I started drinking Kombucha in college when I wanted something fancy, but didn’t want anything alcoholic. The light carbonation is AMAZING and I found awesome flavors like white tea & rose, lavender with blueberry & ginger, raspberry with lemon & ginger, etc. It’s sort of tangy, sort of sweet, sort of sparkly. I was hooked!
The probiotics in kombucha have great health benefits like increased digestive health and immunity. I even found when I had gestational diabetes years later that it didn’t affect my fasting glucose level, so I could still enjoy a sweet, cool treat. The only problem was my habit got expensive!
A few years after I started drinking it, a friend of mine introduced me to how to brew it myself. It tasted alright, but I never figured out how to get it carbonated like at the store! Fast forward five more years and a woman at my church introduced me to the not-so-secret but oh-so-fabulous world of the second ferment. We now go through about 1 1/4 gallons each week (we brew 1 gallon, but then dilute it with juice when we carbonate it). My husband won’t cook, but he’ll go to town experimenting with kombucha flavors, and our three year old loves drinking the stuff.
YOU WILL NEED:
- 1 gallon-sized glass jar
- 1 5-qt or larger pot
- 8 tea bags of either black, green, or rooibos tea*
- 1 C white sugar**
- 1 SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast AKA the thing in the jar above that looks like a jellyfish/snot rocket)***
- 1 C starter liquid (previously brewed kombucha)
- tea towel and yarn
FOR SECOND FERMENT:
- e-z cap bottles that were designed for pressure**** (I use 16 oz ones)
- Juice or fruit
- Bring 1 gallon of water to a boil and add tea bags. Brew for ~5 minutes, then remove bags and stir in sugar until dissolved. Cover and let cool completely.
- Wash your hands and your glass jar. Dry the completely. Place the SCOBY and starter liquid into the jar. Carefully pour the tea into the jar. Do not fill all the way to the rim!
- Cover jar with tea towel and tie yarn around to keep it in place.
- Kombucha will be ready in ~7 days depending on the warmth of your kitchen and the strength of your SCOBY. I start checking after 4-5 days in the summer, but sometimes go as long as 10 days in the winter. Sometimes in the winter I use a seed mat to warm the jar and speed up the process (that’s the black mat mine is sitting on above)
- Once kombucha tastes “done” (no longer sugary sweet, not yet overly vinegary), you’ll want to either bottle it for a second ferment, or bottle it and put it in the fridge. Keep one cup of brew as “starter” for your next batch and start back at step one!
- To do second ferment, mix either 90% kombucha/10% fresh fruit or 75% kombucha/25% juice in the ez-cap bottles.
- Secure lids on bottles. I am terrified they will explode, so I burp them at LEAST twice a day. Some people don’t and swear it makes them carbonate faster (but… may explode… so take that for what it’s worth).
- Second ferment varies a lot depending on what is in it, temperature, strength of kombucha. I’ve had mine take anywhere from 2-7 days. I watch to see how fizzy they are when I burp them. When they’re as fizzy as I like, I pop them in the fridge to stop the fermentation. I don’t strain mine until I’m serving it.
OUR FAVORITE SECOND FERMENT COMBOS:
- Anything with ginger! Ginger helps it carbonate better!
- Frozen blueberries + ginger (frozen carbonates more somehow)
- Guava juice
- Grape juice + lemon juice + ginger
- Strawberry kiwi + ginger
* PLAIN tea. Don’t go for flavored ones. Even earl grey & chai have spices and oils that can mess with the SCOBY. Save fancy flavoring for the second ferment!
** Yes, granulated sugar. The white stuff. It feeds the SCOBY better than honey, stevia, coconut sugar, sugar in the raw, etc. which can harm or even kill the SCOBY!)
*** I got my SCOBY from a friend who brews her own kombucha. Every few cycles you will end up giving one away or tossing it. I hear you can order them or have them shipped, but I’ve never tried
**** Careful! Don’t get swing cap bottles that are square, or that come from somewhere like IKEA. These often either won’t hold pressure or will burst because they are not strong enough. Ones for brewing beer are perfect.
Lastly, I highly recommend searching Facebook for Kombucha/fermentation groups! They have been super helpful to me in figuring out if my SCOBY looks “normal” or not and troubleshooting any issues I’ve had.