Originating far in the East and known for its healing properties and tasty contents, the ancient beverage known as “kombucha” has been around for more than 2,000 years and has carried on since. Today, kombucha has resurfaced as a phenomenal drink for anyone.
Kombucha requires a few steps and quality ingredients to make. Step 1) Preparation and first fermentation: You will need tea, sugar, SCOBY, a “starter,” and time. Step 2) Second fermentation: You’ll re-bottle the kombucha and prepare it for a second round of fermentation. Step 3) Enjoy: consume the kombucha within a timely manner and enjoy!
This is the simplest version of the things you need to know. Below, we will go into some detail on how to make your kombucha step by step, from preparation to storing, to enjoying!
Delicious Kombucha In 3 Easy Steps
Preparation & First Fermentation
All kombucha starts with tea. All kombucha is simply fermented tea. For the tea, you can choose from a variety of different kinds, but, as all connoisseur makers of kombucha know, you need to avoid teas that are oily (earl gray and other flavored teas among them). Black tea is the most commonly used for kombucha and has proven to be the best base tea for the colony to grow on. Other teas such as green, white, or oolong tea can be good too.
How much tea should you make? Most people make a gallon or two of kombucha in their batches. The exact ratio of ingredients can be found here. For each gallon of kombucha, you’ll need 1 cup of sugar, around 8 tea bags, and 2 cups of “starter.”
You will need about 3.5 quarts of tea in total. You can either make that amount in pure tea or, as the recipe in this video shows, you can make 2 quarts of tea — which will be super strong with 8 tea bags — and then add water into the gallon container to both cool off the tea, and get you to the 3.5 total of quarts.
The Sugar (Or Alternative Sweetener)
Kombucha is transformed from tea to a fermented drink-through SCOBY consuming the sugar. There are a few different ways to add the sweetener to your tea. Some people will elect to use pre-sweetened tea (like Arizona Green Tea), others will use juice or honey, but the most common and straightforward sweetener is pure sugar.
You can’t use sweeteners like stevia or xylitol because SCOBY needs the real sugar, or the fermentation process just won’t work. But, if you find that the finished product of kombucha isn’t sweet enough, then you add an alternative sweetener at the end.
SCOBY is a colony of bacteria and yeast (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) that, once it grows large enough, resembles a disk made of tan jello. It is very similar to “The Mother” used in apple cider vinegar. SCOBY is essential because it is the ingredient that allows the fermentation process to occur.
If you do not already have SCOBY, you can ask someone who makes kombucha for one (if they regularly make kombucha, they probably have a lot), purchase some online — or sometimes at the store — or you can make it yourself.
In order to make SCOBY yourself, you have to buy some plain kombucha — it can’t be flavored in any way — and use it as a “starter” (we’ll cover that more below). Combine the kombucha as a starter to the sugar and tea, and let it sit in a dark place for a few weeks; after anywhere from 2-4 weeks and you will have a slimy disk thing floating around.
Basically, you make SCOBY by following the normal process of making kombucha; you just let it sit quite a bit longer and not add any fruits.
The fermented kombucha that is sitting for a few weeks to make the SCOBY is going to be extremely vinegary; it’s not recommended to gulp it down that late in the game. But you will have what you need to make some fresh SCOBY.
If multiple SCOBYs grow on top of each other, which often happens, you only need one normal size one to make a batch of kombucha. You can save older SCOBYs by placing them in a bowl or jar with a little bit of tea of previously made kombucha to keep it happy until you need it again.
A “starter” is simply kombucha that is already made that you add a little bit of into your next batch of fresh tea to enhance the process of turning it into kombucha. As stated above, you will need around 2 cups of starter for a gallon of kombucha. You can make kombucha without a starter, but it will take a bit longer for it to turn into kombucha, and may not be as strong.
We all know kombucha requires time to make, but how much? Fortunately, there is some room for flexibility, which is determined by your preference for how you want your kombucha to taste. The formula is simple: less time equals more sweetness, more time equals more sour. But if you don’t give your kombucha enough time to sit, it will just basically be glorified tea.
For the time it takes to complete the first fermentation, you will see ranges of 7-21 days. Somewhere around a week to a week and a half (7-10 days) will be the sweet spot for most. In the recipe attached above, 8-9 days is recommended as around max for making kombucha. If you let it go longer, it will rapidly lose its sweetness and become too bitter to the taste to enjoy.
Feel free to taste test it throughout; pouring out a few sips into a cup after a few days will let you know when it is exactly right. Just do not bring the kombucha into contact with metal — straws, cups, or surfaces — as it can interfere with the SCOBY’s fermenting process.
When storing kombucha, ensure that whatever jar you pour it in has a loose top — like a towel, rag, or a mesh lid — because you are not trying to suffocate it, but do want to prevent other things from getting into it. When it is fermenting, store it in a dark place that is just above room temperature.
The “Second” Fermentation
After the first fermentation (the initial 7-10 days or so), the kombucha will be drinkable. But it will not possess fizzy carbonation. In order for the kombucha to become properly carbonated, a second fermentation is required. The purpose of the second fermentation is to create pressure by not allowing air to get into the bottle — the forces the CO2 into the liquid, producing carbonation.
The second fermentation is also where you can add flavoring ingredients like fruit or juice to enhance the kombucha. Adding around a ¼ cup will do the trick per bottle of kombucha that you make.
For the second fermentation, you still need to keep the kombucha away and in the dark, but this time you can — and should — store it in jars or bottles with a closed top. Bottles like these are the most iconic for the second fermentation, but you can use any bottle so long as it has a lid.
The second fermentation should take 2-4 days. Make sure not to forget it about because, if you let it go too long, the bottles can burst. It can be good to release the lid once per day to let out excess pressure if bursting is a concern.
After the kombucha is prepared and ready to drink, you should keep it in the fridge where it should last between 1-3 months. Whether it be on ice or straight out of the bottle, kombucha can be a great daily drink that will make you feel enlivened and refreshed.
If your friends or family have never tried it before, consider bringing them into the mix and introducing them to the delicious fermented beverage.
It may seem overwhelming at first if you have never made kombucha — as it feels like a lot to keep track of. But all you have to do is get the 4-5 ingredients, mix them properly together, and then wait.
The actual prep time for the kombucha should only be a few hours at most and, if you don’t know anyone to ask who makes kombucha, just remember that practice makes perfect.