If you know how to brew a good cup of tea you can easily brew this remarkable beverage in your own kitchen. A month’s supply takes less than half an hour to prepare and costs less than $1. To read about the benefits and history of Kombucha, see the expanded article for more ideas.
When preparing the beverage it is important to maintain optimal cleanliness to avoid contaminating the Kombucha with dirt, undesired bacteria or invisible plant spores in the air. Hands, utensils and containers should be washed in very hot water and rinsed thoroughly or sterilized in dishwasher, to insure cleanliness.
What You Need
You will need the following supplies to brew Kombucha beverage:
- One gallon-size, wide-mouth, glass bowl
- 2 Cups white sugar (DO NOT USE brown sugar, Sucanat, or honey)
- Black tea bags, such as Lipton or other black tea
- Clean, thin cotton cloth, unbleached fine muslin or cheesecloth is ideal, though you can also use a clean piece of sheet or tea towel.
- Stainless steel, enamelware or glass pot, 4 qt or larger to brew the nutrient tea. (Do not use aluminum)
- 3 quarts water. Distilled water is best but you can also use Reverse Osmosis filtered or bottled water.
When your Kombucha culture arrives, open the package immediately and place the culture in a glass bowl so that it can breathe. (It’s alive.) Cover with light cloth until you’re ready to use it. It can be stored at room temperature, or you can place it in the fridge.
The Right Container For Fermenting Kombucha
Use only glass bowls for fermenting the tea as the acids in Kombucha will otherwise react with metal or other types of container. A handy rule of thumb is to make sure that the width of the surface is greater than the depth of the liquid. If the surface is 8 inches wide, the depth of the liquid should be 7 inches. A wide, shallow dish or old fashioned cookie jar will expose more surface to the air, enabling the culture to breathe properly.
The nutrient tea may be prepared in a stainless steel, enamelware or glass cooking vessel. Aluminum cooking vessels should be avoided. Brewing at least three quarts is recommended as the minimum for one person. Add four tea bags of black tea, such as Lipton’s (or other orange pekoe or black tea) for each gallon of boiling water. If you prefer green tea, add three bags green tea and one bag black tea. Herbal teas do not have the composition necessary to feed kombucha and are not recommended.
Use two cups of white sugar for each batch of boiling water. (Honey, brown sugar, Sucanat, fructose, etc. are NOT recommended as they do not produce the most favorable biological result. In fact, honey has its own anti-bacterial effects which can kill the Acetobacter xylinum in the Kombucha culture.) Stir and then turn off heat. After steeping for 10 minutes, remove tea bags. Allow to cool to room temperature.
It is important that the tea cools to room temperature before placing the live culture in it. Hot liquids can be fatal to the delicate starter culture. If you already have Kombucha made and are making another batch, add at least 4 ounces of your previous Kombucha beverage per gallon of nutrient tea to acidify the liquid and speed up the fermentation process. Cover the open mouth of the bowl with light cloth to keep out fruit flies, dust, plant spores and other pollutants. Tie it down with a large rubber band or masking tape to ensure that fruit flies can’t get in. The cloth must be porous enough to allow air to circulate so the culture can breathe, but not so porous that tiny fruit flies can get in to lay their eggs.
Allow to ferment undisturbed for eight to eleven days at slightly warm temperature (70-90 degrees) in a shaded, ventilated space. The fermentation process is easily disturbed by any kind of movement of the container, vibration or excessive noise.
- Direct sunlight will kill the culture. It is happiest in a darkened, ventilated place.
- Tobacco smoke will kill the culture. Do not allow smoking in the same or nearby rooms where kombucha is growing, please.
Consistency, not changing anything from batch to batch, is the key to minimizing the Kombucha fungus’ natural tendency to mutate. This means sticking to the same brand of tea, the same water, the same brand of white sugar, never varying your formula, and maintaining an even fermentation temperature.
Continuing Your Kombucha
After 8-11 days remove the culture and separate the new, translucent baby on top from the mother culture underneath, if they are attached. Sometimes they aren’t. You can pull them apart with your clean hands.
Use your original culture to start another batch and store the baby in the fridge in an open, clean, glass container in some of the Kombucha beverage. Cover with a thin cloth. Or, place the baby in a separate glass bowl with fresh nutrient tea and make an additional batch. Eventually, after being used four times (at most) the mother culture should be set aside and one of its babies used in its place.
Final Strain and Drink!
Strain the liquid through a clean cloth placed in a sieve and store it in a glass container. (No metal, ceramic, glazed, plastic, enamelware or crystal containers, please.) You now have a delicious, refreshing beverage.
Suggested Daily Amount
Experiment with your own tolerance and desire for Kombucha. If you are in the middle of a specific healing process, cleanse or detoxification, drink up to 16 oz per day or as suggested by your alternative health care practitioner.
For daily tonification, drink Kombucha as desired, generally no more than 12 oz per day. Kombucha can be highly energizing, so you may prefer drinking it earlier in the day.
Ways To Enjoy Kombucha
Delicious as is.
- Kombucha is a unique non-alcoholic alternative to serve at parties or with friends. It carries certain elegance in a champagne or martini glass. You can even put a twist of lemon or lime on the glass rim.
- If you use a green tea to make Kombucha it tastes like wine-ginger ale, if you use an orange pekoe/black tea it tastes like a refreshing apple-wine cider.
- A splash of fresh lemon, orange, lime, unsweetened cranberry, raspberry juice enhances its natural flavor and zing.
- For a tropical twist, try adding mango, pineapple guava, or pear juice.
- Another variation is adding slices of ginger to boiling water when preparing nutrient tea. If you do not want to ‘gingerize’ the entire batch, add sliced ginger to a glassful and let sit, covered with light cloth for a few hours. Or, mix a glass with teaspoon of freshly made ginger juice.
- Add ½ C Kombucha Tea and fragrant herbs or essential oils of your choice to your bath water for a decadent soak.
- Gargle with Kombucha and a bit of honey to soothe sore throat.
- Use 4 oz. of in a fruit smoothie.
- Moisten cotton ball with Kombucha tea and apply as an acne deterrent and to improve skin tone. Apply at night and heal while you sleep. Also works as an alternative to shower gel or soap, particularly if what you are using causes skin irritation or itching.
- If kombucha is left to ferment, it takes on a vinegar quality. Just as nutritious, it could be used at any stage as a base for salad dressing, replacing the lemon or vinegar used in a typical dressing recipe. Combine extra virgin olive oil, garlic, herbs, ginger, a little honey, agave or maple syrup if desired. Add tahini or mayo for a creamy version.
- Run out of friends to pass baby Kombucha to? Toss in your compost heap or blend with water to revive and nourish flowers and plants.
- Especially vinegary Kombucha can be used to marinate organic meats.
- Thinly slice the actual Kombucha mushroom and add to sautéed veggies, soups, or blend in sauces for nutrient boost.
- Add a small bit of the mushroom as a supplement for cats and dogs. Or add ½ teaspoon of the tea to their daily water or food.
- If your batch has been allowed to ferment to the really vinegary stage, use as a foot soak or as a conditioner for your pet’s coat. For oily skin, add a few drops of Vit E oil or beaten egg white; dry skin responds well to Kombucha and whipped egg yolk. Apply a good amount and massage into fur. Towel dry.