Store bought kombucha just can't compare to homemade kombucha. Store bought usually has juice added to it, which in my opinion just adds sugar and carbs and ruins the taste! Plain old homemade kombucha reminds me of apple cider. If you happen to let it ferment for too long, don't throw it out. Use it as vinegar in recipes. You don't want to kill all that beneficial bacteria and yeast though, so try to use it in recipes that you don't heat, like in salad dressings.
What do you need to make kombucha? First, you need a SCOBY. What the heck is a SCOBY, and how can something that sounds like scabies, or scab, be something you'd want in your drink? A scoby is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It's alive! And each time you make a new batch of kombucha, the SCOBY (called the Mother) will have a baby SCOBY. That is why people who make kombucha will often have extras that they give to family and friends. This completely freaked out my boyfriend, Steve, and it took about a year before he would taste the kombucha, lol. He liked it! Don't forget to keep a baby or two from your batches, just in case something goes awry with a batch. You'll want a backup SCOBY to begin again.
This recipe makes about half a gallon batch of kombucha. I never actually measured out the finished product!
Clean and dry your equipment WELL. Pans, jar, utensils - and your hands! I plan ahead and throw all my stuff in the dishwasher. I also wipe everything down with vinegar or kombucha.
Let your scoby and starter kombucha or vinegar come to room temperature.
Pour 4 C filtered water into a 1/2 gallon, wide mouth mason jar. Let it come to room temperature while you follow the rest of the steps.
Boil 2 C of the filtered water.
Dissolve the 1/2 C sugar in the boiling water.
Add the tea bags and steep at least 10 minutes. Longer is perfectly okay. I tend to forget about it and do something else while it's brewing. This way the tea is cooled off when I follow the rest of the steps.
Remove the tea bags.
Add the brewed tea to the 4 C filtered water in the 1/2 gallon wide mouth mason jar.
Add the starter kombucha or vinegar. If I'm using starter kombucha I've been waiting until the tea/water in the mason jar is 68° - 85 so that the good bacteria/yeast stays intact. But now that I'm thinking of it, this probably isn't necessary. :P
Wait until this final mixture is 68° - 85° and then add the SCOBY. You don't want the SCOBY to be in a hotter mixture. You'll kill the beneficial bacteria and yeast and you won't be able to use it to make your kombucha.
Note: Since I take the water, starter kombucha/vinegar and SCOBY out ahead of time and I just let the tea sit and brew, everything is usually within 68° - 85° range by this point. I like to make things as easy as possible!
Take a coffee filter and use an elastic band to secure it to the top of the mason jar. Some people like to get the filter wet with vinegar to ward off any bad bacteria and mold. I haven't tried this yet. Let me know if you have!
Place the kombucha-to-be mixture somewhere where it won't get too warm or cold, out of direct sunlight, and where it won't be disturbed. At least not a whole lot. In the cooler months, I put mine in the oven with the light on and door cracked open with a pot holder. Keeps it a toasty 78°. Just don't forget to take it out of the oven if you plan on using it though! I have actually done this, more than once! Handy to have a sister 2 minutes away with an extra SCOBY if I don't happen to have one. Oh, and don't let your concoction get too cold or it could get moldy. Speaking of mold, don't keep it next to anything that tends to mold naturally, like bread or fruit. Spores from other moldy food could find it's way under the coffee filter and ruin your batch.
Let your jar of goodies sit 7+ days (to taste) while the SCOBY does its thing. How long it takes to be ready to drink will depend on how warm or cool it is. Mine takes about 7 days in the oven. Don't be alarmed when you see whitish stuff accumulating at the top of the jar. That's the baby SCOBY forming.
You can start checking on your kombcha at any time. Smell it. Does it smell like tea? Does it smell sweet? The SCOBY is going to eat the sugar, so by the time it's done, it will have little to no sweetness. You want it a little sweet if you want to use the Second Brew method and get it fizzy (see below). The smell is difficult to describe, but it definitely doesn't smell like tea. You'll get to know the smell. Be sure there is no mold growing on it! This website has some photos of healthy and moldy kombucha/SCOBY. You can google images to find more. If you're in doubt, throw it out. You DON'T want to drink mold!
Once your kombucha is ready to drink, pour off all but 1 1/4 C of kombucha (and your SCOBY) for your next bach and put the rest in the fridge if you don't want it fizzy. Keep it out with a lid on it until it's fizzy if you do want fizz. You want it a little bit sweet still if you want it to fizz. The SCOBY will continue to eat the sugar, releasing the CO2 which is now trapped in the jar since it has a lid on it, not a coffee filter. Just keep in mind, the jar can and will explode from the pressure if you don't check on it regularly. A regular mason jar lid and band is a good idea. Is the lid 'bulging up'? Can you push it down, or is there a lot of pressure in there? And once it is fizzy, put it in the fridge. I'd still check on it in there, too. I never bother with the fizz. I like it tasting like apple cider and I don't like the idea of an explosion in the kitchen, lol.
Some people buy fancy bottles like the ones pictured above to store their finished kombucha in the fridge. I'm lazy and can't be bothered. Great idea though! Other people flavor it with juice, etc.. Again, I'm too lazy and I love it straight up!
What to do with the 1 1/4 C kombucha and SCOBY you put aside? Start another batch! With super clean hands, separate the baby from the mother (original) SCOBY. Put the baby in a clean jar with 1/4 C of the kombucha (dissolve a little sugar in it first if it's not a little sweet still because the baby will continue to eat a little even in the fridge). Use the mother SCOBY and the 1 C kombucha for your next batch. You could also use the baby instead. The smaller the SCOBY, the longer it will take to ferment. You don't always have to separate mom and baby, either. They will just continue to have babies and get thicker and thicker. But I recommend doing this (separate) for your first batch so that you'll have an extra on hand, just in case.
Have you tried this recipe? Let me know how it went with a comment below!