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Learn how to make kombucha at home with our easy tips and tricks. We've got some fruity flavoured recipes for this refreshing fermented drink
Tangy, funky and fizzy, kombucha is a fermented, sweetened tea that’s exploded in popularity recently as drinkers embrace its distinctive sour yet refreshing flavour – whether as a grown-up alternative to sickly sweet soft drinks, or as a versatile cocktail ingredient.
What was once a niche beverage usually only found in health food shops is now made by multinational brands and craft producers alike. It can be found in supermarkets, cafés, bars and newsagents across the country.
But getting hold of really good kombucha can be tricky. Some brands are weak tasting or oversweetened, while those that do deliver that crucial funky-sour kick can become an expensive habit.
Good job, then, that making your own ‘booch’ is easy and affordable. Most ingredients can be found at the supermarket, there’s minimal specialist kit needed and, once you’ve got the knack of it, there are endless ways to experiment – whether it’s playing around with different tea varieties or adding fruits, herbs and spices for flavour.
'SCOBY' stands for a 'symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast'. This is a wide disk-shaped symbiotic culture which acts as a surface for fermentation to take place. It facilitates the process of sweet sugary tea being converted to kombucha. It generally floats at the top of a kombucha batch, but do not worry if yours sinks to the bottom, it is still active.
The cheapest method is to ask anyone you knows who makes kombucha, as they’re likely to have new scobys that they can donate to you. Otherwise, you can either attend a course where they provide scobys or buy one online. The scoby should survive a trip through the postal system without problem, but it is a good idea to get it into a solution of fresh tea at the earliest opportunity.
Your first scoby, it should come with some 'starter liquid', which will be added to the first batch. This liquid is very important as it contains not only a large quantity of bacteria and yeast but also a lot of acid which helps create the right environment for the next batch.
4. Fine sieve
Put the sugar and 1 litre of just-boiled water into a pan and heat, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the tea bags and leave to infuse for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the teabags and leave the tea to cool completely.
Once cool, tip into a large glass jar with the scoby and kombucha liquid, cover the top with kitchen paper or muslin and seal in place with an elastic band or string. Leave in a cool, dark place for 1-2 weeks, tasting daily after the first week – it should be funky and acidic but not overly sour. Make sure you remove the scoby and 100ml of the liquid when you’re happy with the final result. Drink within a couple of days, keeping it in the fridge, or ferment a second time using the recipes below.
frozen raspberries 150g
runny honey 2 tbsp
Put the raspberries into a small pan with the honey and heat gently until broken down and saucy. Push through a fine sieve and leave to cool completely.
Mix the raspberry purée with the first ferment kombucha, pour into a flip-top bottle and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 2 days to 1 week, tasting each day until it’s sweet, sour and lightly carbonated, then chill. Drink within a week.
alcohol-free aperitif 60ml
plain sparkling kombucha 90ml
soda water a splash
red apple a wedge
Put some ice in a chilled large wine glass and pour over the alcohol-free aperitif followed by the plain sparkling kombucha and a splash of soda water. Stir briefly and garnish with a wedge of red apple.
ripe pineapple 200g, diced
runny honey 2 tbsp
Put the pineapple and honey into a food processer and whizz until completely smooth. Push through a fine sieve into a large jug, mix with the kombucha and pour into a flip-top bottle and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 2 days to 1 week, tasting each day until it’s sweet, sour and lightly carbonated, then chill. Drink within a week.
ginger 2 thumb-sized pieces, finely grated
limes 2, zested and juiced runny honey 1 tbsp kombucha 750ml
Put the ginger, lime zest and juice, and honey into a large jug and mix well with the kombucha. Pour into a flip-top bottle and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 2 days to 1 week, tasting each day until it’s sweet, sour and lightly carbonated, then chill. Drink within a week.
What is scoby?
A scoby (which stands for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’) works in a similar way to a sourdough starter or a vinegar mother – and it’s essential for making kombucha. It’s a jelly-like raft that floats on top of the sweetened tea, fermenting it and transforming it into kombucha. First the yeast in the scoby turns the sugar into alcohol, then the bacteria turns the alcohol into acetic and other organic acids, which give kombucha its sweet and sour characteristics.
The scoby floats at the top exposing the bacteria to the oxygen it needs to turn alcohol into acid. If left to its own devices, the scoby would convert all of the available sugars into acid, making the kombucha too vinegary to drink – so you need to keep tasting the drink all the way through the process to ensure you strike the perfect balance between sweet and sour.
Where can I buy scoby for my kombucha?
To get started, you will need to buy a scoby – they are available online from happykombucha.co.uk or amazon.co.uk (it will come with some kombucha starter liquid, which is also essential to the process). Alternatively, if you know someone who already makes kombucha, then ask them for a scoby. Every time a new batch of kombucha is made, a new scoby is created, meaning you can simply peel away an older one to give to friends, or start another brew.
FIRST AND SCOND KOMBUCHA FERMENTS
Once you’ve made the first ferment – using just tea, sugar and the scoby with its starter liquid – the kombucha will be delicious to drink. However, what many people – and most commercial brands – do is to give the kombucha a second ferment, just like you would for beer, cider, champagne and sparkling wine.
This is the ideal opportunity to introduce different flavours to the kombucha while also giving it effervescence. Adding a little more sugar (and the flavouring of your choice), and keeping your container sealed means that the carbon dioxide produced during fermention, that would otherwise have escaped, builds up in the liquid, creating a gentle fizz.
Before you start the second ferment, it’s a good idea to keep back 10-20% of the liquid from the first kombucha. You can use this (alongside the scoby) to make a brand new batch of kombucha.
To ensure the scoby stays alive add it (and the reserved kombucha liquid) to another batch of sweetened tea and keep it in the fridge – this will slow fermentation down while keeping the scoby happy for up to a month.
What you need to make kombucha
1. Measuring jug
2. Weighing scales
4. Fine sieve
5. 2-litre Kilner jar and flip-top bottle 6 Muslin or kitchen roll and string or elastic bands