The Beginner’s Guide to Making Kombucha
A drink that was once only found at the back of health food stores, Kombucha is now an increasingly popular health drink that is taking the drinks market by storm. You can now find it at many chain grocery stores or even at gas stations these days. You might have seen it or even heard about it and wondered what on earth is even is--and why everyone seems to be drinking it all of a sudden.
However, this drink is not a new thing at all. It has been around for thousands of years. First known as the ‘Tea of Immortality’ in China in around 220 BC, but was soon spread throughout Eastern Europe and Russia. It adopted the name ‘Kombucha’ in Japan in around 415 AD as it was commonly used to ease ailments.
What is Kombucha?
So now you’ve read a little about where it came from, you’re probably still wondering what Kombucha even is. Simply put, Kombucha is a kind of fermented tea that is made with just four ingredients: tea, sugar, good bacteria, and yeast. You can get them in a wide range of flavors from various teas, fruits and herbs.
The fact that this so called "miracle drink" has been around for so long is proof that the range of health benefits have served the test of time. It might seem a bit strange, but don’t be put off by the prospect of a fermented bacteria drink- these components are actually rammed full of billions of good for you probiotics- all in a handy glass/can/cup.
What Does Kombucha Taste Like?
Kombucha is famous for its unique and distinctive taste which is unlike anything you will have had to drink before. Some will say that due to the fermented nature of the drink, it tastes like a combination of beer, wine, and tea- without the added alcohol.
Some kombuchas will have added fruit or juice added to it to give it a different flavor profile from the slightly bitter and sour taste of unflavored kombucha. The length of time it is left to brew in addition to the amount of sugar used to make it will also impact on how it tastes.
However, if you’d like a general idea of how kombucha tastes before going through the process of making it, then it is recommended that you should first buy some from a store to see if you like the taste. Due to its increase in popularity over the past several years, there is a wide variety of kombuchas available online or at health food stores for you to try.
Why Should You Drink Kombucha?
If you do a search online, you’ll find a wide range of reasons for people to drink kombucha.
Here are a couple of them.
1) They are gut superheroes
Traditional Kombucha is full of gut-loving Probiotics. Probiotics are a type of yeast and live bacteria that help to promote a healthy digestive system. With over 70% of our immune system living in the digestive tract, it is vitally important to strengthen it to keep our immune system healthy. Kombucha’s probiotics help to create microbiota- a complex community that grows in your gut. The microorganisms are used to perform essential digestive functions in your system such as breaking down your food and helping to absorb the nutrients from your food.
The job of a probiotic is also to get rid of any bad bacteria in the gut. During the fermentation process, kombucha becomes richer in acetic acid, which has the ability to eradicate a larger number of harmful microorganisms that grow in the gut. Thanks to its antibacterial properties, kombucha drinks provide antibacterial properties that help them fight infections and deal with any problem yeast that might grow in the body. In short, kombucha helps to promote good bacteria as well as fighting the bad bacteria that make us sick.
2) Kombucha could help helps to detox the body
If you’re planning on a detox, then kombucha is your best friend. With countless detoxifying benefits as well. Since it is rich in enzymes and bacterial acids that naturally occur, kombucha can help to reduce problems on the liver and pancreas which are directly linked to some of the most common health complaints.
3) Kombucha may help to support the metabolism
Kombucha’s vitamin B and caffeine ingredients can help to contribute to energy production which can help to boost the metabolic rate in our bodies. B vitamins alone are there to play a very important role to transform the foods we put in our mouths into usable energy. The hit of caffeine can also help to offer an energy boost we need to stay energized and productive.
4) As a result, kombucha may help aid in weight loss
While it should never be considered a magic pill for weight loss, the high nutritional content and lower sugar content of other sodas and juices may help to tackle these cravings. As above, however, the B vitamins contained in the drinks help to promote better gut health and probiotics. Some research has stated that when these good bacteria are present in the body, there could be a shift in the gut microbiome that is beneficial and contributes to weight loss and maintenance.
How Do You Make Kombucha for Beginners?
You’ll find many complicated instructions for making kombucha if you look online. They will outline using specific ingredients, tell you to filter water, make sure to steep things in the correct temperature and environment etc. This can make the process seem inaccessible for making kombucha at home. However, since this is a beginner’s guide, then you’ll be looking for a much simpler process to make your own kombucha.
What are the ingredients of Kombucha?
A fermented drink, kombucha is made using tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast- also known as a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.
Kombucha tea is made by allowing the mix of SCOBY and tea to be ingested by the sugar and allowing the mix to ferment over time.
To Make Your Own Kombucha at home, you will need:
-SCOBY- which is also known as ‘the living mushroom’ element of kombucha. Like some sourdough starters, SCOBY can be grown and shared around. So, it may be worth asking a friend if they have access to a SCOBY that they could share with you. SCOBY grows with every batch of Kombucha so once you start making your own, you will have access to your very own. If you don’t know anybody who makes their own kombucha that you can get a SCOBY from, you can look online to buy them.
-Glass Jar- Clean glass jars are necessary for making and storing your home-brewed kombucha. This recipe will make one gallon of kombucha so you will need at least a one-gallon jar to make your kombucha.
-A Wooden or Plastic Spoon- SCOBY must never be touched by a metal spoon
-A Mesh Strainer
-Tea and sugar- preferably black tea and white sugar, but read the notes below to guide you
-Unflavored kombucha- you can use your homemade kombucha in place after making your first batch
-Tea towel, or paper towel, or paper coffee filters- again, not metal
The reason for avoiding using metal for making your kombucha is that the vinegar created in the kombucha making processes is acidic and, therefore, corrosive which can be harmful to ingest in large quantities.
How to Make Kombucha From Scratch
If you are making your own SCOBY, then start here.
