I recently polled the Healthy Living How To Facebook Fans asking “Do you Kombucha”? I got responses from enthusiastic home brewers as well as those who had never heard of it before. Those of you in the former, I may be calling on you for help as I enter the ranks as a home brewer myself . My friends in the latter, today’s post is for you, a basic introduction to this oh so healthy fermented beverage, where to buy it and how to brew your own.
Kombucha: The Basics, Buying & Brewing
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is fermented tea. It is widely accepted as a functional food, meaning it imparts health benefits to those who imbibe in it. It is believed that Kombucha has been used as a healing tonic for over 2,000 years.
What are the health benefits?
Kombucha drinkers report a wide array of healing benefits, from increased metabolism and weight loss to relief from constipation and everything in between. While most of these reports are anecdotal, research has confirmed the health benefits of probiotics, something Kombucha is loaded with. Probiotics are known to play a vital role in fighting off infections and viruses as well as help with digesting food and liver detoxification. In addition to probiotics, Kombucha also contains antioxidants and organic acids. Antioxidants are important as they prevent our cells from oxidation or “rusting” and the organic acids, well they further lend to Komucha’s status as a potent detoxifier. The bottom line is this,
Kombucha promotes better health by improving the efficiency of the digestive and detoxification system which in turn boosts the immune system which results in a healthier you!
How much Kombucha is safe to drink?
If you are new to drinking Kombucha, the general recommendation is a conservative 4 oz. in the morning on an empty stomach. After a week, or as your digestive system adjusts to the proliferation of healthy bacteria (probiotics), you can add a second 4 oz. in the evening. Over time you can increase the amount of Kombucha you drink, although based on my research, no further benefits are gained at more than 16 oz. per day.
Where do you buy it?
The answer to this question is going to vary by state and location, but where I live, Kombucha is popping up in more places than just our local co-op and Whole Foods. Even our conventional grocery stores, with a very limited amount of organic food options, carry a small supply in the cooler area. Consider yourself, warned, it does not come without a hefty price tag; $3-6 for a 16 oz. bottle seems to be the going rate.
How do I brew my own?
Brewing your own Kombucha can be quite easy (so I’m learning), especially with a starter kit that includes all the necessary components. In all honesty, I am a novice in Kombucha brewing, in fact, what I share with you today is my very first attempt at what others have coined both an art and a science experiment. Let’s begin!
Kombucha Brewing Basics
I decided, since this is my first foray into fermenting tea, to purchase a kit that contained all the necessary supplies with the exception of a glass container for brewing in (I already had one). My kit contained a SCOBY (we’ll get to this in a moment), starter tea, high-quality loose leaf tea, muslin tea bags, cover cloth and rubber bands, pH test strips and brewing gloves. What’s not included, but also necessary, is a gallon of water and a cup sugar.
Step One: Boil Water
From the gallon of water, measure out 4 cups and bring to boil. I told you this was going to be easy. Step one, boil water. Simple. Remove from heat for one minute before pouring over tea.
Step Two: Steep Tea
My kit came with loose leaf (black) tea of which I used two heaping tablespoons placed inside the tea bag and steeped for 10 minutes. You can use green or black tea and if using tea already in bags, 6-8 bags is what you’ll use.
Step Three: Add Sugar
Sugar! What? It’s okay, breathe (I’m talking to myself), the sugar is food for the SCOBY. When done fermenting, there will be only 1-2 grams of sugar in an 8 oz. glass of unflavored Kombucha. Remove tea bag(s) and sweeten tea with 1 cup of organic sugar. Stir until fully dissolved.
Step Four: Transfer Tea to Glass Brewer
I bought a two-gallon glass container with a spigot a couple of summers ago. It was used once for a party and then it was retired to the basement. It’s a little on the large side, but it’s perfect for Kombucha brewing. A glass container is a must, the spigot is optional. I am told the spigot makes it easy to do what’s called a “continuous brew” which I’ll cover in next week’s post. Anyways, pour the hot sweet tea into the glass brewer.
Step Five: Add Remaining Water
To the sweet tea, add the remaining water left in the gallon. This will cool down the tea, but it must be at room temperature before adding the SCOBY and starter tea.
Step Six: Add SCOBY and Starter Tea
SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Sometimes it is called the “mother”, and as the tea ferments the SCOBY is going to have “babies”. The SCOBY is what magically turns the tea from sweet tea into Kombucha. Each batch of Kombucha needs both a SCOBY and some starter tea to get it going. Add both to the room temperature sweet tea.
Step Seven: Cover and Wait
The last step is to cover the glass jar with a breathable cloth secured by a large rubber band, place in an area that is not drafty and maybe even on the warmer side (I put mine on top of my refrigerator) and then wait. And wait. And wait some more. This has to now be left undisturbed to ferment. About 5-7 days. After this first round of fermentation the tea is done when there is just a hint of sweetness. Too sweet and it needs to ferment a bit longer.
My first batch of Kombucha tea has been happily fermenting for 1 day…we will re-visit this topic in a week to discuss the continuous brew method, doing a second fermentation and how to flavor the tea. Be sure to stay-tuned!
My first batch of Kombucha is complete and it is a delicious success. Check out this post Kombucha: Home Brew How To to read all about the fermentation process, bottling, flavoring and the continuous brew method!
To learn more than you will ever need to know about Kombucha or to get the supplies necessary to start your own home-brew, check out this amazing resource.