Kombucha for beginners Getting started with kombucha

You’re probably reading this because someone has offered you a scoby. Don’t be put off by the look of it - the first time I saw one, I thought it looked like a brain that had been run over a couple of times! However, once you start brewing your own delicious kombucha you’ll become quite fond of the newest member of the family,

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that offers a refreshing alternative to both sugary sodas and alcoholic drinks. It has been made for many years, and much like ginger beer, relies on a mother, known as a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to provide fermentation. Brewing takes between one and three weeks, after which you bottle your kombucha. This provides a second ferment, and you can add any flavours you fancy; this is your chance to get creative!

Fresh, fizzy and fun

Kombucha is very easy to make, and requires little attention once set up. It’s also very forgiving if you find you get busy and can’t bottle a brew when it’s ready. Apart from your scoby, there are a few other things you’ll need:

A large glass jar - I use a Maxwell and Williams 6 litre candy jar, as it's sturdy, easy to clean and reasonably priced.

For bottling, I use mostly glass, and my favourites are Grolsch swing tops. It’s easy finding people to help you empty them. I’ve bought a few cheap plain ones, but the tops haven’t sealed well enough, so I stick with Grolsch now. Sodastream bottles also work well, as they can handle the pressure and are easy to clean. You’ll also need a funnel, seive, measuring jug and a square of muslin.

Once you have your equipment, the ingredients for your brew are very simple; water, tea and sugar. Tea can be bags or loose, brewed in a strainer.

In a large pot, simmer 4 - 6 teabags in 4 cups of water until you have a good strong brew - usually about 10 minutes. You can use any tea, but rooibos is my favourite.

Add 1 cup of sugar, stirring well until it’s dissolved. Then add 3 litres of cool water and 2 cups of starter tea. Poor this into your clean brewing jar, topping it off with your scoby. You can cut or tear your scoby to fit, and the surface area can affect how quickly your brew will ferment; a larger surface area offers more opportunity for fermentation. Cover the jar with a clean cloth, and find a nice spot on the bench where your brew won’t be in direct sunlight or in your way.

With the fermentation underway, you have a week or two to think about bottling and flavouring your kombucha.

Experiment with flavours according to the season

Here are a couple of my favourite combinations:

Lemon and ginger: Unwaxed lemon rind and sliced ginger root

Cucumber cooler: Cucumber peel, lemon peel and mint leaves

Elderflower in the pink: A good bunch of elderflowers and a few red currants

Very berry: Any mix of fresh berries

Spicy chai: Star anise and a cinnamon stick

Martina has also come up with a winner - grated beetroot, ginger and sultanas! Nice combination, Martina!

After a week or so, check your brew every day either by smell or by taste - it should smell very slightly vinegary, and when you taste it should should be a little tart, but pleasant. When you’re happy with the taste, it’s time to bottle your brew.

Make sure your bottles are really clean - I put my glass ones through the dishwasher, then stand them in the sink and pour boiling water over them. Drain and cool the bottles and lids, and add any flavourings you fancy. You’re now all set to go.

Carefully remove the scoby from the jar, and set it aside on a plate or similar. Save 2 cups of tea as the starter for your next brew; add this and your freshly-made brew to your jar, with your scoby on top. Cover as before, and your next brew is underway. Then on with the bottling.

Put a piece of muslin in a sieve over a clean jug or pot, and pour in your kombucha, straining out any lumpy or stringy bits. From here, use a funnel to fill your bottles, then seal well - this is important, as you want to have lots of bubbles! As kombucha can get a little feisty and try to get out of the bottle before you want it, I store the bottles in a plastic bin lined with a towel. I’ve only had one explosion, and this precaution saved me from a very big mess.

The last stage in the brewing process can take anything from a few days to a couple of weeks. Check your brew every few days, looking for bubbles around the top of the brew. Then be brave - pick a bottle, chill a little, and pop the top! Congratulations, you’re now a kombucha brewer!

Created By
Barbara Gilchrist


Created with images by Mateo Abrahan - "untitled image" • CookYourLife - "kombucha tea japan kombucha kombucha kombucha kombucha" • Jess Watters - "untitled image" • stecks05 - "pomegranate fruit open sympathy" • marker_photography - "ginger vegetables food ginger ginger ginger ginger" • rawpixel - "desktop background beverage" • Petrucy - "food fruit healthy" • Alex Loup - "Chia pudding" • silviarita - "leaf mint herb"

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