I’m a kombucha drinker. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended), but it is mine. I love the tartness and the fizziness, and I imagine that I’m giving my gut some love with each sip. But buying kombucha is expensive, so I brew my own! It’s an easy process, which I enjoy, and once you have your SCOBY working for you, there’s no limit to how much kombucha you can make.
When I say the process is easy, I’m not lying. If you can make a cup of tea, then you’re more than qualified to brew your own kombucha. The Kitchn has a great how-to guide for kombucha brewing (here), and after you read through it, you’ll realize that you don’t need to pay $3+ for a bottle of ‘booch anymore.
When I moved from LA to Austin, I couldn’t take my SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) with me. I thought about growing new SCOBY, but when I got to Austin I found a home brew supply store that sold SCOBY — so I bought a new little culture to restart my brew process.
SCOBY is the key to transforming sweet tea into kombucha. It’s the live culture that drives fermentation. And although it may look gross, there’s something satisfying about seeing a glistening circle of SCOBY floating in your fermentation jar. (I love it when I have super thick layers of SCOBY stacked up in my brew jar — like a huge serving of Du-Par’s pancakes… mmm.)
For my brews, I like to use organic black tea for the base. I’ve made kombucha with organic green tea, but I’ve found that it’s a bit more challenging to ferment. In my experience, when I’ve used green tea the kombucha isn’t as tart/sour as I’d like, and it’s also less fizzy than when I use black tea. I still want to experiment more with various tea combos, but I know that organic black tea (with organic granulated sugar as the sweetener) works really well for me. This batch I’m currently brewing is organic black tea, and even though I’m just a few days in, I can already see a healthy new SCOBY layer forming on top.
Temperature is also a key factor as it affects brewing/culturing time. I like to keep my brew a little bit warmer than room temperature, so to do that I wrap a seedling heat mat around the base of my fermentor to warm things up slightly. This can make the kombucha taste a little more vinegary — but I personally prefer a stronger vinegary flavor.
Like I said, kombucha brewing doesn’t require much skill — but it does call for patience. Now that I have my brew fermenting, this first fermentation (which happens in the jar) can take about a week or ten days, depending on the flavor I want. Then the second fermentation (which happens in the bottles) can take another week or so. There are a variety of factors that can impact fermentation time — but for me, it’s all about tasting and waiting until I get the strong flavor that I want. I’m okay with subtle, but I do like a kombucha that packs a punch.
At this point in my brew, I’m nearing the end of the first fermentation and should be getting ready to bottle it up for second fermentation early next week. So stay tuned as I get ready to finish up my first batch of kombucha in my new Austin kitchen! 🍻