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A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Homemade Kombucha

By now, we all know the benefits of probiotics: balanced gut bacteria, a boosted immune system, and less bloat, for starters. And now that there's a huge focus in the news on digestive health, there's a resurgence of probiotic waters and juices. But if that $5-per-bottle kombucha habit is getting expensive, try this recipe from The Roasted Root to make homemade kombucha. Below is everything you need to know, from the confusing terminology (like, um, WTF is SCOBY?) to each and every step in the brewing process. Once you have the base down, it's easy to experiment with flavor combos to find the mix-and-match you love best.

How to Make Homemade Kombucha

Tools

  • Large pot
  • 1 or 2-gallon glass jug/container
  • Stick-on or floating thermometer
  • Cheesecloth and rubber band
  • Glass, sealable bottles (such as flip cap bottles)

Ingredients

  • 1 kombucha SCOBY (you can purchase online or grow your own by following steps below)
  • 1 gallon spring water (don't use water from your faucet because it likely has chlorine or fluoride in it)
  • 10 black or green tea bags (whichever you prefer)
  • 1 cup organic cane sugar
  • 1 cup 100% fruit juice (optional, for flavoring)

Step 1: Brew the Tea

In a large pot, heat the gallon of spring water until boiling, then remove from heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 15 minutes and remove the bags. Add the sugar and stir well. (Whatever you do, don't skip this step, as the SCOBY grows and ferments from the sugar—more on this in step 2).

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Step 2: Add the SCOBY

SCOBY, or Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, is the ingredient that transforms tea into kombucha through a sugar fermentation process (which you started in Step 1 when you added the sugar). After your tea is done steeping and has cooled to 75-80 degrees, transfer to a glass jug and add the SCOBY that's now grown. Place the thermometer in the jug, cover with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band.

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Step 3: Allow to Ferment

Place the jug in a dark, slightly warm environment (like a closet) and allow to brew for 7-10 days. The ideal temperature is between 75-80 degrees; any higher and you risk developing mold. (Below is what a healthy SCOBY looks like. If you begin to see mold similar to bread mold, throw the batch away and start again.) Your SCOBY will continue to grow in size—this is normal—but if it starts to become overgrown cut a few slices off to keep it healthy. After 7-10 days, your kombucha is complete—the longer you let it brew, the stronger the taste. 

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Step 4: Remove the SCOBY

Now that your kombucha is done, slice the SCOBY off and place in a glass jug with enough kombucha to barely cover it, then cover the jug with cheesecloth. Let the SCOBY sit until you are ready to make another batch. If you like the taste as is, pour the kombucha into sealed glass bottles and place in the refrigerator until ready to drink. A batch typically lasts 3-5 days once the seal is broken.

NOTE: Steps 5-6 are optional, but often followed to develop more flavor within the kombucha. 

Step 5: Flavor the Kombucha

If you'd like to add more flavor to your kombucha, pour into a mixing bowl and add one cup of 100% fruit juice, or one cup fresh fruit and half-cup cane sugar. Stir, then divide into glass, sealable bottles. Place in the dark room where you grew your SCOBY and leave for three days. 

Step 6: Strain and Serve

After three days of fermentation, strain out any additional pieces of SCOBY that grew. Pour kombucha into sealed bottles and place in fridge until ready to drink. Be careful upon opening—the carbonation builds pressure in the bottles similar to shaken soda.

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For 75 more homemade, naturally fermented recipes, check out Julia Mueller's book Delicious Probiotic Drinks.