Kombucha has become a household name as well as becoming very expensive. It is known for its healing properties most commonly as a probiotic. Fermentation has become very popular and this is one of the more common fermented products today.
Kombucha "tea" has been around for a very long time. Some say it originated in Japan but has been known to have history in Russia as well.
My first encounter with a SCOBY was about 20 years ago in a most unusual way. At that time I did not know the name "Kombucha" or SCOBY — this was before it became popular. I was very interested in and studying herbology and medicinals so, a family friend (a very sweet elderly lady who has since passed away) gave me a "healing tea mushroom". She said the tea was for ailments. The SCOBY is still referred to as "mushroom" but is not a mushroom. It is a combination of bacteria and yeast. She told me how to make the tea and how to feed the mushroom.
There has been controversy as to whether or not Kombucha is "alcoholic". Well, any fermented product does break down to have a small amount of "alcohol". Kombucha purchased in markets are sold as "non-alcoholic" beverages but home-made can have a higher amount of alcohol. It's all about how long you allow your tea to "work" and if you do a second fermentation. Traditional Kombucha is made with black tea and sugar.
I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and was concerned that the yogurt culture I was eating may be having a bad effect due to my sensitivity to dairy products. So, I considered using kombucha as a substitute probiotic. My main concern with kombucha was the fermentation aspect. I also have a sensitivity to fermented products. Fermented products have a very high histamine content and people who are histamine-intolerant can react. Because using kombucha, it seems to be helping and my physician told me to continue using as a probiotic.
Grow a Kombucha SCOBY from a Store-Bought Bottle
Here are the steps I took to grow my own Kombucha SCOBY (also known as "mother", culture, or mushroom).
What you need to begin:
- bottle of "raw" (nothing added, such as a flavoring) Kombucha tea from market
- glass canning jar
- cheese cloth, muslin or other and rubber band, string or canning ring to secure
- 1 cup water
- 1 tea bag
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
1. Making a traditional Kombucha uses black tea and sugar. Make 1 cup of black tea. Dissolve 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar while hot. Cool to room temperature. This will "feed" the culture from your bottled product.
2. I use a canning jar to culture my kombucha. I used about 1 cup of the "raw" kombucha, adding it to to the glass canning jar. I then, added the cool tea.
3. Cover the jar with cheese cloth, muslin or curtain sheer. Some say to use coffee filter but, I used cheese cloth. You can use a rubber band to secure or just place a canning ring on top.
5. So, now you put the tea away in a warm spot, 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit, to break down or "ferment". Some will say to put in a cabinet. I would not advise this. If the culture doesn't get enough airflow, you can have a SCOBY that doesn't grow as effectively. I put my jar on the kitchen counter away from sunlight. Another precaution is to not place near ripening fruit or another type of fermentation project. You do not want cross contamination.
6. You should see the beginning of a baby SCOBY in usually 3 to 7 days. It could take up to 2 weeks to develop a large enough SCOBY to start your own tea. It should be about 1/4-inch thick to begin.
You now have a traditional kombucha SCOBY now you can start your kombucha tea. I always say when you're starting something new always do a small batch first.
Make Kombucha Tea with a Homegrown SCOBY
What you need to make your kombucha tea
Note: You will need 1/2 cup "starter" tea that you grew your SCOBY in.
- 3 cups boiling water
- 2 teabags
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Glass canning jar
- Cheese cloth, muslin or other and rubber band, string or canning ring to secure
- Optional...flavor, juice, fruit
1. 3 cups boiling water, 2 teabags, 1/4 c. sugar dissolve and let cool and strain (remember you are dealing with bacteria and yeast...hot water will KILL your yeast culture).
2. When cool, add this tea to a glass jar with 1/2 c. of "starter" tea that you grew your SCOBY in.
3. Carefully, remove your SCOBY from its jar and place on top of your tea in the other jar.
4. Place a cheese cloth, muslin or other on top of jar and secure.
5. Place in a dry, dark area with temp around 70-85.
6. Let the Kombucha tea "work" or break down/ferment for about 3-5 days. You look for carbonation or "fizzy" tea.
6. I start checking the taste of my Kombucha at 3 days...due to fluctuating temps the sugars can break down quicker and you can have "vinegar" before you know it. At this point it is all about your preference for taste and pH. Uusually 3-7 days gives you a good batch. I make sure of my pH by checking with pH paper that I have on hand from cheese making. This is not something you have to do. I look for a 3.5-4. I prefer mine a little sweeter.
7. When it gets to where you want it you can either bottle and put in refrigerator OR bottle and add juices or other flavors and do a SECOND fermentation.
Note: Reserve 1/2 cup tea to start a new batch of Kombucha. You will notice that your SCOBY is getting thicker and growing. These "baby" SCOBYS can be used for separate batch jars and/or to give to someone to start their own Kombucha. They separate easily but, make sure they are at least 1/4 in. thick.
Kombucha Second Fermentation
You don't have to do a second fermentation. This is mainly for adding "flavor" and getting "fizz" to your kombucha.
1. Bottle kombucha and add your flavor/juice or fruit.
2. Close off bottle with lid and let sit for 1-3 days.
3. Watch closely because this will cause more carbonation!! Usually two days is enough...
4. Refrigerate and ENJOY!!
Susan Tipton-Fox continues the farming and preserving practices that have been passed down to her by her family. She presents on-farm workshops in Yancey County, N.C., and growing her on-farm agritourism by promoting "workshop stays" on the farm Connect with Susan at The Mushroom Hut @ Fox Farms and on Facebook. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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