Project Description

Hier geht’s zur deutschen Version.

I’ve enjoyed the taste of kombucha for a long time and used to buy it regularly in the US, before moving to Berlin in 2009. I was disappointed at the plastic bottled, unrefrigerated, pasturized “kombucha” on sale at drug stores here, and occasionally flirted with the thought of brewing my own, but complacency prevented me from taking further action.

Fast forward to 2016. When fresh, live kombucha started appearing on the shelf between the Club Mate and local artisanal craft IPAs of my Späti of choice, I was inspired to act. Twelve months of research, experiments and brewing-fun later, I’m drinking my own, home brewed kombucha almost everyday. I don’t know if it’s made me healthier, and I don’t much care. It’s fun to make and fun to drink, and the SCOBY is a delight to pass around at dinner parties.

In my search for a good basic kombucha recipe, I stumbled across a wide variety of methods and instructions. I took what I thought made sense from a variety of sources and started playing around with it. It’s been an incredibly satisfying and largely successful adventure so far, and I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

I ordered my first SCOBY from Fairment. I did set up a scoby hotel after the first few brews, but found this kind of unnecessary, as I’m always starting the next brew when flavouring the previous one. In the one instance when I’ve had a bad brew (flies, so gross), a friend set me up with a new kombucha. I find this to be one of the added benefits of brewing my own kombucha: I quickly found a handful of people I know who also brew, and love to geek out on impromptu tastings, sharing ideas, etc.

Before beginning, ensure you have the following:

  • two 5 litre glass jars with removable canning lids
  • a fine meshed sieve
  • some strong rubber bands
  • a couple of cotton cloths (I use cloth napkins)
  • empty beer bottles with flip tops (Bügelflaschen)
  • a bottle of unflavoured white vinegar (I use the really strong triple stuff) for disinfecting utensils, rinsing out bottles, etc.
  • a funnel that’s ideally used only for kombucha (certainly never for oils)
  • a dark closet

My basic recipe yields a about 4 litres of kombucha.

For the first fermentation, you’ll need:

  • 3 1/2 litres of water
  • 200 g plain white or raw cane sugar
  • 2-3 Tbs. green, black or oolong tea
  • 1/2 litre plain kombucha*
  • a scoby

*Tip: if you order your first scoby from Fairment, it will be delivered in 500 ml of plain kombucha, which you can use for your first brew.

Instructions:

  1. In a large pot, bring the water (3 1/2 litres) to a full boil.
  2. Remove from heat and with a very clean wooden spoon, stir in the sugar (200 g) and tea (2-3 Tbs.)
  3. Let the tea brew for about 15 minutes. Strain into a disinfected glas jar and let the tea cool to room temperature. This will take a few hours.
  4. Once the tea has cooled, add the scoby and plain kombucha. Cover with a cloth and seal with a strong rubber band.
  5. Let the kombucha brew for 2-4 weeks in a dark place. This takes longer in the winter than in the summer and is dependent on personal preference – how strong you like it. I recommend looking in on the brew once a week or so and tasting it. As long as your hands are clean, you can touch the scoby. I’ve even read somewhere that it likes the addition of some new good bacteria.

At this point, the kombucha is ready to be enjoyed, if you like it plain. I prefer it flavoured and sparkling. Creating an effervescent beverage in your closet is so satisfying, I highly recommend it. There are lots of recipes online and you can experiment freely on your own. I love the ginger-ale taste I get from second fermentations that include ginger, and find that the sweetness of the orange juice/lemongrass balance out the sour taste of the natural kombucha just a bit. Here are my favourite flavourings for the second fermentation:

Orange-Ginger:

  • 3 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 400 ml orange juice – fresh squeezed is nice, store bought works just as well

Lemongrass-Ginger:

  • 3 inches of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 bunch (6-7 stalks) of lemongrass, cleaned, cut into thirds and sliced in half

Instructions for the second fermentation:

  1. Pour the scoby and 1/2 litre of plain kombucha out of the jar for your next brew.
  2. Add the flavouring ingredients and seal the jar.
  3. Let the kombucha ferment again in the same dark place for at least two days and up to a week. Burp the jar every few days to release the pressure that’s building up as a result of the carbonation.
  4. Remove the large ginger and lemongrass pieces and strain the rest into disinfected bottles, with the help of a funnel, leaving at least three centimetres of space at the top, so the fizz can build up.
  5. Burp the bottles every few days. This will prevent them from exploding. To do this, place a tea towel over the bottle and quickly release the lid, so that the built up carbon dioxide can escape. I’ve never had a bottle literally explode, but I have wiped kombucha goo and ginger strings off the walls when not using the tea towel.
  6. Best enjoyed chilled.
  7. Prost!