What I don't love is the price tag. Most health food stores charge anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00 per bottle. If you drink even half of a bottle per day that really adds up. So a few years ago I decided to do what I always do when something is out of my price range... I find a way to make it at home for less.
Not including one-time start-up costs (I'll get into these below), this recipe will end up costing you about 5 bucks for every 155 cups that you make. Yep. You read that right. You can make Kombucha at home for just over 3 cents a cup. Sign me up!
But let's back up. For those of you not familiar with Kombucha, I want to cover a few basics of this fizzy little drink. Kombucha is made by adding tea and sugar to a culture that is comprised of bacteria and yeast. Over time, the ingredients combine and ferment to create the final product, a drinkable probiotic tea!
The health benefits are debated and you should spend a little time researching this before you jump on board the Kombucha train, but I've had nothing but positive experiences. It has improved my skin and hair and my digestion plus it just generally makes me feel good. I feel like I get a glow when I drink it.
OK, so let's get to the part you're really interested in... the recipe! Instead of my normal format, I'm going to use step-by-step with pictures so that it's easier to follow. I know might look tricky at first, but don't be intimidated! After your first batch, you'll be a pro. And if you have any questions at all, please ask me!
1. If this is your first time brewing Kombucha at home, you will need to gather a few basic supplies. These are the one-time start up costs that I mentioned above. After batch #1, your only ongoing expenses will be sugar and tea. You will need:
*I ordered my starter from Happy Herbalist and I'm really satisfied with it.
2. Bring 32 cups of water to a low boil. It helps to have good water so I run mine through a water filter first. It's also important to use a glass or stainless steel measuring cup. A large mason jar works well.
Please note, it's important not to let anything but wood, glass or stainless steel touch your tea.
4. After the 10 minutes are up, your mixture will look and smell a lot like strong tea. Remove the tea bags, squeezing all of the tea out, and discard them.
Next, transfer the tea to your large glass container and let the tea cool completely to room temperature. This is a very important step as high temperatures will damage your starter culture. I usually cover mine with a clean t-shirt and let it cool overnight.
6. Cover your tea/culture combination with a clean t-shirt and place it somewhere in your home where it will remain undisturbed for 5-10 days. The conditions that I've had the most success with are dark spaces where the temperature stays in the 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit range. I have a kitchen cabinet above my stove that works perfectly, but it can be anywhere you have space for it.
7. Let it sit, undisturbed, for about a week. There is no exact time to use because there are so many factors that impact the length of fermentation, including your own taste preferences. This photo is from day 4 of my most recent brew cycle. Bubbles are just starting to form and the culture is about 1/8 inch thick and covers the whole surface of the tea.
8. For me, a brew cycle usually takes about 7-8 days. I know it's ready when I see a good deal of large bubbles and it smells like vinegar. If you're unsure, use a clean spoon (glass, wood or stainless steel only) to take a sip and see if you like it. Don't double dip! The black tea taste should be gone and it should taste slightly tart, but still drinkable. This photo is from day 8 - the culture is about 1/4 inch thick.
9. Once your fermentation brew is complete, you will remove the culture and prepare to start the cycle again. The really awesome thing about Kombucha is that the culture keeps growing (it doubles in size each time) so you will always be able to make more Kombucha. Or you can share your culture with friends! In this photo you can see the original culture (the small circle) and the amount of new culture that grew around it.
10. Place your culture in an air-tight glass container with 6 cups of the new fermented tea. Set this aside in the same place you used for your fermentation process. In your next batch, you will use this like you did with your original starter.
Note, if you think you will be waiting more than a few days before starting your next batch, you might want to store the cultures in the refrigerator to prevent fermentation. Just be sure to bring it back to room temperature before using it again.
11. Once you remove your cultures, you can drink the tea according to your preferences. Some drink it plain, but I prefer to flavor mine with fruit. For this batch, I used 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, the juice from 1 lemon and 1/2 cup black cherry juice.
There are TONS of recipes though so be sure to experiment and have fun. Just be sure to remove the culture before you add any flavors. If you use whole fruits, let them sit in the tea for 24 hours then remove them to prevent them from fermenting.
Store your new Kombucha tea in the refrigerator and enjoy!!
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