Brewing kombucha at home: growing my SCOBY

After years of obsession with the fermented tea drink we all know and love, Kombucha, I have started to brew my own batch at home. So far, my experience has been very positive and I decided I would share my process for those of you interested in trying it out yourself. Kombucha costs anywhere from $3.00-$6.00 in stores, so brewing at home is a fantastic money saving option, plus you control exactly what goes into it.

I will do a few separate posts as I do this process. This one will cover how to grow a SCOBY, the next will talk all about the first fermentation process and then I will talk about bottling for the second and final fermentation.

If you want more information on what Kombucha is and a little bit about it, check out my previous post.

The first step is to either grow a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), purchase one online or get one from someone. I am a member of a fantastic Facebook group of kombucha home brewers which is really where I learned everything I know. They are incredibly knowledgeable on brewing, what to look out for and even give some amazing flavor suggestions.

If you are wanting to get started with brewing, I highly suggest you become a member of the group. It’s also a great place to see if someone near you has a SCOBY to spare (and they grow like crazy, so there’s a good chance someone has some they want to get rid of).

I chose to grow my SCOBY at home for two reasons. A. It’s extremely easy and B. I knew exactly where it came from. I ended up growing it in an IKEA jar that my boyfriend had laying around from his cold brew coffee brewing and it worked great.

Here is how I grew my SCOBY:

Ingredients:

2 Cups of Water

4 Organic Green Tea Bags (you can use black or white tea instead)

1/2 Cup of White Sugar (some people use organic, that’s fine, I just used regular ol’ sugar)

1 Bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha

Recipe:

  1. Make sure your jar is clean, wash with warm soapy water, rinse very well. Then, do a second rinse with mostly water and about two tablespoons of vinegar to make sure it’s clean. Again, rinse well. Let dry completely.

  2. Bring two cups of filtered water to a boil, once it reaches the boil turn off the heat. Then, you will want to toss in your tea bags and let it steep for 15 minutes.

  3. When the 15 minutes is up, dissolve your sugar into the tea. If it isn’t completely dissolving, turn on the heat for just a few seconds while stirring until all the sugar is gone.

  4. Let the sweetened tea cool completely to room temperature. This will take a few hours.

  5. Once tea is cooled, pour in one bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha in your jar, followed by your room temperature sweetened tea mixture. Stir it up with a clean spoon.

  6. Cover with part of an old, clean t-shirt and secure around the top of the jar with a rubber band.

  7. Let the jar sit at room temperature, preferably in a dark spot like a pantry or closet for two weeks, undisturbed. You will start to see your SCOBY grow slowly over the two weeks.

  8. Once your SCOBY is grown, you can start your first fermentation.

 

*Note that room temperature, amounts/types of tea used, sugar content and more can mean a different brewing experience for everyone. You will learn what works well for you as you go.

Here are some pictures of the progress I had over the two weeks:

It’s very exciting to see how your SCOBY forms slowly each day! I hope you all give this a try, let me know in the comments if you have any questions or other methods that have worked for you.

-Emily


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My Kombucha Guide

I am not afraid to try anything when it comes to food, especially when said food has some pretty great health benefits. Kombucha, for those who don’t know, is a fermented tea drink. You may have seen it while browsing the grocery store and wondered about it, like “what the hell is this shit”, which is pretty much how my first experience with kombucha went.

I first tried it a few years ago when I was shopping at Whole Foods and decided to try a GT’s Trilogy Kombucha and to be honest I absolutely hated it at first try. I thought it tasted like bitter, sweet, carbonated vinegar, but for some reason after that first experience I kept coming back to it. Something about that strange combination intrigued me so much that I fell in love with the flavor. Be ready for your friends and family to judge (make fun of) your choice of drink if you become a regular drinker of kombucha (or is that just my crowd).

Be skeptical as you may, but kombucha does have quite a few positive health claims surrounding it. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or just looking to cut out dairy for a while, ‘bucha comes complete with probiotics which save you from a scoop of yogurt. There are plenty of other claims about it being heart healthy, having antioxidant properties, etc.

Kombucha is made during a fairly drawn out fermentation process, but it’s totally possible to make it at home. I haven’t yet tried, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t done my research. The first step is finding yourself a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria), sounds delicious, right? They aren’t all that hard to find. I am on a member of a Facebook group with over 21,000 members who are all brewers or enjoyers of kombucha. If you can befriend a few people on this site, there is a good chance someone who lives near you may have an extra SCOBY to share. For the rest of the fermentation process, Wellness Mama did a great job breaking it all down for you if you’re interested in making your own. Just be sure to be safe, clean and smart while attempting home brewing.

But, if you just want to stick to the store-bought variety, which is totally A-OK, there are some fantastic options. Something to note is that not all kombucha’s are the same, you may hate one and absolutely love another (been there). Also, beware of sugar… some of them pack A LOT in that bottle.

Below are some short reviews of the kombucha’s I have gotten to know over the last few years. Prices will not be included since they vary depending on store and location, but generally they are between $3.50-$5.00. They are a bit pricey, but hey, so are all of your Starbucks drinks and I don’t see you stopping that habit anytime soon.

*I put the flavor that I have specifically tried or been a fan of in parenthesis*

GT’s Kombucha (Trilogy)

This is basically THE kombucha. You will find this brand probably the most widely available in stores. For a while, I only drank GT’s and I have nothing against it other than the fact that it is certainly one of the more “vinegary” tasting varieties. You can’t go wrong with it, but in my opinion there are better ones out there.

Flavor Profile: Raspberry, lemon and ginger.

Health-Ade Kombucha (Pink Lady Apple)

This brand is widely available, much like GT’s. I have seen this brand pop up at places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Based on my experience, this is my least favorite brand of kombucha. It has an incredibly vinegary/bitter taste that I just could not get past. It is the only one I have ever purchased that I disliked so much I could not finish it. However, I have friends who really, really enjoy this one and continually repurchase.

Flavor Profile: Apple

Brew Dr. Kombucha (Love)

Alright, get ready for me to fangirl over this one. This is my favorite brand of kombucha EVER, and I think for good reason. This brand is out of Portland, OR and I think what makes them so special is their lack of bitterness and that vinegary taste. They brew (at least the Love flavor) with green tea instead of the traditional black tea used in brewing and I think this really helps with that harsh taste. This is about a dollar cheaper than GT’s and completely worth every penny.

Flavor Profile: Lavender, chamomile and rose.

Kombucha Town (Blueberry White)

I found this brand while in Bellingham, WA and honestly I loved it. I had the chance to go to their Culture Cafe where their kombucha’s were fresh on tap. It’s a great kombucha with a lot of carbonation which is great when you’re wanting something like a pop. I do not think this is available nationally (I could be wrong), but it was in grocery stores throughout the Seattle area. If you have the opportunity, give this one a try… it was so good.

Flavor Profile: Blueberry


 

I hope you get the chance to try some kombucha, it really is such a special, bubbly drink that always lifts my mood. If you become a super fan like me, follow my twitter account @kombuchafanclub 

Did your favorite not make my list? Let me know which ones you are in love with in the comments.

As always, thanks for reading,

Emily