Making Kombucha

July 6, 2011

*WARNING* If you ferment any alcohol at all, you may not want to attempt making kombucha. This brings a mother of vinegar into your facilities, which is death to alcohol. If you do decide to try this, make sure to use separate equipment, and make sure you clean thoroughly behind yourself to prevent any contamination. This is my story.

I bought a kombocha kit made by Oregon Kombucha prominently displayed at my local homebrew shop. I read though the directions, which indicated I needed a non-metallic container to make kombucha. I also knew that the finished product had something floating on top that had to be fished out, so I knew my standard winemaking jugs would not work. For some reason, I decided to purchase a new pitcher since I wasn’t 100% sure what I was dealing with and didn’t want to contaminate anything. I’m just now realizing I could have used a bucket, but I wanted something I could see though the side. This purchase means that I did not contaminate any of my equipment. Weird how intuition sometimes saves you.

Opening the kit, I found packages of tea, sugar, and the mother of vinegar which they called SCOBY. This kit was for strawberry green tea, which I wasn’t sure was actual strawberries, or if they flavored the sugar a little. Everything in the package smelled like strawberries. The homebrew shop did tell me that I didn’t have to use that particular tea, as I could substitute my own, and I have read that the rule of thumb is ½ cup of sugar per liter. It was the kombucha mushroom that I was really purchasing.

Kombucha Kit

I boiled some water and added the sugar and then let it cool slightly before adding the tea bag, as water that is too hot can cause tea to be bitter in my opinion. The sugar and bag were meant for one gallon, but I had a half gallon container, so once I removed the tea bag, I poured out half of the tea into another pitcher and filled both pitchers with more water. I put one pitcher in the refrigerator to drink as sweet ice tea. The other, the one with the red lid, I waited until the tea was a little warmer than room temperature before I added the SCOBY to it so that I wouldn’t kill it.

I then took the pitcher upstairs into a west facing bedroom we have. The directions said to keep it warm and covered, so I figured this room was the warmest room in the house. Thankfully, it is away from anything else we ferment, though I will have to get rid of the towel I covered it with to keep the light out. My pitcher did have a lid which I put on loosely, but a lot of reading suggested just putting a towel overtop to keep out the bugs. Sally Fallon recommended putting tape over the opening of the container in a criss cross first to help keep the towel out of the kombocha.

Sandor Ellix Katz suggested that, depending on the temperature, a skin would form on the kombocha after a few days to a week. This was one indication that it is done, though the final test is actually if I found it tart enough to my liking, which could take 7-14 days according to other sources. The longer it is allowed to ferment, the more acidic, tart, and slightly carbonated it becomes. One I determined it was “done” enough to my taste, I then refrigerated the beverage. The skin is actually a new mother, which can be used to start a new batch.

New Kombocha SCOBY

The SCOBY can be refrigerated in a cup of the latest batch of komocha tea, but if it turns black or doesn’t sour a new batch, it should be discarded and a new SCOBY should be used. One thing my reading did suggest is that chlorine will kill the SCOBY, so it was advised against using it around kombucha.

As for the tea, it should be kept in containers such as plastic with screw tops or wine bottles loosely plugged. The kombocha tea could continue to ferment, so tightly capped glass bottles could be dangerous and explode unless pasteurized. Keeping the komocha tea in the refrigerator also helps slow the fermentation process, and the tea should probably be drank within a few weeks. It will have about 0.5% ABV and will be slightly fizzy.


One Response to “Making Kombucha”

  1. […] statistics. It isn’t until chapter 6, which is actually Part 3 of the book, that it talks about how to make kombocha, which has a lot of color photographs to go with it. I do like that it allows for a stainless steel […]

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