A Brief History of Kombucha
The origins of Kombucha have become lost in the mists of time. It is thought to have originated in the Far East, probably China, and has been consumed there for at least two thousand years. The first recorded use of kombucha comes from China in 221 BC during the Tsin Dynasty. It was known as "The Tea of Immortality".
It has been used in Eastern Europe, Russia and Japan for several centuries. It is from Japan in 415 AD that the name kombucha is said to have come. A Korean physician called Kombu treated the Emperor Inyko with the tea and it took his name, "Kombu" and "cha" meaning tea. Russia has a long tradition of using a healing drink called "Tea Kvass" made from a "Japanese Mushroom".
From Russia it spread to Prussia, Poland, Germany and Denmark but it seems to have died out during World War Two. After the war Dr. Rudolph Skelnar created renewed interest in kombucha in Germany when he used it in his practice to treat cancer patients, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and diabetes.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a sweetened tea that is fermented with a SCOBY. You may be familiar with the term SCOBY (pronounced sko-bee). It is an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. The strains of yeast and bacteria present in the SCOBY ferment the sugar in the tea and turn it into a probiotic rich, effervescent beverage. The fermentation process takes 7-12 days depending on temperature. The SCOBY consumes over 90% of the sugar during fermentation, resulting in a low-sugar finished product. It is a living colony of beneficial organisms that turn sugar into healthful acids and probiotics.
Once a very obscure drink, Kombucha is now a popular probiotic beverage that is available at most health food stores and grocery stores. Kombucha is easily made safely at home for a fraction of store bought prices. In addition, you are able to infuse your own fresh fruits, herbs and flavors without adding unwanted preservatives.
Kombucha is as simple as making sweet tea, floating in your SCOBY and during the next 7-12 days, it makes itself...simple, healthy and delicious!
Your SCOBY culture will start your first homebrew kombucha, commonly referred to as “booch”. A new “baby” SCOBY forms or grows on top of the “mother” SCOBY with each new batch and can be stored in a SCOBY hotel for later use, blended in your smoothies, or dehydrated for snacks!
Let's BREW! Please read all the instructions, tips and troubleshooting before you begin and as always, if you have any questions, contact us..
Make the tea base: Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the organic cane sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea bag and allow it to steep for 5-8 minutes (over steeping will cause a bitter tasting kombucha). Let the tea base cool to room temperature. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the pot in a cold-water bath.
Add the starter tea: Once the tea base is room temperature, stir in the one (1) cup of starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents unfriendly bacteria from taking up residence in the first few days of fermentation).
Transfer to jars and add the SCOBY: Pour the mixture into a ½ gallon glass jar and gently slide the SCOBY into the jar with clean hands or use gloves if you prefer. Cover the mouth of the jar with a coffee filter and secure with a band or string.
Ferment for 7 to 10 days: Keep the jar at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Allow your SCOBY to ferment for 7 to 10 days, checking the PH periodically (I like to check it every other day and prefer a PH of 3). It is common for the “Mother” SCOBY to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways during fermentation. A new “Baby” SCOBY should start forming on the surface within a few days. Most often it attaches to the old SCOBY, but it is perfectly normal for them to separate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the SCOBY, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the SCOBY. This all is normal and signs of healthy fermentation. After 7 days, begin tasting the kombucha daily with a straw or by pouring a little out of the jar and into a cup. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you and the PH is above 2 and below 4, the kombucha is ready to bottle.
Remove the SCOBY along with fermented tea (Booch) per SCOBY as needed based on jar size: Before proceeding, prepare and cool another pot of strong tea for your next batch. Gently lift the SCOBY out of the kombucha and check it for any unwanted mold (see troubleshooting) and separate the mother and baby if the SCOBY is getting too thick (more than 2 inches) or if you want to run two batches. Note: a thin baby may take 10-14 days to ferment a batch.
- Bottle the finished booch! At this point, you have the option of drinking your booch as is (plain or flavored) or move it to a second fermentation. A second fermentation will add natural carbonation. In addition, if you decided to flavor it, the flavors will be more intense.
Option 1) Bottle and drink: Pour off from the top of your current batch, one cup starter per SCOBY and set aside for the next batch(s). Pour the fermented kombucha into bottles and refrigerate. If you want to flavor it, add any fruit juice, herbs, or fruit you may want at this time. Leave at least one inch of headroom in each bottle.
Option 2) Second fermentation (for fizzy booch) Store the bottled kombucha at room temperature out of direct sunlight and allow it to begin a second formation for 5-7 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Until you get a feel for how quickly your kombucha carbonates, it is helpful to keep it in plastic bottles; the kombucha is carbonated when the bottles feel rock solid. Refrigerate to stop fermentation and carbonation, and then consume your kombucha within a month.
Lastly, make your next fresh batch of kombucha: Be sure to clean the jar before beginning another batch of kombucha and do not forget to add your starter with your SCOBY.
NOTE: One of our large tea bags included in your kit, equals four (4) tea bags and is enough to start your SCOBY in any size jar. If using our Quart jar, simply use one bag and only brew for 3-4 minutes.
Covering for the jar: We prefer coffee filters or paper towels to cover the jar, and secure it tightly with bands or twine. Cheesecloth is not ideal, as it is easy for small insects to pass through.
Kombucha SCOBY on Vacation: If you need a vacation from processing your kombucha for 3 weeks or less, just make a fresh batch and leave it on your counter. It will likely be too vinegary to drink by the time you get back, but the SCOBY will be fine and this booch makes great starter. For a longer vacation, store the SCOBY in a fresh batch tea base with starter tea in the fridge. Change out the tea for a fresh batch every 6-8 weeks.
Avoid Prolonged Contact with Metal: Using metal utensils is generally fine, but avoid fermenting or bottling the kombucha in anything that brings them into contact with metal. Metals, especially reactive metals like aluminum, can give the kombucha a metallic flavor and weaken the SCOBY over time.
Short on Time: Before adding your SCOBY, place brew into a cold water bath and bring mixture quickly to room temperature (below 85 degrees and above 65 degrees). I prefer to take the temperature of my starter and that is the optimal temperature to add the SCOBY.
- It is normal for the SCOBY to float on the top, bottom, or sideways in the jar. It is also normal for brown strings (yeast) to form below the SCOBY or to collect on the bottom.
- If your SCOBY develops a hole, bumps, bubbles, dried patches, dark brown patches, or clear jelly-like patches, it is still fine to use. Usually these are all indicative of changes in the environment of your kitchen and not a problem with the SCOBY itself.
- Kombucha will start with a neutral aroma and then smell progressively more vinegary as brewing progresses. I brew multiple batches in my kitchen and when near the brew, I can readily smell the vinegar scent. This is perfectly normal and a good reminder that it is time to test the PH!
- A SCOBY will last a very long time, but not forever. If the SCOBY becomes black, that is a sign that it has passed its lifespan. If it develops mold that is green, black or red or becomes fuzzy, your SCOBY has become infected L with unwanted and potentially dangerous bacteria. Throw away the infected SCOBY and any booch with it and begin again. (I always store a few cups of starter in the fridge, covered with a coffee filter).
- To prolong the life and maintain the health of your SCOBY, stick to the ratio of sugar, tea, starter tea, and water outlined in the recipe. You should also peel off the bottom (oldest) layers every few batches unless you regularly remove babies. You can discard the old SCOBY, use in compost, start a new batch, or give it away.
HAPPY BOOCH MAKING!