FAQ about kombucha

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that I often get about kombucha and the process:

What is this kombucha that you’re always raving about?
Kombucha is a drink made from fermented tea. It is delicious and slightly effervescent. It can be flavored. It can be from sweet, tangy, or tart – it all depends on how it was made! The tea in kombucha can be black, green, white, rooibos, or jasmine (or a mixture of any of these).

How do I get started making my own kombucha?
The fermentation of sweet tea happens due to the presence of a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast). It is flat, beige-brown, and feels a bit rubbery. It takes on the shape of the container you use to brew kombucha. And it can have brown spot or marks on it and stringy bits hanging from it.

What’s the cost savings on making my own kombucha?
Generally speaking, you can find a 16 oz bottle of kombucha for about $3 at your local grocery store. I have seen GT’s kombucha at Aldi’s for just under $2 a bottle. Depending on the items you use (glass jar for fermenting, black tea and green tea, sugar, and glass jars/bottles to secondary ferment or flavor), it costs about $0.05 to $0.25 per 16 oz bottle to make your own kombucha. 

Why drink kombucha?
In addition to being a tasty drink, kombucha is said to contain vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, and amino acids. Some say that all of their aches and pains go away when they drink it. Others drink it because their diet may be lacking in B vitamins. For me, it helps my digestive tract stay…regular, if you will.

Is it safe to make your own kombucha at home?
Yes! While I am a trained scientist, you don’t need laboratory equipment or fancy tools to make kombucha. You definitely do not need to be a scientist to make kombucha. The only necessity is that you need to make sure that your equipment and your hands are clean. Simple enough! Here’s a link to the recipe I use at home.

How do I know that I’ve converted tea into kombucha?
If your tea ferments even a teeny-tiny bit, then you’ve done it! You’ve turned tea into kombucha. There should be bubbles. The drink should smell vinegary. Your SCOBY will have generated a new layer. A SCOBY really is the gift that keeps on giving!
Your kombucha should NOT smell musty or moldy. If you see green or black mold growing on the surface of the SCOBY or if the tea smells anything but a bit vinegary, discard the SCOBY and the batch of kombucha. And just start over again with fresh ingredients. 

How can I flavor my kombucha?
You can use herbal teas, juice (no more than 1/5 of the total volume), fruit, fruit puree, herbs, and spices. Keith recommended the following: mint, strawberries, peaches, blackberries, pomegranate, hibiscus, ginger, turmeric, lime, lemon, basil, or combinations. You can see my past and current favorite flavors here.

I’ve heard of bottles of kombucha exploding. Is making kombucha at home a safe activity? Will my home-brewed bottle of kombucha explode?
Rest assured, I have never had a jar of kombucha explode. I’ve been ‘bootching (making homemade kombucha) since September 2017. The reasons that jar could explode is if there is too much pressure in the bottle due to too much carbonation. Unless completely left unattended for weeks at room temperature, I do not expect bottles of homemade kombucha to explode.

I like my kombucha to be fizzy. How do I carbonate my kombucha?
Once you have brewed a batch of kombucha, place it in a mason jar or glass bottle. Add any flavorings that you choose, along with a little bit (~1/2 tsp) of sugar (or honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup) and then put on the cap. Gently invert the bottle a few times to dissolve the sugar. Leave bottled kombucha out at room temperature for up to 7 days, depending on your desired level of carbonation. The residual SCOBY in the kombucha will feed on the sugar giving you carbonation. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool before drinking. Be careful when opening as contents are under pressure.

I’m concerned about the sugar content in DIY kombucha? 
The SCOBY converts sugar into carbon dioxide and probiotics. The longer you leave your tea to ferment, the less the sugar content in the overall product. However, the longer you ferment your kombucha equates to more tangy or vinegary tasting kombucha.

