Kombucha: The Art of Brewing at Home

by Sarah Anderson

Kombucha: it’s the effervescent tea concoction that has been gaining the attention of millions. As innovative as this drink seems, people have been drinking it—and brewing it—for thousands of years.

Kombucha is sweet tea that has been fermented by a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (known as the SCOBY). The Chinese refer to Kombucha as the “Immortal Health Elixir,” and it is said to detoxify the body, reduce joint pain, reduce inflammation, help fight cancer, and bring balance to the gastrointestinal system, which has been linked to mental health. This bubbly beverage can be found locally at coffee shops or health food stores, and many people are opting to brew it in the comfort of their own homes.

How is it done?

At-home brewing is fairly simple. A SCOBY is placed in a lukewarm glass gallon jar of sweet tea and starter tea (leftover Kombucha from the last batch or store-bought). The jar is covered with a towel or cheesecloth and a rubber band or a tie is placed around the rim to secure it. Then it sits for seven to 14 days depending on the desired level of sweetness. The less it ferments, the more sweet it is. Once the brewer decides that it is the perfect combination of sweet and tart (this is done by sliding a straw along the side of the jar so as not to disturb the SCOBY), the second fermentation can happen.

The second fermentation is where the bubbles form and flavors can be infused. The process begins by removing the SCOBY, pouring the tea into glass bottles and adding any ingredients for infusion. The bottles sit for another two or so days until the brewer is ready to perform a taste test. The chosen bottle must cool in the refrigerator for six hours before opening, and if the brewer is satisfied with the flavor, then they can place the rest of their Kombucha in the fridge and enjoy.

SCOBY

What about the equipment?

To get started brewing at home, the following are required:

1 stock pot
1 gallon glass jar
6 glass bottles
Organic black or green tea
Organic cane sugar
1 strainer if using loose leaf tea
A bottle of store bought original Kombucha
A SCOBY (can be purchased or made at home)

What the experts say

Emily Helmus, owner of Bloom Ferments, the first commercially produced Kombucha in West Michigan, gave us some advice for those looking to brew at home.

Educate yourself ahead of time so you know what to look for throughout the brewing process. Attend local classes or read up before starting. Here are some books to look into:

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz (a guide to all sorts of fermentation)

The Big Book of Kombucha by Alex LaGory and Hannah Crum

Kombucha Revolution by Stephen Lee and Ken Koopman

Know that Kombucha should not make you sick. There are special bacteria and yeast in Kombucha that keep harmful bacteria at bay. The biggest risk associated with at-home brewing is mold, and you will see it if it’s there.

Know your body. It may take a little while for your system to adjust to Kombucha. Start with 4-ounce servings if you’re new to it. Kombucha will put your body in a position to heal itself, so there could be negative side effects associated with detoxification at first.

Enjoy it! A healthy gut will improve your mood, and the probiotics will boost your immune system. Kombucha should help you on your way to a happy, healthy lifestyle.


Sarah shuffles between editorial support, content production and advertising at WLM. She loves her job so much, and isn’t just saying that to impress her boss.


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