In the midst of wellness trends that you may or may not ever try lies kombucha, a tea-esque kind of drink that fitness gurus and nutritionists will tell you improves your digestion, metabolism and immune system, among packing you with B vitamins, beneficial enzymes and important organic acids.
What turns people off kombucha is that it’s made from live bacteria. When yeast is fermented with this (healthy!) bacteria and combined with sugar and green or black tea, you get a fermented drink with a slightly vinegar-y scent and tart, fizzy apple taste. Sounds weird, but critics agree: kombucha is good for you.
The tea dates back 2,000 years, so even though health blogs will claim it’s the latest, greatest thing to hit your wellness routine, it’s really just the latest thing to become trendy. It was used for everything from anti-inflammatory regimens to warding off cancer. Nowadays, kombucha is said to give you an energy kick and fight fatigue; the healthy probiotics supposedly help with high cholesterol, problem skin and even the common cold.
If you’ve been stalking the aisles at Whole Foods for the $4-a-pop drinks long enough, though, you can make your own kombucha at home, so long as you’re equipped with a SCOBY (or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). It’s easy enough, but be sure to pay close attention since you’ll be handling live bacteria, and remember that anything that gets fermented will contain just a little alcohol. Here’s the step-by-step process.
1. Procure SCOBY. Try not to freak out.
I won’t lie -- SCOBYs look utterly ridiculous. Is it an alien? Probably! Nonetheless, you’ll have to get used to handling the jelly-like, pancake-shaped thing to make your own kombucha. Remember, it’s technically just yeast (even if there is bacteria mixed in), so stay cool.
Where do you get said SCOBY, you ask? Online, believe it not, but to stay on the safe side, go with a trusted site like Kombucha Kamp and Cultures for Health, which sell individual SCOBYs or full kombucha starter kits. It’s important to secure a healthy SCOBY to ensure you’re only dealing with good bacteria.
2. Find “starter tea.”
This isn’t boiled hot water like you’d use for a regular cup of tea. Rather, the starter liquid is going to jumpstart the acidity of the kombucha, so that the SCOBY has something to work with and bad bacteria won’t try to cut in. You can buy starter liquid from the same places as the SCOBY.
3. Add your sugar and tea of choice
The best kombucha is made with non-herbal, unflavored tea, so black or green teas typically work best -- you don’t want a chai kombucha, trust me. You also may be tempted to use Splenda or Sugar in the Raw, since we’re going for wellness and all, but experts say that pure cane or refined white sugar will yield best results. The sugar ends up getting fermented and converted into vitamins and antioxidants by the SCOBY, anyway.
4. Get brewin’.
- Boil 4 cups of water and add about 8 tea bags (or 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea).
- Mix 1 cup of sugar into the hot tea.
- Transfer tea into a gallon jar and fill to the top with water.
- Let it cool to room temperature.
- Place the SCOBY in the tea and add the starter liquid.
- Cover the pitcher with a breathable cloth and secure a rubber band over the top.
5. Wait it out.
The best place to let your kombucha brew is warm and out of the way of direct sunlight, like a cabinet in your kitchen. The bacteria won’t thrive if it’s too cold, and the kombucha will get really acidic if it’s too hot. Your job now is to let the SCOBY do its thing, so don’t be weirded out if the brew starts to look funky or the SCOBY starts growing -- it’s supposed to do that. Anywhere from a week to 20 days later -- you’ll taste test as time passes to find a desired balance of sweet and tart -- your kombucha will be ready.
6. Save and store.
Unless you want to keep buying new starter liquid and SCOBYs, make sure to save a little and store until you’re ready to start your second batch.
Tried and true things to add to your kombucha include tart cherry juice, lemon juice and root beer, so get experimental and see what you like. The brew will also start to carbonate over the next few days, giving you that fizz you’ve been looking for.