Kombucha, huh? I know I love the stuff. I love the process of making my own. Knowing what’s in it from start to finish. Getting my personally, perfect brew. Avoiding excessive waste that comes with purchasing bottle after bottle...
In this blog today, I’ll explain how I go through the process. It involves the preparation for the first ferment with an established Scoby Starter and a few days later, the flavoring stage or second ferment. For growing your own Scoby, please check my blog posts listed at the end of this blog! I also have flavor options and a Vegan Jun!
I make gallons at a time. That’s right, you read correctly. I use Kombucha for so many things, I only makes sense! So I stagger when I do these so I have bottles ready to drink or use throughout the week. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes a day! The best part about Kombucha Brewing? It’s perfect for a busy person, very forgiving of forgetfulness and so rewarding.
First off, First Ferment.
For this, you want flavorless tea. No fancy blends. Standard Black the, Green Tea. I make a Kombucha coffee but I’ll get to that in another blog (hint, mine tastes like a coffee energy drink! So stay tuned!).
Your Scoby, the main part of Kombucha making, does not like many things:
1) Flavors, natural or artificial.
6) Artificial sweeteners
7) Sun light
I avoid using soap with my Kombucha jars. I use the Kombucha itself to clean them and then boil ANYTHING involved in the process of making Kombucha. I have never had anything weird happen in my brews but there are warning signs and mold people must be aware of. Prevent this simply by always practicing good sanitary methods. I know in all my posts, I sound very slap-stick. It’s true, I am. I am notorious for not measuring and adding in last minute flavors and spices but I am always conscious of cleanliness. Maybe to the point of germaphobe but it works, obviously!
Back to it,
Scoby, the Culture used to ferment your tea, is a semi-delicate culture. As long as it’s clean, maintaining its own cleanliness but not exposing it to anything new, it can tolerate a lot of neglect. Just avoid contamination and exposure to any of the aforementioned and you will be fine!
As I make gallon sized brews, I start with a gallon of tea! If you start in a 32oz jar, make 32oz of tea! Easy peasy! I think a strong brew makes the best Kombucha. The quality of your tea also makes a difference. Something many store bought teas can’t match is the quality of tea. Making smaller batches (gallons at a time may not seem small but when compared to companies... it’s pennies to millions), we can control everything from the tea quality to what sweeteners we use.
For your first ferment, sugar is the best bet. I know, there is such a stigma against sugar but this is the best thing to keep your Kombucha brew strong by feeding that Scoby baby! I love using organic turbinado sugar myself.
So, you may add your sugar to warm tea but wait to add your Scoby until the tea is room temperature. Remember above? Scoby do not like heat!
Cover with a breathable material. I like tight knit fabric, I have used wash clothes, cotton jersey fabric, etc. A lot of people like cheese cloth but the spaces are almost large enough for gnats or debris to fall in.
Now that your tea and Scoby have become acquainted, let’s give them some alone time to get brewing. The best place for your Kombucha is some place DARK. Just like us, UV rays can damage your Scoby. It loves a dark, warm but not moldy/humid area to get to know your tea. From what I have seen, most of the mold issues come from exposure to contamination either while making or in storage while fermenting. Under the sink may not be the best place due to the high moisture, for instance. Mine is in an extra closet, covered and safe.
Your Scoby may float. Your scoby May sink. It’s not a big deal either way, it’s not a sign of failure if your Scoby sinks and doesn’t come up. You do have the chance for a rogue baby Scoby that’s not attached to the mother Scoby during the event of a sink. But that’s alright!
As you ferment, your Scoby will get bigger and thicker. This is actually the formation of multiple baby scobies attaching to the mother! They can be separated and stored for other uses, composted (they make GREAT accelerators for compost!) or given away to fellow Kombucha lovers! A growing Scoby is a healthy Scoby!
Now, as you brew you will notice hanging bits from your Scoby. This is yeast and part of the fermenting process.
After 5-9 days (7 days is typical in 70 degree F weateher but feel free to taste test throughout! If it’s too sweet, keep fermenting. If it’s too sour, cut back on fermenting time next time. Just remember to check hygienically!) you will be done with your first ferment! Now time to move on to second ferment and bottling!