As always, shoot me a comment if you have any other questions. And happy fermenting!
Jen

My favorite kombucha flavors – July 2018

I’ve had two friends (and about a dozen people at the YMCA) sample my home-brewed kombucha. Both times I was asked how I flavor it and what are my favorite flavors. I’ve also been asked about carbonation, sugar content, and accidental bottle explosions. I’ve answered a few more questions below about this in a FAQ post. Please feel free to ask more questions in the comments!

I personally love my “original” (non-flavored) home-brewed kombucha after about 10 days of fermentation. Others that I know love very tangy kombucha and will ferment theirs for several weeks and will use pH strips to ensure that the acidity is perfect.
I would recommend using pH strips like this. Remember to use your straw to draw up liquid. Never dunk the strip into the fermenting tea as you may inadvertently contaminate it.

There is a direct correlation to sugar/acidic flavors to fermentation time. The longer you leave your kombucha to ferment, the less sugary (or more vinegary) the flavor.

What about flavoring your kombucha? Even though I like the “original” flavor, I also love the ability to be creative and devise unique flavors. How does one go about doing this though?  I was a bit vague on how to do this. Once you have made kombucha, you can carbonate or flavor it. I suggested the following:

“To flavor your kombucha, add fruit, juice, herbs, or additional tea. If you’d like to carbonate your kombucha, cap the bottles and set on the counter for 1-3 additional days.”

I’m going to share with you my personal favorites flavors thus far. Flavors are best enjoyed about 12 hours (or overnight) after mixed.

Very berry mint:
Brewed herbal peppermint tea (at room temperature) and a handful of berries.
I use Celestial Seasonings Magic Mint Herbal Tea and ~5-10 frozen blueberries
Steep tea bags in water for 5 minutes.
Allow peppermint tea to cool to room temperature.
Transfer cooled tea to 16 oz glass jar (or mason jar).
Add a handful of berries to the jar, then fill with kombucha tea.

Mojito
Mint leaves and fresh lime juice
Chop or muddle fresh mint leaves, place in empty 16 oz glass jar.
Squeeze juice of half of a lime into the jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Summer Breeze
Ginger, cucumber, strawberry
Peel and chop 1/2″ knob of ginger and ~1″ cucumber.
Add ginger, cucumber, and frozen strawberries to 16 oz glass jar. 
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Blackberry Cream (from The Brewkery in North Kansas City)
Blackberries and vanilla
If blackberries are large, cut in half. 
Add a ~5-10 blackberries and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to 16 oz glass jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

Cocoa Cream
Cacao nibs and vanilla
Add 1 teaspoon of cacao nibs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to 16 oz glass jar.
Fill jar with kombucha tea.

DIY Kombucha

I love kombucha. I was introduced to it (and hated it) when I was an undergrad. My friend John re-introduced me to it several years ago in graduate school. That’s when I fell in love with ‘bootch and discovered two things:
1) you can get a small discount at Whole Foods if you buy a case of it at a time and
2) I love kombucha with chia seeds floating around in it. I’m kind of a weirdo that likes that texture.
Drinking the probiotic elixir daily didn’t last long; it was an expensive habit that took up a lot of fridge space. 

Skip ahead to the DIY Kombucha Recipe below.

Fast forward to the end of September. My in-laws were in town visiting us Oliver. And I somehow convinced my mother-in-law and one of my sister-in-laws to go to the kombucha class with me at Grain to Glass in North Kansas City. Grain to Glass is a fun little homebrew shop that has a little bit of everything: supplies for brewing (beer, cider, wine), a bar with rotating beers on tap, and a few fridges with bottled beer. It also hosts brewing competitions, beer tastings, and classes for all things related to brewing.

Both my mother-in-law and sister-in-law already make their own kombucha, but their interests were still peaked to learn more from a guy named Keith who has been making kombucha for years and teaching others to do the same. The bonus features of this class were that you had the opportunity to try his homemade kombucha, receive a SCOBY (more below on this), see his “SCOBY Hotel”, and acquire some of his kombucha knowledge. Grain to Glass also had kombucha kits available for purchase (for $12, I believe) that included everything you needed (minus the SCOBY) to get started. 

