Introduction: Kombucha the Easy Way
A way to make kombucha without stress and chaos, explained simply and concisely.
Please remember to vote for me in the homebrew contest! Thanks much
Step 1: What Is Kombucha?
I will start off by saying, whilst Kombucha is recognised by the FDA to have positive benefits, if you drink this and get sick, (which is a very very very unlikely event if you are careful) it is not my problem. By consuming this, you are accepting responsibility.
Phew, serious bit over. Let's start!
Before brewing, research the health benefits of kombucha, it is good to know about what you are drinking.
Kombucha is, in short, fermented tea. However, it differs from normal brewing in that the fermentation is carried out by a "mother" (more on that later). It tastes of apples and sometimes apricots, however contains no fruit, only tea and sugar! This is because the mother breaks down the sugar and the tea chemicals into fruit acids, giving it the illusion of frutiness. It can go very, very mildly alcoholic if left for a long time, and with age becomes tarter, more fruity, and fuller in flavour. Ageing is personal choice, preferences vary wildly. When bottled in an airtight container, it carbonates itself! Now, about the mother:
Step 2: The Mother
This is the thing that works the magic. What resembles a disgusting, translucent, off white pancake is the mother. Yuck.
A mother is called a blob, a mushroom, a SCOBY, a tea ghoul. (Ok, maybe not a tea ghoul)
Whatever name it goes by, it is the same thing. You can buy these on eBay, (can I reccomend a seller ukdeal, his mothers are very good), or kombucha mother websites, if you can get one from a fellow brewer, fantastic, if not, no sweat.
The mother works by flooding the sweet tea with its babies, which work their magic, and this results in not only a re-usable mother, but a baby, so each mother after a brew has a baby, doubling in number! Starting with 1, ending with 2, which can both be used infefinately! This is useful in getting your friends and family to brew kombucha, and to increase the scale of your future batches!
It is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, acronymed to SCOBY. In English, a big happy family of microorganisms. Do not be put off by the word "bacteria", remember that all alcohol is made by bacteria, which yeast is a subdivision of I BELIEVE .(please correct me if I'm wrong)
As with everything, a little research on the mother won't hurt. Phew, shall we start brewing?
Step 3: Preparation for Brewing:
Large glass jar
String or large elastic band
Tight weave cloth
Tea, this must be unflavoured, no Earl Gray, no Orange Blossom, nothing flavoured with oils, either black or green tea (requires a little brown sugar to perk it up). White tea might work, I haven't tried it. Would very likely need dark brown sugar in decent quantities.Herbal teas can work, but a lot of them will damage your mother, so you can experiment with backup mothers. Herbal tea kombucha has a longer brewing time, so be patient!
Either :Vinegar(suboptimal but absolutely OK)
Or: Cup of store-bought or a friend's kombucha. (better option)
Step 4: Brew Up!
Brew the quantity of tea you want, I would reccomend 12 cups to start off with. Make it really dark, like really dark, but still vaguely drinkable. For 12 cups of tea, you want 3 or 4 cups of sugar. It will be unbelievably sweet, don't worry about it. Sugar should be white, or if using green or white tea, an eighth and a quarter brown sugar respectively to stimulate the mother.
Now, cover the container with that cloth. This keeps bugs and airborne moulds away, a critical part of brewing kombucha.
IMPORTANT: Leave it to cool. Completely. As in, to be safe, leave it overnight, the temptation is to rush, but if the next step is done with hot tea, it generally encourages certain types of bacteria in the mother that produce sour acids, which will result in a sour kombucha, not a nice sour, but a yuck-rotten-milk sour. So leave it to cool :)
Step 5: Deploy the Blob
Firstly, pour either your vinegar or your starter kombucha into your sweet tea when it has cooled, kombucha without a mother is still bio-live and contains those sour bacteria. This sets the low pH that kombucha mothers love and flourish in.
Now put your mother in. In pictures, as you see in this 'ible, the mother floats on top. New mothers grow on the top, I would in fact reccomend making sure your mother sinks, as you can easily retrieve both the mother and the new daughter. No sweat if it floats, no sweat if it sinks. Cover it again, secure it with the band now
Step 6: Leave It Yeah
This is something you just want to leave. Forget about it for a week. Disturbing it is just going to slow down the mother, and the formation of the the daughter. Put a date on your calendar. Just do not touch it for a week.
Step 7: Check for Progress
Gently uncover your jar, without shaking it, disturbing it will set you back. Look at the surface. Can you see a skin? If so, you are brewing nicely. If not, blow gently on the surface. Does it ripple like normal liquid, or act as if it has a film on top? If the latter, you are brewing nicely. Finally, if this check yields negative results, take a straw, wash it in mildly soapy water, and peel at the edge of the surface. Do wrinkles appear? Is there a skin? If so you are brewing nicely. If not, leave it for another week and check for these signs again. If after two whole weeks, none of these signs appear, you have a problem. Troubleshooting is not worth it, start again with new tea and maybe even a new mother.
Step 8: Testing and Tasting
When you have a skin on top, i.e. a decent, thick one at least a millimetre in thickness, it is time for tasting. Suck a tiny bit from below the new mother, and don't backwash, it is 1. disgusting, 2. introduces foreign bacteria from your saliva (yuck) that can contaminate your brew, a big no-no.
It should taste fruity, of apples and maybe apricots.If it is not particularly old, it will still be cloyingly sweet from the original mega-dump of sugar into it. As it gets older, it will become fruitier, deeper in flavour, richer in aftertaste, and tarter. Decide if this flavour is the best for you, if so go to the next step, if not, repeat this tasting session every day or two, until the kombucha is to your liking. The next step is completely optional, and completely skippable.
Step 9: Flavouring (HIGHLY OPTIONAL)
If you want to flavour your kombucha, something I don't particularly reccomend for a first batch but hey, your call, there are two ways of going about it. The first, is to have an eighth or so of your bottle filled with a weak tea infused with your chosen spices or flavouting, unless it itself is flavoured, like christmas tea, in which case I would make it strong. The bottling process takes place, siphoned kombucha falls into this tea, and it is all shaken up together. In the bottle, the bio-live nature of the drink amplifies the flavour.
The second is when dried fruit or spices, potentially even nuts I guess are chopped up small, put in a small muslin bag and sealed in a loosely sealed jar to ferment a second time, gas produced is "burped" (the lid taken off and quickly replaced)every day for 3 or so days, and the finished product is strained. Personally I have no experience of this method.
So now you have flavoured kombucha. Bottling time.
Step 10: Bottle Up!
Right, to bottle, you are going to need:
Bottles of a suitable size , these absolutely have to be glass. No compromise.
Corks, caps or screw tops depending on your bottle.
First, sanitise your siphon and bottles. Wash them inside and out with very soapy water at least five times. We don't want any unfriendly bacteria in our kombucha. Rinse them thoroughly to remove all trace of soap. Then, wash the outside of your siphon thoughly, then the inside. Man, even siphon some soapy water through, then some plain water. It all has to be so clean, inside and out.
n.b. a siphon is only a tube. You can use a siphon, but a piece of electrical cable with the guts pulled out is good enough for me. Just so long as it is clean!
Place your kombucha container higher than your bottle, on a desk to the floor works great.
Then, put your siphon deep, below the mother into your kombucha, take a quick suck on the other end and quickly put it into your intended bottle. If the siphon is good, kombucha will slowly but surely trickle into your bottle. Pull the tube out when you are completely done, you just leave a good gap at the top of the bottle, to let it "breathe".
Step 11: Future Planning
Even though the brewing is over, there are a couple of things that you should bear in mind:
Now that you have tasted the fruits of your labours, if you want to keep brewing kombucha, you should keep your two mothers and a cup of the tea for future brews.
When kombucha is in bottles, it is self-carbonating, and is bio-live. This very often results in a new mother being generated, which is not ideal for drinking. So when you pour yourself a glass, remember to either strain or remove the little blob(s), it isn't too much hassle. Also, if you don't drink it that soon, have a cork with either an airlock or valve in it so you do not have to worry about explosions of CO2 and kombucha and mother, it will ruin your life. If you don't have these, whack it in the fridge. It becomes dormant and flavours do not really change.
Lastly, this is not something I see myself doing, and seems fairly oddball, there are recipes out there which include kombucha mother as an ingredient! If you have too many mothers for your own good, if one day you feel brave, make a forray into these recipes. Message me with results, who knows, you might even do an 'ible on it!
Thanks for reading, I wish you luck brewing,