The very limited counterspace in our tee-niny RV kitchen is becoming increasingly covered with jars full of fermenting goodness. The most longstanding of the jars is my double batch of kombucha. Several of my cooking class students have asked me to write more about my kombucha, so I’ve prepared a brief pictorial overview of the kombucha brewing process.
The first picture shows my two jars of kombucha after they’ve been sitting for a few weeks. The white discs floating inside are the SCOBY – symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast. They are alive, and I’ll admit, somewhat creepy at first. But I love them, because they make one of my favorite drinks for me.
Every two to three weeks, I pour out the finished kombucha into pint jars and store it in a dark cupboard for 2 – 3 days. I like my kombucha to be carbonated and sparkly, and the rest in the darkness does that. Then I move the kombucha to the fridge so that it’s nicely chilled for a refreshing afternoon drink. The coolness also slows down the yeast and bacteria that are present in the liquid. Otherwise, they’d go chugging right along and start a new SCOBY.
Here’s a pic of the SCOBY from the top. It really is an amazing thing. The SCOBY will grow new layers continuously. You may notice bubbles coming out from between the layers – this is from the action of the yeasts and bacteria.
Once I pour off the finished kombucha, I brew another jug of sweet tea using non-chlorinated water and pour into my brewing jars. The sugar is the food for the SCOBY inhabitants. The Scoby will probably get turned sideways or lie near the bottom of the kombucha when you put in fresh tea. At some point it will straighten itself out so that it’s lying flat and will float at the top of the jar.
I cover the tops of the jars with coffee filters and then screw on the rings. The kombucha will “brew” for 14 – 21 days. Taste-testing determines when the kombuchas is done. I like to leave it brewing until I can’t discern any sugar.
The first thing to do is to find some kombucha and try it. There’s no sense in going through the trouble to make it if you don’t like the taste. Plain kombucha tastes a lot like hard apple cider to me. The only difference being that the kombucha has very little alcohol and is less sweet. You can also add various fruit and spice flavoring to kombucha to get a varied assortment of flavors. We can generally count on finding kombucha at Whole Foods. However, if there’s not one close, then I’d try the closest health food type grocery.
If you find that you like kombucha, the next thing that you need to do is find a SCOBY. Since the SCOBY continuously grows, you can get a few disks of a SCOBY from someone who already has a brew going. That’s how I got mine. I’ve also heard of people buying dessicated SCOBY’s from health food stores.
I’m brewing our kombucha in half-gallon canning jars. You can buy equipment that’s specially made for kombucha brewing, but I’ve been perfectly happy with my jars as entry-level equipment.
My only other tip for starting is to find a kombucha recipe that specifices what size tea bag. There’s a big difference between cup size tea bags and family size tea bags, and many of the recipes that I found didn’t specify which size they were using. Let’s just say that our first batch of kombucha was extremely strong =)
Now, I know some of you are wanting a kombucha recipe from me. Howver, I’m strongly committed to only posting recipes that I’ve thoroughly tested. And I’m still too much of a newbie at kombucha brewing to feel comfortable posting a recipe that other people will follow. As soon as I feel confident that I know what I’m doing, I’ll be back with a recipe!