Kombucha. With all the recent buzz about fermented foods and probiotics, you may have heard of this effervescent, fermented tea made from a SCOBY, sugar, tea, vinegar, and water.
Whether you are familiar with traditionally fermented foods or are just starting to explore the wonderful world probiotics, we’ve compiled the most frequently asked questions we receive about kombucha to help you get started on your next culturing project.
KOMBUCHA + SCOBY BASICS
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a kombucha starter culture (mushroom, mother, scoby, etc.), tea prepared with sugar, vinegar and some kombucha tea from a previous batch (starter tea). Kombucha contains a number of vitamins, particularly B vitamins.
What does kombucha tea taste like?
Kombucha tea has a rich, earthy flavor, which can vary greatly depending on the length of time it ferments, 7-30 days.
- For a mild flavor, brew the kombucha for a shorter time.
- For a bolder, more vinegary flavor, brew the kombucha for a longer time.
What ingredients go into making kombucha cultures?
Kombucha starter cultures are grown using filtered water, organic sugar, and organic tea.
Do kombucha cultures contain gluten, dairy, or animal products?
No, kombucha cultures only contain organic tea, organic sugar, and filtered water.
Are kombucha cultures reusable? How long will the culture last?
Yes, with proper care kombucha cultures can be reused many times. The cultures will multiply, and as a practical matter – you will likely recycle or compost older cultures after a few months or sooner.
Can I make my homemade kombucha tea taste like that bought at the grocery store?
Yes, experimenting with the type of tea, fermentation time, and flavor additives (fruit, juice, ginger, etc.) you can invent your own kombucha tea flavors, or you can try to replicate a commercial flavor.
What supplies will I need for making kombucha tea?
Making kombucha doesn’t require anything too fancy. Choosing the best Equipment for Making Kombucha tea. Glass is the most popular choice for brewing kombucha. If you eventually want to set up a continuous brewing system you will need a large glass jar with wide mouth and a stainless steel spigot.
Choosing Ingredients For Making Kombucha
Making kombucha tea requires five simple ingredients: water, tea, sugar, starter tea, and a kombucha starter culture (SCOBY). You have lots of choices for each ingredient, but using the right ingredients for your kombucha creates a healthier environment for the SCOBY.
What is the process to make kombucha?
Making kombucha tea at home involves making tea, adding a starter culture (SCOBY) and letting it culture in a warm spot for 7-30 days.
How long should I brew my kombucha?
Kombucha can be brewed from 7 to 30 days, depending on personal preference. A longer brewing time results in less sugar and a more vinegary-flavored beverage. Keep in mind that temperature will play a role in how quickly the kombucha cultures.
Can I use less sugar or alter any ingredients used to make kombucha?
We strongly recommend following the tea:sugar:water:starter tea ratios indicated in the instructions. These ratios encourage a proper balance, which discourages the growth of mold and the spoiling of the batch. It also helps ensure the SCOBY gets enough food to culture properly.
Can I use a plastic container to brew kombucha and plastic bottles to store it?
We recommend glass containers when working with starter cultures, because of the potential of plastic to leach undesirable chemicals. Additionally, plastic is more easily damaged, often without your knowledge, which can result in hidden bacteria that may disrupt the culturing process.
Can I culture my kombucha tea in a cupboard, or on a windowsill, etc.?
Brewing kombucha tea in a cupboard is perfectly fine. However, do not put kombucha tea in sunlight. It is important to keep fermenting kombucha out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat or cold.
Can I make kombucha without a starter tea?
Yes, you can use an equal portion of distilled white vinegar in place of starter tea. Alternatively you may use bottled raw, unflavored kombucha tea, which can be purchased at many health food and grocery stores. However, when activating a dehydrated scoby, use distilled white vinegar only.
I’m brewing my first batch of kombucha using the dehydrated culture. It doesn’t seem to be doing anything. How can I know if it’s working properly?
Every culturing environment and experience is unique. You may see no visible signs that your kombucha is culturing at first, or you may notice one or more normal signs of fermentation. These include:
- The liquid has lightened in color
- The liquid has turned cloudy
- A haze has formed on top of the liquid, indicating the beginning of a baby SCOBY
- There is sediment in the bottom of the jar
- Brown yeast strings or blobs have formed in the liquid or on the original SCOBY
Keep in mind, it is perfectly normal for there to be no visible change to the tea or SCOBY for the first few batches.
HOW TO SPOT MOLD
Mold is visible as circular deposits that often look fuzzy or furry. Mold can appear in various colors: white, green, black, etc. Once mold has developed, it is very important to discard the whole batch, including the kombucha SCOBY.
HOW TO TEST THE PROGRESS OF YOUR KOMBUCHA
The best way to tell how your kombucha is progressing is to test the aroma and flavor every few days. You should notice that the liquid becomes less sweet and more rich and vinegary in flavor over time. As the SCOBY rehydrates, the aroma should be clean but sour. The kombucha should not smell or taste unpleasant.
