Kombucha is probably the most well known fermented drink on the market (after wine and beer, of course). While it has the tiniest alcohol percentage as a ferment, it is not considered an alcoholic beverage. Kombucha is high in B vitamins and is filled with beneficial probiotics for super happy and healthy gut flora! The basis of all health (the gut).
You can pay a pretty penny for bottles of this fermented drink at your favorite health food store with endless flavor varieties. And while I’m a big fan of many of these brands, this healthy brew is so easy to make at home. Seriously, please don’t be intimidated by fermentation. Especially not kombucha. You can 100% do it. Once you have the ingredients, it is extremely easy to brew at home, so put your wallet away, brew up, and reap the amazing benefits!
I first started brewing kombucha in college shortly after learning what it was (the first summer I was working at the food coop). I remember bringing it home over winter break to keep caring for it from my parents house where my dad had so much fun pretending it was the blob that would take over the house, and slowly the world! Ha. Since then I’ve gone off and on brewing at home, often finding myself “too busy” to tend to it. But honestly, It’s not hard at all. And with all this quarantine stuff, I’m back at it! Luckily I had been storing a scoby and starter in my fridge for over a year since my last brew, so I was ready to go.
This is a recipe from my Healing Tonics, Juices, and Smoothies cookbook.
photo by Wyatt Andrews from my Healing Tonics cookbook
Yields 1/2 gallon
7 cups filtered or spring water
1 tbsp loose leaf black tea (I usually use darjeeling)
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1 cup kombucha starter
1 kombucha SCOBY*
*TIP: SCOBY is an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. You can buy kombucha scabies and starters online (Cultures for Health is a great option), or find someone who brews (try asking at your local health food store) and will very likely have plenty of extra to go around, as they multiply rapidly.
Thoroughly clean a half-gallon glass jar (never ferment in plastic!) to eliminate potential dirt or bacteria from interfering with the fermentation process (this can cause mold growth, etc.)
Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Turn off the heat and add the tea. Steep for about 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Once cooled to room temperature, strain into jar. Add kombucha starter and SCOBY. Make sure you have clean hands when handling the scoby.
Cover the jar with a clean rag or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Allow the brew to sit in a cool (room temperature) space away from direct sunlight for 10-14 days, or to taste.
The warmer the space, the faster the brew time (which is not necessarily a good thing in this case). Through fermentation, the bacteria eat the sugar and turn to vinegar. By day 7, begin tasting the kombucha daily to make sure it doesn’t become too vinegary.
Once complete, remove scoby (with clean hands) and pour kombucha into smaller jars to store in fridge. Save 1 cup of kombucha for starter and start your next batch! If you are not ready to brew another batch right away, store the scoby with the starter liquid in a sealed glass jar in the fridge. This will stop (or dramatically slow down) the fermentation process and allow you to start back up again whenever you’re ready.
Notes on Fermentation from my cookbook:
FERMENTATION is a process that converts sugars to acids and alcohols. Starter cultures are sometimes used, however they’re not always necessary, depending on what you’re making. For instance, kvass, tepache, and sauerkraut are examples of ferments that rely on the “wild” fermentation process by utilizing the natural beneficial bacteria in the ingredients, whereas kombucha and kefir require starter cultures.
Adding fermented foods to your diet increases the vitality of your gut flora (the complex system of microorganisms that live in our digestive tracts), which ripples into boosting your immune system, enhancing brain function, alkalizing your body, and so much more. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine (the two oldest medical practices) say that the majority of diseases root from an imbalanced gut. Fermented foods and beverages are an easy and delicious whole food addition to restore and maintain healthy gut flora and, therefore, healthy life!
Fermented drinks have been enjoyed for thousands of years, as they were historically much safer than drinking water.
While the fermentation process of these beverages feeds off sugar that converts into vinegar or alcohol, the fermentation process leaves very minimal amounts of sugar and alcohol in the drinks featured here.
Although you can find many of these drinks at your local health food store or cooperative market, making them at home is extremely easy, far less expensive, and fun! Having glass jars of ferments on your kitchen counter will look beautiful and serve as great conversation starters with company!
The brews take various times depending on the recipe and the environment. Ferments are best kept in a dark space at room temperature while fermenting. Too cool, and they will ferment very slowly; too warm, and they’ll ferment super fast (which isn’t necessarily a good thing). Refrigerating once complete stops the fermentation process, so your brews won’t continue to ferment and turn into vinegar or alcohol.