Kombucha: how to make it – a beginners guide

Booch? So you’ve heard of it, but actually have no idea what it is, aside from a weird hippy drink?

Crushed ice and kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea, made from a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria, which is called a Scoby.

Kombucha, or booch is a light, slightly fizzy drink. The yeasts and bacteria are meant to be probiotic and give our body some good bacteria for our gut.

It’s made in two stages, the first stage is called the 1st ferment. This is made in a large vessel of tea, sugar and the scoby. It’s left for a few days to a few weeks, for the scoby to ferment the tea. This fermentation process changes the taste and adds the fizz.

The time it takes to ferment is dependent on how warm it is (in hot weather it may only take a few days, on colder weather it will take longer). The longer you leave it, the lower the sugar content. If you leave it long enough it will turn to vinegar, which has its own uses as a vinegar, a household cleaner or for making a kombucha based sourdough.

When the 1st ferment tastes nice, you pour it into individual bottles with your choice of flavours, such as fruit teas, fruit, and spices. This is called the second ferment.

A Scoby

There are two things to be aware of when drinking or making kombucha:

1: Some kombucha can be very high in sugar, the longer you ferment for, the less sugar will be in it. If you don’t want too much sugar, then let your booch ferment until it is nearly like vinegar

2: Kombucha contains alcohol, which is formed during the fermentation process. Alcohol content of kombucha is around 0.5 to 1.5%. Not enough to get you drunk, even if you drink litres of the stuff, but if alcohol content is a concern for you, it may be best to skip the booch altogether.

The ‘Mother’ is a large scoby that makes new baby scobies. This (pictured on the right) is my ‘Mother’. You can see the layers underneath which are new scobies forming.

Scobies look pretty disgusting and can have all sorts of weird and wonderful yeast type growths on them. Mostly, they’re totally fine and normal. If you have something furry or fluffy growing on your scoby, then that is mold and you need to discard the lot.

Pictured: A healthy looking scoby. DH calls it an alien life form. I call it my pet.

How to make Kombucha:

Step One – getting started

Get a large glass vessel. I got mine (pictured above) for $5.00 from the op shop! You don’t need the fancy ones with the taps and you don’t need to spend lots of moola to get started either).

In your newly found or purchased large glass vessel, put 6 cups of tea cooled (make sure it’s completely cooled, hot tea will kill your scoby! I learnt that one the hard way). You can use black tea or green tea or a mixture of both.

I use 1 tea bag, to 1 cup of water and 1 tbsp of sugar per cup. I make about 1.5 litres at a time.

Add your scoby.

There are two main ways you can get a scoby.

You can get scoby’s for free from other people. If you are in New Zealand, I suggest you visit the Fermenting Freaks NZ FB page. They are a very knowledgeable group and if you are NZ based, you can find a scoby through them.

If meeting strangers to pick up weird bits of bacteria, is way out of your comfort zone, you can buy kombucha from most supermarkets and health food shops. It is VERY important that the booch you buy is live and has not been pasteurized. Pasteurization is a heat treatment that kills the bugs, so you will not get a scoby from any heat treated booch. This way will take longer to make your kombucha, as you will need to grow your scoby from scratch.

Cover your Booch jar with a cloth cover, something that will allow your scoby to breathe (I use chux cloths) and let it sit somewhere warm and dark. I leave mine on the kitchen bench under a set of cupboards, so it’s away from direct sunlight.

Step Two – the 1st ferment

You need to taste your kombucha regularly (daily), so you know when it’s ready. And that really depends on how you like it. The sweeter it is, the more sugar it will have in it.

Step Three – the 2nd ferment

This is the fun part!

Using a funnel pour your booch into round glass bottles. Don’t fill it up too much or you won’t have enough room for your flavours and you need room for gas build up and fizz.

You can flavour your kombucha ANYWAY YOU WANT TO!

Try:

  • Star anise,
  • cinnamon sticks,
  • fruit teas,
  • fresh mint,
  • grated ginger,
  • lemon juice
  • squeezed orange juice,
  • berries,
  • cherries,
  • peppermint teas,
  • feijoa
  • watermelon
  • cloves and plums
  • peach, apricot, nectarine
  • apple, pear
  • etc etc etc!

Allow to sit on the bench for 1 to 2 days, burping regularly (you need to open the bottle to release the gas, if you don’t you may end up with your booch bottle exploding). When it tastes amazing and is nice and fizzy, pop in the fridge and drink when you want to.

Kombucha makes great iceblocks!

Our favourite kombucha flavours are:

Plum and cloves

Orange and cinnamon

Strawberry

Lemon and ginger

Feijoa

Peppermint

Fruit tea’s (plum and boysenberry is yum!)

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