rubber band over the top of the jar and leave in a place out of direct sunlight but where it has air that can circulate. I used a coffee filter to cover my jar and left it on my kitchen counter undisturbed. Do not use a cheesecloth because the holes are too large. You want natural yeasts and bacterias in your environment to be able to get in, but you also want to keep any large particles of dust, waste, etc. out. This is what makes your SCOBY unique, the different environment of YOUR air!

Leave the jar on the counter for 3-4 weeks, or until a kind of thick jelly forms on the top and it is 1/4 inch thick. Your SCOBY is now ready to be used in a whole batch of Kombucha! Save the liquid it rests in at this point as well, because you will use it in your first batch of Kombucha.

Your SCOBY may not be smooth, and it may not be completely uniform in color, and that is OK. White bubbles/bumps are ok and so are patches of darker area. Just make sure your SCOBY does not have big patches of white or black bacteria growing on it. Here is a page from Kombucha Kamp that lets you know how a moldy SCOBY looks, why it may grow bacteria, and how you can prevent mold in your SCOBY. Basically, if the mixture is acidic enough, it will not grow mold. This is surprisingly VERY easy to prevent!

A very non-uniform SCOBY from my last batch of Kombucha. Notice it is very non-uniform, with black spots here and brown spots there.

A very non-uniform SCOBY from my last batch of Kombucha. Notice it is very non-uniform, with black spots here and brown spots there.

This is the first SCOBY I obtained, growing it from a raw bottle of Kombucha. It is smaller than the other because I grew it in a small mason jar.

This is the first SCOBY I obtained, growing it from a raw bottle of Kombucha. It is smaller than the other because I grew it in a small mason jar.

If you do not have the patience to wait for your SCOBY to grow (I almost didn’t!), your next option would be to get a SCOBY from a friend or from a small company near you brewing Kombucha, such as High Country near me in Gypsum, Colorado.

The third way to obtain a SCOBY would be to buy one online and have it shipped to you. Kombucha Kamp is a great resource as well as Cultures for Health. There are many other places to buy a SCOBY, so shop around and find one that you believe in.

Now that we have our SCOBY, we can continue with the brewing process. You will need about 8 teabags or 3 tablespoons of tea. I use loose tea that I had lying around in my cupboard and fill individual teabags of my own, only using 2 or 3. Get a big pot out and bring 3.5 quarts or 14 cups of water to a boil. Once at a boil, add one cup of sugar and stir until dissolved. remove from heat and add the tea bags.

Because you must wait for this mixture to cool before adding to a jar with the SCOBY, I generally get one side of my sink full of cold water and a layer of ice cubes and put the brewing tea in the sink to brew and cool at the same time. Another method of brewing tea with little cool-down time is to only boil 4 cups of water and steep the teabags and sugar in that water until it cools, then adding the additional 10 cups of cool water once the super-concentrated tea has cooled. I prefer boiling all of the water, but that is just my preference. The idea is that you do not want the warm tea sitting around your kitchen all day and picking up possible bacteria.

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Once the tea and sugar have cooled, add the tea to a glass or ceramic gallon-sized jar you have sanitized with hot water and vinegar. Add the remaining liquid you grew your SCOBY in (roughly 2 cups) as well as the SCOBY. Future hint: You will want to save about 2 cups of finished Kombucha from each brew before you bottle to add to the next brew. This keeps the Kombucha acidic so it does not grow anything unwanted while the SCOBY goes to work. If you are worried that your brew is not acidic enough, you can add teaspoons of distilled white vinegar until you are happy. Remember, the Kombucha will get more acidic the longer it sits and you still want to drink this sucker!

Cover your new Kombucha with a cloth, again, I use a coffee filter, and secure with a rubber band (I use a hair tie :-/). Let to sit for at least one week to get the benefits of your brew and then try a little of your Kombucha daily until it is brewed to your liking.

Fermented Kombucha with the cloth removed

Fermented Kombucha with the cloth removed

Once brewed, remove the SCOBY with clean hands and either place in a SCOBY Hotel or on a clean surface if you are going to brew another batch immediately (my preferred method). Sanitize some glass bottles, I use the Sanitize cycle on the dishwasher and then rinse the bottles with hot water and vinegar, and place them in the area you will use as your filling station. I like to put them in one half of my sink because it can be a messy process. The bottles that I use are EZ Cap bottles purchased from my local brew store. They are 16 oz and have an awesome hinged plastic and rubber cap that is of course reusable. Note: When sanitizing, make sure you get the cap as well. I fill five or six of the bottles, depending on how much I spill, and reserve 2 cups of the reserved Kombucha for my next batch.

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Fill the bottles using a sanitized funnel until only an inch or two is left in the top. If you are flavoring your Kombucha, leave a little bit extra space. My last batch of Kombucha I flavored with Blueberries and Raspberries and I may never go back to plain Kombucha. I put about 4 or 5 frozen blueberries in each bottle as well as 3 frozen raspberries and then capped them. You can flavor your Kombucha almost any way you like! There are so many possibilities including ginger root, fruit juices or purees, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, and more. Here are some ideas on flavoring Kombucha.

The frozen blueberries and raspberries I used to flavor my Kombucha

The frozen blueberries and raspberries I used to flavor my Kombucha.

Some people like to flavor their Kombucha in a separate gallon-sized glass jar so they can strain the Kombucha before filling into bottles and there are no little pieces of whatever you flavored with floating around. Personally, I don’t mind the extra fruit and you can pick it out if you really don’t like it..

Bottled Kombucha, ready to go in the Fridge.

Bottled Kombucha, ready to go in the cabinet.

Once your Kombucha is bottled, place it in a dark place that is room temperature and let sit for its secondary fermentation. I find that 2-3 days is the perfect amount of time for fermentation, but you can ferment it up to 14 days. I cannot guarantee the flavor! This is the stage where the Kombucha carbonates in an anaerobic environment, and I find that at 3 days the Kombucha is very well carbonated but has not turned my flavorings weird. There is just enough flavor and just enough carbonation. Note: If you added extra flavorings such as fruit, you may need to “burp” the bottle once a day to release the built-up carbonation. I didn’t do this on my last batch and tried to open one on the counter. It went everywhere. But I did not experience this issue with unflavored Kombucha.

Once the Kombucha has gone through its secondary fermentation, pop those babies in the fridge and they are ready to drink! Your Kombucha will continue fermenting, but at a MUCH slower pace. It is alive!

Scoby sitting in some tea, waiting to be used.

Scoby sitting in some tea, waiting to be used.

Ta-da!

Your how-to on brewing Kombucha. Let me know if you have any questions!

Sam

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