It is normal for the kombucha to not be fizzy or carbonated. Bottling the Kombucha in a second fermentation is often required to create a fizzy or carbonated kombucha.
What is the temperature in the culturing area?
Kombucha requires a warm area, 68-85ºF ( 20-29°C), to culture properly.
What kind of water did you use?
Kombucha cultures best when you use water that is as free from contaminants as possible. A high mineral content is not particularly important for kombucha, unlike other fermented beverages. In fact, it may be harmful to the SCOBY if the water has too high a mineral content.
Basic, inexpensive spring water is fine to use, but a water that claims to be “mineral water” or has a high mineral content should be avoided if possible.
What kind of tea did you use?
Kombucha requires real tea (camellia sinensis). White tea, black tea or green tea is suitable for kombucha brewing.
White tea produces a milder tasting Kombucha that is high in catechins. Here are just some of the health benefits associated with drinking white tea (it’s a pretty impressive list!)
- reduces atherosclerotic plaques
- reduces carcinogens and eliminates free radicals
- reduces risk of stroke, heart failure, cancer (including tumor formation), diabetes
- protects the skin from damage caused by UV light
Black tea has a long history with Kombucha. The literal translation of the Chinese word for Kombucha – 紅茶菌 – is “red tea bacteria”
Black tea is higher in purines which aid blood circulation and encourage warming properties. I blend in more black tea during the Winter to compensate for cooler temperatures. Women especially may experience poor circulation in their extremities and drinking Kombucha made with black tea can improve that condition.
Some other health benefits of black tea are:
- improves beneficial intestinal microflora
- provides immunity against intestinal disorders
- prevents tooth decay due to the presence of fluorine
- normalizes blood pressure
Kombucha cultures LOVE green tea and grow thick, healthy SCOBYs. According to Michael Roussin’s research, green tea turns Kombucha more sour in a shorter period of time making it an ideal tea for those who prefer a shorter brewing cycle.
have been shown to make healthy, delicious Kombucha and SCOBYs. Mix them and match them for a flavor combination you enjoy.
However, there are some teas to be avoided when making Kombucha.
- Flavored teas such as Red Zinger or Chai – these are often flavored using essential oils that may damage the culture. There are varying opinions about Earl Gray as it contains oil of bergamot but several people have brewed Kombucha with it successfully. You may not want to use it as your main tea but it adds nice flavor and body.
- Herbal infusions – as mentioned previously, these do not technically contain any Camellia sinensis. Some herbal infusions with high levels of volatile oils will retard the culture’s growth as they have a bacteriacidal effect (kill bacteria).
- Strongly smokey teas such as Lapsang Souchong – while they won’t technically damage the Kombucha, the flavor is considered a poor match by most brewers.
What kind of sugar did you use?
We recommend using white sugar to produce the most reliable results with kombucha. Unrefined sugar or brown sugar, which contains molasses, can also be used successfully, though the kombucha and SCOBY may become very yeasty.
What signs should I look for to determine the kombucha is culturing properly?
A few good signs the kombucha fermentation process is proceeding normally include the formation of a new kombucha culture over the opening of the brewing container, development of brown stringy yeast particles, and the liquid becoming less sweet and more vinegar-like.
If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, etc.), how far apart do I need to keep the cultures?
We suggest keeping a distance of at least 4 feet between items. When your cultured items are being stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them.
Where can I view the instructions for making kombucha?
When you buy our best kombucha brewing equipment, the instructions are included together with recipes.
CARING FOR YOUR SCOBY
Will kombucha tea starters multiply?
Kombucha tea cultures multiply. Each time you brew a batch of Kombucha tea a new starter culture will form. The original starter culture (“the mother”) and the new starter culture (“the baby”) can each be used to brew a new batch of kombucha tea.
My kombucha has been fermenting for a period of time and is developing a cloudy layer on top. Is this normal?
Yes. The cloudy white layer is the beginning of a new baby kombucha culture. The formation of a new culture is one sign that your batch of kombucha is fermenting properly.
My kombucha culture sank to the bottom of my container, is floating sideways, rose to the top of the liquid, etc. Is this normal?
Depending on a number of factors, the culture may sink, float or sit sideways. Any of these is normal and will not affect the brewing process.
The new baby kombucha culture seems to have detached from the container opening. Will this affect the fermentation process?
Having the baby kombucha culture detach from the container opening does not affect the fermentation process.
I’ve been storing a batch of finished kombucha for a few days and it seems to be developing a jelly-like mass on top. Is this normal? What is it?
The jelly-like mass is the beginning of a new baby kombucha culture. Even after the main kombucha culture is removed, the kombucha remains full of living yeast and bacteria which continue to ferment slowly on their own. As a result, idle kombucha will eventually form a new baby culture.
One of my kombucha cultures has a hole in it or is split into pieces because I had to separate it from mother culture after they fused. Can I still use it?
Kombucha cultures will work just fine even with holes or if they have been torn in half.
Does the size of the kombucha culture matter in relation to how much kombucha I will be brewing?
