Kombucha is a type of fermented tea applauded for its probiotic health benefits. This beverage finds itself in the same realm as kimchi and yogurt, which is to say that these are all products of the fermentation mechanism. Live cultures of bacteria are responsible for generating kombucha, meaning that upon ingestion of such a drink, you’re going to experience a repopulation of your gut microbiota. This signifies the introduction of a whole new cast of bacteria dedicated to promoting digestion and detox. I like to think of these guys as friendly little micro-fauna.
Making kombucha is something you can do at home. It's only a simple conversion of disaccharides to ethanol to acetic acid! Well, when put that way, this process actually seems a bit daunting. But really, it’s only a matter of establishing proper conditions for your friendly bacteria — they’ll be doing the majority of the work for you! The process of making kombucha is an interlinked cycle. As such, to make kombucha you will first need to buy some kombucha — such is the essence of the kombucha cycle.
Store-bought unflavored kombucha is a great place to recruit your micro-fauna, aka your starter culture of bacteria. In the kombucha business, the predominant bacterial culture is termed SCOBY, which is the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast which will act as the powerhouse — or “mother” — of all kombucha creation.
First, combine a cup of the unflavored store-bought kombucha with about seven cups of room-temperature black tea and half a cup of cane sugar. Cover the jar tightly with clothe and place it out of reach from direct sunlight — and potential SCOBY saboteurs — at room temperature for about two to four weeks. A slimy gel-like brown pancake will form, here is your SCOBY, or as some call it, “kombucha mushrooms.”
When you are ready to brew, place your newly-formed SCOBY into a new jar of all the aforementioned materials. Note that instead of black tea, you may now supplement the SCOBY with other tea types if desired. Also, honey or other flavoring agents may now be used for styling your kombucha. The fermentation process should take six to ten days. Through this process, SCOBY feeds on the sugar to produce ethanol which is then oxidized to acetic acid. So, it’s worth noting that halting the fermentation process early will yield results higher in alcohol content, while stopping it too late will lead to lower pHs and therefore a more acidic or sour taste. It is important to sample your kombucha throughout brewing to obtain optimal flavoring.
Those performing these fermentations should also note a SCOBY’s metabolism of sugar substrate releases carbon dioxide and will thereby increase the pressure within the jar. In other words, be wary of exploding kombucha bottles!
Moreover, successive kombucha fermentation allows for more opportunity in the field of flavoring and fine-tuning your product, so be sure to research alternative additives for flavor and aroma. And remember, following each successful kombucha fermentation, an additional layer will be added to your SCOBY. You may peel off this layer and offer it to a friend, thus continuing the glorious cycle of kombucha.