***Revised October 2013***
When we made the switch to traditional foods, we had a lot of successes and a lot of failures in terms of finding things that replaced things we used to eat. Beverages were tough as E likes his pop (soda, Coke, etc.) and I thought maybe we could break that habit. We tried water kefir and didn’t have much success before we moved on to a fermented mint soda that he really liked, but was still primarily comprised of sugar. After a few months of just figuring maybe there wasn’t anything we’d like, we picked up some kombucha at Whole Foods. We both loved it, thus starting our journey down the home-brew kombucha path. It’s the easiest thing in the world to make and the results are fantastic.
I first started by growing my own mother (aka. SCOBY, mushroom, etc. the thing that sits on top of the kombucha and makes it). I wasn’t willing to plop down money for one to be sent and I didn’t know anyone who had their own to share, so I found this tutorial (I love that site and her cookbook, by the way) and found myself with a happy little mother a week or two later.
I also tried several different methods of actually brewing the kombucha itself, but found that the recipe in NT really suited us the best, though I altered the technique slightly. Your mileage my vary as some people like it sweeter, some people like more tea, some people like to flavor it with fruit, etc. etc. We just like it straight.
Here are the steps I take every ten days (in the summer; two weeks in the winter) to keep our fridge stocked with this elixir.
- brewing vessel – there are all kinds of things out there just for this purpose but I’ve found good old glass jars to work quite well. I started with four half-gallon, wide-mouth mason jars, but later switched to a larger, 1-gallon jar. Be sure to stay away from metal containers or anything else that might leech or even kill the mother.
- mother (aka. SCOBY, mushroom, etc.) – we actually have two since we have two batches going at the same time.
- something to keep the brewed kombucha in (we use flip-top bottles)
- 12 cups filtered water
- 4 bags unflavored black tea – I use Newman’s Own Family Size Black Tea Bags as I can get it in bulk and we go through a LOT of it.
- 1 cup sugar – I buy Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Sugar in bulk at Costco
When the kombucha has fermented to your liking (usually at least 5 days, though I set mine up a little longer at 10 days during the warmer months and two weeks during the colder months — you can stick a straw beneath the mother and taste it), it’s time to switch out the batch. I start by boiling 6 cups of filtered water usually first thing in the morning.
When the water comes to a boil, I turn off the heat, dump 1 cup of sugar, and stir it until it’s dissolved.
Once the sugar is dissolved, I put 4 black tea bags into the pan and let it sit for 20 minutes (sometimes longer as it doesn’t seem to change the taste if the tea bags are in there the entire time it cools).
When 20 minutes is up, I remove the tea bags and let it sit on the counter for the better part of the day to allow it to cool completely. Then I pull my brewing vessel from the cupboard and carefully remove the mother with clean hands and set her on a plate. Yes, I call it a “her” and yes, E makes fun of me for this. Sometimes I talk to her and tell her how fantastic she looks. This really comes from how I was introduced to kombucha at a conference last year when a woman brought a mother for people to see. The speaker at the conference ended up pulling a piece off of the mother to pass it around the room and the owner of the mother actually cried. I’ve had a reverence for them ever since.
While the mother is taking a little vacation, I set aside half a cup of finished kombucha for the next batch. This helps get it going.
Then I bottle the kombucha. I do this by pouring it into an 8-cup measuring cup and then pouring it through a plastic, mesh strainer (again, stay away from metal) to catch any spent yeast (the brown tendril-like stuff you’ll sometimes see hanging from your mother) or any other “floaties,” through a funnel and into clear, flip-top bottles we got from Ikea (I haven’t taken updated pictures yet, but they’re similar to the cobalt ones below, just a lot bigger and clear). You can also just store it in jars as well, but we like the bottles.
Once the finished kombucha is bottled, I rinse out the brewing vessel with water (no soap) and pour in the cooled water/tea/sugar mixture I made earlier in the day.
Then I add another six cups of cold, filtered water to that.
After that I carefully place the mother on top of the liquid with clean hands and pour the 1/2 cup of reserved kombucha over the top of her….sort of like tucking her in. 🙂 Then I cover the jar with a piece of old dishtowel (wrapped with an old headband – I’m nothing if not resourceful), write the date it’ll be done on a chalkboard label on the outside of the jar, and let it sit for 10-14 days.
There are about 300 million, thousand, trillion tutorials out there on how to brew kombucha, but I’ve found that this is the method that works best for me with consistent results. 🙂