Witches' Brew Black Licorice Kombucha




Introduction: Witches' Brew Black Licorice Kombucha

Two things that people generally love or hate: black licorice and kombucha. I am a huge fan of both, and thought it would be fun to try combining them for a special Halloween concoction. This is a fun and inexpensive project, requiring very little equipment and is a great way to get into brewing.

For those who are unfamiliar with Kombucha, it is an ancient, bubbly, living brew made from cultured sweet tea, that has many health benefits. A "mother" culture ferments the tea, producing a delicious effervescent brew that is loaded with vitamins, probiotics, organic acids and antioxidants.

The distinct flavor black licorice primarily comes from two particular ingredients that also have various health properties. The main ingredient is anise, which is a Chinese spice that has been used for centuries as a digestive aid and to stimulate blood circulation, among other things. The second ingredient is licorice root, which originates from Southern Europe and Asia. It has a sweet taste has been used to treat many ailments including; asthma, depression, chronic fatigue, colds, flu, heartburn, ulcers and many more. 

Step 1: Ingredients and Equipment

10 Tea bags black tea
1 Cup of table sugar (preferably organic)
1 Gallon of distilled water
4 Tbsp of licorice root
2 tsp of anise extract
1/2 Cup of sassafras tea (optional)
Kombucha "mother" culture + 1 Cup fermented tea starter

1 Gallon jar
Cloth or paper towel
Rubber band
Measuring spoons
Measuring cup
7 Bale-top beer bottles
Strainer, filter, cheesecloth, etc.
Food-grade bucket or sink
Starsan (or other brewing sanitizer)

Step 2: Brewing

The most important thing to remember when brewing is sanitation. Make sure to keep your equipment and working area clean to prevent infection and spoiling of your brew. That being said, kombucha is a great way to get into brewing, as it is much more forgiving than other types of brewing. The organic acids in kombucha are much more likely to kill unwanted bacteria that would otherwise be proliferated in other types of brewing.

Wash and soak your 1 gallon jar in water and Starsan, following the directions on the bottle. Then boil 4 cups of distilled water. Add hot water and 10 tea bags to the jar and let steep for 8-10 minutes or so. (Don't worry if the jar still has a few suds from the Starsan bath, it won't hurt or create "off" flavors in the brew)

Remove the tea bags and stir in 1 Cup of sugar. After the sugar has completely dissolved, pour in the rest of your distilled water, leaving an inch or so of space from the top. This will cool down the brew enough so that your culture can live comfortably. (Make sure that your water is not above room temperature, as it could kill it!)

Step 3: Mother Culture (Scoby)

The "mother" culture, also called a "scoby," is a living mass of friendly microorganisms that feed on the sweet tea to produce the tangy, bubbly elixir. The best way to procure one is to find fellow brewer and have them give you piece of their culture and about a cup of kombucha starter tea. Otherwise, you can buy one online. 

Place the culture and starter liquid in the jar of sweet tea. Cover with a clean cloth or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Allow an inch or two of space to make sure that the cloth doesn't touch and contaminate the brew. The purpose of the cloth is to allow air to circulate, but keeps contaminants such as fruit flies out.

Leave in a warm place (around 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit) somewhere where it won't be disturbed. After around 7-10 days you can taste your brew to see if the amount of carbonation and tanginess is to your liking.

Step 4: Work Flow

Before flavoring our brew, we should remove the mother culture, which is a good time to start preparing for the next batch of kombucha. It's a good idea to have 2 jars, that way you can brew up some more sweet tea and have it all ready to transfer your mother culture to. (Don't forget to save a Cup of your last batch for the new one!) Otherwise, you can set it aside in a bowl with a cup of starter tea, or it can be refrigerated if you don't plan to use it right away. It's important to always add a cup of your last kombucha to each new batch as it sets the proper pH level for the mother culture to thrive.

Step 5: Flavoring

Once the mother culture is removed, we will add the flavorings to our brew. Combine 1/2 Cup of water and 1/2 Cup Sassafras tea (or a full Cup of water if you can't get the Sassafras tea) in a microwave-safe measuring cup, heat till boiling. Add 4 Tbsp of chopped licorice root and 2 tsp of anise extract. Let steep for 10 minutes. Add to the brew and stir gently.

Step 6: Bottling

Sanitize your bottles, funnel and strainer with Starsan. I like to use bale-top beer bottles, because they require less work. Alternatively, you can use regular beer bottles and a capper. The funnel that I use has a snap-in filter, which is nice, but won't quite fit into the bottles, so I pour the brew through filtered funnel into a large measuring cup with a spout on it. Then I use it to fill the bottles. Try to do this part as gently as possible to not release all of the carbonation from the brew.

Then, cap the bottles and set aside again for another 4 or 5 days, this allows time for the brew to finish carbonating.

After allowing time to carbonate, refrigerate the bottles and they are ready to be enjoyed! The next section is purely for fun and aesthetics, but adds a lot to the overall presentation, especially if you intend to bring your brew to a party or give away as gifts.

Step 7: Presentation

I designed a Halloween-themed label, starting with a pencil sketch and then scanned and traced in Adobe Illustrator and then textured in Photoshop. I printed the labels on a recycled craft paper to create an earthy and aged appearance.

Here is a link to my labels if you would like to use them for your brew. I would just ask that you please use them for non-commercial purposes only. Thanks!


Step 8: Conclusion

I am very pleased with the results of this experimental concoction, I originally intended to take it to my friends' annual Halloween bash, but I have been consuming it in large quantities and will most likely have to come up with something else instead...

I hope you have enjoyed this Instructable, thank you for reading and have a happy Halloween!

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    7 years ago on Step 7

    Your graphic design is really great, do you have an online portfolio?


    9 years ago

    wow, wow..amazing looking product and design skills.. you do any freelance design work? I would be interested in some logo design.. email theblackfigla@gmail.com

    Chopper Rob
    Chopper Rob

    9 years ago on Introduction

    This looks great, but one question: is this an 'adult' or 'kid' beverage?


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I suppose it´s non alcoholic, if it´s the same, what I mean.
    my granny used to have this, and I love it. although -- if you keep it long enough - it can get quite strong. :)

    Nice write-up.