A Few New Tips on Making Kombucha

As I write it is Easter Sunday for Christians and while not everyone is Christian one thing we can all celebrate is the renewal and bringing forth of life that is spring. How  trees and plants can go dormant and then spring to life after a cold (but not too cold this year) winter remains one of life’s miracles to me.

How fitting that the subject of today’s blog is growth and new life, not of plants and trees but of something called Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). If you are new to kombucha click on the link for a Wikipedia explanation and check out this site for conventional techniques or for one of my blog entries on kombucha, go here.

Perfect timing

Why perfect? Today, less than 12 hours after finding myself disgorging all the contents of my stomach with a violence I do not recall I find myself writing about kombucha. I had set the parameters for this blog entry with no prior knowledge of what was to come but now that is has how perfect is it to be talking about the best thing for an upset stomach?

Kombucha has the remarkable ability to alkalinize an acid stomach and it also will help recolonize a stomach rudely emptied of its contents. If you add ginger you have a real powerhouse but even without the ginger it will heal and normalize a damaged gut. It is also full of B vitamins but, I hasten to add, not enough to satisfy a hypothyroid body’s need for B (Someone on a recent forum said they weren’t worried about their B vitamins because they were drinking kombucha. I disagree).

But did you know this?

At this point I am going to assume a general knowledge and familiarity with kombucha. In the past when I wanted to make kombucha I would buy a SCOBY online for about $20. This SCOBY would make a lifetime of kombucha but for some reason I often tire of kombucha after awhile and eventually throw the SCOBY in my compost knowing  even in death it continues to live.

What I didn’t know that I now do is you can “create” your own SCOBY. All you need to do is purchase an “Original” bottle of GT’s kombucha (no flavors added) for about $3. With that rather simple investment I can grow my own SCOBY and make kombucha. If I decide to quit making kombucha for a while I can easily buy another bottle and grow my own SCOBY again.

On growing your own SCOBY

You will need to buy a bottle of kombucha with no added fruit juice or flavorings. Dump the contents of the jar in to a clean quart canning jar and top it with cheesecloth or something permeable and keep it tight with a rubber band. Allowing natural yeasts to pass through the covering but keeping bugs out will actually help the SCOBY grow.

Now place on your counter top out of the direct sun and let it sit for three weeks or possibly more. After approximately three weeks you will see a skin forming on the top of the liquid. With the passage of time this skin will thicken and you will have an active SCOBY.

If you click on the photo you can see the bubbles of fermentation.

This SCOBY should smell yeasty and look creamy, never black or moldy. Once you have a healthy SCOBY you are now armed to make batch after batch of life restoring kombucha.

Kris Insight

With the various links and my new information on making your own SCOBY you now have the new basics for brewing kombucha. My additional insight is that making smaller batches seems to suit me better. I used to make my batches in a gallon glass jar but I find a quart jar makes the perfect amount for me to have one bottle double fermenting and one bottle ready to drink in the refrigerator.

Another small detail is I am fermenting my kombucha for fewer days which makes it less sour and less likely to need fruit juice added. After the initial fermentation which is about 6 days, I bottle it in a saved GT’s kombucha bottle (these allow for the escape of the carbonation that will form) and then let it sit for two or three more days. After that stage it goes in the refrigerator and is ready to drink.

Next week we are on to kefir, yet another fizzy drink, and my latest insight that makes it even tastier.

Santé,

Kris

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Kris,
    I have made the scoby from setting out a GT original bottle of kombucha on my countertop about three weeks ago. it has formed a scoby now what do I do?
    do I prepare tea and sugar and add the mother? I’m not clear what the next step is….can you guide me?

