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A simple kombucha recipe for cultured types (pun intended): here’s how to make a simple recipe for this bubbly, trendy functional health drink.
Have you heard of kombucha tea but aren’t sure exactly what it is? Or maybe you like it and want to brew your own? Learn more about kombucha and find out how to make your own at home….
Some call it ‘Booch. Others refer to it as ‘mushroom tea.’ And in some parts of the Far East like China and Japan, it’s known as the “Tea of Immortality.”
Whatever you choose to call it, there’s no denying kombucha is making its presence known in the west. In fact, sales of this functional health beverage are forecast to reach near $2 billion within the next few years.
That’s a lot of kombucha. Indeed, kombucha seems to be everywhere these days. Yoga studios. Health food stores. Farmer’s markets. Kombucha bars. Even mainstream supermarkets are on the kombucha bandwagon.
Despite its use as a healthy elixir for over 2,000 years, many people are hearing about kombucha for the first time.
There’s also a small, but growing niche of DIY (do it yourself) kombucha home brewers. And as you’ll see below, a basic kombucha recipe is easy. Brewing your own ‘booch can save you lots of money.
That’s a good thing, if you have the ambition and patience to make your own. Because like other health fads, kombucha can be expensive. Trendy cafes charge up to $10 for a bottle or cup. In light of this, you might want to try your hand at creating your own tea for a 1 gallon yield.
But first, let’s cover some basic kombucha facts for the newcomers to this health drink….
What is kombucha tea?
The kombucha you find in a bottle or straight from a tap is a cold drink. It’s made via the fermentation process with a bacteria and yeast starting culture. The taste is slightly sweet and slightly sour. The mouthfeel of kombucha is bubbly. But not as sudsy as beer.
Kombucha most often includes black, green, or oolong tea. It also contains sugar.
If you’re fungus-phobic, no need to avoid kombucha. Though it’s nickname is ‘mushroom tea,’ kombucha does not contain mushroom. That is, unless, a specific kombucha recipe contains the adaptogenic mushroom, reishi.
So why the name ‘mushroom tea?’
Kombucha is a drink that undergoes the fermentation process. Like wine but with less alcohol. The fermentation of kombucha forms a film on top of the drink. The filmy substance—
bacteria and yeast—looks like the top of a large mushroom. On average, the fermentation process to create a kombucha recipe lasts about a week to 10 days.
And like yogurt, kombucha contains live cultures. It’s these live cultures that’s creating a huge demand for the drink. That’s because there’s increasing awareness about the health benefits (see below) of foods and drinks with live cultures.
Is Kombucha an Alcoholic Drink?
Kombucha does contain some alcohol. That’s because alcohol is a by-product of the fermentation process. The bacteria and yeast feast on the sugar in the kombucha recipe. Does that make it an alcoholic beverage? If you’re avoiding alcohol should you swear off kombucha tea and bottles of it?
Probably not. That’s because kombucha only contains trace amount of alcohol. In fact, a typical kombucha brew alcohol content falls well below 0.5%. Once a drink reaches the 0.5% threshold, by law, it’s necessary to label it as an alcoholic drink.
In some cases, kombucha can exceed this threshold. Typically, this occurs when the fermentation process is extended. Or when the kombucha recipe is not kept cold. Heat encourages more fermentation. More fermentation produces more alcohol.
However, if you stick to a simple recipe and the instructions, you likely won’t reach 0.5% alcohol by volume.
If you’re looking to get drunk on kombucha, you’ll need to have an iron stomach. That’s because kombucha with high alcohol tastes like it’s rotten.
Kombucha is more of a cold tea than an alcoholic drink. However, even bottles of commercial kombucha can contain too much alcohol. WebMD.com reports the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) required “several” kombucha makers to reformulate their kombucha recipes.
Kombucha tea benefits
Yeast and bacteria are microorganisms. It’s these invisible “bugs” that create the alcohol in kombucha. And these tiny critters are what supposedly makes kombucha healthy. Yeast and bacteria in kombucha are known as “SCOBY.” This acronym is short for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”
SCOBY forms that film that looks like mushroom. SCOBY helps colonize your gut with beneficial (good) bacteria. This good bacteria is also known as probiotics.
