Kombucha cultures feed on tea and sugar. You can add herbs, dried fruit, etc. but make sure you have some sugar and some green, black or oolong tea. Avoid anti-microbial ingredients like ginger, lavender, and many other herbs; instead add those ingredients after fermentation.
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Our most simple Kombucha is this:
1 gallon water
1 oz tea (green, black, or oolong)
1 cup sugar*
Lightly boil the water. Remove from heat and stir in sugar and steep tea for 15-45 minutes. Allow sweet tea to cool below 100º.
Clean and sanitize fermentation jar. Pour the sweet tea into the fermentation jar. Add Kombucha culture and starter (6oz.+ of finished Kombucha). Cover with cheese cloth. Always use fermentation grade jars (a.k.a. pickle jars).
Ferment for 1-4 weeks, ideally between 70º and 90ºF. For a less vinegary Kombucha, you have to use less sugar or ferment for less time. If you want a more vinegary Kombucha, use at least 1 cup of sugar per gallon and ferment completely.
*We have found that you can use as little as 1/2 cup sugar per gallon and still grow a healthy culture, so long as the other factors are right (good water, good tea, warm temperature, oxygen flow, darkness).
Things to look out for:
*Mold. If Kombucha molds, you have to throw the whole batch out. It is not healthy to drink moldy Kombucha, however there is a built-in warning system because moldy Kombucha tastes aweful!
*Temperature. Portland gets cold in the winter. Keep your jar warm by putting it near a heater, or using a reptile heat mat (available at aquarium/pet stores) and seed starting mats (available at plant nurseries).
*Fruit flies. They don’t grow in Kombucha but they are attracted to it. Keep your kitchen clean and fruit in the fridge in the summer time.
Here are the basic needs of a Kombucha Culture to keep in mind when brewing:
This means washing your fermentation vessel, and rinsing soap out thoroughly with hot water. This means not putting fruit or herbs in your fermentation vessel (unless that batch will not be used to start a subsequent batch).
Your Kombucha needs a suitable environment for yeast and bacteria to grow. The temperature should be between 70 and 90 degrees. Colder than this can stunt growth, warmer than this can ferment too fast and cause too sharp of a tang depending on your taste. Only add culture to sweet tea when both the tea and the culture are about the same temperature.
Your finished Kombucha should be stored in food-grade glass or other beverage containers. To stop fermentation, refrigerate your Kombucha. This causes “hibernation” and your culture will remain alive in the fridge for several months. Always store extra Kombucha Cultures in the a jar soaking in strong Kombucha.
True Kombucha Cultures get the nutrients they need from tea and sugar. You have to use tea, and you have to use sugar. Herbs can be used, but for the health of the culture it is recommended that you also use some green/white/black/oolong tea, and some refined cane sugar. Alternative sweeteners have lower success rate and should be used on experimental basis – it’s best to always keep at least one “mother” batch going with green tea and sugar if you intend to experiment.
There are several strategies for supplying your brew with oxygen, such as putting a lid on your jar and shake the sweet tea before adding culture so that air gets mixed into the solution. Also, make sure not to over-boil the water when preparing tea. Your Kombucha should ferment, covered with a cloth (not an airlock), in a place with airflow (kitchen pantries are okay, basement closets may not be).
Ways to Change up the Basic Recipe:
Use Flavored Teas:
Mango Black tea, Goji Berry Green tea, Berry teas, try them all. If they are herbal teas, add green tea also.
Use Fresh or Dried Herbs in Your Tea Blend.
Add up to 2 oz. medicinal herbs in addition to the 1 oz of tea per gallon.
Add Juice to Your Kombucha.
Just a splash will bring out big flavor. This limits shelf life, though, and must then be stored in the fridge.
FLAVORED TEA RECIPE
1 gallon water
3-4 tea bags STASH “Goji Berry Green” tea
2-3 tea bags green tea
1 cup sugarUsing flavored teas such as this is the easiest way to make flavored Kombucha that tastes great!
HERBAL TEA RECIPE
1 gallon water
1/2 oz green tea
1/2 – 1 oz herbal tea
1/2 – 1 cup sugarThis is a generic herbal Kombucha recipe. For every herb and every blend, there is a “sweet spot” that takes experimentation to find, but this recipe should get youted.
3 quarts finished Kombucha
1 pint local organic fruitOnce you’ve made your Kombucha, you can add fruits to flavor it. I recommend picking up a pint of, say, raspberries at your local farmers market. Mash up the berries and soak them in 3-4 quarts of finished Kombucha for 1-3 days in the fridge. You can strain out the fruit solids or just let them settle and siphon off the cleared Kombucha.Fruit Infusion Kombucha should be refrigerated.