    Reply

    • Posted by Kris on 10:24 at Sunday, May 6, 2012

      Hi Lisa, what I did at that point was bring 2 cups of water and 1/3 cup of sugar to a boil completely dissolving the sugar. Turn the heat off and add two bags of regular tea, green or black. Let that brew for 15 minutes, remove the bags and then cool completely. I use a quart jar for my kombucha but many people like a larger jar, so you could gradually work up to a gallon container but I would start with the quart. Pour most of the original kombucha out but keep at least 1/2 cup and put that in the quart jar along with your nascent SCOBY (Hurrah! A baby!).One person suggested adding 1-2 TBLS of Braggs vinegar to the jar but I did not. When your tea is cool add it to the quart jar and cover with a cloth that lets air in but keeps bugs out. Place the jar on the counter where it can get natural yeasts from the surrounding air. Your baby will gradually form a new SCOBY that is larger and will fill the top of the quart jar, so only fill to the widest part of the top of the jar. I seem to remember that first time took a week or more but remember my kitchen is cooler than average. You will see bubbles forming around the SCOBY and you can taste it to see if it is getting sour, too sour, or just right. You just insert a straw under the SCOBY, trying not to disturb it too much, and slurp it up keeping it in the straw and not allowing saliva to go back in the jar by capping the straw with your finger and then tasting the kombucha. When it is just right, pour all but half a cup in to your leftover, cleaned and sterilized GT’s Kombucha bottle and cap it. Put it somewhere dark for a week, checking it now and then to see if it is fizzy and then refrigerate when you think it is ready. Then you start over. I usually make a new batch of tea tonight (Sunday) and bottle the brew tomorrow morning (Monday) and start over with the now well cooled tea. Anymore questions feel free to ask. I am really pleased it worked so well for you and want to hear about the first drinkable batch. :O)

      Reply

  2. Posted by Anonymous on 20:05 at Monday, April 9, 2012

    thanks for this Kris….at 3+ dolars a bottle it is definitely time to start making my own. I didn’t know you could just buy a plain bottle of kombucha and leave it out….it sounds very simple!

    Reply

  3. Hi Kris~ Looking forward to your kefir article next week. I LOVE kombucha and truly find so much joy in the process of watching the SCOBY transform simple tea into something so healing. The fizziness is very thirst quenching for me as well. In addition to drinking it straight, I like to add it to something else to “liven it up”.

    I appreciate your tips on growing a SCOBY at home. Your posts are kind of like Mother Earth News meets Thyroid Health 🙂

    Reply

    • Posted by Kris on 14:41 at Monday, April 9, 2012

      You are too funny but you may have hit the nail on the head. I refer to myself as a dirty old hippie though I am neither dirty nor really a hippie. I am a back to nature kind of gal, so Mother Earth News might be right up my alley. I have been on this thyroid journey for what seems like years, oh it is years, about 15-20 to be exact, so there you have it, Mother Earth News meets Thyroid Health. If you try making your own SCOBY let me know if it works. Mine took a lot of patience because I am in Minnesota and we keep our house cool. Just when I was ready to throw it out I noticed a spark of life and have made several bottles of kombucha with that SCOBY now and have one in reserve. One person suggested adding a bit of raw vinegar to the first batch but I didn’t find that necessary, it fizzed up nicely from the beginning. Next week’s blog is another tip as I have done several blog entries on the making of kefir but I am always experimenting and from experimentation comes learning.

      Reply

      • Hey Kris~ I made my SCOBY the same way you did yours. I live in Arizona and it definitely still took three full weeks. Now I am using a continuous brewer which makes it really easy although I think I have enough booch to share with my entire neighborhood 🙂 A good thing, for sure. I bottle mine with a few pieces of ginger in the bottom and have been getting great fizz if I wait a week before drinking. Sometimes if I’m feeling extra boochy, I might add some blueberries too. Do you ever add anything?

      • Posted by Kris on 9:56 at Friday, April 13, 2012

        I have (cherry juice, guava juice) but I never like it very much. I will have to try the ginger pieces. I thought I might have to juice my ginger root and just hadn’t done it. I am really tempted by the “root beer” kombucha but need to order the sassafrass root. Maybe I will try the ginger in the bottle that is fermenting at the moment and see if it gets fizzy. You answered a question I had about the length of time it takes. Whether you are in MN or AZ it will take three weeks or more. I threw the kombucha away that formed the SCOBY because it was too tart after all that time and had lost its appeal for me. Today I am going to make some coconut milk kefir ice-cream and add Cocoa Cassava bar pieces and bits of dark chocolate. I am calling it a “Snowstorm”.;O)

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