Kombucha is fermented black tea which looks like a brew from a witch’s cauldron! All you need to get started is a kombucha SCOBY and a batch of cooled, sweetened black tea. Like magic, your SCOBY will ferment the tea into a fizzy, tangy drink with a funky edge. Ready to start your kombucha journey?
Kombucha is a tangy, fizzy tea fermented using a symbiotic community of bacteria and yeast called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community of Bacteria and Yeast). This rubbery, disc-shaped “mother” transforms sweetened black tea into a nutrient-rich probiotic powerhouse. You can read more about how a scoby works HERE.
SCOBYs multiply quickly, so even if you don’t have a friend who brews kombucha, you can easily find one from an online retailer or specialty store. Once you have a SCOBY, you can create your own delicious, gut-friendly kombucha at home!
The fermentation takes up to ten days, during which the SCOBY consumes the sugar in the tea and produces a fizzy, slightly sour drink. In this blog post, we’ll review the steps for making kombucha at home, including some troubleshooting tips to help you avoid common mistakes.
- 500mL freshly boiled water (rain/spring/unchlorinated)
- 1.5L cool water (rain/spring?unchlorinated)
- 2 heaped teaspoons of loose black tea or 4 tea bags
- Steep tea and sugar in a heatproof jug or bowl for 20-30 minutes.
- Pour the cooled water into the jar.
- Stain the tea solution into the jar and stir.
- Add brewed kombucha (from a previous batch) and stir.
- Ensure the solution is below 35℃ before floating the SCOBY on the top of the liquid. Don't stress if it sinks or floats on a wonky angle; new SCOBY will grow on the surface of the liquid, starting as a fine translucent film that will then develop into a thicker, characteristically rubbery SCOBY.
- Cover the jar with cloth or kitchen paper and secure it in place with a rubber band.
- Write the date on the jar with a waterproof marker.
- Ferment for 6-10 days, out of direct sunlight at room temperature (20-27℃).
- Start tasting the brew on day 6. Use a clean stainless steel long-handled spoon and skim some brew under the SCOBY. You can also use a stainless straw. The brew should be fizzy and a lot less sweet than the original liquid. When the sourness.
- Decant the kombucha into clean glass bottles with 5-10cm headroom at the top and reserve 200mL to start the next batch.
My kombucha is not very fizzy, or not fizzy at all
- Check the temperature of the environment you are fermenting in. Kombucha will ferment between approximately 16-28℃ (60-85℉).
- Check the health of your SCOBY. Ensure it is active and not mouldy or “sick” looking. Has it been exposed to too much heat, such as being put into a tea solution that has not been cooled?
- Was there enough sugar in the tea solution?
- Add a little extra tea from the previous batch (backslopping) to the new batch to help kickstart the fermentation.
My kombucha tastes sour and vinegary
- Did you ferment the tea for too long?
- Was their insufficient sugar in the batch?
- Was the environment you fermented in warmer than usual, making the tea ferment faster?
My kombucha smells weird, or just plain off
Well-brewed kombucha should have a bright, sweetish aroma with a slight acidic edge. The more fermented, the stronger the acidic notes. Your kombucha should not smell like this:
- Sulphury, rotten egg smell means your SCOBY has been contaminated with the wrong kind of yeasts. Unfortunately, you must get rid of this SCOBY and start afresh with a new one.
- Musty and overly earthy aromas are signs that your SCOBY has become mouldy. You will have to discard your SCOBY and source a new one.
- Sharp and alcoholic aromas mean our kombucha is over-fermented; best make it into vinegar—see “I over-brewed my kombucha, what now” (below).
If you have to discard your SCOBY and start afresh with a new one, make sure you are observing proper hygiene when preparing a fresh batch. Also use a tighter weave on cloth or paper when sealing the brew.
My SCOBY looks mouldy
Oh no! Mold is a sign of contamination. Discard the batch and thoroughly sanitise your equipment before starting again. Make sure to source a healthy new SCOBY from a trusted source for your next batch.
I overbrewed my kombucha, what now?
You can use overbrewed kombucha to make vinegar. Here’s how:
- Remove SCOBY from the solution. Peel off the top fresh layers and reserve to start another fresh batch of kombucha.
- Place lower layers back into the over-fermented brew.
- Replace the cloth or paper cover and leave for another 60-90 days.
- After 60 days, sample the brew under the SCOBY using a clean stainless steel spoon. When it tastes unmistakably like vinegar, it is ready.
- Decant vinegar into a bottle for future use and compost your SCOBY (or feed it to the chooks!)
Ready to get brewing? Not only will you save money by brewing your own kombucha instead of buying it at the store, but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing exactly what goes into it. And who knows—you may just discover a new favourite hobby. Happy fermenting!