Kombucha Making with River
When River and I decided to brew our own kombucha, we quickly found that there is no “right” way to do it. Everyone had slightly different ratios, equipment, and fermentation times. After watching a ton of videos, reading many recipes, and asking Reddit, we headed to Target for our gear and got started on our homemade kombucha.
What you need:
(1) 1 gal glass Mason Jar
Rubbing alcohol (to sterilize all of your surfaces)
(6) 16 oz bottles
Funnel for bottling
Optional storage bin
21 cups of water
1 ½ cups of sugar
12 tea bags (we started with black tea but are currently experimenting with green tea)
Scoby + 1 cup of starter kombucha (this can be unflavored kombucha from a previous batch or store-bought)
Our scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is what keeps our kombucha safe to drink. To me, it looks like something out of American Horror Story, not to be weird but specifically human skin. I am no expert on how it forms or why it works so well but we learned a lot about growing it from this article. If you don’t have the time or patience to wait up to four weeks for yours to grow, you can also order one from Amazon or ask a friend for a layer of theirs. Every batch of kombucha you make will add another weird layer to your original scoby that can easily be peeled off (with very clean hands).
Once you have your lovely Scoby, you are ready to make your first batch of kombucha!** To yield about a gallon of kombucha, we use the above ratios of water to sugar to tea.
To make our sweet tea, we start by bringing half of the necessary water to a boil then turning off the heat and adding our tea bags. It doesn’t really matter how long your tea seeps in the water for but we’ve found that 10-15 minutes gives us about the same resulting flavor as seeping the tea for 5 hours. At this point, we take out all of the tea bags, add our sugar and let it dissolve completely, stirring as necessary.
Once we have our extra strong sweet tea, we add the other half gallon of water (chilled or at room temperature). This way, our hot tea will reach a more neutral temperature quickly instead of waiting around for it all to cool down naturally.
After all of the sweet tea is close to room temperature, we added it to our brewing jar along with the Scoby and one cup of kombucha starter. For our first batch, after creating the Scoby we used the excess liquid as the starter. Since then, we’ve just saved about a cup of kombucha to start each new round of fermented tea.
Instead of using the lid that comes with the jar, we used two coffee filters and some rubber bands to cover our kombucha, letting our bacteria breathe without letting uncontrolled substances into it.
Then you let it sit in a dark, cool area for what seems like forever. Our scoby took about four weeks to form. Then our first yield of kombucha took about two weeks. It’s safe to test it along the way so that you can taste for yourself the transition from sweet tea to funky kombucha. Once you’re satisfied by the funkiness of your ‘booch, it’s time for the second fermentation.
**River would like to let you know you don’t necessarily need a scoby to start brewing kombucha, the scoby is just an indicator that your kombucha is brewing
The home-stretch of the home-brew process! Once you’ve made it to the bottling stage, you should be seeing carbonation in your kombucha. This is the step where you can really choose your own adventure. When you’re ready to bottle, remove your scoby from the jar (with clean hands) and transfer it to a container with some of your fermented liquid. Stir your kombucha so that all of the yeast that’s settled on the bottom is equally dispersed through each bottle.
We used these bottles from Amazon and made sure to sterilize them with the rubbing alcohol and let them fully dry before any of our kombucha came in contact.
In each bottle we added the flavorings we wanted (recently ginger nectarine because nectarines are in season) before adding the kombucha. Using the clean funnel, we poured in our 14 day old sweet fermented tea into each bottle, leaving a couple of inches of room at the neck of each bottle. Be careful when holding the funnel in the bottle, keep it slightly elevated so that the carbonation doesn’t create too much pressure in the system.
Once you’ve finished bottling, the second fermentation process starts. River has heard a couple bottle explosive stories so keep them in a contained space just in case (we got this storage bin). We personally haven’t had any bottles explode from carbonation but for peace of mind, we take extra precautions. These bottles will only need to ferment for 2-3 days until ready to drink! We don’t “burp” our bottles even though some brewers recommend it. In River’s opinion, burping the bottles doesn’t make too much of a difference but if you’re worried your booch is getting too carbonated, give it a shot!
When we finish the second fermentation, our favorite way to enjoy our homemade kombucha is over ice since refrigerating it halts the carbonation process.
Every time we get together to bottle, we also start a new batch of kombucha so we don’t run out! It’s been such a cost-effective way to satisfy our cravings for alcohol, soda, or expensive store-bought kombucha (plus it’s less waste!).
Our current flavoring recipe: Ginger Nectarine
We used 4 teaspoons of ginger and 2 teaspoons of nectarine per each bottle of kombucha, making this our sweetest batch to date.
I juiced ginger with a juicer, but you can also use methods like blending, mincing, or this cheese-cloth method. For the nectarines, we simply pureed them in a blender.
Make sure to leave a comment with your tips for River and me or let us know if you start your own batch!