So you’ve purchased a timeshare! The world of unmanaged home ownership is–just kidding. This is my guide to making kombucha.
The jar I gave you has the starting ingredients you need. Let’s name them quick:
* Starter liquid — this is the “kombucha” juice/tea liquid. Whenever you make a new batch, you’ll need about 2 cups (per gallon).
* Scoby – Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This is the jellyfish-like thing floating in the liquid.
The mixture I gave you is about a week old, so I would cover the jar with some cheesecloth for another week or two to let it build up in potency (it’s fine to keep the lid and band on the jar while you drive, but scobys need oxygen so cover with a cheesecloth when you get home). After that, you can follow these steps, which you can repeat whenever you want a new batch of kombucha!
Ingredients (per gallon):
* 2 Tbsp black tea
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 cups starter liquid
* 1 scoby
* Tap water
* Vinegar (for first time or if liquid becomes too watery)
* Gallon jug/container (or whatever size you want. The ones with the spigot built in are very convenient)
* Rubber band
Steps (these are intended for the first time, but modify as needed for subsequent batches):
1. Brew 2 Tbsp of black tea in as much hot water as you can easily transfer to the gallon jug. You can use loose leaf or bagged, just be sure to strain/filter the tea leaves before transferring to the jug.
2. Add 1 cup of sugar to the tea mixture. Stir to dissolve. I use white sugar, but brown also works. Let the water cool to room temperature or so. Water that’s too hot/cold isn’t good for the scoby.
3. Add the 2 cups (or more) of starter liquid to the gallon jug. The very first time you do this, you can add a Tbsp of white vinegar as well.
4. Add the tea/sugar mixture to the gallon jug. Make sure it’s not too hot!
5. Fill the rest of the jug with room temperature water, making sure to leave at least 2-3 inches of head room for the scoby.
6. Add the scoby to the jug. It may not float at first, and that’s totally fine. In a few months, it will grow large enough to fill the mouth of your jug.
7. Cover the jug with cheesecloth, secure the cheesecloth with a rubber band, and keep in a room-temperature dark place. I keep mine in the pantry.
8. After about two weeks (though tastes vary), your kombucha should be ready. To know if it’s ready, taste it! If it’s too sweet, let it sit a bit longer. If it’s too tangy, it may turn into vinegar. Mix it with sugary black tea to dillute the taste, otherwise just use the liquid for a new batch. If it’s too watery, add a Tbsp or 2 of white vinegar and more black tea/sugar.
Let’s say you’ve let your batch sit for about 2 weeks and you’re ready to harvest it. You have a few options:
1. You can drink it as-is! If you don’t want to add any other fruit/spices/sugar, you can just bottle the kombucha and stick it in the fridge. Make a new batch following the instructions above.
2. You can put it through “secondary fermentation.” If you want to add anything to your ‘bucha, now’s the chance. Transfer the kombucha to bottles or another jug, and add strawberries, ginger, turmeric, honey, blueberries, chia seeds, or whatever you want to flavor it with. Play around with combinations. If you want it to keep fermenting (which will add carbonation and tanginess), let it sit out for a couple more days. If you just want it to absorb the flavors, then stick the new mixture in the fridge.
3. “Dump” it and start a new batch. If your kombucha is too tangy or has turned into vinegar, harvest all but 2 cups of the liquid (per gallon), and make a new batch following the steps above. Use the vinegar as you would use any vinegar, or… throw it away (boo!).
Once you have a healthy scoby going, you should be able to make kombucha whenever you want. You do not need to replenish the container with black tea/sugar whenever you harvest the kombucha–you can let the scoby sit in 2 cups of liquid for a few weeks, then add the black tea/sugar mixture 2 weeks before you want a new batch.
If you want, once you have a healthy scoby, you can set up a “scoby hotel,” which is a separate container with kombucha/starter liquid and scobys. Its purpose is to be a backup if anything happens to your scoby, or if you want let it sit for a few months without harvest. It’s also nice to have one to trim off and give to friends. 🙂
1. Be sure to clear your jug every harvest or two. Take out the scoby, save 2 cups of liquid (per gallon), and rinse the jug with water and soap. It helps avoid build up.
2. Your scoby will eventually get BIG and want to take over your house. Peel off/trim the layers as needed and either save them in the scoby hotel, toss em, or give em away.
3. Avoid metal in the kombucha. You can research more, but apparently some metal may be bad for the liquid.
4. Scobys can look weird. At least seven times before your first harvest you will think you have mold. Unless you’ve really messed up, I doubt this is the case. Mold is fuzzy, dark, and/or crystalline in shape. It is normally NOT the white soft spots that form on the top of the scoby. I’ve never had mold develop, but I feel like the frequency of mold is overblown a bit. Smell it and/or let it sit for a couple more days to see if it still looks funky. Chances are it’s not mold. Look online for photos, as most of the weird things scobys do are not mold. Big Kombucha just wants you to give up on your batch and/or buy acidity/temperature sensors (kidding).