How to Make (and Like) Kombucha – Part 1

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I will admit I did not love kombucha the first time my sweet friend handed me a glassful. After choking on my first sip, I watched in disgust amazement as she easily drank her own down. I am sure that somewhere in the part of my brain where I make emphatic proclamations that later are ignored, I said never again.

If you’re like me and start to read articles on the importance of what you eat and your health (and you should!) you’ll end up with a home full of weird foods that you once found particularly suspicious. Kombucha, will most likely be one of them. (This is a fantastic resource  that I started out with.)

After reading such articles, I gave it another try with a bottle of strawberry kombucha that caught my eye while out on a luxury shopping trip to the grocery store. The glass jar was sleek, the wrapper delicate, and the flavor divine! I found myself asking why hadn’t I liked this before?!

And so, several years after my first introduction to this fermented drink, the same friend, at my request, handed me a jar with placenta-looking glob floating inside. At first I questioned what I was doing when I saw it, but as I remembered the mission for health and trying weird new things, I took the jar. That very glob became the life source of my kombucha today.

The glob is called a mother or SCOBY, which stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Isn’t that beautiful? The word symbiotic gives me an earth-friendly glow inside. (Just know that prior to writing this post, I was teaching my children how to maim houseflies to feed to our Venus fly trap.) Symbiotic.

SCOBY, just waiting to be fed.
See all of those layers – it’s reproducing… Isn’t that sweet?

If you can get past the thought of this thing crawling out of the jar in the middle of the night and attaching itself to your face, you can totally make kombucha… (This fear is based on a real life Iron Heart mama convo.)

How to Make Kombucha

I start by making 1 1/2 gallons of tea because we like our “bucha”. I use Lipton because we needed an inexpensive tea that I could pick up from our local stores and didn’t like the imparted flavor of the other name brand teas.

I boil about 1 1/2 gallons of water in my big stainless steel pot, add my tea bags (I use 2 one gallon tea bags, because I’d rather have strong tea than weak) then let it steep for about 5 minutes. Pay attention to the time or you run the risk of a bitter brew and that is none too delicious.

When my tea is still hot I stir 1 1/2 cups white sugar. White sugar – I know, the taboo of the health world, but the “healthy” sugars can hurt your ferment. A friend of mine tried honey and she said in the dark closet she grew not a scoby but a monster. I trusted her and did not use honey. I have tried turbinado, coconut and palm sugar – all have resulted in a weaker scoby.

White sugar. Don’t fight it.

When the tea is room temperature, I pour it in the jar with the scoby and remaining kombucha, which is usually about 3-4 cups. If the jar isn’t full enough, I add water.

It happens occasionally that my spigot leaks or the jar overflows during fermentation. For these reasons, I keep the jars on platters to make clean up easy.

I let the brew ferment for 7 days, or 5 if it’s quite warm in my house. It is now ready for drinking or a second ferment (we’ll get to that in the next post.)

How to Like It

Some of my kids like vinegar (think pickle juice) and I regularly partake in apple cider vinegar. If this is not a preference that you share with us, start with brewing 5 days and taste from there until pleasantly tart but not curl-your-toenails tart.

I highly recommend a second ferment. This is where I won my kids over – fruit flavors. Like I said, next post…

 

Some things I do though they’re not recommended:

I use a spouted jar rather than a special brew jar. Why? Cost, convenience and accessibility. These jars are inexpensive, easy to tap off and easier for the kids to help themselves to. I do have to work a bit of scoby out the spigot once every couple months and I had to replace one spigot for $7 from Amazon. Totally worth it.

I use plastic wrap or glass lids as a cover. Why? I always manage to soak the cloth held on by a rubber band or string and then fruit flies… I have made numerous fermented and cultured goodies using not secure tops only to have found that the fruit flies had been loving on them for a few days before I had. I will give no further details (unless you ask.)

I put my jars in a cupboard. Why? Again, fruit flies and it’s the perfect set up for my kitchen. Awhile after I had been making kombucha, I read that it is not advisable because such a dark, potentially damp place can grow unwanted things. So far, so good, but I do watch and smell for any signs of these unwanted things.

I’m sure there’s more, but this works for us.

Little helpful tidbit, fruit flies loooove apple cider vinegar. I’m pretty sure that they even have expensive taste and prefer organic apple cider vinegar. For traps, I have random lovely bottles with a bit of acv and a drop of dish detergent that keep down the population. When my creature-loving daughter doesn’t leave banana pieces out specifically for them, that is…

 

 

 

 

Kombucha: love it, hate it or never heard of it? If you
make it, what do you do differently?

 

 

Author: Katie

Welcome! I’m Katie. Here at Forging Iron Hearts, I will be sharing the experiences of our family here in our intentional community in East Texas. You will likely see occasional posts from my wonderful husband Kevin and the other Iron Heart families, as well.