#59 – Kombucha!

#59 – Kombucha!

This is Recipe Roundup, episode 59. Today will be more of a rant and rave than a recipe because I am going to be talking about Kombucha. 


Kombucha can be a divisive subject – some people love it, some hate it. I understand that fermented tea is not going to be appealing to everyone. But I believe some of the polarity of this subject comes from experiences with commercial kombucha. Even as someone who was ‘booch positive, when I started making my own, it was a completely different experience. My partner has almost completely replaced his Dr. Pepper habit with our homemade kombucha – sparing himself a good amount of sugar with the benefit of probiotics!


Kombucha is a fermented tea that can be flavored in many different ways. It is made with a large floppy disc called a SCOBY – which stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” It is a gelatinous cellulose biofilm caused by the bacteria of the culture. Though the SCOBY itself can be consumed, today we are just going to focus on the tea that it makes.  I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Allegheny Mountain Radio’s very own Jake Hyer for giving me the SCOBY that all of my kombucha has been made from. Jake – it has changed my life! While this won’t be an exact guide to making kombucha, I do want to share the general process. 


The most common way of starting a kombucha journey is by receiving a SCOBY from someone you know! Like sourdough starter, continuous culturing makes SCOBY and easy thing to share within your community. You can also purchase SCOBY online. And you can create your own with certain brands of commercial kombucha, by adding it to a sweetened tea mixture and waiting for that flabby disc to form. Once you have a SCOBY, you are ready to go. 


The First Fermentation

I personally make my kombucha by the gallon. I’ve experimented with green and black teas – green is mild with a fresh flavor, while black teas serve as a nice base flavor for anything you might want to add in. Stay away from non-caffeinated teas, herbal teas, or flavored teas. You only want to use plain black or green tea – or a mix! 


Boil a gallon of water, steep your tea, and mix in at least a cup of white sugar. Allow the tea to cool completely before pouring it into a gallon jar with the SCOBY. Cover with a clean dishcloth held in place by string or a rubber band.  And then wait! Examine your SCOBY as you wait – there will be many different colors, but if you see blue or green, or anything fuzzy rather than smooth, you may need to dispose of your experiment and try again. I like to do this first fermentation for about two weeks, but taste your kombucha every couple of days until you reach the flavor you prefer. At that point, you can go ahead and enjoy the drink or add flavors for a second fermentation.


The Second Fermentation

If you want very fizzy kombucha, the culture needs more sugar to break down. This is the perfect time to add fruit or juice to flavor it! My personal favorites are apple, blackberry, and peach. Even when I’m using whole fruit, I personally prefer to juice, mash, or otherwise process the fruit into a puree or juice as this cuts down on how much I will have to strain out later. I use 750ml bottles with clasp tops that can easily be “burped” everyday to release excess carbon dioxide that is building up. When my kombucha reaches the point of making a lovely POP sound when I burp them, I know I can go ahead and put them in the fridge to cool and calm the fermentation. Then strain if needed and enjoy it cold! 

If you are looking for more information on kombucha, I’ve learned a lot from liveeatlearn.com! If you are in need of a SCOBY I currently have a few to spare on a first come first serve basis! Reach out by email, sage@amrmail.org.


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