I’m a huge fan of Kombucha, a fermented tea drink which originated hundreds of years ago in China. It’s super easy to make and is a great, flavourful alternative to alcoholic beverages.
The health effects of Kombucha haven’t been scientifically proven – but like with most fermented things, the positive impacts on digestion have been reported by many people.
Kombucha is made by using a SCOBY, some starter liquid and a sweet tea mixture, which is fermented for about a week, bottled and then further fermented for another 3 days or so. The great thing about Kombucha is that the ingredients used to make it are very simple and very affordable. Plus, you can experiment by adding different flavours to your brew.
Here’s a simple recipe that you can use to brew your own Kombucha:
What you need:
- 1x 2.5L (or bigger) glass drink container – I use one with a small tap, but this is for ease and most homeware or supermarket stores have them for an affordable price
- 1x large pot
- 1x wooden spoon
- 1x tea towel or paper towel
- String or a rubber band
- Glass or plastic bottles (around 2 litres of volume – I use 300ml glass bottles, with screw cap lids that I have recycled)
- Funnel (if your container doesn’t have a tap)
Ingredients: (these can be used as a ratio if you want to scale up your Kombucha)
- 1x SCOBY – if you don’t have a SCOBY, check out my SCOBY recipe here
- 2 cups of starter Kombucha – this can be store bought or left over from your SCOBY growing
- 2 litres of water
- 1 cup of sugar (plus more for secondary fermentation)
- 8 tea bags (4 of these should be black, and the other 4 you could use another flavoured tea. I like to use Green Tea)
1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add the sugar and allow to dissolve. Turn off the heat.
2. Add the 8 tea bags and stir. Cover the pot with either a lid or a tea towel and leave the sweet tea mixture to cool down to room temperature. I usually leave this overnight.
3. Sterilise your large drink container using boiling water, making sure that it is nice and clean. Once this has cooled down to room temperature, add your SCOBY, the 2 cups of starter Kombucha and the room temperature sweet tea mixture (making sure to remove the tea bags first).
4. Cover with a tea towel or paper towel, and secure with a rubber band or piece of string.
5. This mixture should be left for 7 to 10 days – tasting it around the 7-day mark to see if it is to your liking. During this time, it is normal for your SCOBY to sink and float, and for bubbles to form in the mixture. It should smell slightly tart, like the smell of Kombucha.
6. When the Kombucha is ready, sterilise glass bottles, or get very clean plastic bottles. Plastic bottles are easier to test if the Kombucha is ready, however, I prefer using glass bottles.
7. Reserve 2 cups of your Kombucha mixture and the SCOBY for your next batch of Kombucha, and bottle your Kombucha, making sure to leave a few centimetres of space at the top of the bottle.
8. If you are adding any additional flavouring, such as a fruit puree, this is the time to add it. Otherwise, add 1 tsp of sugar per 500ml of Kombucha to help encourage secondary fermentation – when the bubbles form.
9. Screw the lids on the bottles tightly, and leave to ferment for another 3 days, out of direct sunlight. Depending on the size of your bottles, this may take longer. It is a good idea to check on your Kombucha, testing by opening a bottle and listening for the fizz, especially if you are adding a fruit puree (as this is very sugary) to make sure that your bottles don’t explode.
10. Once the Kombucha is ready, move the bottles to the fridge, where the fermentation process will pause, and the Kombucha can be enjoyed whenever you like. You may find little bits of SCOBY in your Kombucha – this is fine so long as it isn’t moldy, but you can strain it out if you prefer.
11. Repeat the process again for your next batch of Kombucha, and as you feel more confident, try playing around with different flavours, making the most of seasonal and local produce, such as stone fruit or berries.
Tips & tricks
- Keep an eye out for mold on your Kombucha – there shouldn’t be anything fluffy growing on your SCOBY or on the surface. If you do see this, discard all of the liquid and the SCOBY, and start again from scratch, making sure to sterilise all of your equipment well.
- Don’t add the SCOBY or the Kombucha mixture into any hot containers, or liquid – this can damage the bacteria and prevent fermentation.
- Try adding different fruit purees, following a simple puree recipe and then straining it well. When I do this, I like to pour the Kombucha into a large jug, and then add 500ml of fruit puree to 2 litres of Kombucha – stir this with a wooden spoon, and then bottle it. The fruit puree tends to settle at the bottom of the bottle as time goes on, but I just gently invert the bottles once a day during the secondary fermentation process, and then strain it before serving – but you can leave the sediment at the bottom of the bottle.
- Try using different teas you have on hand – this is a great way to use up any fruity teas you might have been hoarding for a while – just make sure that at least half of your tea bags are black tea bags.
- If you like to experiment with flavours, using little labels is a great way to remember which bottles contain which flavour combinations, and if you are a slower drinker, writing the date on the bottle is a great way to remember which batch should be consumed first.
- I keep a running cycle of Kombucha – the day that I am bottling my brew, I make sure to plan ahead and make my sweet tea mixture, and allow for it to cool beforehand so that I keep a constant supply of Kombucha.
- As your SCOBY grows, you will be able to separate off (almost like a cake tier) of SCOBY – pass this on to a friend (keeping it alive in 2 cups of Kombucha so that they can grow their own).
- If you go on holiday, a SCOBY can survive happily in the sweet tea mixture for around 3 – 6 weeks, however, you probably won’t want to drink this mixture as it can be quite vinegary. When you return from holiday, restart your Kombucha mixture again, using the same recipe as above.