kombucha

Illustration by Samantha Schuyler

Ever looked at something and think, “I could do that”? Well, when you can order dinner from your computer — under a pile of blankets…in your pajamas — maybe you don’t feel the need to actually do. We’ve got your back, though. Baby steps. Here are some easy do-it-yourself projects that can help you become the self-sufficient, resourceful person you’ve always wanted to be. 

Kombucha? You betcha. We’ll teach you the ins and outs of this fizzy, fermented drink.

What IS Kombucha?

A fizzy drink with an even funkier name, kombucha has fermented its way into the lives of foodies and just about anyone who enjoys a revitalizing drink. Hyped by health food stores and known for its probiotic properties, kombucha has become a staple for anyone thirsty for essential vitamins and antioxidants. It is known to have digestive benefits, and the acids and enzymes in the drink help your body detoxify. Deemed an “immortal health elixir” in China many centuries ago, kombucha is created by combining live yeast and bacteria culture with sweet tea, then simply letting it ferment to your heart’s content.

What you need:

  • 1 big glass container (about 1 gallon)
  • 2 kitchen clothes
  • A few rubber bands
  • Several mason jars
  • White, green or black tea
  • Raw cane sugar
  • 1 bottle of original kombucha

How to make it:

Step 1:

Buy a bottle of original kombucha from a local grocery store. (Ward’s has a great selection.) Pour half of the drink into a mason jar; it will be used to produce your SCOBY. The remaining kombucha is for you to enjoy. Cover your mason jar with a cloth that will allow airflow, but block sunlight. Use a rubber band to fasten the cloth. Let this sit for two to four weeks in a place without sunlight. This process will produce your SCOBY, which is an essential component in making kombucha.

*It is possible to skip this step if you decide to buy a SCOBY online or get one from someone who brews kombucha.

Now you are probably asking yourself, “What exactly is a SCOBY?”

The term SCOBY is an acronym for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.” Your SCOBY is key to the fermentation process and acts as a protective layer for your kombucha.

Step 2:

Brew half a gallon to 1 gallon (depending on the size of your glass) of white, green or black tea. While it is still hot, dissolve two-thirds of a cup of raw cane sugar. The tea should be quite sweet because the sugar aids the fermentation process. Let your tea cool to room temperature.

Step 3:

Pour the sweet tea mixture into a large container (about 1 gallon) with your SCOBY. Cover the top in the same manner described in the first step, taking the same precautions. Let this ferment for one to two weeks. The longer it ferments, the more potent it becomes, so be sure to periodically taste test! Once you are satisfied with your kombucha, it can be stored in the fridge and will no longer ferment.

Second Fermentation:

After your basic kombucha has been made, you have the option of pouring it into smaller mason jars or glass bottles and changing up the flavor. Just add some herbs or fruit to enhance the tea — thinly sliced pears, peaches, ginger and grapes work really well. You need very little fruit to get great results (about 10-20 percent of the total volume). Let your drink sit for about two to three days in a jar with the lid on.

Things to keep in mind:

  • It is normal for your kombucha to smell slightly vinegary.
  • A SCOBY is healthy if it has bubbles, stringy or gritty brown bits, jelly-like pieces and is one-fourth to half an inch thick and opaque.
  • A SCOBY is unhealthy if it starts to grow mold! Discard your SCOBY (and kombucha) if you find fuzzy green or black mold on its surface. An unpleasant, cheesy smell is also indicative of an unhealthy culture.
  • Make sure the glass containers you use are very clean and free of any soap residue! You can sanitize your mason jars by filling them with boiling water.
  • Be aware of the building pressure inside your mason jars during the second fermentation process. If you screw the lids on tightly without releasing pressure every so often, your jar will explode. In order to avoid this, slowly unscrew the lid (carbon dioxide will be released) and then close it again quickly. If you are not storing your kombucha in the fridge, excess carbon dioxide will cause the jar to break

Resources for your perusing pleasure: