Making Kombucha

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Introduction: Making Kombucha

Kombucha seems to be the new "it" drink (although I live in the Bay Area, so this info may be biased). Of doubtful origin, this fermented tea has a passionate following who claim all manner of health benefits for it. I just like it because it tastes good.

Step 1: Obtain Kombucha Starter

You can buy the yeasty starter on the web (sometimes misidentified as a mushroom), or get it from a friend. You might also try looking on message boards of health food stores.

The starter replicates itself in each batch, so one is enough for your lifetime. Soon you'll have enough for everyone you know!

Step 2: Make Sun Tea

Add two to five tea bags (black or green) to three quarts of water. Let it steep for 8-24 hours, depending on how black you like it.

Step 3: Add Sugar

Add 1 cup of sugar to the water (the starter feeds on sugar, so the final drink will not be as sweet as the original).

Step 4: Stir Well

Like I said, stir well until all the sugar is dissolved.

Step 5: Add Kombucha Starter

Add the starter to your tea, along with any remaining liquid from the last batch of kombucha.

Step 6: Cover and Store

Cover with a clean tea or paper towel and seal around the rim with a rubber band. Store in a spot out of direct sunlight for 7-14 days (depending on who you talk to).

When its time is up, start all over again! Your starter will have grown another layer, which you can peel off and use for a second batch (or give to someone else).

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    132 Comments

    I'm trying to find how to grow a mother from scratch, really from scratch, without buying a pre-made bottle. It must be possible to grow a mother without buying a mother or getting from a batch of kombucha? How did our ancestors start a batch???!!! I see Instructable posted below that a mother will grow on its own in a batch of sweet tea (without adding a mother or bottle of store bought kombucha), has anyone else tried this method? Please share, thank you! Also, are there sugar alternatives, like honey, that can be used??? Looking to make as pure (healthy and natural) as possible, thanks!

    1 reply

    There's another instructable in which the author points out you can make a mother from a regular bottle of kombucha, preferably unflavored. I just took the mother I created that way and added it to the brewed, sugared tea described above. Should be fine. Easy peasy.

     Instuctable: any advice on brewing time or taste or small etc to get the least amt of alcohol possible? not sure if shorter time has less chance of alcohol to develop or longer time frame gives more chance it's eaten-up and turns to vinegar??? thanks!

    3 replies

    don't worry there is more alcohol in your mouth wash 

     um no. i use Tom's of Maine alcohol free.

    I remember reading somewhere that kombucha usually contains about 0.5% alcohol, so getting drunk from it really isnt an option if thats what you want to avoid, infact your cells would probably burst before you could even feel an effect from the alcohol

    It would be a sin to keep it to myself, I just joined the site just to share this: you don't need to "get" the starter Kombucha "mother" -- you can make one in a couple of weeks yourself.
    There aren't many things, so healthy, that are this simple. The yeast grows on the nutrients dissolved in the culture of boiled tea leaves plus sugar, right?
    Make some tea or even use the remainder of some tea leftovers. Basically, to make a mother, a very small one at first, brew 1 tea bag in 1 cup of water and add 3 tsp of unrefined sugar in a clean jar covered with cheese cloth kept in place with a rubber band or a string tied around the top/lip. Let it sit in a dark place, allowed to "breathe" until a strange-at-first foam appears on top, in a few days it solidifies. That's the baby Kombucha mother, more or less yellow-beige and slimy. It will have a distinct sour, vinegary smell, and if you smelled it before you will be able to recognize it. Taste a tea spoon of it to make sure it’s Kombucha and/or wash the tea spoon and ask another connoisseur.
    Just to pass on a warning, I understand some people achieved growing something else in such a culture – cool! I have not seen anything but a Kombucha culture come out of the following recipe. If it looks or smells more like mold than vinegar I would seek advice. For me, that had never been a problem. If it somehow got contaminated, be brave and throw the whole thing away. Start all over and keep it clean.
    To make a few glasses of Kombucha, just to give you approximate proportions (and do experiment to find your own favorite) for a gallon jar (my favs are sun-tea jars with a tap) brew 4-7 teabags or tsps of black tea in a separate wide-mouth bottle, jar or a coffee pot, along with a cup of any, hopefully not very processed, sugar. Let it cool off to room temp, then gently pour all of the above into the jar along with the Kombucha mother and the liquid it’s in. For a sure new “start” never transport the mother alone without it’s liquid. Cover the jar with a cheese cloth or whatever will let Kombucha breathe and keep bacteria, mold and tiny fruit flies away. Let it sit for 1 to 3 weeks, taste it by pouring out a sip at a time, do not drink form the Kombucha jar – keep it as sterile as reasonable.

