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How to make Kombucha

Kombucha SCOBY

The Kombucha SCOBY requires a new batch of sugar tea solution every 7 to 12 days. The culture time will depend on the size of your Kombucha scoby, the air temperature, and of course your preferred taste. The longer the Kombucha is left to ferment the tea, the more sour the taste.

It may take a few weeks to get to know your scoby and find your rhythm. Rule number 1, don’t panic. Fortunately it is not so easy to kill your scoby, they seem to be pretty resilient. However, heating them up and removing them from the tea solution will pretty much do it!

Feeding your Kombucha:

You need to make up a batch of new sugared tea solution with tea bags and sugar which you add to your jar of starter tea and scoby.

How to make up the sugar tea solution for a 3 quart (3 litre) jar:

Place your 4 tea bags and white sugar (1/2 cup) in a tempered glass or ceramic jug that can hold boiling water. Boil some water in your kettle and add to the sugar and tea. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 mins until the tea has finished drawing. Remove the tea bags. Add cold water (fluoride and chlorine fee) until you have about 6 cups of total sugar tea and water solution. Add a solution of Himalayan mineral salt drops which you make up as follows:

¼ tsp Himalayan salt dissolved in 1 tbsp water.

Once the new sugar tea solution has cooled to room temperature, add it to the jar with the starter tea and scoby. Place the coffee filter back over the jar opening and secure with an elastic band. Write the date on a piece of paper and stick onto the jar with some sellotape. Or punch a hole in the paper, put an elastic band through the hole and secure over the coffee filter. This will help you remember how many days the new sugar tea solution has been fermenting for.

Leave to stand for approximately 7 to 12 days. Start checking the taste of the Kombucha from about the 6th or 7th day. If it is still too sweet then leave it for longer. Keep checking every day until you get the right balance to suit your taste. It should not be too sweet and not too sour. This may take a bit of trial and error at first until you get the hang of it. You can check the taste by removing the coffee filter and using a plastic straw to take a sip. Never use any metal or stainless steel equipment for the Kombucha as this can damage the bacteria. When you feel the Kombucha tea is ready, then pour out the tea into a second glass jar or some bottles. You need to leave behind at least a cup of the fermented tea which you will use as the starter tea. You can either drink it as it is or you can flavour the tea for 24 hours – known as a second ferment.

Some examples of flavours you can do are ginger, raspberries, lemons or apples. You could also flavour with fruit juices. Once fermented for 24 – 48 hours, remove the fruit or roots or herbs you have used to flavour the Kombucha and bottle and keep refrigerated. The Kombucha can become fizzy due to it’s natural carbonation. Be careful when storing in an airtight glass bottle in case the pressure builds up. Many people use swing top bottles which allow you to pop the top open to release the pressure and then reseal.

Ingredients to use:

White sugar
Organic black tea (you can get from Pick n Pay)
Organic green tea (you can get from Dischem-eg Eve’s Organic Green tea) or

Organic green rooibos tea (you can get from Dischem)
There is insufficient nutrients in the green tea and rooibos tea on their own. You need to mix these teas with the black tea. For example 2 tea bags black tea and two tea bags either green tea or rooibos tea.

Water without fluoride or chlorine (Filtered water or you can distil water by boiling it and leaving to cool the day before you make up the new batch of sugar water).

Summary of amount of ingredients for your 3 quart jar:
4 tea bags
½ cup white sugar
1 cup starter tea (tea left over from your previous ferment)
Approximately 6 to 7 cups of water

Sugar tea solution for a 1 quart (litre) jar:

2 tea bags
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup starter tea (tea left over from your previous ferment)
Approximately 3 to 4 cups of water

Where to keep your Kombucha:

Kombucha likes to be kept fairly warm (but not too hot). It seems to prefer a light area (as opposed to a dark cupboard or corner) but not direct sunlight. Try out a light area on the counter top in your kitchen in a warm corner where it is least likely to be disturbed. I have found that the Kombucha in my kitchen enjoys a spot right next to my stove. Finding the right spot can entail a bit of trial and error. Keep away from compost, garbage, cat box and plants).

Baby scoby and yeast:

Don’t be alarmed if you see a cloudy layer forming on top. The mother scoby may either float on the surface of the sugar-tea or it may sink. It may even sit sideways. Either is fine. Usually if it sits on the surface the new baby scoby will form and join to the mother scoby. This is also fine. If the mother scoby sinks and a new baby scoby forms on the surface, you can remove it when you add your new batch of tea and either throw it away or you can start a new ferment in a second jar with it. Being smaller, it will take longer to ferment the sugar-tea but it will still work. Again if it sits on the surface it will thicken over time.

If you see dark stringy bits hanging off the scoby or floating in the tea these are most likely bits of yeast. It is fine to see a few of these. You can drink them or sieve them out if you prefer.

If you notice a patch of mold on your Kombucha scoby then you need to turf it out. The mold will be white or colourful, fuzzy and dry. It can cover the entire scoby or appear as spots. If your scoby turns black, it is dead and you need to chuck it out or on the compost heap!