A simple, tasty way to get in probiotics is to drink kombucha, a fermented carbonated beverage made from tea. Learn how to make kombucha with this basic recipe.
Kombucha is one of those things that I have been making for years, but hadn’t shared on my blog because, well, so many blogs already explain the process. I first started making it years ago but stopped when I got pregnant, not because I didn’t think it was safe to continue to drink it, but because it, like so many other things, weren’t as appealing to me anymore during my pregnancy.
Most of my ferments were allowed to fend for themselves when I was pregnant and they eventually all died off. That includes my sourdough starter, my milk kefir grains, and my water kefir grains.
Kombucha scobys are quite hardy, though, and mine lasted for quite a while longer than the rest of my ferments- until eventually all of the liquid in my scoby hotel dried up and one of the scobys started to form mold on it. Had they just dehydrated, I probably would have saved them for later on because I’ve heard of people using dehydrated SCOBYs for making kombucha, but because of the mold, I threw out all of my SCOBYs.
When my son was born, he loved my homemade yogurt. It was one of his favorite first foods, and I got into the habit of making it weekly for the first couple of years of his life. Since I can make big batches in the oven without a yogurt maker, it was easy enough to keep it up. With all of that yogurt around, I didn’t feel the need for kefir grains until he started to ask for smoothies and I decided that I wanted to play with kefir grains again, not only for making milk kefir, but also for fermenting juices like with my kefir cider.
If you don’t want to drink a lot of dairy, and aren’t making kefir daily, it can be a bit of a pain to keep up kefir grains. Sure, you can make coconut milk and coconut water kefir, but that gets to be expensive.
I was getting tired of keeping up my kefir grains, so when a friend of mine got pregnant, and had the opposite pregnancy reaction and was actually craving kombucha during her pregnancy, I jumped at the chance to get on the kombucha bandwagon again.
Since then, I’ve also started to translate this blog into Spanish. Kombucha is not very common around here, which makes it the perfect addition to my Spanish blog. I’ve just recently started finding commercial kombucha for buying in health food stores, but at several euros per small bottle, it’s about time the Spanish people learn how to make their own!
So what, exactly, is kombucha?
Kombucha is a carbonated, probiotic beverage made from fermenting tea. It is said to have many health benefits, but also just happens to be very tasty. If you are looking to remove unhealthy sodas from your diet, and are looking for a healthier replacement, then kombucha might be perfect for you.
To make kombucha, you first need to acquire a kombucha SCOBY.
What is a SCOBY?
A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts. These bacteria and yeasts work on transforming your sweetened tea into a healthy, carbonated beverage. The process is easy, but takes a little bit of time and patience. Luckily most of the time goes into just waiting, and you don’t have to spend a long time slaving over a hot stove. If you can make tea, you can make kombucha!
Is Kombucha “paleo”?
Well, that depends on how strict you are when you use that label, and what you have in mind when you use the word “paleo.” If you are trying to eat like a caveman, then you probably won’t consider kombucha paleo because caveman likely weren’t drinking it. If, on the other hand, you are just trying to eat a healthier, less processed diet, then you will probably find kombucha more paleo friendly.
Kombucha is usually made with cane sugar, but some would argue that it is mostly used up in the fermentation process. Even if you drink your kombucha on the sour side, though, some sugar is going to remain. So, despite the probiotics and touted health benefits, one could again reasonably argue that kombucha isn’t paleo just on that basis alone.
I’m not much of a paleo snob, so I tend to overlook that fact and leave it as a paleo-ish treat. 😉
That said, if you are put off by the use of cane sugar, you might be more interested in brewing jun instead. Jun is a fermented beverage that is similar to kombucha, but made with honey and green tea. I’ve been making jun for several months now and while I think I still like kombucha better, it’s definitely a great option for those who are either following a GAPS protocol or more strictly paleo.
I’ll try to share how to make jun on my blog soon.
What are the health benefits of kombucha?
Because of its probiotics, kombucha is thought to help with digestion and help detoxify the system, but it is also thought to help improve energy and focus. Some say that it can even help prevent cancer, and can even help you lose weight.
Each person will react differently to drinking kombucha, especially when you first begin. That’s why it’s a good idea to introduce it little by little into your diet to help prevent unwanted digestive issues.
If you find that kombucha is making you feel worse rather than better, it may be a sign of your body detoxifying or just getting used to drinking it. You could first try by starting with very small doses, like a small shot of kombucha for a few days to see how your body reacts. In any case, it’s probably best to go with your instincts and not stick with it if you really feel like it is hurting you more than it is helping you. While lots of people love how kombucha makes them feel, nothing is going to be perfect for everybody!
