Kombucha, everyone is talking about it. You know that miracle fermented tea drink that does everything from helping you lose 10 pounds, cures GI stuff, and possibly even cancer! Ok I'm not making any health claims related to kombucha or 'buch as those that are aficionados fondly refer to there brew, but anecdotaly if you consult Google Kombucha can be linked to all sorts of health remedies.
What is Kombucha?
Let's start with the basics, kombucha is simply fermented tea that has been sweetened with sugar, it is fermented with yeast and bacteria - but the good kind. Like grape juice is fermented into wine, sweet tea is fermented into kombucha. Hmm, that doesn't sound as scary anymore right. You can find bottles of Kombucha all over the place now, you used to only be able to track down at your local Whole Foods, but it's definitely hitting the main stream. The other way to get it, one that is much more economical, is to make your own. It's not as hard as it sounds.
I have tried kombucha before and had it as a treat or novelty drink every once in a while. But was reintroduced to it at a company event last Fall from Amanda from Phickle who shared her love and knowledge of all things related to fermentation with us in a 45 minute mini lecture/taste test. She offered anyone there a SCOBY, which is the key component to making a good batch of 'buch - the secret to the ferment. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria and Yeast and it is the "thing" that turns your sweet tea into kombucha. The key to a good 'buch is the SCOBY so getting one from a friend that brews successfully is the best way - so for me getting one from a local Philly expert was a sign that this thing I had been considering trying for awhile was finally meant to be.
How to Brew
I am by no means an expert on this subject, I've joined a few facebook groups and have made a few batches, but am still a novice and sticking with the plain and simple stuff. I have found this info very helpful from the Phickle Kombucha FAQs. In addition to that I am not about the change my lifestyle to ferment tea in my house. Those of you that know me, know that we don't keep our house warm - we have the thermostats set around 60 most of the time. Kombucha does best warm, at a room temperature around 70-72. I asked this question in my fermentation lesson, and followed up with what if your house isn't that warm :) I learned that the SCOBY adapts to it's environment both what it is consuming (e.g., the tea and sugar sources) and the climate. If you have a strong, vibrant, diverse SCOBY to start the yeast and bacteria most suited to the cooler temperatures (in my case) will be the ones that survive and thrive. Now that I'm on my 6th or 7th batch I think I've got some hearty, cool weather SCOBy friends.
Since my house is cold, my ferments take longer. You can typically do one in a week (7 days); however, I let mine go 14 - 20 days and that has been working well. Also, I'm a little lazy and I don't drink that much on a daily basis so I'm not consuming gallons a week and don't need that much Kombucha on hand.
What you need:
2. Good green or black tea
3. Organic cane sugar
4. Glass jar for fermenting (I got a gallon mason jar)
5. Dishcloth to cover it, rubber band/ribbon to keep it on
6. Stainless steel funnel with strainer (I had this and it's perfect, I'd recommend getting one)
7. Glass jars or bottles for the finished batches or second ferments
How to make Kombucha
I'm following the basic single batch recipe from Phickle and will summarize what I do for you here. I was making the 12 cup batch and it was too much for me, I'm the only one in my household that drinks it and I don't drink it all the time. So I modified to an 8 cup batch, that makes about three 750ml / 1 liter bottles of finished product every ~2 weeks which is perfect for my consumption.
8 c water
2 T tea loose leaf organic green tea
2/3 c organic cane sugar
2 c starter kombucha
Heat your water, I use a large stainless pot. Add in the sugar and stir until it’s dissolved. Put your tea in and let the mixture cool to room temperature. You really don’t want it hot or even warm, since that could mean the death of the little life forms that make up your SCOBY. Then put the sweetened tea into your large glass jar for fermenting, add your 2 cups of starter kombucha, and your SCOBY. Cover with a dish cloth and then you wait.
So far I've only done the first ferment, but you can add all sorts of flavor layers and different things once your main batch has brewed, it's called doing a second ferment. I'm planning to start experimenting with second ferments soon - I'm thinking turmeric ginger would be great for fighting inflammation and supporting the immune system and could go well with the tangy slightly carbonated taste of my brews.
For those that like videos, here's a ~4 minute one where I talk through what I do to make it!
So the world of kombucha isn't as scary or complicated as you thought it would be right? Who's in to give it a try - you'll need to make a small investment, but if you're a regular kombucha drinker this hobby will pay for itself very quickly.