Kombucha has definitely become all the rage, in the past couple of years! A carbonated, sweet, refreshing drink with way more benefits than soda? Heck yaaas! I've made my own kombucha for about a year now, and wanted to share some tips and tricks on how to make a good batch of 'booch!
First things first: What's a SCOBY?
"Scoby" is actually an acronym: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. And that's exactly what it is! A scoby is the living home for the bacteria and yeast that transform sweet tea into tangy, fizzy kombucha — think of the scoby as the coral reef of the bacteria and yeast world. It's a rubbery raft that floats on the surface of the kombucha. Aside from being a home for yeast and good bacteria, the scoby seals off the fermenting kombucha from the air and protects it from outside, undesirable bacterias while it's fermenting. (Source).
So, how in the heck do you get a scoby?! Well, I always recommend getting one from someone, instead of purchasing a dried out one online. This way, it's active and ready to go. Once you are the proud owner of one, it's time to get to 'booch-making!
Some thought definitely goes into making 'booch for the first time, so being prepared is key. I recommend buying all the ingredients before obtaining the actual scoby, just since the scoby is living, breathing and feeding off of that sweet, sugar mixture.
- One gallon (or larger) GLASS jar. Below are a couple of my favorites (yes I have two).
Mortier Pilon Kombucha Continuous Brewing Jar (Ryan bought me this one)!
The continuous brewing jar is neat because it contains a spigot at the bottom, which makes it a little less-messy to bottle.
- Cheese cloth, or some LIGHT, breathable fabric. This will go on top of the jar, so the 'booch can breathe, but the buggies stay out!
The continuous brewing jar doesn't need a cheese cloth, however, I still put a light towel over it, after a run-in with some fruit flies, last summer!
- Bottling bottles. I'd have at least 12 on hand. These are my favorites! Glass is essential here, so nothing plastic! I'm a huge fan of reusing the glass I have, so mason jars and old juice bottles work great, too!
- Organic green or black tea. (I use 3 black tea bags and 2 green tea, usually). My favorite brand.
- 4 cups of distilled water, to start (I guesstimate this)
- 1 cup sugar (no sugar substitutes), per gallon (this takes some guesstimation too, depending on how long you let it ferment and how sweet you like it)
- 1 scoby, plus 3/4 cup of "starter" (previously-brewed kombucha, usually from that same scoby)
Let's Make Some 'Booch
- Steep 4 cups water and 5 teabags in pan, on stove, for 10 minutes. Turn off heat.
- Pour tea in gallon glass jar, add 1 cup sugar (for every gallon) and dissolve.
- Once dissolved, add in more, cool water to fill jar up; leaving 2-3 inches at top.
- Let mixture cool to room temp.
- Wash hands and place scoby and 3/4 cup starter in jar.
- Cover with cloth and wait at least 14 days.
** The bacteria is very sensitive to heat and metal, so make sure the scoby isn't added into the jar until the liquid reaches room temp, and make sure you stir with a wooden spoon!
After 14ish days have passed, and your 'booch tastes to your liking, it's time to second-ferment (if you wanna do that)! This process allows for you to add in juice, fruits, flavorings, or just bottle on its own. It's also the best time to make some more 'booch, so make sure you have all ingredients to do it all at once.
- Take out both scobys (yes, there will be two; a mama and baby scoby). Put them in a glass jar, add in some starter for next batch and cover for the time being.
- Add fruit/juice to bottles (just a tad bit will do)
- Fill bottles up with kombucha (stopping at bottom of neck, if you'd like it to be more carbonated).
- Leave on counter, or a dark area, for 5 days; then refrigerate.
I find the 'booch tastes best after it's sat in the fridge for at least 5ish days. And when I let it sit longer, it becomes more carbonated, which I love!
It sounds simple enough, but making 'booch is a process. Each batch never turns out the same as the previous one. Here are a couple of questions and answers, based on my experience.
Q: Is that mold at the top?
A: Chances are, it's not! Once your kombucha is fermenting for the first time, your scoby will begin to multiply (creating that baby). It'll form on the top, and will resemble some white-ish mold. Don't worry! As long as there aren't hairy patches, you should be good to go!
Q: Speaking of baby scobys; what do I do the next time I make 'booch?
A: You don't need the mama and baby both, to make your next batch, and honestly, I'd recommend not (they eat the sugar too quickly). You have a couple options: throw the mama away (the more brown, bottom scoby), give it away (like the person did with you), or store in a 'scoby hotel'. (Source).
Q: My kombucha tastes like vinegar and it's been less than 14 days!
A: Chances are you need more sugar, or a shorter ferment time; you get to pick! Play around with ratios, teas, etc. It'll take time.
Q: Where do I store my kombucha?
A: I've found a dark, warmer spot is best. My basement, especially in the winter, is a glorious spot that produces the LARGEST scobys! It'll smell a bit, so plan accordingly. I also store my second-ferment bottles down there, during the 5 day ferment time.
Q: Okay, I've got some fruit flies. No big deal, right?
A: BIG DEAL! BIG DEAL! I found this out the hard way. Those pesky little jerks made their way into my 'booch, and looked to mass-produce by the second! Gross story short, fruit flies lay eggs that are hard to see, and if ingested, you can get incredibly sick and bloated. Throw the scoby and 'booch away, and start ALL OVER! Better safe than sorry!
Q: What are you favorite flavors?
A: I have two! WTRMLN WTR makes a KILLER lime flavor that's perfect for summer! Adding some of that to my 'booch makes it taste like summer. My other favorite is adding in sliced, organic strawberries and rhubarb from my garden. Delicious!
Like I said earlier, perfecting your kombucha is almost impossible; it's a little different every time; that's the fun part! It's like a science experiment, so have fun with it and don't stress! If one batch doesn't turn out, just stay patient and remember, you'll have a new batch 14ish days from then!