Kombucha Tea and Vinegar
Kombucha tea is a wonderfully refreshing and healthy drink. It is reputed to protect against cancer and gray hair, and it is also a powerful detoxifier. Homemade kombucha tea is very inexpensive to make. If you've never drank kombucha tea before, start slowly as the resultant detoxification can cause headaches if you drink too much before your system is used to it.
Making kombucha vinegar is as simple as letting your normal kombucha brew ferment for awhile longer. The resultant vinegar can be used in salad dressings, sauces, and any recipes calling for vinegar. You can also add a splash to bath water for a detox bath.
Where To Get a SCOBY
If you know anyone who brews kombucha, they likely have SCOBYs you can have for free. If not, SCOBYs can be purchased online, or you can grow your own using this method from Food Renegade.
How to Make Kombucha Tea and Vinegar
Makes about 3 quarts
4 organic tea bags (black or green tea can be used; we currently prefer 1 black tea bag and 3 green tea bags)**
One cup organic white sugar (this gets consumed during fermentation)
3 quarts (12 cups) of filtered water
One cup of plain kombucha to act as a starter
One kombucha SCOBY
Equipment needed: one gallon glass bowl or jar, clean white kitchen towel, a large rubberband
Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add sugar, stir, and continue to boil for 5 minutes.
Turn off heat. Add 4 tea bags to hot sugar water. (See below if it is desired to reduce the amount of caffeine in the kombucha.)
Steep for 10 minutes.
Remove tea bags and let tea/sugar mixture cool to room temperature. This will take several hours, or you could put the whole pot over an ice bath. Do not let it cool too long (don’t leave it overnight, for instance, as mold could form).
When mixture has reached room temperature, pour it into your glass brewing bowl/jar.
Stir in one cup of kombucha starter. Then, with clean hands, add the kombucha SCOBY. I like to push the SCOBY down to the bottom of the jar and then allow it to float back to the top, to make sure it is not too dry.
Cover with a clean, white kitchen towel and attach with a large rubber band.
Move the brew to a location with no direct sunlight (we use our home office room; try not to leave it in the kitchen as food particles could get in and ruin your brew). Make sure the temperature in the room is not too hot (above 84 degrees) or cold (below 68 degrees).
For kombucha tea, let it ferment for 7-21 days. Don’t move it at all for at least 7 days. You can taste a spoonful to see if it is done when you see a new baby SCOBY on top that is about 1/8” thick. In the winter, it takes 3 weeks for ours to get to our preferred sourness; in the summer it takes 2 weeks. This varies greatly from house-to-house depending on temperature, etc. We also like ours very tart, so it won’t take as long if you like your kombucha a bit sweeter.
For kombucha vinegar, let it ferment for at least 4-6 weeks, or even longer. The longer it ferments, the more vinegar-like the tea will get.
When it is time to bottle the kombucha, pour it into clear glass bottles and store in the refrigerator (we use old bottles from store-bought kombucha or mason jars). Reserve one cup of the finished kombucha for making your next batch.
If you want your kombucha to be more fizzy, try bottling it with a tight lid and letting it sit on the counter for a few days. Beware, though, that it can build up pressure quickly sometimes, so it is recommended to keep it in a cardboard box just in case it pops!
If you want to have flavored kombucha, here are recipes for apple cinnamon kombucha, ginger pear kombucha, and triple berry kombucha.
Store the SCOBY in the 1 cup of finished kombucha. You can leave it at room temperature for a few days, but if it will be longer before you start the next batch you can store it in the fridge. (It is preferred to just start another batch rather than putting it in the fridge.) The SCOBY will get bigger each time you brew, so at some point you will probably want to divide it and either start another batch, give some away, or compost it.
How to Reduce the Caffeine Content of Kombucha
If desired, the caffeine content of the final brew can be reduced by doing one of the following:
Use only green tea, which contains less caffeine than black tea.
Pre-steep the tea bags for 30 seconds in a small pot of boiling water. This removes most of the caffeine content. Then proceed with step 2 by adding the tea bags to the large pot of hot water.
Tips for Increasing the Size of the Batch
My family started making quadruple-sized batches of kombucha years ago. We currently make about 3&1/2 gallons of kombucha at a time in two 2-gallon jars. If you want to make more kombucha per batch, we have found the following to work well:
Cook only half of the water needed in Step 1.
In Step 5, add the other half of the water (which has not been heated).
Increase the amount of starter in the recipe by 50%.
Make sure there is still some headspace at the top of your brewing jar.