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How to make Kombucha Tea (the easy way)

I love Kombucha tea!

You’ve probably heard about this latest health craze, and if you haven’t, well, you will soon. Kombucha tea has been around forever…. like 2000 years forever.  This stuff is definitely not new, but like all things that seem to come and go, it has made a strong entrance back into society.

I became interested when I was doing some extensive research over the summer for anything … anything, that would help the eczema on my hands.  I became quite crippled by my eczema as of the summer of 2016 and was desperately trying all sorts of crazy ideas.  At a lunch date with a friend, who is also a nurse, she casually asked if I had heard of Kombucha tea.  At that time I had not.  After doing my own research online, I decided I definitely wanted to try it and see if it made a difference.  I already took a probiotic, but from what I read, Kombucha was loaded with probiotics and lots of other stuff.  I found some at my local grocery store and within 2 days my eczema was almost completely gone.   I noticed a reduction in the itching immediately and the rest of it just seemed to dry up more every day.

I’m not claiming this to be a miracle worker for everyone… it just worked for me.  It also helped my husband stop his constant visits to the porcelain thrown, and even my 6 year old daughter, who has extreme constipation issues and dietary restrictions, goes regularly now.  Her eczema has gone away as well.  (A word of caution on the quantity to give children.  A little bit goes a long way.  She only drinks about 3-4 oz in the morning and that’s it.   There is caffeine so I wouldn’t recommend giving to kids at night).

But enough about me and my family .  “How do you make it?” you ask.   “The easy way” I say.   Here’s what you will need:

 

Because two adults drink 16oz bottles everyday in my house, we require TWO 1.5 gallon jars … so adjust to your own needs.

Let’s Begin:

 

First you will need a SCOBY and some starter tea.   “Oh No!” (In your best Pete The Cat voice) “Where do I get this?!”  Two places that I know of: a friend or online like Ebay.  Sounds bizarre buying a living organism on Ebay, but they are there.  Don’t concern yourself with the size you buy or retain from a friend.  The SCOBY will grow to whatever size container you store it in.  You will need about 8 oz of starter tea (which comes with the SCOBY) per 1 gallon of Kombucha tea.  (P.S. – what the heck is a SCOBY????)

Next you will need a large glass iced tea container.  Some people use a large mason jar, transfer their SCOBY in and out of the jar to brew and ferment, pour the tea from this same giant jar into their glass bottles…whew!  This, in my opinion, is the hard way.  By  doing a “continuous brew” with an iced tea jar that has a stainless steel spigot, you save time and any chance of contaminating your SCOBY by leaving it in its home!  I had one jar that I knew had a stainless steel spigot but the other one I was unsure of so I just replaced it to be sure.  PS…I prefer the spigot on the right.  This is the one I bought off Amazon and love it.  It pours quickly and is easy to turn off and on.  The one of the left came with the jar and works fine, but the other one is a speed demon  🙂

 

A word of caution about the SCOBY.  It is a living organism that is delicate.  What that means is you CAN contaminate and kill it.  WASH YOUR HANDS before ever touching your SCOBY.  Never, EVER wear jewelry.  And NO METAL can ever touch it (except for your stainless steel spigot).  Bacteria from your hands and metal are the two quickest ways to kill your SCOBY.  The jar you use to store it in and all stirring spoons should always be rinsed with white vinegar to kill off harmful bacteria BEFORE ever touching the SCOBY.

 

To brew your Komucha requires a dark, warm place. If you have a gas oven, this is a perfect spot because the always-on pilot light provides the perfect amount of heat required to keep your SCOBY happy. If you don’t have a gas oven, like me, you will need a dark place and a small seed heater that keeps it at the perfect temperature (anywhere from 70-80 degrees is perfect).  This is where the sticker thermometer comes in handy just so you can occasionally check that your heater is working and your Kombucha is brewing properly.

 

Kombucha is basically fermented sweet tea.  Sweet is the key word here meaning bugs love the stuff.  Cut up a clean white t-shirt and use a large elastic, or like I did, a headband wrap, to keep it covered but allowing it to breathe.  Some people use cheesecloth or other types of material…which is fine…just make sure it can get air.

 

If you already drink store bought Kombucha… SAVE THE BOTTLES!!!   I prefer GT’s glass bottles over the other two I purchased off of Amazon.  GT’s has the perfect lip for drinking, a plastic screw top lid, and just feels better in my hands.  Silly I know, but the other glass bottles I bought have a terrible screw top lid that I find difficult to unscrew.  The metal covering the plastic part of the lid came off after 1 week.  The milk bottles have a very thick lip and are squarish in design.  I don’t mind the squared design because they do line up tight and nice in the refrigerator, but the thick lid is difficult to drink from and even more difficult to pour.  You can use any glass bottle, but if you are buying store bought…KEEP THEM and reuse!!

Another thing to save from GT’s is the carrying container.  They give these away at our grocery store and it is very helpful when filling your own bottles to carry them safely to the refrigerator.

