You could spend a small fortune buying ready-to-drink kombucha at the grocery or health food store, but why not save a few bucks while tailoring your booch to please your palate? Making kombucha at home requires minimal equipment and just a few ingredients, the most important of which are the starter culture and the starter tea. You can make the starter culture from store-bought unflavored, unpasteurized kombucha, or get some from a kombucha brewing friend with an extra baby culture.
Whether you're making the starter culture or the starter tea, you don't need any special gadgets. In fact, you probably already have everything you need in your kitchen. If you don't, you can easily find the necessities at any store. To make a kombucha starter you need:
- Large saucepan
- Large spoon with a long handle
- Large glass canning jar
- Paper towels, coffee filters or a tea towel
- Rubber band.
Making a Starter Culture
Admittedly, the starter culture -- better known as a SCOBY, or a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast -- looks more like a science experiment gone wrong than the key to a tasty home brewed kombucha. This blob of yeast and beneficial bacteria continually renews as you brew your kombucha, making it possible to create your own scoby once for continual brewing thereafter. To get started making a starter, you need to brew a batch of sweet tea to feed the scoby as it grows.
Bring 7 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Take it off the heat; add 1/2 cup granulated sugar and stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves.
Add 4 bags of green or black tea to the pot. Allow the tea to steep while the liquid cools.
Pour the cooled tea into the canning jar and top it with 1 cup of unflavored raw kombucha -- either store-bought or brewed by a friend.
Place paper towels, coffee filters or a kitchen towel made with tightly woven fabric over the top of the jar, using a few layers to protect the starter culture from pesky fruit flies. Secure the cover with a rubber band.
Place the jar in an out-of-the-way spot. Cultures for Health recommends keeping the growing starter culture away from direct sunlight in a spot where the temperature is between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keep an eye on the starter culture. Making a scoby can take two to four weeks. After a few days, you should see bubbles on the surface, followed by a thin film that thickens. Once the scoby is at least 1/4 inch thick, it's ready to use.
Signs that harmful bacteria have contaminated the scoby include green or black mold growing on the top or an off-putting rancid or cheesy smell. If you notice any of these signs, scrap the batch and start over.
Making Kombucha Starter Tea
Once you have the starter culture, you also need a small amount of starter tea. It needs the right level of acidity to kick off the kombucha brewing process. Starter tea can be come from store-bought kombucha, starter tea from a friend, or starter tea created from your own last batch. If you don't have access to starter tea, you can use a small amount of vinegar instead -- approximately 2 tablespoons of vinegar for every quart of sweet tea.
After brewing your kombucha, reserve some of the mature tea to use as the starter for your next batch.
Once you have your scoby and starter tea, you can begin the brewing process. To make a 1-gallon basic batch, bring 4 cups of water to a boil; remove it from the heat and add six teabags. Let the tea steep for approximately 10 minutes before taking the teabags out. Stir 1 cup of sugar into the tea, mixing it well until the sugar dissolves. Transfer the sweet tea to a 1-gallon glass or ceramic jar, and top it with enough cold, purified water to fill the jar three-quarters to the top.
Add the starter tea and the scoby. Cover the jar with one or two layers of paper towels, coffee filters or a kitchen towel secured with a rubber band. Just like when you made the starter culture, move the jar to a warm spot away from direct sun exposure. Leave the jar alone for seven days before tasting it. Let it brew longer if it's too sweet.