No, even a small kombucha culture will effectively ferment a full gallon of kombucha. We recommend using a culture or a piece of a culture. The culture should be at least 3 inches in diameter.
FLAVORING, BOTTLING, AND SECOND FERMENTATION
How can I flavor my kombucha tea?
There are lots of ways to flavor kombucha tea! In our kombucha instructions offered with our kombucha brewing equipment, it’s shown how to flavor and bottle your homemade kombucha tea, plus include our favorite kombucha flavor ideas!
What ratio of juice to kombucha should I use for the second fermentation (to add flavor)?
For a second fermentation, a ratio of 20% juice and 80% kombucha generally works well. You can also experiment with other ratios to change the flavor.
How do I increase the carbonation of my kombucha tea?
One of the most common questions homebrewers have is how to get more carbonation (i.e. fun bubbles) in their Kombucha. Yes, bubbles are fun, and there is something inherently exciting about seeing a fizzy glass of iced Kombucha froth over the edge as you pour.
It emphasizes the “living” energy of the drink, and because it’s natural, it feels and tastes different than CO2 that is added.
Bottling kombucha in an airtight container helps to increase carbonation. Our innovative kombucha brewing equipment combines the first and the second fermentation together all in one.
Is there any danger of the glass container exploding under the carbonation pressure when bottling kombucha?
It is possible for swingtop bottles to explode, but with our innovative kombucha brewing equipment, no more fear of the explosive problem.
How can I reduce the amount of sugar in the finished kombucha tea?
A longer fermentation process will reduce the amount of sugar in the finished product. At the end of a 30-day fermentation period, there is generally very little
sugar remaining. Begin with the required amount of sugar, to ensure that the scoby gets enough food to culture properly.
Does finished kombucha contain alcohol?
Yes, as with all cultured and fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is typically present in the finished product. Although the amount containted in kombucha will vary from batch to batch, the amount should be quite small.
How much Kombucha should I drink?
It is recommended to begin drinking 4-8oz on an empty stomach 2x a day followed by plenty of water to flush the toxins. Over time, you can increase your intake as your body craves it.
Is Kombucha hard to make?
No. If you can make a cup of tea, you can make Kombucha. Water, tea, sugar & Kombucha culture is all you need.
We offer free kombucha recipe included in our innovative kombucha brewing equipment.
Kombucha Weight Loss
Recommendations for weight loss vary and are unscientific, but those who have had success with Kombucha tea and weight loss recommend drinking 4 to 8 oz. 30 minutes prior to your main meals. Drinking a glass upon waking up in the morning is sometimes recommended to help stimulate the metabolism and reset your digestive system for the day.
The belief is that weight gain in many people is due to poor digestion and inability to process foods effectively. Kombucha tea supposedly brings your digestive system to a healthier state of being so it is less likely to hold onto excess pounds. Kombucha reportedly gives you more energy as well, which could result in more movement and calorie burning. Drinking any liquid before a meal helps you quench thirst, which is often mistaken for hunger, and gives you a greater sense of fullness—both of which can lead to a lower overall intake of calories.
Storing Kombucha Scoby
If you are looking to take a break from brewing, store your SCOBY in a tightly sealed container IN THE FRIDGE along with enough fresh starter liquid to start another brew. A SCOBY can remain virtually unchanged in the fridge for up to 3 months.
How Much Caffeine Is In A Glass Of Kombucha?
Kombucha is generally considered to have about ⅓ the amount of caffeine as the tea it is made with, so for example black tea, which might have 30-80mg of caffeine per cup may yield a glass of Kombucha with 10-25mg of caffeine. Green tea Kombucha might have just 2-3mg of caffeine. The range is extremely broad!
Can I Make Decaffeinated Kombucha?
For most healthy people, the small amounts of caffeine in Kombucha are no problem and may provide benefits. If you fall into the category of those most sensitive to caffeine, there are simple ways to control, reduce and even eliminate the caffeine in your Kombucha.
Black tea contains more caffeine than green or white. The Kombucha culture prefers variety when it comes to tea, so use mostly green and/or white (80%) to reduce your caffeine content by about half over black tea alone.
Sugar and caffeine content both reduce as the ferment continues. Brew for a longer cycle, then dilute with some juice if needed to cut the sour flavor.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO DRINK KOMBUCHA?
If you’re looking to lose weight with Kombucha it’s to drink at about 4 ounces before your meal, about 10-15 minutes before your meal.
If you are looking to maintain, or just general well being or help your digest your food, to drink it after your meal or to sip it a little bit during your meal.
For energy, drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and it will energize you.
If you’re incorporating Kombucha with a Candida type diet, looking to eliminate your Candida, if you choose to consume Kombucha, the best way is overly fermented and in the morning, drink on an empty stomach so that your body can focus on consuming the Kombucha tea.
There’s also a belief of drinking it at night to help fall asleep, so what I say is what works for you.
Now the only way you’re going to discover that is by experimenting and listening to your own body.
Experiment to get the best results.