• Glass gallon jar
• 6 tea bags of tea
• 1.5 cups organic white sugar
• Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY)
• 2 cups of starter tea
• Cotton cloth cover + rubber bands
• Wooden stirring utensil
• Sieve (to remove tea leaves if you’re using loose leafy tea)
• 1 gallon/4 litres unfluoridated, unchlorinated water
Bring your water to a boil in a pot on the stovetop. Turn off the heat and add sugar; stir to dissolve. The kombucha metabolises the tannins in the tea so you want the brew to be quite strong. Let the tea cool to room temperature, then strain out the tea leaves (if you’re using loose leaf tea) or remove the tea bags. Make sure your gallon jar is clean; however, do not use anti-bacterial soap! We are trying to cultivate bacteria with this process so the use of antibacterial soap could kill the SCOBY. To clean the jar, use warm water and distilled vine- gar. Once the jar is clean and the tea has cooled and been strained, pour the tea into the jar. Cover with a dish towel and rubber band. Be wary of us- ing cheesecloths or other clothes with larger holes as small fruit flies can find their way in through the holes and contaminate the brew.
Although kombucha is tolerant to a temperature range larger than some other cultured food projects, its ideal temperature is around 21 ̊C. Do not refrigerate. As a general rule, warmer temperatures will speed up the process and cooler ones will slow it down.
The great thing about brewing your own kombucha is that you can customize the brews to your liking. On average a brew with black tea will be ready in 1 -2 weeks and a brew with green tea will take closer to 2 - 3 weeks.
There seems to be a lot of controversy in using non-caffienated teas. The general consensus is that kombucha brewed without tea (camellia sinensis) will not always reliably ferment. Although people may claim to brew with herbal teas such a rooibos, the SCOBY will not be sustained with such foods alien to its culture and will gradually weaken. Also note that teas such as earl grey contain essential oils that can also upset or even kill the SCOBY. It is best to stick with Black or Green tea for your first few brews before you begin experimenting.
Once the tea is suitably fermented, you can pour it out and drink it right away or go for a second fer- mentation (I’ll come to this later). Remember to always leave 2 cups of already fermented tea (starter) in the bottom of your gallon jar. This tea contains the bacteria to inoculate the next batch and also helps to acidify the brew so fermentation can begin. The pH of your brew should be about 4 - 4.5 after inoculation and pH 3 once it’s finished and ready to consume. Anything more acidic than this would be considered over fermented.
You may also notice that another SCOBY has grown atop the first (mother) SCOBY. You can leave it inside the jar for the next brew or take it out which enables you to brew two gallons. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple SCOBYs in the jar; however, it can become inconvenient after many months. A great thing to do in this case is to create a SCOBY hotel. This is just a collecting jar for extra SCOBYs you don’t need and is very useful to have in case your original jar gets contaminated with fruit flies or the SCOBY develops mould. To create a SCOBY hotel, follow the same instructions as brewing a normal brew of kombucha. The SCOBYs can stay there for up to two months, however, after that point it’s best to replenish with a new batch of sweetened tea as this will ensue strong and sustained growth.
If you don’t drink the tea immediately from the brewing jar you have the option to go for a second ferment. At this stage is it possible to add flavouring agents and also cultivate the carbonation we usually associate with kombucha. To do this, pour the kombucha into airtight bottles (it’s important they are airtight or bubbles will not form). Add the fla- vouring agents of choice; fresh carrot juice, beetroot juice, celery or fennel, for example. If the juice you choose to add isn’t very sweet you can add some raw honey (1 tsp for every 500ml). This extra sweetener will help feed the yeast and encourage carbonation.
Once bottled, store in a warm dark place for 3 days and then refrigerate. It will then be ready to consume.
In the first few months of brewing I found it very useful to record my results. Any number of variables; temperatures, brewing times, types of tea or flavour agents are worth recording for optimal brewing improvements.