Now that we know a little bit more about it, let’s get started & learn…
How to make kombucha!
How to make Kombucha
- Bring the water to a boil, and remove it from the heat source. Add in the sugar, stirring until it is all dissolved. Immediately afterwards add in the tea bags.
- Seep the tea for around 10 minutes. (I use a mixture of green tea and black tea and remove the green tea bags a couple of minutes before the black tea bags.)
- Remove the tea bags and let the sweetened tea cool to room temperature.
- Add the sweetened tea to a large glass container, topping it off with some starter kombucha. If you don't have any starter kombucha or kombucha from your last batch, you can also use apple cider vinegar to help lower the pH and help prevent mold from forming on the SCOBY.
- Cover the glass container with a cloth that will let the mixture breath but will keep out dust and insects. I secure a square of cotton cloth over my gallon sized jar with a rubber band, but you could also use something like a coffee filter instead.
- Store the mixture undisturbed for a week before tasting it. Ideal temperatures for kombucha brewing are somewhere between 70º-80ºF. That doesn't mean that you can't brew kombucha if you have temperatures higher or lower than that in your house. The only problem is that outside that temperature range, you are more likely to run into problems. When it is colder than 70ºF, the brewing process will take longer, and it is more likely that you will develop mold. You can add in more starter liquid to help compensate for the temperature. Above 80ºF, you are more likely to throw off the balance of your kombucha. The Kombucha SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts, remember? If the temperature is too high, though, you could throw off the balance in the favor of too many yeasts in the mixture. Kombucha can be rebalanced if you have that problem, but that will have to be the subject of another post some other day.
- Your kombucha is ready when it has reached the desired level of fermentation. As the days go by the kombucha will no longer taste like sweet tea, but instead will become more and more sour. Most people prefer kombucha after around 7-10 days of fermentation. If it's winter and you are brewing in cooler temperatures, you'll probably find that you want to ferment longer than that. The same goes for the first time you are fermenting, especially if you don't have as much starter kombucha. If it's hot out, you'll probably want to stop after a week or so.
- To taste the kombucha, try not to disturb the newly forming SCOBY on top of your liquid. You can slide in a straw along the edge of the jar into the kombucha and pull some liquid out to taste it.
- Once you've made a Kombucha to your liking, take out your SCOBYs. (You'll probably have your original SCOBY and a newly formed one floating on top, but you may have new layers on your original SCOBY if it was floating to begin with, or you may not have developed much of a new one, which we can troubleshoot some other day.)
- Pour the kombucha into bottles. I like glass bottles with flip cap type stoppers. Remember to save at least a cup of your kombucha to use as a starter for your next batch!
- Once you have your kombucha bottled, you can drink it immediately, but I prefer to do a second fermentation first. To do a second fermentation, leave the bottles tightly capped at room temperature.
- After a few days, you'll probably notice that your kombucha is now much more carbonated. If you are having problems achieving a desired level of carbonation, you can add some fruit to your kombucha during the second fermentation to help out the process while you flavor it.
- Once you've reached the desired carbonation level, place your bottles of kombucha in the fridge. It's a good idea to occasionally "burp" the bottles of kombucha. This is done by opening them every couple of days to let out any excess gas. It's best to use glass bottles to avoid toxins from seeping into your kombucha, but glass is also more susceptible to breaking, so this is merely done to prevent them from exploding, which could happen if the kombucha continues to ferment without letting out the extra carbonation.
- Serve chilled and enjoy! (You can strain out the yeast strings that may form if you prefer, or just leave them in and drink them.)
- You should use glass or ceramic jars for brewing kombucha. I use just under a gallon of water to make enough tea which, when combined with the SCOBY and starter, will still fit into a gallon jar. You can easily adjust the ratios to fit whatever container you plan on using.
- While you can use either black tea or green tea, I actually like to use a 50/50 mixture for my kombucha. Some people are more successful with one type of tea or the other. I find either works well for me, but just prefer the flavor when using a mixture of the two.
Once you’ve finished making your kombucha, you can either chill it and drink it immediately, or you can have it go through a second ferment which will bring up the carbonation and open up a world of possibilities for flavoring your kombucha! I’ll show you how you can easily flavor yours next time, and will give you a bunch of ideas for kombucha flavors. (Very Berry Kombucha, Ginger Lime, and Rose Petal Date Kombucha are three of my favorites!!)