Make Your Own Kombucha For Cheap

Image via Omar de Armas

Kombucha fermenting. Image via Omar de Armas

This is a golden age of kombucha. It seems that every time I go to the supermarket, a new brand of kombucha has cropped up. It’s a wonder people can keep coming up with clever names for their brands!

Unfortunately, at around $3 a pop, kombucha can be expensive if you drink it regularly. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying kombucha–it’s easy (and cheap!) to make yourself. 

For those who have not been inducted into the world of kombucha, a quick introduction: it’s basically fermented tea. It’s a little bit bubbly like soda, and tastes a little bit like tea, but it’s lighter and more tangy than either of those beverages. If you haven’t had any, go out and buy a bottle to try!

There’s been some debate over health benefits of kombucha. Some say it’s a cure-all, others say it’s nothing but fermented sugar-water. I’ll let you make up your own mind on who’s right. However, it is probiotic, so if you’re looking to include more of that in your diet, kombucha is a good way to do it. 

In order to make it, you need what’s called a SCOBY–a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. If you know somebody who makes kombucha, they will likely have extras (SCOBY’s multiply like crazy). But if you don’t, it’s easy enough to make one yourself.

All you need is a bottle of unpasteurized kombucha, some tea, and a glass jar.

Before I tried to make my SCOBY, I read a bunch of articles that said you couldn’t do it this way anymore, because all kombucha is pasteurized nowadays. Anybody who’s had a bottle of kombucha with some mucus-y floaters in it will tell you that’s not true. The floater is a baby SCOBY trying to form in less-than-ideal conditions. Get yourself one of those, and you’ll have a happy, full grown SCOBY in two or three weeks. 

The brand that I used was Synergy. Like I said though, any unpasteurized kombucha will do. It should be labelled somewhere on the bottle–if it says raw or unpasteurized, you’re good. Don’t get a flavored kind, I’m not sure what that’ll do to the SCOBY, but you don’t want any more foreign ingredients than necessary. 

To jump-start the process, the SCOBY’ll need something to eat, so mix up a cup of strong black tea (use like 2 tea bags) and add a Tbsp or two of white, refined sugar. Then wait for the mixture to cool to room temperature.

After that, combine the kombucha and the sugary tea in a glass jar big enough to contain everything. Ceramic will work too, as long as it’s lead-free. Cover the opening of the jar up with something that’ll allow it to breath while keeping the flies out, like a kitchen towel or a coffee filter, and leave it undisturbed for two or three weeks. It’s important to not move the mixture, as that would interrupt the SCOBY from forming on the surface.

Soon, you’ll start to notice some white stuff forming on the top of the liquid that looks like this:

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A partially formed SCOBY

 That’s the SCOBY! Leave it until it’s completely white on top and around 1/4 of an inch thick and you’ll be ready to brew some kombucha!

A SCOBY ready to ferment some tea

A SCOBY ready to ferment some tea

Come back next week to learn how to use your new gelatinous mass to make kombucha tea!

Bianca is an almost-graduate of George Fox University. She is an amateur mycologist, fermento and pepperhead, and she could really go for a cup of coffee right about now.

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