With an initial investment in some basic equipment, like jars, bottles, tea and teabags, you too can be on your way to a lifetime supply of cheap, healthy probiotic beverages. Experimenting with your own flavorings is fun, too.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only -- brew and consume at your own risk!
Good for your gut
If you've never tried kombucha, I recommend it. It's fizzy and refreshing, it comes in a wide array of flavor profiles, and, best of all, it's a fermented drink that includes live probiotics to enhance your gut health, which are good for your immune system.
This is a kombucha "scoby," an acronym that stands for "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast." Yes, it looks kind of slimy and gross because it's alive.
It basically needs you to feed it tea and sugar, and, in return, it converts your sweet tea into a healthy kombucha beverage. To get started, you can order a scoby online, or ask for someone to send you one on a Facebook kombucha brewing group.
At the beginning of my brewing cycle, I moved the "first ferment" into a bottle and out of the jar where it was being processed by my kombucha scoby. The first ferment can be either freshly brewed or store-bought kombucha, if this is your first brew.
Always use a plastic strainer/funnel and glass jars and bottles. The scoby can be damaged if it comes into contact with metal.
When transferring the kombucha from the jar to the bottle, you'll want to leave a little of the kombucha from the first ferment in the jar with the scoby. That way, you can simply add a new batch of tea and sugar to brew your next batch.
I recommend two-quart mason jars that are tinted amber so less light gets in. Fermentation is best done in darker conditions.
Now it's time to select a tea. This is up for debate and people have their own suggestions. I keep it simple and use a blend of black and green tea I found on Amazon that's formulated for use with kombucha. It's loose-leaf, so you'll need some tea filter bags, too. It worked well for me, and the results tasted great.
Now you'll just put that jar away in a dark place for about nine days to two weeks, or more depending on how sweet you want the brew to be. I avoid consuming sugars, so I like to let it ferment longer so the scoby can eat up all the sugar in the tea.
If you aren't careful these can become alcoholic, so folks in recovery may want to steer clear of this hobby.
Strain the kombucha
When you're ready for the next step and you like the flavor of your kombucha, strain it through a funnel into a bottle. I've tried a few different types and the Grolsch-style bottles like the one pictured are my favorite. If you like it as is, put it in the fridge, or experiment with fruit flavorings as desired.
I typically let the second ferment sit for two to four days before moving the Grolsch bottles into the fridge for consumption. During that time, carbonation continues to build up and you need to keep tabs on your kombucha and "burp" the bottles to avoid too much of a pressure buildup, which can lead to an exploded bottle and a very sticky mess in your house.
When your current "first ferment" is ready to move into bottles with juice or fruit for a few days, you're ready to repeat the whole process. By then you'll be done drinking the bottles in your fridge.
If you keep going with the hobby, your scoby will eventually get thicker and separate into multiples, allowing you to start a second and third jar, or give away your extra babies. It's always smart to keep an extra backup in a jar with some unflavored kombucha in case you need to start again.