I've got a bit of a weird new hobby... I have recently become obsessed with brewing my own kombucha! I have loved drinking it ever since I tried it for the first time when I was living in Paris, and it only recently occurred to me to try making my own. For those of you who don't know, kombucha is a type of fermented tea rich in probiotics, so not only does it make a delicious (basically) sugar-free fizzy drink, it is also great for your gut! Originally from China, kombucha has been drunk for thousands of years, and is widely known for its numerous health benefits, including promoting gut health, boosting immunity and improving the body’s ability to detox. I have been drinking a glass daily for weeks and feel great!
This isn’t so much a recipe, more of a guideline… My home-brew is a work in progress and I am still experimenting with the countless options of base teas, sweeteners and flavours out there. I have done a huge amount of research (I am proud to admit I am geekily amazed by the science behind this magical drink) and what I know so far is:
- Though you use sugar to make kombucha, the resulting drink is almost totally sugar-free
- It may seem dangerous to grow big blobs of bacteria and then drink the liquid, but it is very rare to make yourself ill
- The idea of kombucha is gross and unappealing but the drink is delicious!
- Your SCOBY (see below) must never come into contact with anything metal, this will kill him!
To start brewing kombucha, you need to grow a SCOBY (a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). You can buy these online but I think that is the most fun part of the experiment, so try growing your own! Mine is now like some kind of weird pet that I like to check on daily, I have even named him...
To grow your SCOBY:
- Buy a bottle of raw kombucha
- Brew a cup of black or green tea and stir in 2 tablespoons of sugar, then leave this to cool
- Place half a cup of this kombucha into a glass jar with the cooled sweetened tea
- Cover with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth so air can get in but nothing else
- Leave this jar in a warm dark place for a week or more - depending on the temperature in the room your SCOBY may grow faster or slower than this. The SCOBY is the weird jelly layer that forms across the top of the jar. Make sure you keep the liquid in the jar with the SCOBY as you will use this for your first batch you brew!
- Your SCOBY can be all sorts of colours, the only thing I know to really look out for is black/grey/blue mould. I haven’t (touch wood) had a problem with mine yet, but have a google and there are lots of good examples of what healthy and bad SCOBYs look like
When your SCOBY is substantial you can start brewing! I use and 8 litre Kilner jar with a tap at the bottom as it saves you having to take the SCOBY in and out.
To make the base kombucha:
- Brew some sweetened green or black tea - I usually brew 6-7 litres at a time and use about 1-1.5 cups of organic cane sugar. The sugar is what feeds the SCOBY so don’t hold back, but the more sugar you add the longer the tea will take to ferment
- Make sure the tea has cooled completely before adding it to the jar with the SCOBY and the remaining liquid that you grew your SCOBY in, then cover this large jar with a piece of muslin and place somewhere warm and dark for 7-10 days. The longer you brew for, the less sweet/more acidic your kombucha will be, so that is totally down to personal preference. The kombucha should smell sort of like cider, but if you let it ferment it too long it will taste like apple cider vinegar! So this is the stage that is all about experimentation - lots of different factors will affect brew time so I suggest trying the kombucha every few days
You can stop here, bottle your kombucha and keep it in the fridge until serving OR you can start playing with flavouring it! My favourite flavours so far include:
- Lemon, Ginger, Turmeric
- Ginger (like a delicious probiotic ginger beer)
- Lemon and Rosemary
The second fermentation (when you add the flavour) is what makes your kombucha really fizzy so it is a great idea if you are trying to get into kombucha to kick your fizzy drink addiction!
To flavour your kombucha:
Simply fill a glass bottle or jar with some kombucha and whatever fruit/herbs you like! For 1 litre of kombucha I would use:
- The juice of half a lemon
- A quarter of a mango, chopped small to increase surface area
- A knob of ginger, chopped or juiced
- A few sprigs of herbs
- The juice of half an orange
Don’t fill the bottle or jar all the way to the top, leave a good bit of air above the liquid, then seal the bottle and keep it in a warm room for 24-48 hours before transferring to the fridge.
Things to look out for:
- Blobs in your kombucha - I always sieve mine before serving. Nothing will put people off your home brew more than floaters!
- Open the kombucha carefully after the second fermentation - if you leave it too long pressure can build up and you might have a big over-fizz when you open it
I will keep you posted on any progress and look forward to sharing more precise recipes and flavour combos with you in the future. Hope you love brewing your kombucha as much as I do!