I was arguing with a colleague. The words she spoke were words I didn’t want to hear as all my life I have tried very hard not to adopt lifestyle labels. I realised that by definition she was probably right and that I might as well embrace it.
Which is why I have taken a recent fancy to Kombucha, brewing and consuming it with unbridled fervor. Along with craft beers and gins, it’s apparently the “drink of my people”.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a delicious fermented tea. Touted for its health benefits, it joins sauerkraut, kimchi and yoghurt as a probiotic superhero.
Any fermented food requires some sort of catalyst to convert whatever you’re fermenting and for Kombucha it’s the SCOBY.
Not to be confused with the cartoon dog of similar name (although, in my case it helps remind me what it’s called), SCOBY is an acronym for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” – which obviously describes exactly what it is. A flat, slimy disk of the good stuff needed to turn boring black tea into fizzy kombucha.
Although the drink is now flooding fridge shelves at supermarkets, it’s cheap and easy to make at home (like a real hipster). You can control exactly what goes into it, flavour it however you want (try using flavoured tea or fruit) and, as any home brewer will tell you, it tastes better than the commercial stuff too!
How to make your own Kombucha
You probably already have most of what you need to start your first batch lying around the kitchen.
- glass jar with 3 litre capacity
- cheese cloth (or clean dishcloth) and a rubber band
- medium-sized pot (it needs to hold at least 2 litres of water)
- sterilising powder
- 200g sugar
- 50g black or green tea
- SCOBY starter*
*You can make your own SCOBY by mixing some tea, sugar and a bit of store-bought kombucha. If you are not that patient, you can buy one online, or simply opt for a full starter kit (including the SCOBY) my favourite shop in the world, NFP – The Homebrew Shop.
Bring 1 litre of water to the boil. Once boiling, remove from the heat.
Add the 50g of tea. You can use regular teabags or loose-leaf tea in a reusable drawstring bag. Leave to steep for around 10 minutes before removing from the water.
Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
Cover the pot and leave it to cool.
Sterilise your 3l jar. Rinse thoroughly (or the steriliser could kill your SCOBY) and then add 2l of water. Once your pot of tea is room temperature, add it to the jar.
It’s time to add the SCOBY!
Fermentation occurs when the bacteria and yeast eat the sugar in the liquid (which, incidentally causes the fizz too) and requires an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Instead of using the jar lid, secure the cheesecloth over the top of the jar with the rubber band to allow free flow of air but keep dust and pesky insects out.
Place the jar somewhere warm (ideally 22-26 degrees Celcius) but out of direct sunlight. It takes about a week for the SCOBY to work it’s magic, but if it’s colder it might take a little longer to ferment.
You can watch the SCOBY grow from small beige clump to something resembling 1988 horror classic, The Blob. This growth is normal – it’s happy and doing what it’s supposed to.
After 7 days, use a clean spoon to taste your liquid. Final taste is a personal preference, but should be somewhere between sweet and tart. If after a week, it’s still too sweet for you, leave it for another couple of days and taste again.
(Hint: if you leave it for 3+ weeks you’ll end up with Kombucha vinegar, which is quite cool to use for all your home cooking)!
Once it reaches your preferred taste, it’s time to bottle. Screw-top PET bottles are recommended. You can leave these at room temperature for another few days to increase the flavour and fizziness of the drink (although you should move to the fridge after maximum 4 days to prevent exploding Kombucha bombs in your kitchen)!
Keep your SCOBY alive by leaving about a 1/2 litre of the liquid in the jar and putting it in the fridge. I recommend having a litre of sweet tea and 1.5 litres of water ready to start your next batch immediately!
Now go ahead and enjoy your delicious, healthy, homemade Kombucha like the hipster you refuse to believe you are!
Disclaimer: This blog is my own work and I am not being financially compensated by NFP – The Homebrew Shop for publishing it.
As a craft beer enthusiast and keen home brewer, I DO highly recommend their products and services. The friendly advice and ingredient range for beer brewing, wine, spirits and cheese making and general fermentable goods from Dave, George and Martin are beyond what I’ve been able to find anywhere on the internet. Check out their Facebook page or visit them at the shop in Emmarentia, Johannesburg.