I handed her the money and she passed me a jar. The whole thing felt like a sordid deal as I rendezvoused with the stranger I had contacted on Craigslist. As I got in my car I peered into the glass vessel and looked and the gelatinous disc floating in liquid. I was the proud owner of my very own Kombucha SCOBY.
It’s origin is not so clear but Kombucha has been around for a very long time and once again is becoming a trendy drink that touts numerous health benefits. This naturally fizzy drink dances on your tongue with a flavor reminiscent of orchard fruits with a hint of vinegar and a soft sweetness.
You will need to acquire a SCOBY to do this recipe. SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria &Yeast. (Doesn’t that sound friendly?) I found mine on Craigslist. You can get one from a someone you know who has them, find one online or see if your local health food store sells them.
There are lots of different recipes online, this is the one I use with great success.
This recipe can be scaled up or down depending on the volume needed or the number of SCOBYs you have. I actually double this recipe and use it for three different jars of Kombucha.
7 cups of purified water (NO CHLORINE)
Tap water to sterilize tools with (as much as needed)
1/2 cup white sugar (The sugar is food for the SCOBY not you. Avoid honey because of it’s antimicrobial properties. Do not use artificial sweeteners.) The sugar is food for your SCOBY not for you! The SCOBY will have processed most if not all of the sugar by the time you drink it.
4 bags black tea (Do not use oily teas or herbal teas. Plain black tea is needed to feed your SCOBY)
1 cup starter liquid (This is the liquid from your previously brewed batch or the liquid that your SCOBY came with)
Boil water to sterilize a measuring cup, a large glass bowl, a jar and a nonmetallic spoon. I fill each vessel with boiled water and let it sit for ten minutes to make sure that it is clean. If you need to you can rinse items with white vinegar to help sanitize them but avoid antibacterial soap because it is ANTIBACTERIAL which would be counter productive.
Once you have clean tools, boil the 7 cups purified (chlorine free) water and pour into bowl. Add 1/2 cup white sugar and 4 bags black tea. Let this mixture brew until it is room temperature.
Once cooled to room temperature, remove tea bags and add brewed tea to sterilized jar
Place 1 cup starter liquid in sterilized jar with brewed tea and add SCOBY
Cover jar with a coffee filter and secure with an elastic band to keep out dust and bugs but to allow your SCOBY to “breathe”
Place jar in a room with an even temperature, and make sure it is out of direct sunlight.
After a few days your Kombucha brew will begin to smell more vinegary than sweet. Keep smelling it every couple of days until you find the scent a pleasing, tart smell. (This should take about a week or so depending on the temperature of your home.)
When your Kombucha brew is ready, boil water to sterilize a glass container you can seal. (I use resealable beer bottles I bought at the thrift store). Fill your vessel with boiling hot water and let is sit for about 10 minutes. Empty out the water.
Visually inspect your SCOBY. There should be no moldy spots on the SCOBY. If the SCOBY is moldy, throw it and the brew you made with it away. The SCOBY and brew should not smell “bad”. The brew should vary from the smell of sweet tea to a vinegary smell. If the brew smells bad but the SCOBY looks fine, throw out just the brew. Your SCOBY can be at the top of the jar, the bottom of the jar or sideways. It is totally normal for the SCOBY to have brown tendrils hanging off it. You might also find sediment in the bottom of your jar and that is also alright. Your SCOBY can have dry brown spots on it, it can have translucent opal colored spots on it. It might have a hole in it or it might become very thick if you do not pull off the newer SCOBY that usually forms with every brew. You might find a second SCOBY that is not attached. These things are all okay.
Pour all but a cup of finished Kombucha brew into sanitized vessel (reserve one cup of finished brew to use as your starter liquid for use with your SCOBY in your next batch ). Seal vessel and leave on counter a few days so that it becomes naturally fizzy. (Do not add your SCOBY to the second fermentation in the sealed container, the second ferment is just the kombucha brewed tea).
Repeat above process, drink and enjoy!
Once you get the hang of brewing regular Kombucha you can start experimenting with adding natural flavors to your second ferment in the sealed container. Do not add anything to the first fermentation with your SCOBY as this will weaken your SCOBY.
*Please avoid metal as much as possible. IF you are fermenting more than one food, try to keep your “projects” in different rooms so not to cross contaminate your cultures. Do not use chlorinated water. Do not place SCOBY in hot fluids.