    Once you make your first batch, you may well wish to experiment. Here are some of the main variables:
    1. The size of Kombucha mother mushroom. Of course the bigger it is the faster it will eat up the sugar, ferment, convert it into the elixir we know. But if it gets too thick, more than 2” or so (and in the right conditions it grows quite fast) it may not be able to “breathe,” so it’s lowest part will look not too appetizing, which means it’s time to either give a horizontal slice of it to a friend or start another jar!
    You can make it a batch at a time or pour yourself a cup or more every day if you add as much brewed tea and sugar back. In case of batch making, you will get a new layer of mother with every batch, then you can discard the lower portion or let it “seed” a new Kombucha mother. The lower, older mother may look like it died making a new one. Actually, it being a conglomeration of billions microorganisms -- they just traveled upwards, towards the air.
    The horizontal size of the mother will be only as big as the surface air it can reach.
    2. Second biggest variable is the amount of sugar, simply put, the more sugar the “stronger” is faster your Kombucha will develop. Experiment.
    3. Time it is allowed to ferment determines it’s acidity, effervescence, alcohol content (usually .5% to 1.5%) and taste. When you like the taste, remove (possibly, not necessarily, using a sieve) all but a couple of cups from the Kombucha jar (now it’s ready to start another batch) and pour them into smaller bottles with good lids (no metal touching nowhere.) Let them sit at room temp for a couple of days, to increase effervescence and sharpen taste, or refrigerate them right away. Again, experiment, it is hard to go wrong, some of your “bad” batches may taste better than some commercial ones!
    4. Try different teas and additional flavors, like ginger, mint, lemon, et cet, added before or after brewing. To be honest, I have not ventured that far to be an expert of what is best before or after.
    5. Your ingredients and patience (or forgetfulness) will determine the final taste.
    6. Last but not least is the temperature during brewing/fermentation. Warmer, but not too warm (70-85F) is best, whereas slightly below room temp is not a problem, but will certainly take longer to ferment.

    Fermentation depends on these variables in a very simple way, higher temp –or- more sugar –or- more time = more fermentation. Too much or too little of either may prevent proper fermentation. In hot climate, it may be advisable to brew it slower, like in a cool/cold basement or the lower part of the fridge.

    Important:
    1. Do not use anything that may have or had preservatives – it will harm Kombucha, possibly producing a dubiously-healthy mold.
    2. Keep everything clean, very preferably all glass. Kombucha is both sweet and acidic – it will dissolve some plastic and may imbed or damage wooden or rubber surfaces.
    Try not to touch the culture or the brew to decrease the risk of contamination. When you transport it, and simply pouring it out is not possible, handle it’s slimy layers only with freshly soap-washed hands. Enjoy the feeling!
    3. Use boiled water to evaporate the chlorine in tap water. Bottled or clean well water should be fine.
    4. The Kombucha mother is a friendly yeast colony, a live culture – treat it lovingly, really.
    5. Use everything organic. Did somebody actually ask why?

    Enjoy, may you be healthy!

    5 replies
    Just to boil this post down for people (pun intended), the gist is:

    You can make more kombucha by using a commercial bottle of kombucha. There is enough viable culture swimming in that liquid. Get as many of the "floaties" you can into your brewing jar and just start feeding it.

    My own caveats about this -- potential downsides of this method:

    • Low success rate for novices to the brewing process
    • Much higher chances for contamination since the culture is very weak
    • Takes a long time (up to 30 days) to generate a strong mother

    So...

    Whenever possible, and especially if you are a newbie to the world of kombucha, acquire a strong mother rather than trying to generate one from a commercial liquid.

    And if you still want to try doing kombucha this way, see if you can make friends with someone who's been into it for a while -- you'll benefit from their experience and intuition, because they'll be able to tell you whether the brewing process is going well.

    I believe you may have miss read the top part, he says you can make a mother without any kombucha.

    Also while he says it only takes 5 days from the foam to form, til you have a small mother, he doesnt say how long time it takes for it to form the foam, but i doubt it would take 3 weeks for the foam to form.

    At any rate this is an interesting experiment and I now have 3 cups of tea hidden away in a cupboard, heh

    I think this comment warrants a new Instructable... Thanks

    That is the longest comment I have ever seen!

    You should really make an Instructable about it, your tips are very useful! I think if you make an 'ible about it more people will see your tips. And Btw, does it have a strong smell this way? Because I'm planning to brew my Kombucha in my lockera at school, since I never open it.

    Another Bay Area friend! More people live here than I think, I guess :)
    I personally hate kombucha, but my best friend LOVES it (ever since she got a boyfriend who also loves it), so I'll be making this for her birthday!

    Ok it may be a stupid question but I have to ask. Do you just drink as is after the 7-14 day cycle? Can I add natural juices to it? Can I bottle it?

    Metal only threatens the well-being of the active cultures.
    Brewing tea in a metal pot is fine because there are no cultures during that stage.

    Don't ever use Earl Grey tea. The bergamot in it will injure your culture and you'll need to get a new starter. This has happened to me. Anything with citrus in it is bad because of the acidic nature, which kills the starter.

    1 reply

    From what I understand, it's not in fact the acidity, because the bacteria thrive in an acidic environment.
    That's why you add some of your previous batch into your new batch to bring up the acidity.
    It's the Bergamot oil which floats to the surface (as oil does) and cuts off oxygen for the yeast and bacteria.

    when do you put the olive oil in?

    What does the starter make the tea taste like? This sounds good, but I'm not a big tea person, I do like some kinds though.

    could this be done with just yeast