Kombucha: Easy, Tasty, & Wild - PVP22

Show Notes

Quality loose teas make wonderful kombucha. A notebook for keeping track of your recipes and such is very helpful.

Kombucha is best wild and untamed.

Easily created in your kitchen. Kombucha isn't anything fancy--just fermented tea.

An amazing community of bacteria and yeast, known as a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), transform sweetened tea to a potent healing, refreshing beverage.

There are plenty of fantastic books to guide your kombucha journey and I highly recommend checking out one or more books to gain even more understanding of kombucha and fermented foods.

Unlike some projects or skills a homesteader might tackle, making kombucha is simple and rewarding.

Here are some very basic directions:

Equipment

  • Fermentation vessel. One gallon jar is fine if you are not sure if you will continue to make kombucha. My choice for kombucha is a 1-gallon or 3-gallon crock. There are crocks that are lead free and made in the USA which make a terrific choice.
  • Cloth cover for the vessel. The cloth is to prevent dust and little bugs from getting in your vessel. It's a sad sight to open a vessel and discover a bunch of flies or maggots. I use organic, unbleached muslin but a lint free dish cloth, a linen napkin, an old t-shirt all make suitable covers. The cover can be secured with a couple of rubber bands--I used two rubber bands in case one fails. But, I prefer to use elastic as it last years and doesn't fail like rubber bands.
  • Thermometer. Optional but very helpful! Adding the starter and SCOBY to the tea can kill the bacteria and yeast resulting in no kombucha.
  • pH strips or pH meter. Optional. Helpful to learn and understand the transformation that is taking place and the kombucha becomes more acidic.
  • Bottles. Swing top bottles are my favorite. beer bottles and a capper, used kombucha bottles.
  • Measuring cup
  • Additional bowl. The bowl will be used to hold SCOBY and starter when you are harvesting kombucha.
  • Clean hands, clean vessel, clean utensils, clean surfaces. 

I use mostly 3-gallon crocks--the result is eighteen 500ml (16oz) bottles!

Ingredients

  • Tea. True tea: Camellia sinensis.
  • Sugar. Organic evaporated cane sugar or granulated sugar. Other sweeteners can be used but I recommend experimenting after you have had success with a few batches.
  • Water. Use water that doesn't contain chloride, chloromines, or flouride. Distilled water removes the minerals so I don't recommend distilled water unless that is your only choice.
  • Starter. Vinegar or store bought unfiltered, unflavored kombucha can be used in a pinch.
  • Kombucha SCOBY.

1-Gallon Batch of Kombucha

  • Make a tea concentrate. Heat 4-6 cups of water (170-180 for green teas, 160-180 for white teas, 190-205 for oolong, and 200-210 for black teas) and steep 35 grams of tea for 5 minutes. Stir once after a couple of minutes of steeping.
  • Strain the tea.
  • Add 1 cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve.
  • Add enough water to fill the vessel. Be sure to leave room for the 1 cup of starter and the SCOBY.
  • Check the temperature of the tea. Be sure it is cool (70-90 degrees). 
  • Add 1 cup of starter and the SCOBY.
  • Mark the fermentation vessel with the date. You might also want to take note of which tea or teas you used.
  • Put aside for the fermentation magic to happen.
  • If this is your first batch, you might want to check the kombucha each day just to familiarize yourself with how the sweetness changes over time.
  • One day you will find that the kombucha is just right! It's time to bottle. Usually more than 7 days but less than 30--but it could be longer. It all depends on the temperature in the room where you are fermenting. If it is super cool, you may want to add warmth to speed up the process.

Bottling

  • Option 1: Bottle and refrigerate with no flavoring.
  • Option 2: Bottle with no additional flavoring and set aside for secondary fermentation.
  • Option 3: Bottle with additional flavoring and set aside for secondary fermentation.

Secondary Fermentation

  • Yay! Bubbles! Leaving bottled kombucha at room temperature creates that lovely fizziness as the bacteria and yeast continue releasing gases.
  • Yay! Flavors. A few slices of ginger or a bit of fresh fruit or some juice. I like to stick to 10% by volume of flavoring. I love vanilla powder and fresh orange juice!
  • I love to experiment with herbal infusions at for secondary fermentation. To ensure fizziness, I add one tablespoon of sugar to one cup herbal infusion or tea.
  • 3-10 days is usually all it takes to get fizzy awesomeness. To test, simply take one of the bottles and chill it. Pop it open and if it is the way that you like it, great. If not, leave the remaining bottles out for another day and test another bottle. I've had the best fizzy results with swing-top bottles.
Secondary fermentation brings all the bubbles, yay!

Secondary fermentation brings all the bubbles, yay!

 

Potential Pitfalls

  • Always be sure that the tea is cool before adding the starter and SCOBY.
  • Cheesecloth doesn't protect your fermentation vessel from vinegar flies!
  • SCOBY may rest on the bottom, side, or top of the vessel. But if a baby doesn't form, that means that your SCOBY is not longer viable.
  • Never refrigerate your SCOBY.
  • Yuk, it's vinegar. This is okay. Use the kombucha as you would vinegar. You can start a new batch using the over fermented kombucha and start again.
  • Mold and other weirdness. Mold is something that I don't mess with--I would discard the everything and start fresh. 
  • SCOBY color and damage. SCOBYs may have thick and thin spots, they might have dark spots or be darker than your friends. There are all fine natural states of a SCOBY. 
  • As always proceed with caution, check your resources, and don't just rely on the information offered here.

Extra SCOBYs

  • Share with friends!
  • There are recipes using SCOBYs! SCOBY jerky!?
  • Add them to your compost pile.
  • Start a SCOBY hotel! A SCOBY hotel and protect your kombuchery as you will have new SCOBYs on hand in case of loosing a batch to mold or insects. 

Resources

  • Eric and Jessica Childs (2013). Kombucha: The Amazing Probiotic Tea That Cleanses, Heals, Energizes, and Detoxifies. The Penguin Group. ISBN: 9781583335314
  • Guther W. Frank (1995). Kombucha: Healthy beverage and natural remedy from the Far East. Ennsthaler. ISBN: 3850683370.
  • Sandor Ellix Katz (2012). The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. Chelsea Green. ISBN: 9781603582861.
  • Sandor Ellix Katz (2003). Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods. Chelsea Green. ISBN: 1931498237.
  • Klaus Kaufmann (2013). Kombucha Rediscovered. Books Publishing Company. ISBN: 9780920470848.
  • Stephen Lee (2014). Kombucha Revolution. Ten Speed Press. ISBN: 9781607745983.
  • Bill Mollison (2011). The Permaculture Book of Ferment and Human Nutrition. Tagari Publications. ISBN: 9780908228065.
  • Check out the book list for even more recommended books!

Credits

  • Special thanks to Dale, Nia, Kiki, and Steph for all the love and support! 
  • Raleigh, the guy I love to hate when it comes to all things internet, thank you for all your great ideas...not!
  • Aaron Glasson, Permaculture Velocity logo
  • Music: Tell Somebody by Alex Beroza featuring AdmiralBob, digccmixter, licensed under Creative Commons 3.0
  • And to all those podcasters out there sharing good information on podcasting for those of us just getting going with this podcast thing! Thank you!