Second ferment is a whole new ball game! You could skip this completely. Your Kombucha is fine with only a simple first ferment but in order to get the fizzy, flavored Kombucha you need to second ferment. This second ferment doesn’t take as long as your first, between 1-3 days.
Here, you get to play with flavors because you will pour the Kombucha from the ferment containers and into new jars or bottles. The difference in containers is this: in your first ferment you want your brew to breathe and ferment. This is your base ferment, if you will. In your second ferment, you want to carbonate and flavor your beverage.
When it comes to flavors, what you add will contribute to your fizz-factor. If you only add dried herbs, don’t assume your Kombucha will be extremely fizzy. If you add juice or fresh fruit to your Kombucha, get ready to check often or prepare for the later disclosed series of unfortunate scenarios I will explain. The mix of the air tight container and the sugar in the fruit and juices is what really produces fizz. A dash of homemade simple syrup would even work with your dried herbs if you do not wish to add juice or fruit! Just remember, If you feed your Kombucha, it will fizz!
Also at this point, you will need to begin the new batch for first ferment and put your Scoby into that. If you leave your Scoby with no environment to thrive, it will die.
We can use almost any flavor you can imagine, keeping in mind the things your baby Scoby doesn’t like.
Start with boiling your bottles. Anything air tight will work, I personally jars over swing top bottles but I do use both. My reason? It’s easier to clean out the jars. I really do not enjoy using a chop stick to fish out cubes of fruit that stubbornly refuse to leave the swing top bottles! I always get that! No matter how small I cut the fruit cubes!
If you use a container with a flip top lid, it won’t hold your fermentation. If your container doesn’t hold the fermentation, you have flat, flavored Kombucha. Not that that’s bad, but the goal is a flavored, fizzy experience!
Make sure your bottles are sanitized, cooled down and ready to go. I strain my Kombucha into the bottles. The floaty bits won’t effect your finished product in anyway. I simply filter for esthetic reasons, as I have many friends new to Kombucha who aren’t as comfortable with the sediment as I am.
Fill your bottles or jars 3/4 of the way full with your final fruit and juices added, maybe a bit less. You want some head space here. For many reasons!
Now the fun time, flavoring! Don’t add too much. For my peach basil, I add two slices of peaches and a pinch of basil. Not only does the fermenting process enhance the flavors, making them quite strong, but any added sugar should be controlled. If there is quite a bit of sugar in the second ferment, it could lead to eruptions, lids flying off and allegedly, even bottles exploding. I have never had the latter happen but I have had one lid fly off and SEVERAL eruptions... Checking your second ferments often can prevent these things but checking too much will lead to flat Kombucha! Check sparingly!
Here are a few of my favorite flavors at the moment:
-Honey Dew and Mint: Honey Dew melon and fresh or dried mint from the garden
-Hibiscus and Rose: Dried Hibiscus flowers with rose petals and rose hips.
-Chamomile, lavender and grape juice: fresh or dried lavender and chamomile buds from the garden with a splash of grape juice.
-Pineapple and Thyme: Fresh pineapple or pineapple juice with fresh or dried Thyme
-Apple Pie: Fresh Apple or apple juice with a pinch of Apple pie spice
-Pumpkin Spice: Pumpkin purée with a pinch of pumpkin pie spice
-Cranberry and Apple: fresh cranberries or cranberry juice with a bit of apple
- Peach and Basil: fresh peach chunks or juice with fresh or dried basil
-Banana and Cherry: fresh banana with some cherries
-Coconut And Lime: Fresh or dried coconut with a lime slice
*Adding loose leaf Tea to the second ferment gives you the flavor of that tea! I love Earl Gray and Lady Gray with a dab of fruit juice for the fizz!
The choices are literally endless! Get your creative on and make some of your favorite flavor combos! Comment below what they are so I can try them! I’m always looking for more flavors!
And there you go!
Please feel free to check my other blogs, listed below for ideas!
Be sure to ask your doctor if caffeinated or fermented beverages are for you. My blogs are meant to be entertainment and recipe sources, not meant to replace your doctor or treat, diagnose, prevent, cure or give medical advice. Do your own due diligence before trying anything new. Always allergy test as well.
Much love and Kombucha,
The Smart Girl in Pants
The Smart Girl in Pants