Making Stuff: Kombucha

DSC_0222Every man and his orange fish has a post on the wonderful probiotic kombucha. I get asked fairly regularly for a Scobie for others to start their own, or instructions on how to do it. So I decided it was time to create my own post as a quick and easy reference place to send people.

I like the book Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. It is a trip into the little explored world of ferments and non alcoholic drinks like kombucha,  plus other things to eat like vinegar, sourdough, kraut and of course beer, wine, and other fun beverages. The link is to the first edition of the book, which I have, but I see there is a second edition now too.

My recipe is loosely based on Sandor’s, but I have modified it to suit our taste, and the climate here in Albany WA (although it seems to work OK in Perth, WA too).

A new batch of tea with scobies from the previous batch added

The ratio we like the best is 2/3 cup of raw organic sugar to 1 litre of water. I have a saucepan that takes three litres of water, so I use two cups of sugar to three litres of water, then I add a tablespoon of Nerida spray free loose leaf tea. Just plain black tea. The more organic and less sprayed it is the better. Bring the water to a boil, looking for what the Japanese call a string of pearls boil, where bubbles form on the bottom begin to arrange themselves into lines or strings. At this stage the water is at around 90 degrees Celcius or 200F. Add the tea leaves, then turn off the heat and allow to steep and cool. We usually leave it overnight.

Of course you can use other teas, I’m sure it is lovely. In my house the fizzy, yummy refreshing kombucha pretty much exclusively comes from black tea. If you wanted to try different teas I would keep a batch of brew turning over just with black tea mixture as a kind of Mother Brew in case of something going wrong.

Large glass jars with a good surface area are perfect for the first fermentation.

So you brew the brew and let it cool, add it to your scobie in a big old jar, and wait until it has changed taste to have a slight vinegar tang (but you can still taste a hint of the sugar). This could be three days in hot weather and up to a month in the depths of winter. But remember what you are looking for is the tang.

Then you bottle the stuff up and add your flavour, this is where I add things like, lemon, ginger, strawberry, blueberries. I add at least a 1/8 cup of flavour to a grolsch type bottle. and 1/4 cup to a 750ml or 1 litre bottle. This is known as the second ferment.

DSC_0225 (1)

Then let the bottles sit at room temperature and brew for about a day, possibly two. Then pop them into the fridge to slow the fermentation process. You can remove the fruit if you want to. I don’t bother. You can also just add fruit juice, I have tried this, and I assume this is what commercial brewers do. It was very effective, but I like adding the fruit.

When you open your brew, it should have naturally carbonated under the pressure of the sealed bottle. Watch for the fizz, some fruits like strawberry have a bigger fizz than others.

Sit back with your copy of wild fermentation and enjoy your lovely home made brew.


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