Finally! The last installment of my How to Brew Your Own Kombucha series!
Last week I explained how to grow your own SCOBY from store-bought kombucha (Stage One); I then proceeded to share how you can brew your own kombucha from a home-grown SCOBY (Stage Two). Next, I want to explore how to keep brewing kombucha, as well as flavouring and carbonating your kombucha to make it that much more fantastic.
STAGE THREE: Make Your Kombucha Extra-Tasty!
So, if you’ve managed to let your homegrown SCOBY float around in your sweetened tea for another whole week as I discussed in my last post: congratulations! You should have your very first batch of kombucha!!
Like I mentioned in my last post, If your SCOBY sank, you probably have a new thin film growing on top of your kombucha, in addition to the SCOBY you grew earlier. This film is a new SCOBY (often called a “baby”), which can eventually be used for brewing more kombucha, but it’s probably too thin to do much with right now. You might want to grow it a little bigger in following cycles. I’ll tell you more about that later. For now, you’ll probably want to keep using your first SCOBY for your next batch of kombucha. It can be used for dozens of batches, and will just keep growing (if you can get it to float on top!).
Anyway, time to dig in to your new kombucha! Which hopefully looks something like this once you remove the cloth cover:
Before you do anything, start brewing your next batch sweetened tea for your next batch of kombucha, using the recipe/method from my last post: 10 cups of water, 3/4 cups sugar, 6 bags of tea. Just bring it all to a boil on your stovetop and then let it cool.
Remove your SCOBY(s) and set it/them in a bowl. Cover with a little kombucha to keep it from drying out.
Now, you can drink your kombucha just the way it is. Just pour into a couple of bottles and enjoy. It should be tangy and slightly sweet — kind of cidery — and no longer taste at all like tea. But don’t get greedy and drink all of it — you’ll want to save some for your next batch (at least a cup).
Your first brew is probably not very fizzy, if at all. That’s okay. If you really want fizz, take heart: in a few more cycles, you can probably get a good carbonation going, as your SCOBY gets more mature.
Personally, I like my kombucha chilled; I also like to mix it up with some fruity flavours. And bubbles makes it extra-special. For this, you’ll need to do a second ferment. (Meaning you’ll have to wait ANOTHER 5-7 days before you can start drinking it. I KNOW! Kombucha requires so much patience!) So here’s what I do:
Preparing a Second Fermentation (for Flavour and Carbonation)
Get out a couple of quart jars with lids. Add whatever juices, fruits, or spices you want to use to flavour your kombucha.
(Some people use fancy bottles with hinge tops and stuff like that, but I have no idea where to get those items. So for now I use mason jars.)
I have found that my favourite combination is raspberry-ginger. It creates a drink reminiscent of cranberry ginger ale. Rosy, fruity, and slightly spicy. Whatever you choose, you’ll need about a quarter cup of fruit juice. You can add fresh fruit, too, but I’ve had the best flavour results with juice.
So far I’ve also tried pieces of fresh peach, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries: I recently tried apple-cinammon (using apple cider and a piece of cinnamon stick. I wasn’t a fan). Your call.
I keep frozen cubes of raspberry juice (that I squeezed in the summer) in my freezer: I toss a couple into the bottom of the jar. Then I add a thin slice of fresh ginger. (Ginger adds great flavour, and really helps to carbonate it. I can ALWAYS tell when I’ve included ginger — even just a tiny bit — because it really helps create fizz.)
(Another tip: pre-slice a whole piece of ginger root and store it in your freezer. That way you already had perfectly-sized pieces handy for flavouring your kombucha.)
Sometimes I’ll add half a teaspoon of sugar to each jar, too, to further aid in carbonation.
If you don’t want to flavour your kombucha but want the fizz, skip the fruit juice but do the rest — add the sugar and pour the kombucha into new jars and seal. I still recommend a little bit of ginger, though.
(Also, another tip: remember that you have to save some kombucha for your next batch. If you’re using the proportions I suggested, you’ll need to reserve 1 1/2 cups of kombucha as your “starter” for the next batch. Empty out your big fermenting jar into another vessel and measure out this amount of kombucha; then return the 1 1/2 cups to the original jar. Mark the level with a Sharpie, like this:
Going back to your flavoured kombucha: now tightly cap your jars/bottles and put them back where they were fermenting before — somewhere out of direct sunlight. They’ll have to stay there for a couple more days.
(Once your flavoured kombucha jars are all ready, you can return to the sweetened tea you started brewing when you started out. Make a new batch of kombucha using the method I described in my last post, using your new kombucha starter. All you’re doing is adding your fresh sweet tea to your new starter in your big vessel, and returning your SCOBY to float on top. Include your new, thin baby if you have it — hopefully it will grow thicker, so you have a second SCOBY as a backup or to give to a friend!)
Like I said, you want to let your flavoured kombucha jars sit for another 5 days or so, for the flavours to steep and for the carbon dioxide to build up. You might notice that the lid becomes stiff from the carbonation inside. This is a good sign.
After that, pop your jars of flavoured kombucha in the fridge to chill.
Finally: time to enjoy!
If you grew your own SCOBY, it’s probably been close to six weeks since you started your kombucha adventure. But it’ll be so worth it. Now your delightfully healthy drink should be lightly bubbly and full of complex flavour — as addictive and delightful as soda, without the deleterious effect on your body!
Future batches will be way easier to make, and you won’t be feeling so impatient because you already have some in your fridge.
Before drinking, just remember that another thin film will have formed on top of your kombucha (another tiny baby SCOBY). Just scoop it off and compost it.
If you can’t get yours to carbonate right away, don’t worry. It’s still delicious without the fizz, and you can keep experimenting. Mine still doesn’t always end up very fizzy (or even at all, sometimes.)
But sometimes, I end up with something beautiful, like this:
Some people talk about jars exploding and kombucha fizzing out all over the place when they open them up, but I’ve never gotten anywhere near that amount of carbonation. Just a light fizz to make it sparkle.
With my best batches, I get a little bit of a chhhhhh when I open the lid. It’s terribly satisfying.
There you have it! Once you get the hang of it it’s actually very simple. Then you can start experimenting with different kinds of teas (I’m starting to explore different proportions of green and white teas in combination with black), fruits and spices.
Any questions, or tips of your own?