In our household we go through 4 gallons of kombucha per week (yes you read that right)! Before I started brewing it myself, we spent a hefty amount of cash on the habit. I admit I was a bit intimidated to start brewing it myself (what the heck is a SCOBY?!), but I hiked up my big girl panties and gave it a try. The method to my madness has evolved over time. Here is my technique...
I am going to break this up into initial ferment and second ferment (for those over-achievers out there)
- 1 gallon distilled water
- 2 green tea bags (for the antioxidant content), NOT caffeine-free
- 2 black tea bags (you can even get the flavored kind, my family likes peach)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup kombucha (either from a previous batch or store bought)
- 1 SCOBY
Bring the water to a boil and add tea bags and sugar. Allow it to steep 20 minutes. Remove tea bags and stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a large glass vessel of some sort (we use old gallon pickle jars). Allow to cool. Once cooled, add kombucha (for proper pH) and your SCOBY. Cover with a cloth and put a rubber band around the top. You want the kombucha to be able to breathe, but you don't want any critters getting in there. Now, set in a low traffic area where there will be a pretty constant temperature, like an unused room or under the sink. Now, wait about 5 days. Depending on where you live and what time of year it is (warmer climate = faster brew). With a clean spoon, sample it. If its sour, you're ready for the second ferment (if you plan to do this step). If its still sweet, give it a few more days. Always use a clean spoon, and no double-dipping! When you have achieved sourness, your kombucha is ready to drink. But, for those of you who want it carbonated, you will have to do a second ferment. I always second ferment.
The second ferment:
You will need:
Glass bottles (I usually fill 5-6 bottles from a 1 gallon jar of kombucha) The kind of bottles that can withstand pressure, as the carbonation creates quite a lot of pressure and the glass can break. I reuse old kombucha bottles.
Fruit juice, either fresh or store bought (we use peach juice with our peach tea). The second ferment is where you can have fun with it, mix up flavors until you find one you really like. My family loves peach and strawberry/lemonade. Try adding fruit to it.
Remove the SCOBY from the jar and set aside to be used in your next batch. You will grow a new SCOBY with each batch, they can be divided and shared with a friend or stored in a "SCOBY hotel" in your fridge for futre use (see photos below). Pour a small amount of fruit juice in the bottom of each jar. I pour juice in to about 1/2 inch from the bottom (so not too much, depends on how much sugar content you want). Then add kombucha to the top of the jar and put on the lid. Continue to do this with all the jars until the kombucha is all used up. Put the jars back in the same place the kombucha had been and let them sit for a few more days. The longer they sit, the more carbonated it becomes. But, if it sits too long it will become vinegar. My general rule of thumb is no longer than a week. The sugar in the juice produces the second ferment, as the bacteria/yeast eat the sugar they produce CO2 (essentislly its a bacteria/yeast fart...yum!) Then refrigerate and enjoy!
I have a rotation of three batches going at all times (thats 12 gallons of buch!). Once a week is kombucha making day. On this day I brew up 4 gallons, bottle the 4 gallons from two weeks ago (for the second ferment), and rotate the 4 gallons from the previous week to the front for bottling next week. This means my initial ferment is two weeks long, and my second ferment is 1 week long. I store all of this in a back room in our basement that stays pretty much the same temp all year long. Each week on kombucha making day, I put about 28 bottles of carbonated wonderfullness into the fridge for our consumption during the week. This process takes me about 30-45 minutes start to finish. Once you get the system down, its a cake-walk.
Whew! Are you overwhelmed by my method?! You do NOT have to start out doing this much, just stick to the one gallon and increase as your needs demand.
Feel free to contact me via my website with any questions....or to order a SCOBY.