Tangy, cider-like and a little bit wild; here’s four simple steps to making the ancient fermented tea of kombucha at home.
Kombucha is an ancient, fermented tea drink that is said to have originated somewhere in the Far East, probably in China. It was there, in fact, that it was once known as the Tea of Immortality. And there’s a reason for that, because it’s super good for you. While it might not make you immortal, kombucha is packed with helpful enzymes and antioxidants that work wonders for your gut health. And it tastes great too.
The beauty of making it yourself is you can decide how fruity and sweet or tangy and sour, fizzy or lightly effervescent you like it. Kombucha will develop in flavour the longer you leave it, becoming tangier and fizzier as the days and weeks progress. After around six days, it might taste like something akin to mulled cider. After two weeks, something more like apple cider vinegar. As you get used to brewing kombucha, you’ll decide at what point you like to drink it.
Here’s what you’ll need:
The basic process of making kombucha is fermentation (read more on the crazy world of fermented drinks), which means that it needs some sort of bacteria and some sort of sugar to kick it into action. The bacteria comes in the form of a SCOBY, an acronym for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’. The SCOBY is a rubbery, gelatinous, odd-looking thing that floats on the surface of the sweetened tea while it ferments, providing a cosy home that will allow the tea to ferment while keeping out any ‘bad’ bacteria from getting in. When handling your SCOBY remove any rings and don’t allow any metal to come into contact with it – they can be sensitive creatures. SCOBYs are readily available to buy online.
You’ll need six to eight teabags per two litres of water. Make sure it’s ‘real’ tea, meaning black, green or white tea, for example. Not fruit or herbal infusions.
You’ll need sugar to sweeten your tea. Use between 160g and 200g of sugar for every two litres of tea. You can adjust over time, depending how sweet you like it. Gina from Wild Fizz Kombucha recommends using cane sugar; “my kombucha seems to love it and grow strong with it. Coconut sugar is nice too, but it makes the brew very dark, while I like mine light and pretty. Test with different sugars and see what you prefer.”
Starter tea is essentially a well-brewed kombucha – meaning, as sour as possible – full with all the right bacterias to get your concoction fermenting nicely. Avoid any starter tea that has strong flavours added to it. Most SCOBYs that you buy online will also arrive in a bit of starter tea or Wild Fizz Kombucha’s Jasmine Dreams works well. For each new batch, you need 15% to 20% starter tea to begin, and after you’ve brewed your first, you can use that to start the next.
A saucepan or heatproof bowl, a large glass jar, a piece of muslin cloth and an elastic to secure it.
Kombucha ready? Let’s go.
4 easy steps to homemade kombucha
Make the sweet tea. Boil 2 litres of water in a large saucepan or kettle. Add 6 to 8 teabags to the boiled water (either directly into the pan or in a heatproof bowl). Add 160g to 200g of sugar and stir to dissolve. Set aside. Remove the teabags after 30 minutes, then leave to cool completely.
Pour the sweet tea into a large clean jar, then pour in 300 to 400ml of the starter tea.
Place the SCOBY on top.
Secure a piece of muslin on top with an elastic. Leave it to ferment out of direct sunlight and at a relatively balanced temperature – not too cold, not too hot.
Now for the taste test!
There are no set rules here. After 3 days or so, start tasting your brew. If it’s too sweet, leave it for a while longer, tasting it every few days or so until it’s the right side of tangy or sweet to suit your tastes. It’s important not to bottle it too soon though as it might cause moulds. We recommend it’ll take about 10 days.
You might find some brown bits floating about in your brew. These are harmless yeast chains that you can get rid of simply by filtering or sieving out your brew into another clean jar or receptacle.
How to store homemade kombucha
Transfer to a bottle with a sealable lid. Your kombucha will get fizzier if stored at room temperature. This is perfectly fine, just make sure you burp it from time-to-time to avoid any explosions. If you don’t like so much fizz, store it in the fridge.
How to flavour homemade kombucha
Gina says “You can add flavourings or keep it plain. If your brewed kombucha is quite sour, I would add something sweet, like fresh ginger or sliced fruit or berries.”
How to store SCOBY
Keep your SCOBY in the original jar, covered in a little of the brewed kombucha, and store at room temperature (definitely not in the fridge). You can keep it like this for about five days, making sure you feed it with more kombucha if it’s looking a little dry, before using it to make more tea.
You might find that your SCOBY has created a smaller baby SCOBY. Keep the baby together with its mother, and watch it grow! Once it’s about 1cm to 1.5cm thick, you can use it independently, or give it to a friend.
And that’s it! Good luck with your kombucha experiments at home. Share each ferment-y detail in the comments below!