A lot of people get daunted by kombucha, with it’s fermentation and SCOBY thing. Especially as the most fermentation Aussies will try is with the home brew kit in making beer. I know I was skeptical at first and tested the waters slowly with the canned variety, available in most health food shops. But it’s surprisingly simple and easy to prepare you’ll be kicking yourself you didn’t try it earlier. Read more for my how to make kombucha guide.
I’m a little obsessed with probiotics as you may have noticed. They can be one of the tastiest forms of medicines so it’s hard not to love them. Today I want to share the basics of kombucha with you, why you should be drinking it and how to make it.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea, made from tea, sugar and SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY is beige or white, and feels like a rubbery pancake.
See in this picture? The odd looking disk floating on the surface of the jar – that’s the SCOBY.
Kombucha tea is made by adding the colony to sugar and tea, and allowing the mix to ferment. The resulting liquid contains vinegar, B vitamins and a number of other chemical compounds.
Even though everyone’s talking about kombucha now, it’s actually a super ancient drink. According to Wikipedia, kombucha originated in Northeast China in 221 BC, and was known as “The Tea of Immortality”. Whether you’ll be immortal or not after drinking it, I haven’t tested. Please don’t try to test it either! It has been used in Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan for several centuries as everyone else discovered how beneficial it was to their health.
Why should I drink it?
I wrote a post earlier about the benefits of fermented foods. Kombucha is a fermented drink, so it carries all the same properties and benefits as all fermented foods.
Kombucha contains b-vitamins, enzymes, probiotics and a high concentration of acid (acetic, gluconic, and lactic).
If you want even more info about why it’s awesome:
- Improve’s Digestion: because of its high levels of beneficial acid, probiotics and enzymes.
- Weight Loss: believed to assist in improving metabolism and limit fat accumulation.
- Increase Energy: through the iron that is released from the black tea during the fermentation process. It also improves the body’s absorption of other non-heme (plant-derived) iron. Plus, it also contains some caffeine and b-vitamins, which can energize the body.
- Cleansing and Detoxifying: Kombucha contains substantial amounts of glucuronic acid (GA). GA is well known as a detoxicant. In the body it combines with toxins like pharmaceuticals and environmental pollutants. It then converts them into compounds that are soluble and the body can excrete. Drinking kombucha may also help prevent tissues from absorbing industrial toxins in the environment.
- Antioxidants: Kombucha contains abundant antioxidants including vitamins E, C, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids. Like black tea, kombucha also contains polyphenols and other compounds with antioxidant powers. But because it is fermented, kombucha is much more powerful than plain tea. Its antioxidant activity has been found to be 100 times higher than vitamin C and 25 times higher than vitamin E. For that reason drinking traditional kombucha may help cure chronic illnesses caused by oxidative stress.
- Immune Support: The probiotics found in kombucha support the immune system. Oxidative stress suppresses the immune system but kombucha’s high levels of vitamin C support immunity. Its antioxidant power also protects against cell damage, inflammatory diseases, suppressed immunity, and tumors.
- Joint care: Kombucha can help heal, repair and prevent joint damage in a number of ways. Kombucha is loaded with glucosamines, which increase synovial hyaluronic acid production. This supports the preservation of collagen and prevents arthritic pain. In the same way it supports joint collagen it can also support collagen of the entire body and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
- Cancer Prevention Kombucha has also been proven beneficial for cancer prevention and recovery. A study published in Cancer Letters found that by consuming glucaric acid found in kombucha reduced the risk of cancer in humans.
How do I make it?
Kombucha is surprisingly easy to make. But like all fermented foods, it does take time and patience.
To make 1 L (approx 34 fl oz) of Kombucha
What you need
- 1 litre (approx 34 fl oz) filtered & boiling water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 3 black tea bags (you can experiment with other types of tea, but start with black tea)
- 1/3 cup starter tea (if it’s your first batch you will need to source this with your SCOBY)
- 1 SCOBY per brewing vessel
- Brewing vessel with at least a 1 L capacity (anything except metal; I use glass)
- a tea towel and rubber band
Phase 1: Fermentation
Allow the tea mixture to completely cool, depending on the size of your pot, this will take a few hours. Do not add SCOBY to hot liquid, it will kill off all the good bacteria.
2. Transfer the cooled tea mixture to your (clean) brewing vessel. Add the Starter Tea and gently slide the SCOBY into the jar with clean hands. Cover the mouth of the jar with a tea towel or paper towels secured with a rubber band.
Here’s a tip: don’t pour the boiling tea into a glass jar. It will shatter if it’s not especially designed for hot liquids. I know this because I tried it
3. Ferment for 7 to 10 Days: Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get disturbed. I find under the sink is perfect for this. Ferment for 7 to 10 days. Fermentation time will depend on a couple of factors, like temperature.
After 7 days check how the kombucha tastes. It should be a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. Once it’s done it can be drunk as is, or decanted into bottles for its second fermentation. If you forget about it, it will end up tasting super vinegary. If you can handle it, you can still drink it. Otherwise, through it out (save some starter tea) and start again.
Some people love kombucha after this first brewing stage, but will refer to it as “an acquired taste”. This is what I understand as health nuts trying to pretend they enjoy something only because it’s healthy. I do not enjoy kombucha after it’s first fermentation phase, I’ll drink it occasionally but it’s certainly not a drink I would give to a kombucha newby!
If you prefer your healthy foods/drinks being palatable, I recommend continuing on to the second fermentation phase. This is where we make it carbonated and flavoured. Yum!
How’s your SCOBY looking?
It’s not unusual for the SCOBY to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways. A new cream-colored layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. It usually attaches to the old scoby, but it’s ok if they separate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the scoby. This is all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.