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One glass jar (quart, half-gallon, or gallon), a plastic or metal stirring utensil and a pot to boil water, a breathable cover for the jar such as a tight-weave dish towel or paper coffee filter and a rubber band to secure the cover, green or black tea, sugar (preferably organic to avoid residues)(sugar feeds the SCOBY, it does not make the ‘buch sweet)
Boil one gallon of water (or other desired amount) in a pot, dissolve sugar (at least 1Cup per gallon) and add 4-6 tea bags per gallon (green or black tea). Cool to room temperature. Discard tea bags. Add Kombucha liquid (typically about 1-2 cups Kombucha per gallon) along with the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) to your jar. To save time, you can also make a concentrated tea/sugar solution and dilute with cold water. This drastically cuts cooling time. Cover each jar with tight-weave cloth for 1-3 weeks. You can begin trying your Kombucha tea after 1 week. Pour off into other jars when you have achieved the desired taste. Typically it is sweeter and less acidic earlier on and slowly gets more acidic. At this point, once the Kombucha is separated from the SCOBY, you can add in other desired flavors (ginger, juice, etc.) DO NOT CUT BACK SUGAR – The sugar feeds the SCOBY to make the ‘buch, not to make you super sweet tea, if you cut back sugar it will NOT ferment properly.
When working with Kombucha, it is important not to introduce competing bacteria to the brew. Be sure to wash and rinse your hands well prior to working with the tea mixture or the SCOBY. Also be sure to thoroughly clean and rinse the container and all utensils that will come in contact with the SCOBY. The brewing vessel can be cleaned with regular soap and hot water (rinse very well) or with vinegar. Never use bleach on any item that will come in contact with your brew.
Fermenting the Kombucha
Choose a safe spot. An ideal culturing spot should be relatively warm but not excessively so. Temperatures between 70° and 85°F are ideal. Ambient temperatures that are too hot or too cold can disrupt the process: too cold and the process slows down, too hot and fermentation proceeds too quickly resulting in a less desirable flavor pattern. The best fermenting spot for kombucha is out of direct sunlight. Indirect light or darkness is neither favorable nor problematic. Be sure the spot has reasonably good airflow as access to oxygen benefits the fermentation process. Air flow assists the fermentation process so culturing in a container with a breathable cover will speed the fermentation process, while using a solid lid will slow it down and may harm the SCOBY.
In addition, be sure the kombucha is not fermenting near any other cultured foods such as kefir, yogurt, sourdough, sauerkraut, etc. Cross-contamination by stray yeasts and bacteria can be problematic for the kombucha SCOBY and any other fermented foods you are working with.
Do not disturb
It is important to allow the kombucha to ferment undisturbed. Moving the jar or otherwise disturbing the contents will not ruin the batch but does make it more difficult to observe the most common signs the process is proceeding normally.
OPTIONAL – Secondary Fermentation – Flavoring and Effervescence
- Bottle when there’s a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. This will help to ensure that your ‘buch isn’t a sugar bomb. I’ve found that when there is a balance of these two factors, 1-2 weeks is plenty of time to build up a nice amount of carbonation. You will also notice some differences based on the type of tea you used in primary fermentation; take notes when you notice these types of things, it will only improve your brewing skills.
I love to chop ginger into matchstick-sized pieces and drop it into each bottle for the secondary fermentation stage. It is my favorite flavor of kombucha. I also like my brew quite tart, so I don’t add more sugar to this stage. You could also brew chopped ginger and water into a “ginger juice” that you add to the bottle with some fruit juice or a little sugar. Lemon juice makes a nice addition for a lemon-ginger flavor.
Fruit adds delicious flavors kombucha. You can add fruit juice, either freshly made or purchased in bottles at the store. Fruit juice concentrate will add more flavor and less sweetness. I add 2-3 ounces of juice for each quart of kombucha. Cranberry-citrus-ginger is a delicious winter health combination. Elderberry is also medicinal – antiviral, especially flu – and tasty.
For fruit, blueberries and raspberries have worked out really well for me. I just drop a handful into the bottle one by one. You can filter out fruit and rebottle before refrigerating. Be careful of mushier fruits. I have read negative reports of using bananas and strawberries. You can add both whole fruit and fruit juice. Also, if using frozen fruit, no need to defrost. Just plop the fruit in the bottle and let it defrost naturally.
