How to Make Kombucha (part 2)
As promised, here is the second part of Dr. Mike's Guide to Making Kombucha. These tips will help you to choose the right ingredients for your kombucha and to give you an idea of what you're looking for in the finished product. After mastering this, you'll be able to share it with friends and family, and teach them how to make it for themselves. Have fun!
Guide to Making Kombucha (version 1.1, October 2011)
Part 2 of 2
Part 2 of 2
By Michael T. Lagueux II, B.A., D.C.
Positive Edge Chiropractic
1. Use ½ distilled water and ½ purified or tap water, it’s less expensive.
2. At the time of writing this guide, Trader Joe’s has the least expensive organic evaporated cane juice.
3. Do not use any “alternative” sweeteners such as agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, molasses, fructose, corn syrup, etc. You may prefer these sweeteners for one reason or another, but bacteria and yeasts only want PURE SUGAR! And keeping these organisms happy is the key to good kombucha.
4. Yamamotoyama (sencha) green tea is a great choice of tea because of its flavor, high quality, health benefits, and because it’s fairly inexpensive. You can find it at any Japanese grocery store. You can use black teas, but do not use any that contain bergamot oil (e.g. Earl Grey), as it tends to interfere with fermentation.
5. Apple, grape, pineapple, and mango juices are all excellent choices for secondary fermentation because they contain high concentrations of sucrose, which is highly fermentable.
6. Try adding different fruits to add additional flavors to your bottled kombucha (whether you choose secondary fermentation or not). Ginger is highly recommended!
7. To make plain kombucha using the secondary fermentation process, simply make 6 fluid ounces of tea (preferably the same type you used for the original kombucha brew) and add two heaping tablespoons of organic evaporated cane juice. Stir it until the sugar has completely dissolved, then cover the tea and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, you can add it to your kombucha during bottling to produce an unflavored (but carbonated) variety!
8. Be sure to save about 16oz (or more) of kombucha from each batch so that you can use it to make the next one (or give it to friends to help them start a kombucha brew).
9. In between brews, remove the SCOBY and place it on a clean non-metal surface. Rinse out your fermenter with hot water (washing with soap isn’t necessary and may leave behind undesirable residues).
10. The SCOBY should be rinsed off, but be very careful with it! Don’t let it touch anything except the clean surface you used earlier. Rinse it under water that isn’t warm, but isn’t ice cold. Make sure you remove all of the bits of yeast (the brown stuff) that you can see. There may be super-thin layers of SCOBY that are yellow or brown or otherwise unattractive, so you can remove anything like that. You are artificially selecting for a uniform, clean-looking white to off-white cellulose structure.
11. Fermenting kombucha eventually transforms into a highly acidic, somewhat syrupy vinegar-like product. It contains large amounts of acetic acid, as well as many other acids produced over time by the bacteria and yeasts. This situation usually occurs when a kombucha brew is not bottled in a timely manner. Fortunately it can still be useful! It is possible to use it as you would regular vinegar (e.g. in salads, marinades, etc.), and it also makes an excellent addition to your next kombucha brew (see #5 under “Ingredients of a Kombucha Brew”).
1. Be sure to avoid bottling any tan to brown-colored strands of yeast. Look very carefully as you slowly pour the kombucha into the bottle. Spent (dead or near-dead) yeast appears tan to brown and will typically sink to the bottom of a vessel. Agitating the kombucha during the bottling process may stir up some of the undesirable yeasts, so be very meticulous and look very carefully as you pour the kombucha into bottles.
2. Viable yeast appears white to off-white and is typically in very small (and difficult-to-see) strands anywhere from 1mm to 5mm. Yeast at this stage is very desirable and will result in vigorous carbonation following the secondary fermentation process. This step (and the above step) is probably the most difficult to master. It takes a bit of practice and a very meticulous approach. The main idea is: get rid of the old dead yeast and keep only the young hungry ones!
3. Leave about one inch of headspace in the bottles (don’t fill them up to the top). Air in the bottles helps, since most of the fermentation is aerobic.
Perpetuating the SCOBY and Helping Others
Your SCOBY will eventually produce more and more of itself, and your brews will not be able to effectively utilize all of it (nor will they need to). Fortunately, it typically forms in discrete layers anywhere from ¼ to 1 inch thick that can be easily removed and discarded or shared with others. Only one layer is required to successfully ferment a kombucha brew, (although the speed of fermentation and/or quality of the finished product may be improved with more SCOBY present in the fermenter). Therefore, I recommend selecting two or three to remain in each fermenter and then giving away the extras to friends! Don’t forget to include 16oz (or more) of kombucha or kombucha vinegar to help them kickstart their brew.