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How to Make Probiotic Kombucha to Support Natural Gut Health



Kombucha. Doesn't the word conjure up visions of an exotic village in the Himalayan mountains? Well, it isn't a far-flung vacation location. Kombucha is, however, the next destination in my journey to a healthy lifestyle.

Kombucha is an age-old drink that's rich in probiotics that help balance gut health. Probiotics aid digestion, support the immune system and cleanse the body. In the process kombucha is supposed to increase energy. Some people even report weight loss.

It also contains antioxidants including a range of B vitamins that could prevent or delay cell damage and support the immune system. Additional benefits include the reduction of joint pain including arthritis pain, and maybe even some cancer-fighting properties. I'm hoping for a reduction in joint pain, myself.

Simply put, kombucha is fermented sweet tea. The sugar in the tea jump-starts the fermentation process; most of the sugar is gone when the drink is finished.


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I dabbled in the world of kombucha about four years ago. I was trying to ditch Coca-Cola and hoped that the bubbly kombucha would help me give up my habit. Unfortunately, I couldn't achieve the amount of carbonation that I was hoping for, and I continued drinking soda for another two years. (I did give up my soda habit eventually though. Cold turkey. Next month will be my two-year soda-less anniversary.)

Anyway, I brewed my own kombucha for about six months and then I quit for awhile. "Awhile" stretched out into several months and I never got back to it. I was kind of disappointed in the lack of fizz and that my scoby didn't thrive as quickly as I'd read that it should.

Fast forward four years and I'm ready to start over.

Where to Find a Kombucha Scoby

Of course I needed a new scoby (a fun acronym for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast"). I asked a friend for a recommendation, and contacted Nicole at Heritage Acres Farm. Nicole promptly shipped a box with a beautiful, healthy organic scoby.


Inside the box was a vacuum-sealed bag with the cream-colored scoby and over a cup of starter liquid, the tea the scoby was brewed in. This starter tea is very important, by the way, in fact it's as important as the scoby itself.

What Does a Kombucha Scoby Do?

What does the scoby do? Many other healthy foods such as yogurt, sour dough bread, kefir and apple cider vinegar need a culture as well; even cheesemakers use a culture to inoculate milk with a particular bacteria. A kombucha scoby feeds on the sugar in the sweet tea, inoculates it with bacteria and yeast and produces the tangy drink that is so good for your body.

I'm told that it takes several cycles for a scoby to adapt to its new home. It needs to get used to my filtered water, my kitchen's temperature, and the kind of tea I use to brew it. I'll also need some time to learn how long to let my kombucha tea ferment, and how to flavor the second ferment to my liking.

How to Make Kombucha at Home

I started with a half-gallon batch using a canning jar. I brewed the sweet tea as directed, let it cool to room temperature, added the starter liquid that was included in my package, and floated the scoby on top. I covered the jar with a handkerchief and a rubber band and let it brew for a week.


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After a few days I could smell the vinegar-y sweet smell I remember from my first attempts. A week later I made a new batch of tea, moved the scoby to a bowl and covered it with a half-cup of the liquid in the jar. I poured the rest of the brewed kombucha into three pint jars.

At this point the cycle starts over with a new batch of sweet tea combined with the liquid from the previous batch, the scoby floating on top, the handkerchief cover and another week of fermenting. With every cycle there's a new layer of scoby on top. Eventually the scoby will be so thick that I'll need to peel the layers apart and store the extras in a "scoby hotel," another jar of tea where the extras can hang out.


What to Do with Your Finished Kombucha

The finished kombucha in the pint jars is ready to drink how, or it can be flavored and fermented a second time for a few more days. I've always done a second ferment.

Four years ago I was a bit disappointed with the small bit of carbonation in my kombucha. It was one of the reasons I stopped brewing it. So I've been doing some research and asking some friends what they do to the second ferment.

Instead of the fruit juice I was using the first time, this time I'm using real fruit and adding some ginger too. Chopped strawberries, blueberries and ginger went into this first batch of finished kombucha along with a spoonful of sugar. I like it sweet, but the sugar is completely optional. The jars are capped tightly to help develop carbonation.

After several days I strained the fruit out of the pint jars and set them in the refrigerator. Of course I had a taste too. Hurray, more carbonation than my first attempt! I'm going make a few tweaks to the flavorings and get some of these swing-top bottles to better hold in the carbonation too.

Kombucha brewed with black tea on the left and green tea on the right.

How Much Kombucha Should You Drink?

Kombucha's probiotics and antioxidants can support your gut health naturally, but be advised that it might work really well when you first start drinking it and could cause some digestive upset. Take it slow and drink just an ounce or two at first, then work up to a larger amount over time.

Want to start brewing your own kombucha at home? You'll need a scoby, and I recommend a healthy, organic scoby from Heritage Acres Market.



Related Posts:
How to make naturally carbonated ginger ale
Vacuum-seal almost any jar in your kitchen
Make your own vinegar for pennies (free ebook)




How to make probiotic kombucha to help support your gut health.



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7 comments:

  1. Kathi, I am soooooo happy you are making this amazing probiotic so-good-for-you drink and I totally hope you see a difference in your joint pain... I can't believe how much it's helped my arthritis pain. Typically winter in New England my arthritis is killing me; what a joy this winter to literally not have the pain! And my only difference is I started making and drinking kombucha daily last spring. Keep us posted on your favorite second-ferment flavors! :-)

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    1. That's so encouraging, Michelle! Thank you for sharing that with me; I'm really hoping for similar results. Today I drank my kombucha in a fruit smoothie just because I had more than would fit in my bottles for the second ferment. Oh was it delicious!

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  2. This is one of the things I want to learn to do this year. Thanks for the info!

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    1. You're so welcome, Lisa. It's easy to make, although it does take patience to wait while it ferments. :-)

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  3. Hi Kathi. I got my scoby in the mail and would like to know if you could direct me to a good recipe for a first timer? Thanks!

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    1. I can't believe I didn't include the instructions for the sweet tea in my post, Cindy! I'll remedy that right now, but here are the directions:
      To brew a half-gallon of kombucha, brew a half gallon of tea with 4 tea bags and 1/2 of sugar. Let the tea cool to room temperature. In your half-gallon size jar, add 7 cups of the tea, 1 cup of the starter liquid that came with your scoby, and then float the scoby in the jar (it might sink, that's ok). Cover with a cloth or paper towel held on with a rubber band. To make a gallon, double the amounts. To make a quart, halve them.

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    2. That should read a 1/2 CUP of sugar.

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