I was recently introduced to the magical fermentation transformation that is kombucha. To be perfectly honest, I had very low expectations but was pleasantly surprised! It’s also pretty awesome how a weird looking fungus thingee turns tea and sugar into a healthy potion.
Although kombucha is super trendy now, it was actually thought to have originated in Manchuria circa 220 BCE and imported to Japan in 414 CE by the physician Kombu. And what exactly is kombucha? Basically, it’s fermented tea (sounds tasty doesn’t it?! Bear with me) To make kombucha, a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria) is added to a sugar sweetened brew of black tea. Then you wave your magic wand* and voila, you have kombucha.
*Wand waving is actually when the yeast breaks down the sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol, and then the bacteria converts that alcohol into acetic acid.
While I’m under no illusions as to what kombucha can and can’t ‘cure’, what I do know is that raw and unpasteurised kombucha is full of probiotics, which have been shown to bolster the immune system and aid digestive health so that’s a win for me.
Let’s get started with the Organic Mechanic’s method.
For a 3l brew you will need:
1 x 3-4l glass vessel (mine was only $6 from Kmart)
1 x wooden spoon
Paper towels and rubber bands
Muslin or a cotton tea towel
1c organic sugar
4 organic black tea bags
250ml of starter kombucha
1 x scoby
1. Brew a pot of tea
Add 500ml of boiling water to a jug or bowl and stir in the sugar until it has dissolved. Add the tea bags and leave until the water has cooled completely.
2. Add kombucha starter
Use the wooden spoon to fish out the tea bags and transfer the cold brew into your fermentation vessel. Pour in the starter tea then the remaining 2.5L of water
3. Add the scoby
With clean hands slide the scoby into the brew, with the smooth side facing up. Cover the jar with a paper towel (or muslin etc) and secure with a rubber band.
4. Ferment for 7-10 days
Place jar at room temperature, and out of direct sunlight. Healthy fermentation signs include brown stringy bits, sediment around the bottom and bubbles forming around the scoby.
5. Test your brew
After 5-6 days, test your brew by gently moving the scoby aside with a drinking straw and having a sip. You’re looking for a balance between sweetness and tartness. The more days you ferment, the more vinegary it becomes.
6. Remove your scoby
Once you have your required taste, your kombucha is ready to bottle. Measure out a cup of your brew to place your scoby in during the bottling process.
7. Bottle your brew
Pour your kombucha into sealable glass bottles (a funnel is handy, you can also strain it through muslin). Leave about a thumb-width of air in each bottle. At this stage, you may wish to flavour your brew.
8. Secondary ferment
Store your bottled kombucha at room temperature, and out of sunlight for 1-3 days to naturally carbonate. Afterwards, refrigerate your bottles to stop the fermentation and carbonation process. Consume within 6 weeks. Note – you might need to occasionally ‘burp’ your bottles; that is, release the lids so some of the gas can escape.
9. Do it all again
You can now use your scoby to repeat step one and brew another batch. Over time, your scoby will grow so make sure you share 🙂
Some of my successful flavouring options include fresh lime, frozen raspberries, and a brew with white tea and flavoured with lychee (pictured). I am a huge fan of Fresh As freeze dried fruit. It is not recommended to use herbal tea bags as these contain oils which can disrupt the fermentation process. Honey is also not recommended as it contains antibacterial properties which can interfere with fermentation.
- I am not a health professional. Always consult a health professional if you are concerned about drinking kombucha.
- The bacteria don’t use all of the alcohol in the fermentation process so kombucha will always contains trace amounts of it (0.5-1%).
- As it is a detoxifier and contains a little alcohol, it is not recommended for pregnant women or children.
- The Organic Mechanic recommends using pure filtered/spring water.
- For the kombucha pictured, I used 1 black tea bag and 3 white tea bags, and flavoured it with freeze dried lychee.
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