Our mutual love for anything tasty is one of the passions that the husband and I share. We were talking a couple of weeks ago while watching a food related show on netflix and got to talking about fermentation. I realized that we rarely notice how much fermented food is there in our day to day life. It is literally in every meal of the day and almost every culture has incorporated this amazing process into their cuisine. From the bread and cheese in the breakfast to the delicious cup of yogurt we have after lunch to the glass of wine or beer after a hard day’s work – everything is the end result of fermentation. Whether it is the smelly french cheese or the beloved dosa, the heavenly ham or the nostlagia inducing mango pickle that grandma packed for you on your last visit to India, it is the magic of fermentation. It is the microorganisms – the yeasts, the bacteria and the fungi that fascinate me. How can something that can potentially kill you if its the wrong kind also transform food and make it more than the sum of its parts.
I have watched the husband bring up this drink called kombucha whenever we were in the grocery store or saw those fancy kombucha trucks at whole foods. But somehow, we did not try it until a few weeks ago when we were having lunch in whole foods market and he grabbed a bottle along with his food. I honestly did not like the smell – you know, the distinctive smell of something that reminded me of beer. He seemed to like it, but said that it was too tart. I thought that he was joking when he said that he wanted to brew kombucha at home and get it exactly to his liking. I was surprised when I got the amazon packages of the kombucha culture and the 16 oz glass bottles that he ordered.
It was a couple of more weeks, before he undertook the mission to brew our first batch of kombucha. I was skeptical and the husband was also not sure that it would work, given that it was his first attempt. But the batch turned out pretty good. It was a decent brew, tasty and ever so lightly tart. Now he is hooked and has already made another batch 🙂
I took a bunch of pictures of the whole process and since the experiment was a huge success, I wanted to share our experience and the recipe with you guys.
While the research about the supposed health benefits of kombucha are not very concrete, some basic things about this very ancient drink are undisputed. It has been made for at least a couple of thousand years, that should tell us something. It is refreshing and can be enjoyed at all times. It has very low sugar content, less than 0.5% alcohol, has caffeine that will perk you up and also has beneficial vitamins (B and C). I guess those are enough reasons for me to at least give this tasty brew a try 🙂
- Kombucha culture with starter tea called SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast)
- Probiotic tea – 6 bags
- 2 Tsp Black Tea
- 1 Gallon Water
- 1 cup Sugar
- White vinegar (For sterilization / cleaning) of the equipment
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- Sterilize the 1 gallon brew jar and the glass bottles with hot water and white vinegar.
- One of the most important precautions when making kombucha is to make sure you do not use soap for cleaning anything as the soap residue can harm the culture.
- Make sure you wash your hands before handling the tea or the culture. This is to ensure that no bacteria gets into the tea and ruins your batch. If you are unsure, there are plenty of tips online to learn safe home brewing.
- While there are rare cases of a bad batch of kombucha making someone sick and some very rare cases where people actually died after consuming contaminated kombucha, it is generally considered safe if brewed carefully.
- The amount of caffeine in kombucha is determined by the strength of your tea. If you want a more caffeinated kombucha, you can use black tea or green tea blend. Traditionally, kombucha is brewed using black tea.
- I used yogi cinnamon berry flavored probiotic tea and regular black tea for an extra strength brew for this recipe.
- Rinse the 16 oz glass bottles with warm water and then with vinegar.
- Make sure the bottles are clean.
- In a small pot boil 2 cups (16 oz) water.
- Steep the tea bags for 4-6 minutes.
- Add the black tea bags and stew for a couple of more minutes to make it stronger. I used a strainer as I had loose black tea, but black tea bags will work as well.
- Remove the tea bags and the strainer from the pot.
- Add a cup of refined sugar to the pot.
- Stir the sugar until it melts.
- Let the sweetened tea cool down to room temperature. Add the concentrated tea along with 10 cups (80 oz) of water to dilute it. Transfer the tea carefully into the clean jar.
- Once you are sure that the tea is cold enough, carefully add the kombucha culture and the starter tea into the jar.
- Cover it with a clean cloth or preferably a coffee filter and secure with an elastic rubber band or twine to secure it in place.
- The normal fermentation period varies greatly depending on many factors. It ranges from 5 days to 30 days.
- It is a personal preference as the more fermented your kombucha is, the less sweet and more tart or vinegary it becomes.
- A good way to know when your kombucha is ready is to keep checking everyday after the 5th day to see if the taste and the carbonation is to your liking. We bought the glass jar with a tap and so, we could pour a little into the glass and taste it until we got the taste just right. It took us 7 days.
- If you have a normal glass jar, you could use a clean spoon to taste. Dont use the spoon twice as it can lead to contamination.
- Be on the lookout for mold, as that is the most clear indication that something is wrong with your batch. The mold generally occurs as black furry patches and is unmistakable. If you see any mold, get rid of the batch along with the culture (SCOBY) and start with a fresh batch and SCOBY.
- Once you are satisfied with your kombucha , carefully pour the kombucha into the bottles.
- If you prefer, you can add additional fruit juices or berries and leave it out for a couple of days at room temperature for what is called secondary fermentation. This adds more carbon dioxide and makes your kombucha to become more like a fizzy drink.
- The color of the drink may vary based on the type of tea used and the number of days it was brewed.
- Every new brew creates a new SCOBY. It is a good idea to take the baby SCOBY and save it in a clean glass container with some of the original kombucha. This acts as a medium and food that will sustain the culture.
- You can leave the culture outside or in the refrigerator. Remember to add about 1/4 cup of sugar every few weeks to provide enough food for the culture.
I have really enjoyed the whole process of making this healthy drink and we have been having kombucha in the morning along with the breakfast and it is so refreshing, especially with the changing climate.
Hope you enjoy making your own version of Kombucha at home 🙂 Let me know how it went for you.
Uday & Sneha <3