Probiotics contribute to a healthy immune system and gut health. And researchers are becoming more aware that gut health directly impacts your state of mind. In other words, healthy gut, healthy brain and happy soul.
When the SCOBY eats the sugar during the tea fermentation process, other benefits arise. The fermentation process produces several nutrients. A Kombucha recipe will contain B vitamins and amino acids.
One benefit of the B vitamins in a kombucha tea is healthy nervous system function. In addition, B vitamins can help balance hormone levels.
Kombucha starter kit
Ready to make your own kombucha recipes? You’ll need a kombucha starter kit. A starter kit for a healthy kombucha tea typically contains:
- SCOBY: it’s the dehydrated starter culture
- Purified water
- Organic cane sugar
- Black tea (or green or oolong; no fancy flavors; try to use a reusable teabag, which is better for the environment than single-use tea bags)
- Distilled white vinegar
- 1 quart glass jar
- Coffee filter (a cheesecloth other tight-fitting cloth can substitute)
- Rubber band
- Measuring cups
Keep in mind when it comes to the starter culture (SCOBY), you can get SCOBY from several different sources. The SCOBY is the mother culture. Without it, you can’t make a kombucha tea recipe. Just like apple cider vinegar with “the mother”, SCOBY is what makes this a functional health drink.
SCOBY starter culture should come dehydrated. Can’t get some SCOBY from a friend and looking to buy it online? Make sure it’s from a brand that tests the culture for harmful bacteria.
As for how much tea you need, for a simple kombucha, use at least 1/2 cup. In addition, some kombucha starter kits come with pH test strips. Your kombucha final recipe should be acidic, measuring slightly under 3.5 on the pH scale.
If you want to make a kombucha recipe 1 gallon, you’ll need a 1-gallon glass brew jar. You’ll also need to scale up the ingredients to make about 3 or 4 brews of sugar tea.
How to Brew Kombucha
If you buy a kombucha home brew kit, it likely includes instructions. However, if you’re just curious what the process entails now, here’s a brief rundown.
First, you need to bring SCOBY to life. Here’s how:
In a jar, combine a few cups of hot water with about a quarter cup of sugar. Stir. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Next, add a couple teaspoons of loose leaf tea. If you have a reusable tea bag, it should be about the same amount. You’ll want the tea to steep for about 15 minutes. Next, either siphon out the loose leaf tea. Or, if using a tea bag, remove it. Finally, allow the tea to cool for awhile and have your thermometer handy. The tea should be no warmer than about 85 degrees.
Some kombucha recipes also call for vinegar. This will help culture the kombucha more quickly. The vinegar can also help cool the tea. If using vinegar, about a half cup will suffice. Now, it’s time to add the SCOBY to the tea. Another reason vinegar is added when making kombucha is because it helps prevent mold. At the top of the jar, you can dampen a cloth or coffee filter with white vinegar. Take a rubber band to seal the cloth or filter to the jar.
Most DIY kombucha recipes sit for a minimum of a week to ferment. Some DIY kombucha makers let the tea stand for a full month.
Make sure to keep the kombucha tea out of sunlight. It’s best to keep it in a dark enclosure. In addition, also make sure to apply some vinegar to the cloth or filter daily. This will inhibit mold growth. If you’re looking for a simple kombucha recipe, several websites like this one offer detailed instructions.
Kombucha Recipe: A Baby SCOBY is Born
After your own kombucha is ready, you may see a new layer of SCOBY film. That’s a baby SCOBY. However, no need to panic if you don’t see a baby. Indeed, it doesn’t mean you have a bad batch of brew.
But if you see a baby SCOBY, that means the mother starting culture did its job. In fact, you can use the baby SCOBY for future batches. Furthermore, to enhance the taste, many brands of commercial kombucha add fruit like berries and lemon. Finally, you can also add ginger for extra health benefits from your homemade tea.