How I Make Kombucha

This has been a very busy week for us. 

We spent an afternoon visiting with a good friend and looking at his cattle.  From his herd we have picked out four or five bred heifers that will be coming to live at our farm soon.  We also anticipate purchasing a few yearling heifers from him.  All these new girls will be added to our resident herd of grass-fed cattle so we can continue to supply our customers with high quality, all-natural, non-GMO, grass-fed beef.

Also this week we were invited to participate as local producers in one of a number of roundtable meetings held by the Alberta government throughout the province.  Discussions revolved around defining "local food", establishing an Alberta organic regulation, strengthening food safety requirements, proclamation of a "Local Food Week" and establishing goals and targets for future priority areas.  There was lively discussion around each item.  I would say that the definite focus of the group was on the organic regulation and the future priority areas with high emphasis placed on deregulation for small on-farm producers providing direct to consumer products.  It will be interesting to see if the government decision makers will actually take any of the suggestions into serious consideration.

Beside the daily routine of tending to animals and all the other needs of the farm and household this week was also the week to bottle the pre-fermented kombucha and start a new batch.  

We have been drinking kombucha at just about every meal for about three years now.  Our consumption usually increases in the summer time when the temperatures rise.  We especially like to take a bottle with us in the tractor when we are haying.  We thoroughly enjoy it for its taste and for the health benefits that we can reap from it.  If you want to find out more about the health benefits just do a google search.  There is a ton of good information out there.

So let's get started on the process that I use.  The basic measurements for one gallon of kombucha are 2 cups water, 1 cup organic cane sugar and 1/4 cup loose organic black tea (or 4 tea bags).

My big pot of black tea

My big pot of black tea

I start out by brewing a big pot of tea.  Since I am up to making six gallons at a time right now I will bring 12 cups of water and 6 cups of cane sugar to a boil.  Then I add 1 1/2 cup black tea.  I usually make my tea the day before I complete the rest of the process, but you can do it the same day just allow the tea to steep for a good half hour.  You are making a concentrate so it should be really strong.

Gallon jars filled with pre-fermented kombucha ready for bottling

Gallon jars filled with pre-fermented kombucha ready for bottling

Now I take my jars of pre-fermented kombucha and remove the scoby that will be floating on each jar.  Place them all in a bowl for use in the new batch.  Then I remove one cup of kombucha from each jar and set aside.  This will also be used in the new batch.

Scobies waiting to be divided and used in the new batch

Scobies waiting to be divided and used in the new batch

Reserved kombucha waiting for the next batch

Reserved kombucha waiting for the next batch

Now I am ready to start bottling.  I strain the kombucha as I am bottling it to remove any bits of scoby that are left in the gallon jar.  I use 1 Litre size flip-top bottles for the second ferment.  These have worked the best for us.  If we don't finish a jar we can reseal it to maintain its carbonation.

Set up to strain kombucha for bottling

Set up to strain kombucha for bottling

Now for the fun part.  Flavoring your kombucha.  I have used many different things to flavor my kombucha; orange peel, fresh strawberries, blueberries or hascaps, sassafrass, cinnamon, ground rosehips, dried elderberries to name a few.  This winter I am using fruit juices that I made last summer and fall from fruit we harvested locally.  Today I am using a mixture of rhubard, chokecherry and apple juice.  I combine all three one-quart jars of juice and then divide between my six  one-gallon jars.

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I use a small funnel when filling the jars.  This helps to keep the outsides clean.  I fill the bottles to within 1 to 1 1/2 inches of the top.  Then seal and set them aside.

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I will leave the sealed jars on the counter for the second ferment.  This will take three to four days depending how warm it is.  I have left them a couple days longer because I forgot about them, but this is not a good idea.  I have had the bottom of the bottle break off because of too much pressure build up.  Once I close them up I take a wet erase marker and mark the date when the second ferment will be finished on the lid of one of the bottles.  This has alleviated my having to remember the date. 

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Now it is time to start your next batch.  I take my strainer that I was using when I was bottling the last batch of kombucha and strain my tea concentrate into my now empty gallon jars.  Then I divide the tea evenly between each jar; in this case six jars.  

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Now divide your reserved kombucha evenly between the jars.  Then add one scoby to each of the jars.  Because they "grow" a new layer with each batch this is the time that I will divide off any of the older ones, leaving about two layers.  I give the old scobies to the laying hens.  They love them.  Now I fill each jar to the shoulder with cold tap water.  If you fill them too full the new scoby will not develop very well.  The more surface area you have for it to grow on the better it will be.

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Now I replace the cloth cover and elastic over each jar and put in the cupboard I have reserved to doing the first ferment.  After this sits for ten days it is time to start all over again.  I mark the date when it will be ready for bottling on my calendar so I don't forget.  It is not a big deal if it goes a couple of extra day.  If it goes too long though it will become more like vinegar.

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Once you get into the routine of making kombucha it doesn't take that long.  This whole process took me about an hour and a half which includes the steeping time.  If we run out of bottled kombucha before the first ferment in completed on the next batch I know that I have to add another gallon jar into the rotation.  I simply add another cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of tea leaves to the next pot of tea concentrate. 

I hope you have fun with this and enjoy this wonderful beverage.  We love drinking it and making it at home.  It is so simple and saves us so much money.

If you have a question please feel free to leave me a comment below.  I do reply to all comments.