2. Bottle into one plastic bottle at the same time you fill your glass bottles. This will be a model help you to know when a good amount of CO2 has built up, based on your environment (temperature) and the unique qualities of your brew. Your plastic bottle will tell you there’s carbonation when it’s very tight, and thus clearly pressurized. So, when you know your plastic bottle has carbonation, your glass bottles will too. This will also ensure that you aren’t wasting carbonation every time you open a glass bottle to see how much has built up. Use caution: bottles can and have exploded.
3. Don’t leave much headroom in your bottles. An inch or so is just fine – you don’t want excess oxygen in your bottle, as that takes up space that could otherwise be CO2. It will oxidize your brew, and make it more likely that bacteria are still active, thus creating more acids, potentially contributing off-flavors. It’s also important to note that chia seeds expand immensely in the bottle, so you’ll want to leave quite a bit more headroom than usual if you’re bottling with them.
4. Invest in good bottles. My favorite bottles are the 32 oz Amber Growler available on our website. They’re strong, opaque to UV, and have great caps that form an excellent seal, locking in ‘buch and your precious carbonation. Keep an eye out for flip-top bottles as well, these can be great for home-brewing escapades and are also very good at holding tight under pressure. We always recommend bottling into glass instead of plastic.
5. Open any extremely carbonated bottles into a large pitcher. This is especially easy to do with flip-top bottles. Take a large, empty pitcher, slowly invert any bottles you’ve detected to be highly effervescent, and use both hands to open the cap of the bottle when it’s as deep as possible in the pitcher. Your pitcher will quickly fill with ‘buch foam (which you will shortly see is still kombucha) and subside within a minute or so. Your ‘buch will be delightfully bubbly, and it’s now ready for you to drink, or pour back into your bottle and put in the refrigerator. It won’t build up pressure like that again, and it’s fine to drink without fear of volcanism ;-).
Kombucha is probiotic tea.
Through the power of fermentation, regular tea is transformed into a nutritionally alive drink that nourishes your body with compounds that detoxify, energize, support your immune system, streamline your digestive system, clarify your skin, prevent disease and elevate your mood.
When you drink kombucha you are connecting with an ancient tradition. People around the world have brewed ‘buch for millennia using the same technology – by inoculating a solution of tea and sugar with the kombucha culture, called a SCOBY. Although there are many myths that point toward the origin of kombucha cultivation, what seems to be readily agreed upon is that kombucha originated in the Far East around the time that the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant were first steeped.
Drinking Kombucha can aid in the relief of:
- Radiation Poisoning
- Acid Reflux
- Weight Loss
- Thinning Hair
- Sluggish Metabolism
The most illuminating views of Kombucha’s true health benefits come from comparing the list above with the list below, which is a list of the compounds that have been found in kombucha.
Studies show these components will likely show up in your Kombucha:
Acetic Acid is a powerful antibacterial agent. Acetic acid levels will grow higher as the ferment progresses making it virtually impossible for non-Kombucha microbes to contaminate your brew. It’s also responsible for the vinegar-like flavor that Kombucha takes on. Studies have shown that acetic acid can have the profound effect of leveling blood sugar spikes by interfering with the breakdown of starches and sugars.
Amino Acids are the building blocks of proteins. Aside from water, amino acids in the form of proteins make up the largest portion of the human body. In addition to being necessary for building new useful proteins, amino acids are also key players in a variety of other pathways in the body. From neurotransmission to metabolization, amino acids are critical little molecules.
Butyric Acid is made from glucose by several bacterial strains found in Kombucha and in the human gut. This friendly acid has been shown to nourish healthy gut cells while destroying colonic tumor cells and inflammation in the same breath.
Enzymes are protein molecules that are made from amino acids and serve as catalysts for chemical reactions in the body. For pretty much every chemical reaction that takes place in the body there is at least one enzyme involved.
Glucaric Acid occurs naturally in a variety of fruits, vegetables and legumes and your body makes a small amount of it. Glucaric acid has been shown to expedite the detoxification of carcinogens, excess hormones and other toxins from the liver. It’s also currently being investigated for its potential in slowing down or stopping the development of different cancers.
Gluconic Acid is a product of the breakdown of glucose by Gluconobacter strains of bacteria that can be found in both your gut and in Kombucha. Gluconic acid is thought to interact with butyric acid to improve GI tract health.
