If you or a friend are into health crazes, you may be familiar with a refreshingly fizzy and slightly sour beverage called kombucha. But for those who are not, you may have never heard of it.
Kombucha is a sugary tea fermented with the help of a SCOBY — a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Though the SCOBY can look and sound a bit scary, it’s simply a jelly-like pancake that fuels itself with the sugar and ferments the tea.
Kombucha has been around for over 2,000 years, traditionally consumed in ancient China and referred to as “Immortal Health Elixir.” However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that kombucha finally reached the United States.
Where to buy
- Temple of Zeus has kombucha on tap from kombucha manufacturer Aqua Vitea. This is my favorite place to get kombucha on campus! They carry flavors such as blood orange, blueberry, turmeric and strawberry sage.
- Terrace has a few bottles in stock, with flavors such as hibiscus lime.
- Greenstar carries many different brands — I’d recommend the brand Buchi in either their “Fire” or “Water” flavors.
- CTB also carries Buchi.
- Wegmans has many different brands, and you can even buy in bulk.
If you’re obsessed with kombucha like I am, your habit could become an expensive one, considering each bottle ranges from $3-5. Instead of purchasing kombucha at high prices, try brewing your own at home! Brewing kombucha is quite simple and can save you a lot of money in the long run.
How to brew:
Yields: 1 gallon
- Gallon-sized glass jar
- Distilled vinegar for washing
- Glass bottles
- Tightly woven cloth or paper towels to cover jar
- Rubber band
- 2 tbsp green or black loose leaf tea (or 6 tea bags)*
- 12 cups water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups starter tea from previous batch or store-bought** kombucha
- 1 SCOBY (can be purchased online)
- Additional flavorings (freeze-dried or fresh fruit, juice, spices, herbs, etc.)***
* Avoid using flavored teas such as earl grey, as the oils can interfere with the SCOBY.
** The store-bought kombucha must be neutral, without any flavorings (GT brand offers a plain kombucha). If you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar may be substituted.
*** I like freeze-dried raspberries, ginger, lemon juice and mango puree. Sugar plays a major role in the production of CO2 if you want a bubbly kombucha.
- Wash your hands and the brewing equipment thoroughly with warm water and distilled vinegar.
- Boil 4 cups of water in a pot, then turn off the heat.
- Steep the tea in the hot water for 20 minutes.
- Strain the tea, then stir in sugar to dissolve. Remember that the sugar is fuel for the SCOBY, and without enough, the kombucha will not properly ferment. At the end of fermentation, there will be about 2-6 grams of sugar per 8 oz glass of kombucha.
- Add 8 cups of water to your pot to cool the mixture down, then pour into a fermentation jar.
- Allow the tea to cool below 100 degrees, taking the temperature with a thermometer.
- Add the starter tea and SCOBY.
- Cover the jar with a cloth and secure in place with a rubber band.
- Place your jar in a warm environment between 72 and 80 degrees, out of direct sunlight.
- Let sit and ferment for 7 — 10 days; your time may vary based on temperature, water quality and taste preference.
- Taste periodically with a straw. It should taste tart and slightly sweet.
- When you decide that your kombucha is ready for bottling, use the funnel to pour the kombucha into the glass bottles, reserving about 2 cups for the next batch of kombucha.
- Add the flavorings directly to the bottles and cap them. Leave about half an inch of head room in each bottle. The carbon dioxide will build up during secondary fermentation to give you a bubbly kombucha.
- Allow the sealed bottles to ferment at room temperature for 3 — 7 days. Be careful not to let the bottles ferment too long, otherwise the glass bottles will explode from too much pressure. Consider filling one plastic bottle with kombucha at the same time as filling the glass bottles. When the plastic bottle is tight and pressurized, you can assume that it has the same amount of carbonation as your glass bottles.
- When you decide your kombucha is ready, store the bottles in the refrigerator. These will keep for weeks — kombucha doesn’t necessarily expire, but can continue fermenting at a very slow rate in the fridge.
- For your next batch, repeat the whole process.