What I Learned From Trying (And Failing) To Make Kombucha

Kombucha remains a rather unknown beverage to many people. This fizzy and acidic drink is similar to a soda; yet kombucha is a tea fermented with a culture of bacteria and yeast that holds less than 1 percent of an alcohol content. Kombucha is also praised for its medicinal benefits. The carbonated beverage contains a concentration of essential nutrients: probiotics, antioxidants and B vitamins. Ginger kombucha even eases menstrual cramps and stomach pains. Kombucha is a miracle beverage, which is why I decided to make it myself. 

Kombucha 101

It’s not always love at first taste. I first tasted kombucha during my early years of college with the encouragement of my newfound friends, and the instantaneous zing of carbonation wholly turned me off. It wasn’t until six months ago that I gave it another try and fell in love. 

At the same time I realized my thirst for this beverage, I also discovered that kombucha maintains a rather high price tag at the supermarket. Nevertheless, I jumped feet first into the kombucha-brewing process as I silently cringed at the thought of a fermenting jar of tea in my pantry.

With a bit of exploration via the internet, I learned that a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) needs to be obtained first from a reliable source. The SCOBY or “mother” is vital to the brewing process because this culture creates the fermentation in kombucha. The SCOBY can either be created from an existing bottle of kombucha or you can acquire an already formed SCOBY. 


Kombucha Instructions (Following Brindle Southern Farms’ very specific instructions*)

1) Boil one gallon of filtered water, add a cup of sugar, and stir until dissolved off the heat.

2) Then steep 10 black or green tea bags for 20 minutes.

3) Allow the brewed tea to come to room temperature so as to not kill the SCOBY.  

4) Once cooled, add the tea to a one-gallon jar, add the SCOBY with the 1 ½ cup of starter tea, place a coffee filter or cheesecloth on top, and securely fasten with rubber bands.

5) Place the brewed tea jar in a dark, warm area for 7-10 days. If all goes well, a second or “baby” SCOBY should form on top of the “mother” SCOBY and the batch of kombucha will be ready to be enjoyed.

Lessons Learned

My first attempt at brewing kombucha wasn’t exactly a successful one. The fermented tea didn’t taste of that familiar sudsy, toe-tapping flavor; rather, it tasted of overwhelming, face-pinching vinegar. Inadvertently, I’d over-brewed this batch and it had slipped past the carbonation stage and had started to morph into vinegar.

After undertaking this brewing journey, I discovered that I wholly underestimated this massive experiment. It is extremely time-consuming and a little intimidating due to the huge possibility of mold. Luckily, mold didn’t form in my batch; however, the kombucha didn’t come to fruition either.

I also learned th20160618_124110at antibacterial soap can kill a SCOBY, which could be the reason for the thin “baby” SCOBY; instead, I should have used white distilled vinegar, which is an adequate substitute for sanitizing the necessary brewing equipment. Also, any contact with metal during the process creates harmful consequences to the brew.

I could also attribute my kombucha flop to possible overexposure to sunlight with the daily opening of the cupboard and fluctuating Pittsburgh temperatures. For fear of an invasion of fruit flies in the fermenting tea, I used three coffee filters to cover the mason jar that probably prevented sufficient airflow during the 10 days.

Admittedly, there are many detrimental factors involved in the process that I didn’t take into consideration. My “bit” of research before undertaking this project was exactly that, a bit. Despite this failure, I maintain my love for kombucha and look forward to a second attempt. 

Feeling up to the challenge? Tweet @LitDarling with your results and share any photos or tips of your own.

Helpful Kombucha Sites:

*These instructions are simplified for the article. Countless online sites provide extensive instructions if you choose to brew kombucha.

Image credit: https://www.kratomiq.com/

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