How to Make (and Like) Kombucha – Part 1

How to Make (and Like!) Kombucha

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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 are later 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. And you will love them.

Kombucha will most likely be one of them.

(This is a fantastic resource if you want to know what kombucha is and why you should drink it.)

The Rest of the Story

One day, while out on a luxury grocery shopping trip (you know, a trip to the store without children) a bottle of strawberry kombucha caught my eye. The glass jar was sleek and the wrapper delicate. A gorgeous presentation and all the new-found health knowledge won me over. The flavor was divine! I found myself asking why had I not bought this before?!

Oh. The price.

I am too cheap to spend that much money on anything when I know it is something I could easily make.

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 the sight of it, I questioned what I was doing.

But, as I remembered the mission for health and my need to try weird new things, I took the jar.

That very glob became the life source of my kombucha today.

Meet My SCOBY

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.

How to Make (and Like) Kombucha
SCOBY, just waiting to be fed.
How to Make (and Like) Kombucha
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, (based on a real-life Iron Heart mama convo)  you can totally make kombucha…

How to Make Kombucha

 

We like our “bucha”, so we make gallons of it each week.

I use Lipton gallon-size bags because we needed an inexpensive tea for the enormous amount of kombucha that we go through and I didn’t like the imparted flavor of the other name brand teas.

So, there is some conversation about kombucha and chlorine in your tap water. It is recommended that you use spring or distilled water, but I don’t. I boil water a heavy stainless steel pot and steep my tea bags directly in the pot.

I make sure to pay attention to the time or I run the risk of a bitter brew and that is none too delicious. 5 minutes is ideal.

Because loose tea leaves damage a SCOBY, I am careful not to break the bag with stirring. The tea brews just the same if I drop the bag and cover, so that’s my recommendation. Should the bag break because I don’t listen to my own advice or I get a faulty bag, I strain the cooled tea before it goes into my brew jar.

How to Make (and Like) Kombucha

When my tea is still hot I stir in white sugar. White sugar – I know, the taboo of the health world, but in the case of kombucha I recommend it. I have tried turbinado, coconut, and palm sugar – all have resulted in a weaker SCOBY.

A friend of mine tried honey. As it fermented in the dark closet, she grew not a SCOBY but a monster. So, though others have said that honey works for them, I heeded my friend’s warning and did not use honey.

So, WHITE SUGAR.

How to Make (and Like) Kombucha
White sugar. Don’t fight it.

When the tea is room temperature, for sure room temperature, I pour it into the jar (see what jar below.) with the SCOBY and remaining kombucha, at least 1/2 cup for each gallon.

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 5-9 days, or 5 if it’s quite warm in my house and 9 if it’s particularly cold.

It is now ready for drinking or a second ferment (we’ll get to that in the next post.)

How to Like It

How to Make (and Like) KombuchaSome 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 glass drink dispenser 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. My favorite was a gift from Kevin, 2.2 gallon capacity and glass lid.

I do have to work a bit of SCOBY out the spigot once every couple months and have had to replace one spigot for $7 from Amazon. Totally worth it.

(Update: The above spigot comes apart. I have spent years doing this wrong. Confession on our Instagram. Embarrassing.)

I use plastic wrap or glass lids as a cover.

Why? Fruit flies. Try as I may, the cover cloth over the mouth of the jar seemed to always be soaked or slip off. Either way, those are invitations to the little buggers.

I have made numerous fermented and cultured goodies using unsecured 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. It’s a large cupboard right above my slow cooker making it warmer than most other places.

A while 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.

Last 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…

How to Make (and Like!) Kombucha
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Kombucha

A totally delicious and good-for-you fermented drink. You know, like in the store, but waaaay less expensive.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Servings 1 gallon
Author Katie @ forgingironhearts.com

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 gallon tea bag we prefer Lipton
  • 3/4 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 SCOBY
  • 1/2 cup kombucha

Instructions

  1. Bring a gallon of water to boil. Turn off the burner. 

  2. Steep tea bag in it for approximately 5 minutes, then remove tea bag. 

  3. Stir in sugar.

  4. Let cool to room temperature.


  5. Pour the tea into your vessel of choice.

  6. Gently add your scoby and kombucha.


  7. Store in a warm place out of direct sunlight.


  8. Ferment for 5-9 days. Taste from 5 days on to find your preference. 
  9. Be sure to read Part 2 on how to flavor your kombucha!

 

If you are ready to learn how to flavor your kombucha, check out Part 2!

 

 

 

 

 

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.