I will be posting a 3 blog series about kombucha so that as you progress you will have more ideas for your kombucha.
I don't really remember when I first learned about kombucha. I know when I was going through a divorce I lived in Jackson and became a member of the Ann Arbor Adventure Club which is also the the way I learned about meetup.com. For a year I was going to meetups every week and found some incredible people and great friends.
One of the meetups almost three years ago was a kombucha tasting at Unity Vibration in Ypsilanti. I went because my friend was the organizer and I thought “why not?”. I drove from Jackson and could not find the place. I was just about to turn around and go all the way back and I saw Jody waving me into a small industrial parking lot and then and only then could I see the company's sign.
I had not of kombucha before then.
So what is kombucha? It's fascinating! It's fermented tea. Sound simple but it is so much more than that.
First off you need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture or bacteria and yeast). This SCOBY can be bought (just Google it) or you might have a friend that will give you one. At my first Mid-Mitten Homemade Food Swap I was so surprised and excited to find that a swapper brought a SCOBY. Or you could grow your own from a unpasteurized kombucha that you bought as a drink (Unity Vibration is an example of an unpasteruized beverage sold in stores). I have grown my own and swapped for one but never ordered one online. Usually when they are ordered and shipped they will come in a liquid that was from the last batch of kombucha or “bucha”. You will need that liquid too because it will have the power to to start the fermentation process and possible grown yet another SCOBY.
So you have your SCOBY (however you got it) and now all you need is loose (real) tea, good quality water (filtered if possible) and sugar (the more refined the better). And you also need a big container, the best one has a spicket. That way you don't have to disturb the SCOBY when you want to taste on a daily basis towards the end of the fermentation. Once you start to brew more and more SCOBY's will be born leaving you with more and more options for boucha making. The recipe I use starts with 14 cups of water so I can use two really big 8 cups Ball jars. This type of Ball jar can be bought at my local Ace Hardware but you can also order them online.
So for the beginner kombucha recipe you only need the ingredients mentioned above. And patience. And the lack of fear to know that when you taste your kombucha you won't DIE! I have to say I was uncertain and a little freaked on about tasting my first batch. With all the bacteria and yeast could I KILL myself? What was I doing?
Let me tell you that common sense is the best way to not DIE! And seeing the SCOBY for the first time start to take over on the surface is WEIRD.
If you see a colored mold then throw it out. If you don't like the taste wait a little. If you see the SCOBY starting to grow don't get scared, that's what happens. If your SCOBY is floating on the top, or at the bottom or somewhere in the middle of your tea it's OK. Each time you place your SCOBY into a new batch it will act differently.
Once the taste is to your liking (and I know this will take time for you to figure out), decant into the bottles you would like to finish. I also fill a small plastic soda bottle so you can feel when carbonation is at the right point without having to open each bottle. Once the carbonation is right (your choice-- kinda fizzy, fizzy, super fizzy) and put the tea into the refrigerator to slow this process.
If you don't feel you are getting the carbonation you want then you can take a step in the carbonation of champagne process. Champagne is re-bottled in the process and when the bottles are changed some sugar is put into new bottles. This sugar and the alcohol will increase your carbonation. But be careful! Opening up a bottle that you added sugar could have worked so well that when you open it you lose half of your kombucha by way of explosion.
And remember....it's LIVING! So don't forget it about a bottle in the back of the refrigerator.
During the process if you have any questions please email or make a comment below. Have fun!