Lactic Acid. Instead of being a dangerous sign of muscle fatigue, as scientists previously hypothesized, lactic acid is now thought to be quite purposefully made by muscles during exercise as a more accessible fuel source to our energy powerhouses: mitochondria. The more fuel mitochondria have, the more work they can do resulting in improved performance.
Niacinamide is a molecule that is shown to have anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties and this little variant is also being looked into for cognition restoration in those suffering from the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease.
Oxalic Acid has a bad reputation. Although it shows up in many health foods such as spinach, apples, raspberries, sorrel and rhubarb, it is the main building block in kidney stones and a very powerful acid that can be toxic at high levels. As with all things, moderation in life is key. Don’t eat too many apples, don’t eat too much spinach and don’t drink too much Kombucha. You know what’s reasonable. Don’t overdo stuff.
Phenethyl alcohol is a natural compound used as a flavoring agent and a non-toxic ingredient in perfumes because of its sweet floral odor. Who would have thunk it? No wonder Kombucha tastes so gooooood.
Propanoic Acid is a powerful anti-mold agent that is used commercially to protect foods, occurs naturally, protects your ‘Buch!
Succinic acid supplementation has been shown to promote neural system recovery and reduce the effects of hangovers by accelerating the decomposition of acetaldehyde, a toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism. As if that’s not reason enough to want this in your body, succinic acid is a strong antibiotic and an important part of energy production in your body.
A Variety of yeast and bacteria species have been found in samples of Kombucha, here are some:
Yeasts of the genera Brettanomyces, Zygosaccharomyces, Saccharomycodes, Saccharomyces, Candida, Pichia and Schizosaccharomyces have all been identified in samples of Kombucha. Specific species that have been isolated from Kombucha samples includeSaccharomyces cerevisiae, Pichia fermantans, Pichia fluxuum,, Candida valida, Candida kifir, Candida lambica, Saccharomycodes ludwigii, Saccharomycodes apiculatus, Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis.
Bacteria genera that have been isolated from Kombucha samples include Acetobacter, Bacillus, Rothia and Gluconacetobacter. Specific species isolated from within those categories includeGluconacetobacter xylinus, Gluconacetobacter kombuchae, Acetobacter xylinoides, Acetobacter ketogenum, Acetobacter xylinum, Bacillus megaterium, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens and Rothia dentrocariosa.
Vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen in your bod thus making it essential to the healing of wounds, inside and out, and to the maintenance of blood vessels and cartilage. Although most organisms make their own, we are one of the lucky species that don’t. Lucky? Well, not if you’re a pirate and subject to scurvy. But if you have access to Vitamin C-containing foods, they are mostly all delicious in their tanginess. Vitamin C also plays with the big boys of disease. It is gobbled up by immune cells as part of their regiment for fighting infections. It’s a natural antihistamine that dampens inflammation. This little job that Vitamin C does on inflammation has positive implications in a variety of disease including cancer, atherosclerosis, acne, depression, asthma, celiac disease, IBS and countless others. And Vitamin C is also an antioxidant.
B Vitamins are known to be of such vital importance that the US government has mandated their inclusion in staple products like bread. The family of B vitamins is diverse and affects all sorts of systems in your body. Here are the B Vitamins that show up in samples of Kombucha :
Vitamin B1, or thiamin, is used by all living organisms but it is only made by plants, bacteria and fungi. Deficiencies in this nutrient lead to optical, neurological and cardiovascular diseases among others.
Vitamin B2, or Riboflavin, has been useful in the treatment of migraine headaches and anemia. It is also an essential element in the breakdown of fats, carbs and proteins and the production of energy within your body.
Vitamin B3, or Niacin, significantly decreases the risk of heart disease. That’s pretty awesome. Niacin is also helpful in regulating hormones – specifically sex hormones. And you thought it was the alcohol in your Kocktail that heightened your mojo!
Vitamin B5, or pantothenoic acid, is useful in regulating the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol thus potentially averting cardiac disaster. One version of the Vitamin B5 molecule, called pantethine, decreases levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream; those nasty buggers increase your risk of heart disease too.
Vitamin B12, or Cyanocobalamin, has the very important job of being integral to proper cell maintenance particularly in the blood and in the nervous system. As such, Vitamin B12 can help in the treatment of fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer and anemia.
Caprylic Acid, or octanic acid, has been implicated for use in the reduction of high blood pressure and in the treatment of Crohn’s Disease. Caprylic acid is also a powerful antimicrobial compound that is used to treat various yeast infections such as vaginal or thrush.