“Ok, enough already!!!! How do I make the stuff” you ask…

(don’t worry, I have a Cliff Notes version to print at the bottom)

To make 1 gallon of Kombucha, you will need 4 organic black tea bags and 1 cup of sugar.  If you are using the same 1.5 gallon tea jar I’m using, that would be 6 tea bags to 1.5 cups of sugar.  The easiest way to make this concoction is with a French Press.  Obviously, you can use a metal pot to boil the water, dissolve the sugar in, and let the tea bags steep. But I have found it difficult and rather messy to pour the sticky sweet tea into the jar.  I have a boiling water faucet, but if you don’t, simply boil some water and pour into the French Press.  Make sure to leave room for the sugar and tea bags.  For me, I simply fill my French Press from my boiling water faucet, dump 1.5 cups of sugar in and stir until completely dissolved.  Then put 6 tea bags in the press, place the lid on and brew until the tea is cool enough to pour into the SCOBY jar. If you are using a pot, I found it helpful to unwind a paper clip and tie the 6 tea bags onto this so I could easily take them out instead of fish around for them.

 

 

 

 

Once the sweet tea has cooled (or you put ice in it like I did), press down the French Press and pour the sweet stuff into your jar with your SCOBY.  Fill the jar to the top with water (I use tap water… yep… I can hear the gasps and the “how could you”s now) or use whatever water you would like.  With a wooden spoon or silicone spatula (never EVER use metal) stir until it looks completely mixed.  Carefully move the fresh brew to its location and put the clean t-shirt and elastic on top.  Place the heat pad lightly around it, draw the curtains, and let the SCOBY do its thing for the next 10-12 days.  You can brew longer, but it’s all up to your taste.  12 days is about as long as I can go before it tastes horrible to us.  I set a calendar reminder in my phone for every 10 days, giving myself a 2 day window if I don’t have time.

 

 

 

After the 10-12 days of fermentation is over, you will fill your glass bottles and refrigerate.  (If you want your Kombucha to be fizzy and flavored….see the  section below).  Take your jar from its dark warm home and place it on the counter.  Your bottles should already be cleaned and waiting to be filled.  Start filling your bottles and putting them in the refrigerator.  Remember, refrigeration stops the fermentation process.  DO NOT completely drain the jar!!  You will need your 16 oz of starter Kombucha to make your next fresh batch.

 

 

If you want your Kombucha fizzy and flavored there will be a second fermentation process after the 12 days are over.  We don’t like fizz and found the fruit flavoring to be too sweet, so this is a step I do not do.  Store bought Kombucha is fizzy and flavored, so feel free to play around and find out if you like it or not.  After the 10-12 days of the FIRST fermentation are over, drain your Kombucha into your glass bottles and use frozen fruit to flavor it.  The easiest way I found to do this is to buy disposable tea filter bags and put your frozen fruit inside.  Tape the filled tea bags to the outside of each bottle of Kombucha so you won’t lose it when it’s time to take out your flavoring.  To make your Kombucha fizzy, you will ferment your Kombucha bottles anywhere from 1-5 days depending on how much fizz you like.   These need to be kept in the dark and “burped” every day.  What?!?!  Yes…you will need to unscrew the lids once per day to let out a little bit of fizz so they don’t explode.  Once you are happy with the amount of fizz and flavoring, put your jars in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process.  You can leave the tea bags with fruit inside until you are ready to drink, or if you don’t want anymore flavoring, remove them before refrigeration.

 

 

Before you can start your next batch, you have to clean your SCOBY.  Wait…. what?!  I have to TOUCH this thing????  Yes…which is why it is extremely important that you wash your hands and remove your jewelry!!!   You will notice your SCOBY has a dark layer (old) and a lighter, healthier layer (new).  Remove the dark stuff and keep the light.  As I’ve said before, don’t worry about the size of your SCOBY, it will grow back to the size of your jar.  Take a wet paper towel and wipe the inside top part of the jar to remove any gunk from the previous batch.

 

And now it’s time to start the process all over again!!!!  Make your sweet tea, pour, wait, drain, clean, blah blah blah….

As you are enjoying your daily intake of Kombucha tea, throw your bottles in the dishwasher and stack them up for the next time.

You will get the hang of it to the point you won’t need instructions.  But until then, here is a PDF Cliff Notes version of what I just said.  Hope you enjoy your Kombucha tea as much as we do!

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One Response to How to make Kombucha Tea (the easy way)

  1. Laura (Northbrook IL) says:

    I stumbled upon this website by accident looking for a unique piece of furniture. Rachel, you have practical soiutions to basic problems that all moms face. My husband makes fun of me for spending $4 on the kombucha, even though he knows how good it is for me. I started Rachel’s method and gave him a glass and he said “oh great, what did this cost $10?” I said “how about a few pennies, you jerk!!” Hahaha. Thanks Rachel, now my husband stops giving me crap and has even started drinking it himself.

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