Now that I’ve successfully made three batches of kombucha at home and feel a bit more comfortable with the process, I’ve also made a post with some knowledge that I learned from Keith, the internet, and making my own kombucha. I also answer the questions I get the most at kombucha on that post.

 

DIY Kombucha
Serves 14
1 serving of kombucha is 1 cup (~250 mL)
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 5 min
56 calories
14 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
0 g
277 g
10 g
14 g
0 g
0 g
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size
277g
Servings
14
Amount Per Serving
Calories 56
Calories from Fat 0
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
0%
Trans Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
0%
Sodium 10mg
0%
Total Carbohydrates 14g
5%
Dietary Fiber 0g
0%
Sugars 14g
Protein 0g
Vitamin A
0%
Vitamin C
0%
Calcium
1%
Iron
0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Ingredients
  1. 14 cups (3.5 L) water
  2. 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  3. 8 tea bags
  4. 1 SCOBY
  5. 1-2 cups (250-500 mL) kombucha (starter tea)
  6. Coffee filter or muslin cloth
  7. 1 thick rubber band
  8. 1 gallon glass jar (4 L glass jar)
  9. Soda straw
  10. Tongs
  11. Plate
Instructions
  1. 1. Bring 2 cups (500 mL) of water to boil.
  2. 2. Remove water from heat and add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
  3. 3. Bring another 12 cups (3 L) of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 6-8 tea bags. Allow them to steep*
  4. 4. Let the tea and sugar water to cool to room temperature (at least 1 hour, but up to overnight).
  5. 5. Add the room temperature sugar water and tea to the 1 gallon glass jar.
  6. 6. Add the 1-2 cups (250-500 mL) of kombucha (starter tea from the previous batch of finished kombucha**) to the jar.
  7. 7. Add 1 SCOBY to the jar.
  8. 8. Cover the jar with a coffee filter. Secure filter with the rubber band. Set the lid aside as it is unneeded.
  9. 9. Let the sweetened tea + SCOBY sit at room temperature in normal lighting*** for at least 5 days and up to 1 month.
  10. 10. At the 5 day point, draw up a sample of the freshly fermented kombucha using the straw. Taste for desired sweetness/tartness. Fermentation may take longer than 5 days (or up to 4 weeks), depending on desired taste. The longer you allow the tea to ferment, the more tart and tangy it becomes.
  11. 11. When brewed to you desired taste, remove the original SCOBY and the newly generated SCOBY with a pair of tongs and place them on a clean plate.
  12. 12. Check the SCOBYs for green or black mold. If you find mold, discard the SCOBY and the kombucha/tea - start over with fresh ingredients!
  13. Remember that brown or stringy bits are totally normal as are shades of brown.
  14. 13. Set aside 2 cups (500 mL) of newly finished kombucha and one SCOBY to begin you next batch of kombucha.
  15. 14. Pour the remaining kombucha into bottles. If you'd like to carbonate or flavor your kombucha, then now is the time. To flavor your kombucha, add fruit, juice, herbs, or additional tea. If you'd like to carbonate your kombucha, cap the bottles and set on the counter for 1-3 additional days.
  16. 15. Chill the bottles before opening.
  17. 16. Take care when first opening your kombucha as the contents will be under pressure.
Notes
  1. *I usually allow my tea to steep for 5-10 minutes. You can steep the tea bags overnight.
  2. **You can use unfiltered, unsweetened, commercial kombucha as the starter tea.
  3. ***Keep the solution out of direct sunlight, but don't keep in a cupboard or out of the sun.
Adapted from from Keith Krieger
beta
calories
56
fat
0g
protein
0g
carbs
14g
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Adapted from from Keith Krieger
The Adventures of El and Jen http://www.elandjen.com/