Essentially, Kombucha is fermented iced tea that makes a fantastic replacement for fizzy/ alcoholic drinks. You can drink it as it is or flavour it with any fruit/ vegetable scraps you have lying around and, once you get around the somewhat ‘ugly’ nature of the ferment, it really is quite phenomenal to watch.
After your initial outlay for the SCOBY, its cheap and so much more economical than store bought Kombucha (I once paid £7 for a 350ml bottle!!).
Similar to Apple Cider Vinegar, Kombucha is made using a ‘mother’ or SCOBY. This stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast. Akin to a disfigured stingray/jellyfish, it’snot the most attractive thing, but it will give you the most delicious drink so nurture it!
Once you get started, your SCOBY will grow prolifically, creating a new ‘baby’ each time a new batch is brewed. Hurrah! This means you can share round your fermentation love with all of your friends!
To begin, you will need to get hold of a SCOBY. If you are lucky enough to know someone that brews Kombucha, then go right ahead, just ask for about 500ml of their Kombucha with it so you can kick start your own batch. Otherwise, I would recommend either buying on Amazon (which is what I did) or there are plenty of forums where people are all too willing to offload their SCOBY babies.
The concept is simple. You are using your SCOBY to turn the sugar in sweetened tea into an effervescent probiotic drink. The tea you start off with will affect the ultimate flavour and colour of your kombucha. You can use Black, Green or White Tea (I favour Japanese Green Tea, but be warned, this will cause a green ‘pond scum’ on your SCOBY so don’t be alarmed). You will need to begin with a Sterile 5 litre fermentation jar. This can be anything, even a bucket but you CANNOT USE ANYTHING METAL near a SCOBY. This goes for all your equipment too. So, you will also need: a plastic spoon, sieve, glass bottle and some muslin and string.
1. Measure 1 litre boiling water into a heatproof container. Stir in 260-300g sugar and 4tbsp tea leaves (or use about 10 tea bags). Allow to brew to 20 minutes (no more or your mix will be too bitter).
2. Add 3 litres of cold filtered water into your fermentation jar and, using your plastic sieve, strain in the sweet tea.
3. Add your SCOBY and its liquid to the jar, allowing it to float on the top. It might sink just a little but this is fine, it will stay where it is happy. Cover your jar with muslin to keep out any dust and secure with string or an elastic band.
4. Place somewhere warm, but not in direct sunlight and……leave it alone! Yep, for at least 6 days just forget about it. All different things will affect your fermentation rate and it really is all down to the individual mix and your taste.
5. After 6 days, taste the liquid. It should have balanced sweet and sourness. Continue checking every 3 days. I prefer mine slightly more sour than sweet but it’s entirely up to you. (at this point you can leave your kombucha to go ‘over’ for 4-8 weeks and you will get a beautiful Kombucha Vinegar for Salad dressings etc).
6. When it is to your taste, strain it through a muslin and plastic sieve into sterilised bottles and store in the fridge. The SCOBY should be kept with 500ml of the liquid and either used to start your second batch or stored in a plastic Tupperware in the fridge. It will keep like this for several months.
7. If, like me, you prefer your Kombucha with a touch of fizz, you’ll need to kick start a secondary fermentation. It is at this point that you can also introduce flavour into your mix.
8. Once you’ve bottled the mix, you’ll need to add 1 tbsp of sugar per litre to kick start the secondary fermentation. At this point you can also add some fruit or vegetable scraps such as ginger/orange peel/apple etc. I prefer to add flavour to each individual glass so I can change it up. For this I recommend homemade fruit, spice or flower syrups. Aim to add about 50g flavourings per litre.
9. Add tight lids to the bottles and leave them at room temperature. Every day you will need to ‘burp’ the bottles by briefly removing the lid to release the gas. Taste each day for up to 6 days until the carbonation is to your liking.
10. Once ready, refrigerate and drink within a month.
It really is that simple. Leave it alone and it will do all the hard work for you! And the great thing is, if you want to take a break your SCOBY will be super happy just chilling out in the fridge, the perfect low maintenance pet!