Gluten Free | Dairy Free | Nut Free | Vegan
Kombucha is a sparkling, fermented tea that is full of flavour and packs a health punch, with living probiotics (good bacteria) and organic acids. It begins as a sweet tea solution before a living culture of bacteria and yeast, commonly known as a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), transforms it into a tasty and refreshing drink. Originating in China, living SCOBYs have been traditionally passed to the next generation for thousands of years.
This recipe makes 2 litres of Kombucha (so just double or triple all the ingredients for more)
4 black tea bags (or 4 heaped teaspoons of loose tea leaves tied in cheesecloth)
¾ cup raw organic sugar
1 – 2 cups unflavoured Kombucha from a previous batch (or starter liquid from a new SCOBY)
1 kombucha SCOBY (if your SCOBY is new and small, it’s best to start with a half recipe for your first brew until your SCOBY grows to fill the jar)
2 litres water
3 litre glass jar or drink dispenser
Circle of cotton cloth to cover the top of the jar and a rubber band or tie
2 x 1 litre glass bottles with flip tops
Fruit, herbs and spices to flavour (see information about second fermentation below)
Bring 2 litres of water to the boil in a large stainless steel saucepan. Once boiled, turn off the heat.
Add 4 black tea bags (or tea leaves) and allow to steep for at least 10 minutes. Remove tea bags once your brew is at the desired strength. It should be a strong black tea.
Add ¾ cup raw organic sugar and stir to dissolve.
Leave to cool completely to room temperature. Cooling the sweet tea is essential because the SCOBY will be damaged in hot water.
Pour the cool sweet tea into a 3 litre glass jar or a 3 litre glass drink dispenser with a plastic tap.
Add 1 – 2 cups unflavoured Kombucha from a previous batch (or the liquid with your new SCOBY). Gently place the SCOBY to float on the top. The pale smooth side should face upwards with any yeasty strands hanging down. Don’t worry if your SCOBY sinks because you’ll see a new SCOBY start to grow on the surface of your brew that will fill the width of the jar within a few days.
Cover the jar with a cotton cloth and secure with a rubber band or tie. The fabric needs to be fine enough to exclude dust and insects, but also allow your SCOBY (which is a living organism) access to air. Leave at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for approximately 7 days. (Leave longer in winter and less time in summer.)
After a few days it’s time to start tasting your Kombucha. The SCOBY will eat the sugar in your brew and it will become less sweet. Taste daily, and when you find the perfect balance of sweet and sour, it’s time to bottle your brew ready for the second fermentation.
Decant your fermented brew into two 1 litre flip-top, glass bottles. Make sure you use quality, lead-free bottles that are designed to withstand the frizzy pressure.
Keep 1 – 2 cups of the unflavoured Kombucha in the bottom of your fermenting jar along with the SCOBY to use as the starter liquid in your next batch. If you’re not making a new brew immediately, leave your SCOBY safely in the liquid, cover securely with a cotton cloth, and keep at room temperature away from direct sunlight until needed.
You might prefer to drink your finished brew without adding any additional flavour. Simply store the flip top bottles of kombucha in the refrigerator where further fermentation will be slowed until you’re ready to drink.
Alternatively, add flavours for a second fermentation (see below).
Kombucha can be enhanced through a second fermentation with the addition of various fruit and aromatics.
The second fermentation is the time to add colour and extra fizz, and experiment with your favourite flavour combinations.
Place your selected fruit, herbs and spices directly into each 1 litre glass bottle. Decant the unflavoured Kombucha into the bottle leaving a little air space at the top. Then seal tightly.
Leave the sealed bottle at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 1-2 days.
Taste test for carbonation and refrigerate when the taste and fizz are perfect for your taste buds.
If preferred, the added fruit, herbs and spices can be strained out before serving.
Delicious Flavour Combinations
Here are some of my favourite additions for the second fermentation. Quantities listed are suggestions for each 1 litre bottle. Select your favourite combination from the list below or experiment with the fruit and flavours you most enjoy:
- Pulp of 2 large Passionfruit and ½ Vanilla Bean (cut length-ways, or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence).
12 Raspberries (fresh or frozen) and 4 fresh Mint leaves (chopped).
1 Lemon (cut into thin wedges, or ¼ cup lemon juice) and a 2 cm piece of Ginger (cut into sticks, or ½ teaspoon dried Ginger powder).
1 Pear (cut into pieces, or ½ cup pear juice), a 2 cm piece of Turmeric (cut into sticks, or ½ teaspoon dried Turmeric powder), and 2 Cardamom pods (lightly crushed).
2 large Strawberries (cut into pieces, or 4-6 small strawberries) and 4 fresh sweet Basil leaves (chopped).
1 Apple (cut into pieces, or ½ cup apple juice), 1 Cinnamon stick (lightly crushed, or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon).
20 Blueberries (fresh or frozen) and 1 Lemon (cut into thin wedges, or ¼ cup lemon juice).
- ¼ cup Pineapple pieces (fresh, frozen or canned) and 1 Lime (cut into thin wedges, or ¼ cup lime juice).
Experiment with any of the following additives to find your personal favourites:
- Apricot, Blackberry, Chai, Chamomile, Cherry, Cranberry, Elderberry, Fig, Goji Berry, Grapefruit, Guava, Kiwi Fruit, Lychee, Mango, Melon, Mulberry, Nectarine, Orange, Papaya, Peach, Persimmon, Plum, Pomegranate, Rhubarb, Rose Hip, Rosella, Spice Blends or Watermelon.
Use filtered, rain or spring water. Town water contains chlorine that can damage the SCOBY, so boil or leave it at room temperature for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to evaporate.
The sugar is added to the brew to feed the SCOBY (not you) and is an essential part of the fermentation process. Very little will be left after the first formation. The darker the sugar, the more difficult for the SCOBY to consume it, so raw, organic cane sugar works very well.
The SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is sometimes called the Mother because it produces new baby SCOBYs.
Use glass for your brewing vessel, or high-grade stainless steel (not plastic or crystal). This can be a large glass jar or a drink dispenser with a plastic tap. The tap is very useful for regular taste-testing and for decanting your finished brew.
Use a cotton cloth to cover your brewing vessel. The SCOBY needs to breathe but the weave needs to be fine enough to exclude fruit fly and dust.
Swing-top glass bottles make it very easy to check carbonation levels in the second fermentation.
Make sure all fruit, herbs and spices for your second fermentation are cut small enough so they can easily be washed from the bottle when finished.