Whenever I drop by a health food store, I’m always picking up a bottle of kombucha. I’ve been enjoying kombucha in general so much that I decided to start making my own.
I had no idea where to start but thanks to youtube, it was only a matter of time before I knew what needed to be done. The most important part is getting your hand on a SCOBY, short for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast” and looks a bit like a mushroom. You basically place your SCOBY in brewed tea, and let it ferment into kombucha drink, or vinegar.
I quickly went from experimenting to doubling my batches each week because everyone who tried some kept requesting more.
I found my first SCOBY on craiglist, but I’m sure you could try any other classified ads websites. (you can also email me if you are in Toronto).
- 1 SCOBY with1 cup or more reserve kombucha
- 5-6L water
- 1 1/2 cups regular sugar
- 8 to 9 tea bags
- 2 gallon glass jug
- large stainless steel pot
- wooden spoon
- 1 old clean cotton t-shirt
- 1 large elastic band to fit
Please note that you will be boiling water and waiting overnight for it to cool down before you can place your SCOBY in it. The SCOBY is very sensitive and can die from emerging it in hot water. If your SCOBY has been in the fridge, take it out the night before and leave it on the counter to reach room temperature by the next day before using it so you don’t shock your SCOBY.
When you get your SCOBY it will come in at least 1 cup of reserve kombucha. It is best to use filtered water in order to capitalize on the health benefits. If regular sugar is all you have, use it but I would suggest going with non-processed and organic sugar like cane or sucant.
For tea you can use loose leaf but I suggest using it tea filters. For tea bags you will need 8-9 tea bags. It is suggested to use a combination of 50/50 organic black and green tea, but you can use a combo of black, green and white tea or just one, some people say however that the SCOBY needs the tannins in black tea so add some, but you can experiment. I also highly recommend organic tea. Your glass jar can be purchased at Canadian Tire, and you must wash it before use. Since the SCOBY needs to breath, it is best to use an old clean t-shirt as anything too porous can attract fruit flies. It is best to store your brew in a cool (70-80 degrees), dark place where you won’t disturb your brew such as a cupboard or closet. You shouldn’t move your kombucha until the baby SCOBY has properly formed.
How To Brew Your First Batch:
- Add 1 3/4 gallons (6.5L) of filtered water into a large covered stainless steel pot and bring to a boil.
- Take the water off the burner and add 1 1/2 cups sugar. Stir until dissolved with a wooden spoon.
- Add 8-9 tea bags in the combinations that you like and stir until dissolved.
- Cover and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove tea bags and either leave covered overnight until it reaches room temperature or fill your sink with cold water and place covered pot in it being careful not too fill the sink too much that the water enters your pot. You can place ice or ice packs around the pot to bring the temperature down faster. This method usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour if you put ice packs. The SCOBY is very sensitive and can die from emerging it in hot water. If your SCOBY has been in the fridge, take it out the night before and leave it on the counter to reach room temperature by the next day before using it so you don’t shock your SCOBY.
- Add the cooled brew to your clean 2 gallon jug.
- Add in your room temperature reserve kombucha and stir with your wooden spoon. You can also just add the reserve kombucha with your SCOBY all at once and stir, that’s okay too. I sometimes adjust the SCOBY flat, especially if it becomes jumbled up once you pour the reserve kombucha in. Make sure your hands are clean.
- Add in your SCOBY with clean hands if you haven’t already. You don’t have to wash them with soap (especially if you use a chemical based soap) as soap residue can harm your SCOBY, just really wash them well with the warmest water you can handle for a minute or so.
- Place your cloth over the lid and secure with an elastic.
Place your brew in a cool, dark place that will be undisturbed. Avoid the temptation of checking up on your brew too early with movement. The baby SCOBY needs time to form properly and movement can hinder that process.
Your brew will be ready to cultivate in about 7-10 days and you will have a new Baby SCOBY! Here’s how to check if it’s ready:
- Insert a clean straw (I like to use a glass “Dharma Straw” purchased for $9 at Grassroots on the Danforth, you can also order them online and if they ever break the company replaces them free of charge if you’ve saved the pieces!) into your brew beyond your SCOBY at the top. Hold your finger down on it once it’s in the liquid and pull it up. Place it into a cup and repeat until you’ve got enough for a taste.
- If it’s not to your liking (I like mine strong, more on the vinegary side with nice bubbles), put the cover back on, place it back in a cool, dark place and check it again in a couple of days until it’s ready. The Baby SCOBY on the top will also be nice and thick usually if it’s ready, although sometimes it’s thinner. The Mother SCOBY grows with each batch and will typically produce a brew at a faster rate because of her size which is a good thing!
- Once it’s ready, cultivate it by washing your hands well with the warmest water you can handle and dry them just by shaking your hands of excess water. You will now have 2 SCOBY’s! Take out your Baby SCOBY (the one formed on the top) and your original Mother SCOBY and inspect them to make sure that they are healthy. There should be NO mold on them. They should look cream coloured, bubbly or flat. Brown slimy stuff on the underneath is NORMAL. It is the good bacteria doing their thing. You can either choose to leave it on your SCOBY or discard it. You can also check Google images for pictures of healthy vs unhealthy SCOBY’s or email me you have any doubts.
- If your SCOBY’s are healthy, place them onto a clean plate. If they are not, discard them and your brew and clean out your jug very well, also clean your cotton cover or discard it.
- Now you can funnel your brew into glass vessels to put into the fridge. Kombucha naturally pulls out toxins so I wouldn’t recommend metal or plastic. I highly recommend acquiring large 1L glass mason jars from Canadian Tire, they are great in the fridge and to take with you as they don’t leak and you can drink right from them. 500ml glass mason jars are also great to take with you as they are a serving size. They’re pretty inexpensive too and can be used for so many things like pantry items.
- Make sure to leave at least 1 cup of reserve kombucha in your jug for the next brew and if you’re choosing to now use your Baby SCOBY, save another 1 cup in a secondary clean glass jug for your second batch. If you’re choosing not to use your Baby SCOBY, save 1 cup of reserve kombucha in a clean glass mason jar and put the SCOBY in it. Some people say if you’re going to use it soon it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I’ve left mine on the counter for a few days with no problems. If you plan on leaving it for longer, refrigerate it and air it out every few days. You may or may not see yeast sediment forming at the bottom of your jug. You don’t have to wash it off, in fact it can help the process along for your next batch. Once it grows quite a lot, you can rinse it off, usually after 3-4 batches.
- Repeat the steps listed under “How to brew your first batch” and add your new cooled batch to your reserve kombucha, stir, then add your SCOBY. Cover and place in a cool, dark place and wait doing that with as many SCOBY’s and jugs you have! I currently have 2 on the go!
- Once you start getting an abundance of SCOBY’s you can give them away, sell them, store them in the fridge with 1 cup reserve kombucha and let them breath every 3 days, discard them, double up on the SCOBY’s in your brew to make a faster brew and make kombucha vinegar.