How to Make Kombucha – a Healthy Sparkling Fermented Beverage
When I first met CT, I was intrigued by the bowls of bubbling brown liquid lying around his flat. They had a pleasant fruity tangy aroma emanating from them and were covered with what looked to be some kind of large flat mushroom. This was my introduction to kombucha.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a nutrient rich fermented drink which probably originated in China. It has certainly been consumed there for thousands of years and is well established in Japan, Eastern Europe and Russia too. It turns tea and sugar into something that tastes like a good vintage of sparkling apple juice. This seeming miracle is enabled by a scoby, a sort of thick skinned fungal-bacterial symbiosis. SCOBY actually stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. As the scoby digests the sugar, it forms various beneficial acids, B & C vitamins, enzymes and probiotics. Kombucha is said to boost the immune system, be good for gut health and have a whole host of other benefits.
We used to make kombucha regularly and it became an embedded activity in our lives. We’d have a glass every day and felt better for it. It also meant we had a refreshing and delicious drink on hand to offer visitors. Sadly, following a number of house moves, we lost the scoby and the habit. Until Mortier Pilon came to my rescue, I hadn’t made or drunk any kombucha for over a decade.
Mortier Pilon makes the most beautiful glass vessels for brewing kombucha. If you’ve got a large container sitting somewhere in your home, it sort of matters that it looks good. The Mortier Pilon kombucha crock is not only stylish, it’s also very practical. We used a variety of bowls and jars when we were making kombucha all those years ago and trying to remove the scoby and get the liquid out was really quite a messy process. This wonder crock has a tap at the bottom so you can easily extract the liquid and the scoby doesn’t have to be removed at all.
Kombucha needs to breathe whilst it’s fermenting, so you can’t use screw top lids or cover your bowls with plates. A lid is needed to keep out dust, but it must be a porous one. Mortier Pilon have this covered. There is a large screw top, so it’s easy to fill the crock and remove the scoby if needed, but it has a clever aperture in it, on which sits a porous lid which allows free flow of air. And it’s a very attractive lid too.
It’s really quite easy to start making kombucha. Full instructions come with the jar, though you will need to order the scoby separately. Kombucha typically takes from a week to a fortnight to ferment, depending on the ambient conditions and how sweet or sour you like your drink. Once fermented, the kombucha can be consumed immediately or bottled. The drink has a slight fizz to it when consumed straight aways, but when bottled it gets much fizzier. The Mortier Pilon instructions say to add a little more sugar at the bottling stage to increase the fizz, but I’ve found this unnecessary. I’d rather not add more sugar than is needed.
There are a few things to remember. The scoby is sensitive to some chemicals including chlorine and essential oils. It’s therefore best to use organic tea if you can and make sure your water is filtered. Use unscented black tea to begin with and never Earl Grey. It’s not like me to promote white sugar, but it really is best to use pure white sugar for kombucha, not golden or brown or honey or anything else. There’s a handy little how to make kombucha video on the Mortier Pilon site.
Once you’ve got your scoby growing well and you’re producing a drink you’re happy with, you can start experimenting with your kombucha. In the past we found that using half black and half green tea gave a nice result. At the bottling stage, you can add fruit slices or juice, herbs or spices. Raspberries are a particularly nice addition. The fermentation jar can also be used to make tibi otherwise known as water kefir. This is something we often make as a refreshing summer drink and I can see how the crock would would be so much better than the jar we currently use.
If you forget about your kombucha and find it’s gone too sour, just leave it for an additional couple of weeks. You’ll find that you’ve made your own vinegar and a very nice vinegar it is too. I use it almost exclusively now for salad dressings. Once you’ve syphoned the vinegar off, just carry on as normal.
How to Make Kombucha
- 1 litre filtered water
- 3 organic black tea bags
- 110 g white sugar
- scoby & a little of the kombucha from where it came
- 3 litres unfiltered water
- 5 organic black tea bags
- 450 g white sugar
- Sterilise your Mortier Pilon fermentation jar by washing with hot soapy water, then rinsing or running it through a dishwasher.
- Place the teabags in a large teapot or jug.
- Boil the water and pour over the teabags.
- Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
- Leave to brew and cool to room temperature.
- Pour into the fermentation jar and add the scoby and kombucha liquid.
- Screw on the lid and add the porous cover.
- Leave at room temperature for 3-5 days.
- Make sweetened tea as above, but use the larger quantities stipulated.
- Allow to cool to room temperature.
- Use a long handled spoon to push the scoby to one side and pour in the tea.
- Leave to ferment at room temperature for 7-14 days, depending on how sweet / sour you like the drink. Test after 7 days and then just keep trying until you have something you like.
- The kombucha should have a slight fizz to it.
- Using the tap at the bottom, pour 2/3 of the kombucha into flip top bottles. The longer you leave them, the fizzier the drink is likely to get.
Repeat the primary fermentation process.
The scoby needs to acclimatise to its new environment, hence needing a starting up stage.
The scoby can be stored in a glass jar with some of the kombucha in the fridge.
Mortier Pilon sell a range of high-end fermentation glassware designed to make fermenting more accessible to the home user. The company is based in Montreal, Canada, but has recently launched in the UK. Their products are very reasonably priced. We bought a sauerkraut earthenware pot a few years ago which I remember being very expensive. A Mortier Pilon one costs £34. The kombucha fermentation jar costs £39. They are available via a range of outlets, including John Lewis and Amazon.
Other recipes for fermented foods you might like
- Beet kvass via Tin and Thyme
- How to make kefir and what to do with it via Tin and Thyme
- Making sauerkraut via Real Food Lover
- Vegan kimchi via Thinly Spread
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Thanks to Mortier Pilon for commissioning this post. I was not expected to write a positive review and all opinions are, as always, my own. Thanks to my readers for supporting the brands that help to keep Tin and Thyme blythe and blogging.