- Bring 7 cups of water to a boil in a large, clean pot. Remove from the heat before dissolving ½ cup of white sugar in the water into the water.
- Add 4 bags (or 1 tbsp) of black tea, allow to steep while water cools to room temperature.
- Pour sweetened tea into a jar, before pouring 1 cup of unsweetened kombucha into the mix.
- Cover with several layers of cloth secured tightly with a rubber band.
- Place in a dark, still place at room temperature for 1-4 weeks until a ¼ inch SCOBY has formed.
- SCOBY can be stored in its original tea until it is time to brew your first batch of kombucha. If stored correctly, it could live for several years.
- Do not use the SCOBY tea for your first brew as it is very vinegary in taste- it should be discarded once the SCOBY has been used for the first time.
Now that you have your SCOBY, you can now move onto your first fermentation.
(The SCOBY making stage can be skipped altogether if you already have some)
For the first fermentation you will need:
- 4 cups (3.5 quarts, 3.3 L) clean water (preferably filtered)
- 1 cup (200 g) white sugar
- 8 bags black or green tea (or 2 Tbsp loose-leaf tea which will need straining later on)
- 2 cups (470 mL) unflavored kombucha (either from a previous batch or unpasteurized, unflavored store-bought Wonder Drink kombucha
- 1 or 2 SCOBYs (depending on how many containers you’re using, 1 per container)
- A large glass or ceramic container (two jars holding at least ½ gallon (1.9 L) each, or one jug holding at least 1 gallon (3.7 L)). Tightly woven cloth (coffee filters, paper towels, napkins, cheesecloth)
- Rubber bands
How to make Kombucha
- In a clean pot, bring water to a boil, then remove from the heat and dissolve sugar into the water.
- Add the tea to the water and sugar and allow it to steep for several hours-possibly allowing the water to cool completely over several hours.
- Allow the mix to cool down to room temperature (the ideal temperature for SCOBY)
- Pour the sweetened tea into your jar and pour in unflavored starter kombucha into your jar or jars.
- Place SCOBY into the jar and cover with tightly woven cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Place your jars in a dark place at room temperature (up to 75°F or 24°C) for around 6-10 days
When will my tea become Kombucha?
After around the six-day mark, you can start tasting your tea. Your tea should be slightly sweet and vinegary tasting. The longer the tea is left to ferment, the less sweet it will taste due to the fact that more sugar molecules will be eaten up. The tea will ferment faster the warmer the air temperature.
From here, you’ll want to leave around 2 cups from your first batch to use as a starter kombucha for your next batch- it can be stored in a jar with the SCOBY.
The rest of your batch can be used for a second fermentation.
When you make your first batch of kombucha, you can use any type of tea besides black (as you would have to use if making your own SCOBY). Experiment with green, white, Darjeeling, and jasmine teas. It is worth noting that if you wish to use fruit teas then you should mix them with some black tea bags to help to feed the SCOBY.
SCOBY will grow. Once it gets to around one inch thick, you can peel off a few layers to create a second SCOBY that can be used for your next batch or to be gifted to someone else interested in making kombucha.
The final step is where you can personalize your flavor choices for your home-brewed kombucha. You may want to consider playing around with fruity, sweet flavors that will help to make your kombucha the good bacteria boost that helps to create the carbonation that will bring everything together.
Some Flavors You Can Add
One to two tbsp of mashed or pureed fruits, mint, honey, or ginger flavoring. You could even experiment by using a combination of various from the above according to the flavors you enjoy the most!
For the second fermentation- this is where you add flavors and carbonation
- Using your strainer. Strain the kombucha into bottles. Make sure to leave around 1 and a half inches at the top of the bottle.
- Add your chosen flavoring or sweetener to your brew and seal tightly with the lid.
- Return your flavored kombucha to the same dark place at room temperature for around 10 days.
- After 10 days, you’ll want to slow down the fermentation and carbonation process. You can do this by straining the kombucha and storing it in the fridge.
- Jars and bottles may explode if the pressure in them becomes too high. It may be worth considering making your first few batches in plastic bottles, while you figure out how kombucha reacts in your home environment. You can use this is a gauge to see how the batch is doing. For example, if your plastic bottle is rock solid, that is a sign that the fermentation process is complete. Once it reaches this stage, you should open each container to release some of the pressure before storing them in the container to slow down the fermentation process.
- You should open your bottles carefully over a sink with a towel in your hand to avoid excessive mess.
- The more sweetener or fruit you add to your kombucha, the faster the fermentation and carbonation process happens.
How long does it take to make homemade kombucha?
Creating your own Kombucha from home may take a few attempts to get it just the way you like it. It requires some patience and practice to get right. Although it is a reasonably cheap drink to make with standard ingredients you will have in your pantry, the process can take several weeks to complete- especially if you are making your own SCOBY from scratch, too.
Kombucha can be stored in the refrigerator both to slow down or pause the fermentation process, or to chill just before serving.
Kombucha is an ancient drink with a wide range of health benefits dating back centuries. Kombucha has served the test of time, but has increased in popularity over recent years. This is great news for the kombucha curious in the world who may have found themselves looking for recipes online.
Research around the proven health benefits of ingesting probiotics, but the taste of unflavored kombucha with its vinegary tastes may prove to be off putting to some consumers. You will still feel the gut loving benefits of kombucha by choosing to add natural flavorings to your drink, too.
Here at Wonder Drink we have a huge range of ready made products which include both probiotics and probiotics. You can try a huge range of flavors to inspire your kombucha making journey- as well as our original flavor that can be used as your kombucha starter! The best part is that all of these are available to be delivered right to your door.
Wonder Drink does not claim to carry any of the health benefits listed in the article.