DIY Kombucha


By Lila Volkas,
Nutrition Consultant Alumna + Owner of Kombucha to the People

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is the bubbly, sometimes sweet, and tangy drink that has taken over grocery store refrigerators across the country. This trendy beverage has been around for hundreds of years and is made by fermenting tea with sugar using what is called a SCOBY, or a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.

SCOBY

Who’s Drinking Kombucha?

Kombucha is not only trendy in the health space, but has also become popular among soda-lovers seeking a healthy alternative. The fermented tea drink is enjoyed by consumers young and old who appreciate its creative flavors and fizz.

Health Benefits of Kombucha

Probiotics

You know that healthy bacteria everyone has been talking about? Well, kombucha has plenty of those! Your gut contains 100 trillion bacteria that affect everything from your digestion to your immune system, weight, and even your mood. The goal is to nurture that precious bacteria, and consuming plenty of fermented foods and beverages is a great way to do that.

Healthy “Soda”

Kombucha satisfies fizz and caffeine cravings without all of the chemicals and sugar that come with a soda. Plus, with all of those probiotics, you’ve got a beverage that is contributing to your health instead of depleting it!

Antioxidants

Kombucha contains health-supportive antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and combat oxidative stress, as demonstrated in a recent research study. This is important because oxidative damage plays a role in the development of chronic diseases including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative disease, to name a few.

Lemon Ginger Kombucha

Why Are People Making Kombucha at Home?

More and more people are feeling inspired to make kombucha at home because it’s much less expensive than purchasing it from the store. Kombucha goes for $3–$5 per bottle at the grocery store, but only costs about $0.50 per gallon (that’s eight bottles) to make at home!

Brewing kombucha is easy—it’s as simple as making a giant pot of tea with sugar, from there, the SCOBY does the work. Plus, making your own kombucha gives you 100% control over the sweetness, flavor, and level of carbonation.

Making kombucha at home empowers you to have a deeper connection to your food. It is so gratifying to enjoy something homemade versus something store-bought. Read on to learn how to make your own kombucha at home.

DIY Kombucha Recipes

Before You Begin

You will need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and a ½ cup of starter liquid, which is already brewed plain kombucha. A SCOBY can be purchased online or you can attend one of Kombucha to the People’s monthly workshops in the Bay Area to get a kombucha starter kit, which includes a SCOBY and starter liquid.

Part I: Primary Fermentation

Ingredients
8 cups or 1 gallon water
2 Tbs black tea, loose leaf in a tea infuser (or 4 disposable tea bags)
½ cup cane sugar
1 kombucha SCOBY
½ cup starter liquid

Supplies
Large pot
Brewing vessel, ½ gallon glass jar
Muslin cloth or clean dish towel

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat water to a rolling boil, then remove from heat.
  2. Add black tea to hot water, steep for 10 minutes, then remove tea infuser or tea bags.
  3. Add sugar to tea, stirring to dissolve.
  4. Allow tea to cool to room temperature, about 2–3 hours.
  5. Pour tea into brewing vessel, then add starter liquid and SCOBY.
  6. Cover the opening of the vessel with a muslin cloth or clean dish towel and secure it with a rubber band.
  7. Set in a warm location out of direct sunlight. Allow the tea to ferment for 7 days.
  8. After 7 days, taste the fermenting tea. If it is too sweet, continue fermenting for up to two weeks total, or until the taste is to your liking. If the tea is too acidic, shorten the fermentation time for the next batch.
  9. When the kombucha is fermented to your liking, enjoy plain or transfer to a bottle to add flavorings (see Part II below).
  10. Save a ½ cup of kombucha for starter liquid for the next batch and repeat the steps above.

Part II: Secondary Fermentation

After the primary fermentation process, you can drink your kombucha plain or jazz it up with fun flavors. A secondary fermentation increases the carbonation and enhances the taste of your beverage. A good rule of thumb is 80–90% kombucha and 10–20% flavoring. You can use fresh fruit, dried fruit, juice, herbs, spices, or extracts to flavor your kombucha. Get creative! There is no one right way to do it.

Supplies
34 oz snap-top bottle
Funnel
Flavoring, fresh fruit, dried fruit, juice, herbs, spices, or extracts
Mesh strainer
½ tsp cane sugar

General Secondary Fermentation Instructions

  1. Place the desired amount of your flavoring of choice in a 34 oz snap-top bottle. Using a funnel, pour kombucha over the flavoring, leaving 2 inches of room at the top.
  2. If you are not adding fruit, juice, or a flavoring containing sugar, add ½ teaspoon sugar to the bottle.
  3. Close the top and allow kombucha and flavoring to ferment at room temperature for 2–4 days. “Burp” the bottle every day to release the pressure by opening and closing the snap top.
  4. When the desired level of carbonation and flavor is reached, strain kombucha into a fresh bottle using a mesh strainer and funnel, then place in the refrigerator.

Flavor Variations

Ginger Lemon Kombucha

Ingredients
2-inch piece of ginger
2 Tbs water
1 Tbs lemon juice
½ tsp cane sugar
Plain kombucha from primary fermentation

Supplies
34 oz snap-top bottle
High-speed blender

Instructions

  1. Place ginger and water in a high-speed blender and blend until ginger is completely pulverized.
  2. Strain liquid into a jar.
  3. Add 1 tablespoon ginger juice, lemon juice, and sugar to snap-top bottle.
  4. Fill the bottle with primary fermentation kombucha, leaving 2 inches of space at the top.
  5. Close the top and allow kombucha and flavoring to ferment at room temperature for 2–4 days. “Burp” the bottle every day to release the pressure by opening and closing the snap top.
  6. When the desired level of carbonation and flavor is reached, place in the refrigerator.

Elderberry Orange Kombucha

Ingredients
2 tsp orange zest
3 tsp dried elderberries
Plain Kombucha from primary fermentation

Supplies
34 oz snap-top bottle

Instructions

  1. Place the orange zest and elderberries in snap-top bottle.
  2. Fill the bottle with primary fermentation kombucha, leaving 2 inches of space at the top.
  3. Close the top and allow kombucha and flavoring to ferment at room temperature for 2–4 days. “Burp” the bottle every day to release the pressure by opening and closing the snap top.
  4. When the desired level of carbonation and flavor is reached, strain kombucha into a fresh bottle using a mesh strainer and funnel, then place in the refrigerator.

About the Author

Lila Volkas, N.C.Lila Volkas, N.C., is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program and teaches kombucha brewing workshops at their Berkeley location. Lila has been leading kombucha brewing workshops since 2012 and has shared her culture with hundreds of people all over the world. In addition to running Kombucha to the People, Lila also has a private nutrition practice.

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