People have been fermenting for centuries as a way to preserve food, but this way of eating, drinking, and living is making a comeback in modern society. And for good reason! Not only are ferments tasty and super simple to prepare, but eating them introduces beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) into our digestive system keeping the balance of bugs in our gut in favour of the good guys. It is believed that probiotics help to absorb minerals, produce vitamins, eliminate toxins, reduce the risk of allergies, support mental health, improve bowel health, aid digestion, and even help with weight regulation.
I have been eating fermented foods for awhile now, but since studying gut health in naturopathic school, I’ve been more intentional about my consumption, aiming for at least one serving a day. Having a batch of continuous brew kombucha on the counter at all times means that making my gut health a priority couldn’t be easier. And having a tasty, effervescent drink to sip on each day only makes it that much more enjoyable. You want in on the good stuff? You know you do!! So here’s how to brew:
Step 1: Get a SCOBY and some starter tea (Keep reading. They’re really easy to find!)
- Get one from a friend. Someone you know is probably brewing kombucha. Trade them for a batch of your awesome kale chips or chocolate chip cookies.
- Buy one online (here or here seem like good options) or in-store from a reputable source. Qi Natural Food in Toronto sells kombucha kits. People sell them on kijiji and craigslist. In fact, if you live in or around the Toronto area, I sell scobys here.
- Grow your own from raw, unpasteurized kombucha. See more about that, here.
Step 2: Brew Yo’ Tea
- Prepare a sweet tea. I use 6 bags of organic green or black tea per 3 litres of water. Brew the tea in the typical fasion and when the water is still hot, add 1 cup of organic sugar. Don’t use honey, artificial sweeteners, etc.! Sugar is best for the SCOBY. If you’re worried about eating sugar, just remember, you don’t eat it, your SCOBY does.
- Let the tea cool to room temperature. This is important because hot tea can kill your SCOBY.
- Pour the cooled tea along with the starter tea into a glass jar (something with a spigot is ideal, but any large glass jar will work). Leave some room at the top of the jar and pour in the liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha or whatever the directions suggest on your SCOBY.
- Wash your hands well and gently place the SCOBY into the top of the jar of tea. It should float. If it doesn’t, wash your hands again and try once more to adjust it. If it still doesn’t float, just leave it.
Step 3: Let It Ferment
- Cover the jar with a clean cloth and rubber band.
- Put the jar in a nook or corner of your kitchen and let it ferment for 7-14 days, though the length of time may vary depending on the temperature of your place. The best way to know if it’s ready is to periodically taste it as you go. When you first start out it will be very sweet and if you let it ferment for too long, it will taste like vinegar. A drinkable kombucha should taste tart but still slightly sweet.
- At this point, the Kombucha is ready to drink, but for the best flavour and the quintessential fizz, I highly recommend a second ferment. If you don’t do the second ferment, just take the SCOBY out, peel off the new layer–the baby–(see the photos), and pour the kombucha into smaller jars or bottles with airtight lids. Store in the fridge until ready to drink. Reserve about a cup of the liquid along with the original SCOBY for your next batch. The baby scoby can also go into the new batch of tea, or it can be stored in reserved tea in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Once your SCOBY starts gaining steam and producing some strong babies, you can give them away or sell them along with some starter tea.
Step 4: Keep It Going
- As you’re transferring the liquid, brew another batch of tea and start the process all over again with your reserved SCOBY and tea. Don’t forget to allow your new sweet tea to come to room temperature before adding the scoby and starter tea to it.
Step 5 (optional): Make it Fizz, The Second Ferment (AKA, The best part!)
- Adding fruit juice or fruit is super easy and will help to carbonate your kombucha and lend a slightly sweeter taste.
- Mix in your favourite add-ins. One of my favourite combinations, care of my friend Marnie (also known in our group of friends as the kombucha doula) includes fresh-pressed apple juice (from about 3-4 sweet apples) and the juice of a huge chunk of ginger. If you don’t have a juicer, you can buy natural fruit juice or just add fruit and herbs into the tea. This summer, I’ve also been muddling cherries and putting them into the brew for the second ferment. Next up, I’m going to try peaches and apricots. Emma Christensen, in her book True Brews has a recipe that calls for adding blackberries and herbs. I’ve loved the combination of blackberries and rosemary. If you go with the fresh juice option, you simply stir it in and bottle it (more on that in a second). If you add fresh fruit and herbs, you’ll want to let it sit in the original container (sans SCOBY) for a couple of days, then strain and bottle it. You can also find more flavouring ideas here.
- Once you’ve flavoured your kombucha, pour it into bottles with lids. Bottles with swing top lids are ideal. Cap the lids tightly and leave out at room temperature for about 2 days to allow to carbonate. Check it regularly(!) as pressure can build up and break the jars if left for too long. Open it over the sink—just in case. (This stuff can pop!)
- After 2 days bottled at room temperature, your kombucha should be fizzy. If it’s not, let it sit for another day. Store in fridge until you’re ready to drink it. This will also stop the carbonation from getting out of hand.
- This Facebook group is super helpful if you have any kombucha related questions. I posted a question on there and got an answer back within a few hours.
- The Kombucha Revolution is a great resource. You can even learn how to use your scoby for skin care.
- True Brews. I did a review about it awhile back.
- Jenny from The Nourished Kitchen wrote an amazing book (also called The Nourished Kitchen), which I’ll be reviewing on the blog shortly. In it, she talks about kombucha, but also about other fermented foods. It’s an awesome resource for real food eaters out there.
- Kombuncha! The Amazing Tea That Cleanses, Heals, Energizes, and Detoxifies: I have not read this one, but I hear that it’s great!
- For more cool, nerdy information on why gut bacteria is so awesome, check out the Human Microbiome Project or this awesome podcast. Start at 17:17, it’s about 10 minutes long.
In the Meantime:
While you’re waiting for your first batch to brew, get a bottle of lemongrass kombucha from the store and make this cocktail! I kid you not. So good!