Kombucha is one of the easiest fermentations you can make. The ingredients cost very little (tea, sugar and water) and the preparation is remarkably simple. The only minor complicating factor is getting your hands on a starting culture. The culture is often called a “mother” or a “mushroom” but don’t be fooled, it is not an actual mushroom, but simply a colony of bacteria and yeast. It is often referred to by the acronym SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.
The Scoby floats on the surface of the Kombucha and every time you make a new batch of Kombucha, the Scoby continues to grow and thus creates another layer which can then be shared with someone else. In the past year, I’ve given away 6 or 7 SCOBYs to others who since have been making batches of their own, and perhaps sharing their colonies as well. To share your colony (or collect one from someone else) simply peel a layer off the existing colony. You can store it in a little kombucha in a jar until you are ready to make your own. It’s pretty durable, so don’t be afraid to keep it a few weeks if necessary. Adding a little sugar to the liquid can help keep the colony well fed. Although I’ve never tried this, I’m quite certain that if you were to simply pour some kombucha into your tea rather than getting a colony from someone else, that a colony would form in your batch over time and you’d get a lovely kombucha. If you try that, let me know how it goes please.
Preparation Time: 1 hour
Fermentation time: 7 days
Yield: 1 gallon
1 gallon non-chlorinated water
1 cup sugar
4 black tea bags or 2T loose black tea
1 SCOBY (a.k.a. colony, mother, mushroom)
- Make the tea.
- Dissolve the sugar into the tea
- Strain out the tea leaves (or remove the tea bags)
- Place it in the container you will use for the fermentation. I like to use a 2 gallon glass Anchor Hocking wide mouth jar, but use whatever you like. I’ve heard it said that it’s best to use a container that is wider than it is deep, such as a large bowl, but so long as you have sufficient surface area for the culture, you should be pleased with the result. I have a friend who makes her batches in a five gallon plastic pail, but I prefer the glass.
- Cover it with a cloth to allow it to breathe some while keeping other dust and microbial invaders from settling in your batch.
- Let it sit for about a week. The longer it sits, the more tart the taste will become. If it sits too long, it will become vinegary. If you aren’t so keen on the drink yet, let it sit longer.
- Bottle it, adding flavorings such as juices and berries. Some like to add chia seeds to their bottles to further enhance the nutritional qualities of the drink.
- It’s best to refrigerate it after bottling to significantly slow the fermentation activities.
Getting it to be nice and fizzy is something that has been inconsistent in my experience. I think a fizzy drink is mostly a product of a healthy happy SCOBY. Have some patience and trust during the fermentation and after a week, dip in a spoon in and give it a taste. Leave it longer if it’s not quite right.