How to Brew Kombucha: Part 1

Have you jumped on the kombucha train yet? I’ve been drinking GT’s kombucha for a few years now and never really thought about brewing my own. It’s convenient to grab at the grocery store and there are so many brands available now there’s always new stuff to try. But with each bottle costing at least $3, I found it hard to be consistent about my intake, and didn’t feel like I was getting the full range of health benefits as a result.

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I attended a home-brewing kombucha class with my mother-in-law this past March and learned how easily it can be made at home. Now that I have a few successful batches under my belt, it’s time to share with you! I am writing this how-to as a series of posts because I don’t want to dump all the information on you at once. I will start with the knowledge and tools that are most helpful to beginning your home brew, and will continue to share the rest of the steps over the coming weeks.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is an ancient drink made from fermented tea that is known for its gut healing properties. No one really knows where it started, but it has been traced back to both Tibet and Russia. It has been around for centuries, but only recently became super popular and commercialized.

Why drink kombucha?

I love kombucha. I really do. It is super refreshing and contains naturally occurring minerals and electrolytes, so it’s great for after a hard workout. Often times I’ll drink it in place of my afternoon caffeine, or when I feel like something other than water. I have even found myself reaching for a bottle of kombucha instead of pouring a glass of wine to have with dinner. Now that I brew my own, I drink it every day and my digestion issues are a thing of the past. People also claim that kombucha heals all kinds of health ailments ranging from acid reflux to irritable bowel syndrome. I am not going to make any crazy claims, but I do know that it makes me feel great and I want you to experience what I’m talking about!

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Additional brewing resources

Kombucha Kamp is the most thorough and helpful resource I’ve found while brewing at home. The creators of Kombucha Kamp also published a great book called The Big Book of Kombucha (I bought my copy on amazon) that I refer to all the time. It’s great for an in-depth understanding of all things kombucha-related, as well as trouble shooting issues, and lots of recipes. If you follow the instructions I provide, you shouldn’t need additional resources, but I think it’s fun and useful to understand the science behind the process.

The following equipment list looks lengthy, but I bet some of it is already sitting around in your kitchen- and if not, just about all of it can be bought on amazon! Once you have the equipment you need on hand, you will only be spending a dollar or so per batch, depending on what you use to flavor your brew.

Equipment needed

  • Tea kettle or large pot for boiling water
  • Stainless steel tea steeper (I use these)
  • Nut milk bag (I use this one)
  • Gallon-sized glass jar (I use this one)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Standard measuring cups
  • Coffee filters or lightweight cloth
  • Rubber bands
  • Grolsch glass bottles (I use these) – whatever you choose to bottle your brew in, make sure it is made of durable, pressurized glass!

Additional equipment (optional)

  • Heating strip (I use this one) – You’ll want to keep your brew at or around 75-85° F so if your place is typically on the cooler side like ours, you’ll want something to keep the brewing vessel warm enough. I like this because I can wrap it around the sides of the vessel as opposed to sitting under the jar, which can encourage excessive yeast growth on the bottom of your brew.
  • pH test strips (I use these)  – There is no “perfect” pH for kombucha, but having these strips handy will help you understand where your brew starts, and the ending pH you find tastes best. This is totally optional, just a way to help you brew more consistently.

Ingredients for brewing 1 gallon of kombucha

  • SCOBY – an acronym for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast,” this is the culture you’ll use to brew your kombucha. It looks and feels like a disc-shaped jelly fish. You can source your SCOBY from a friend, buy through a trusted source, or do what I did and buy one on amazon! (I bought this guy) Wherever you end up getting yours, make sure it comes with at least 1 C of starter liquid (really potent kombucha) – NOT vinegar. SCOBYs that are stored in vinegar will not work.
  • 1 Q Boiling water
  • 2-3 Q cold filtered water
  • 2 T loose tea or 6 tea bags – You can use plain black tea bags, or any kind of loose unflavored tea. I bought loose organic black, green, and white tea on amazon and made my own blend. There will only be trace amounts of caffeine in your finished product, so the type of tea leaf you use for the brew only matters in terms of taste. Do not use any kinds of tea blends that contain added flavors because this will contaminate your SCOBY. You’ll add flavoring after the first ferment.
  • 1 C white granulated sugar – the SCOBY needs refined sugar to feed on for a proper ferment- do not use any substitutes here! There will only be trace amounts of sugar in your kombucha by the time it’s ready to drink.

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Before we get started…

Before you go on an online shopping spree, I encourage you to dig through your kitchen drawers and see what you already have. One of the best reasons to brew at home is to save money, so use what’s in your kitchen!

You’ll also want to be sure to clear some space to brew, whether it be on your kitchen counter, in a cabinet you don’t use, or in the basement- just make sure the space is away from any direct sunlight or drafty areas. Your SCOBY is a live culture, so it does best in healthy environments. If you can keep your brew away from cooking fumes/cigarette smoke/negative vibes, it’ll do that much better. I know, I sound like a hippie. Good vibes only.

Are you ready to get going? Gather all your equipment and check back soon for my next kombucha how-to with step-by-step instructions on getting your first batch started!

XOXO, Annie

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