I didn’t originally set out on a “make your own kombucha” kick. I can’t remember when, or even why, I first discovered kombucha. Perhaps it was during one of my many self-imposed “let’s get healthy” kicks that usually starts (and subsequently ends) around January 1 of any given year. It wasn’t the health benefits that initially attracted me to kombucha—although I’ll take those, too!
What I love about kombucha
It was the fizzy, slightly tangy and deliciously sweet taste that sucked me in. As a self-proclaimed reformed soda addict, I turned to kombucha to curb my soda cravings. And it seems more and more people are doing the same. Because kombucha is full of good-for-your-gut bacteria, it gets a gold star from health nuts. With its yummy, fizzy flavors, it is starting to show up in more mainstream stores across the country.
Health benefits of kombucha
So what is kombucha, exactly? Quite simply, it’s a sweet, fermented (and therefore ever-so-slightly alcoholic) tea that is full of probiotics. Probiotics are good-for-you bacteria that many claim help your intestines and improve your overall health. You can buy kombucha at most major grocery stores, and a single 12-ounce bottle costs around $3-$4.
All about the SCOBY
I hadn’t given much thought to trying to make my own kombucha until I saw a friend offering a scoby up for free on Facebook. What is a scoby, you might ask? SCOBY is actually an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” Basically, it’s the stuff you see floating in kombucha. It’s the bacteria and yeast from the scoby that transform your tea into a fizzy and slightly tangy beverage touting a number of health benefits.
Back to my friend’s scoby. To be honest, it completely grossed me out. It was this vile-looking mushroom-y thing floating atop a mason jar of what might have otherwise been pleasant-tasting tea. She didn’t immediately have any takers (seriously, though, it was so gross-looking), so I inquired what it took to actually make a scoby. “Easy,” she replied. “Just brew some tea, add some sugar and kombucha, put it in a mason jar, cover it and let it sit for a few days. Done.”
How to make a SCOBY
And it actually was that easy!
Ingredients for the scoby:
- 4 tea bags (I used black tea)
- 1 cup store-bought, unsweetened kombucha
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Coffee filter & rubber bands
- Brew black tea on the stove, using four tea bags and half a cup of sugar
- Let the sweet tea cool
- Stir in one cup of store bought Kombucha
- Place it in a glass jar and cover the jar with a coffee filter (a paper towel or cheesecloth will also work)
- Secure the coffee filter with a rubber band
- Store the jar on a shelf out of direct sunlight at room temperature
Scobys take 2-4 weeks to form. I found mine looked right to use at about 2.5 weeks.
I was honestly pretty nervous about this part of the kombucha process. Working with yeast and bacteria, which is not just gross—in my opinion. It can also make you sick if you aren’t careful. I read a lot of articles online to gather as many tips as possible about successfully making a scoby. The best advice I was read was to remember that kombucha has been around for ages and has been formed and fermented in environments far dirtier than my kitchen. Although, to be fair, the writer didn’t actually see my kitchen, or he may have rethought that statement. It is also very uncommon for someone to become sick from kombucha. Both of these tidbits made me feel a bit better.
My kids were, like me, grossly fascinated by the scoby when it was ready to be used. My youngest touched it (with squeaky-clean hands, of course!) and declared it felt like a super-slimy mushroom and looked like a blob. I share her feelings on the subject, actually.
After the Scoby is made, making the Kombucha itself is a similar—and pretty easy!—process.
Ingredients for the kombucha:
- 3 1/2 quarts of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 8 bags of tea (I used black again)
- 2 cups of store-bought Kombucha
- Your scoby
- There are loads of other ingredients you could add, too, depending on the taste you are trying to achieve. You could add juice or fruit, herbs, spices, so many options! For my first-ever batch, though, I decided to keep mine simple.
- Bring water to a boil on the stove
- Dissolve the sugar into the water
- Let the tea bags steep until the liquid cooled
- Add two cups of store-bought kombucha
- Transfer the tea into a one-gallon glass jar
- Add the scoby (with clean hands, as bacteria from your hands could react negatively with the bacteria in the scoby)
- Covered this jar, too, with a coffee filter
- Secure it with a rubber band.
- Store at room temperature out of sunlight for about a week
Now that I have Kombucha on hand, I can continually make new batches. I plan to experiment a bit with flavors and see what I can come up with! Although I still plan to purchase store-bought Kombucha with some regularity, I have sense of self-satisfaction knowing I can make it myself. Also, it makes me feel like I’m a cool kid. I find that pretty hard to achieve these days as your basic Pumpkin-Spice-Loving, Minivan-Driving Girl Mom.