Making Three Quarts of Kombucha
This brief overview of our method is based on considerable research and experience–we began in 1993. We endeavor to be clear while avoiding too much lecturing about our preferred ways.
We look at Kombucha preparation as being similar to caring for a pet or maintaining a compost pile: after all, when we “make” kombucha, what we are really doing is managing a group of creatures, in this case a symbiosis of bacteria and yeasts. They will thrive when we create optimal conditions for them. What they care about most are the temperature and the nutrients (sugar and tea). As Kombucha researcher Michael Roussin puts it, Kombucha seems to have memory: it likes to do what it has done. For this reason, we strive for consistency in all aspects of the preparation.
1. Wash your hands and fingernails carefully. Rinse well to remove all soap.
2. Heat one quart water in a stainless steel pan. Over-boiling drives off needed dissolved oxygen. Since we use green tea, we aim for 170°. Yes, the quality of the water matters.
3. Add 15 grams tea, about 3 tablespoons, or 7 teabags. Steep 10 minutes, then remove tea. Steeping time is a matter of judgement, as are so many things about kombucha. We prefer green tea, but any real tea (camellia sinesis) works. (If you are making a bigger recipe, we recommend using 6 grams tea per liter.)
4. Stir in one scant cup “white” sugar. We use the least-refined sugar, known as evaporated cane juice. (If scaling up, we recommend 70 grams/liter.)
5. Add two more quarts water and allow to cool to room temperature (or at least below 85°). Letting it sit too long increases risk of contamination.
6. Pour tea into a wide-mouth container that will not be affected by acetic acid. One gallon glass pickle jars work well. Food grade HDPE #2, is OK, as are crocks without lead glaze.
7. Add 1¼ cup Kombucha tea from an earlier batch – the rule-of-thumb is 10% of the volume of tea – in order to quickly acidify the brew. This gets the batch off to a quicker start and protects it from mold infection. Vinegar will work, too; but use only pasteurized vinegar.
8. Add the Kombucha colony. In our experience, the colony prefers not to be refrigerated between batches.
9. Cover the container with a piece of tightly woven fabric (we now use cotton) and secure it with a rubber band to keep out fruit flies, dust, and other airborne contaminants. Fruit flies can be a real nuisance but (likely) do no harm.
10. Ideal container location has several parameters.
- Warmth: 78°-80° (An acceptable range seems to be 74° to 84°. Do not expect success below 68°.)
- We used to say “keep out of the light;” now we caution against strong sunlight.
- Better if it can remain undisturbed.
- Cigarette smoke seems to be a problem.
11. Fermentation time depends on temperature. Ours is ready in 7 days at 78°-80°. In cooler temperatures it will take longer.
12. After about a week, take a small taste. When it becomes slightly tart but is still a little sweet, it’s time to bottle. Remove the kombucha colony and the new baby colony that will have formed on the surface of the tea. Place them on a clean plate. Everyone agrees, handle them with care.
13. If you wish to bottle it, pour the tea into glass bottles that can be tightly capped, leaving some airspace. This is an opportunity to develop effervescence. Care is warranted because it is possible to develop enough pressure to break the bottles. Other procedures are possible here.
14. To make another batch, start again at step 2. You may add both the kombucha mother and the baby.
15. We store the bottles at cool room temperature for a spell, say a week if it’s 70° or two weeks if the temperature is 60°. After that, store them in a cooler place to stabilize microbial activity. Refrigeration is fine but not necessary. Kombucha is about pH 3.0–very acid–and, in our experience, will not spoil.
16. The question often arises: “How much should I drink?” Consumption recommendations vary considerably, starting at about two ounces per day.
- The kombucha guy I currently trust the most says between four and eight ounces a day would be prudent.
- Following the research we did when we started, I drink what we considered a maintenance amount of four ounces at each meal.
- A man who used kombucha as part of an overall therapeutic program for Parkinson’s and prostate cancer drank a “curative” eight ounces per meal.
Seattle, Washington Communi-Tea Kombucha firstname.lastname@example.org
edited October 15, 2011