Sunday, August 11, 2013

Kombucha: The Elixer of Life

Since Jay and I both work in education, we are SO fortunate to have the summers off.  Aside from wheat grass growing, we have picked up numerous other hobbies this summer that may or may not last into the school year (when our free time is diminished by 1000%).  There is one thing, however, that I genuinely believe we can stick with, and that is making our own Kombucha.  It is truly the easiest thing ever and so much cheaper than buying from a store.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Kombucha, it is an ancient Chinese brew made by fermenting tea with a live culture of yeast and bacteria.  If you think it sounds gross, it's because it sort of is.  It has become super trendy and popular in recent years not because of it's amazing taste (it's kind of sour and vinagar-y) or ingredients, but because it is known to be the "elixer of life."  The Chinese have been making it since 221 B.C., and it is said to increase energy, detoxify the liver, strengthen kidney function, prevent cancer, and balance the body's PH levels, among other things.  

Although there have not been any scientific research studies performed on humans, Jay and I figured that if it has been around for over 2000 years, there must be something to it.  But if you've seen Kombucha on the shelves at Whole Foods, you know that the stuff is not cheap.  It generally costs around $3-5 for a single serving!  I had heard of people making their own Kombucha before, but the fermenting process sounded complicated and I just assumed it would be too hard or time consuming.

Jay really wanted to take a stab at making his own, so he ordered a Kombucha starter kit from Amazon just to see how it all worked.  The main reason the kit is helpful is that it comes with detailed instructions and a "kombucha mother" or "SCOBY."  That's the slimy yeasty bacteria disc that fuels the whole process.  Once you have a SCOBY (we call them "SCOBY snacks" at our house), all you have to do is boil a large batch of tea, add sugar, and allow it to cool to room temperature.  Then you add the SCOBY, cover the container with a cloth to keep bugs out, and wait for your Kombucha to brew.  The longer you wait, the more sour it will become, as the fermentation process eats up the sugar.  While the Kombucha brews, a new SCOBY will form on top that you can later share with family and friends so that they too can make their own Kombucha!

The instructions that came with the starter kit were very straightforward, and we had our first batch brewing in no time.  We were told to store the Kombucha in a warm environment while it brews (80-85 degrees).  We usually keep our house around 78, so I figured that would be close enough.  Sadly, our first batch started to grow mold (despite the fact that mold on Kombucha is very rare).  Even though it is normal for the SCOBY that forms to look white and slimy, we felt pretty certain that the whitish green fuzzy stuff on our batch was mold and not typical growth. 

 The folks at Oregon Kombucha were nice enough to send us a new SCOBY, and we tried again.  This time, we used a 1 gallon Ball jar as our brew container rather than a crock pot (less surface area exposed) and stored the brew in the toastiest place in our house: the electronics closest.  We were confident that the hum of the Playstation would keep the Kombucha nice and cozy.  
Our second attempt was successful, and after around 10 days we had Kombucha that actually didn't taste half bad!  Since we hadn't let it sit too long, it wasn't overly sour or bitter.  And a beautiful new SCOBY snack formed on top that we will be happy to share!
We bottled our Kombucha in some plastic PET bottles that Jay had on hand from an old beer-brewing kit, and they are currently sitting at room temperature for the next 24 hours to increase carbonation.  Then we will stick them in the fridge and they will be ready to drink!
This batch actually tastes pretty palatable, but we may try adding in some fresh fruit juices, herbs, or spices next time before bottling, just to kick it up a notch. 

Once you get the hang of it, the Kombucha brewing process really doesn't take much more effort than brewing a batch of regular tea.  And it costs just pennies per serving!  We look forward to enjoying this miracle health beverage for years to come!


  1. Laura- just discovered your blog from Pinterest!! LOVE IT. And about kombucha- get Janet to try it! She seemed curious about ours that was still brewing while she was out in Ca. And as for the laundry detergent- I've been thinking about making that exact recipe for a while now. Glad to know it works!

    1. Yeah! Glad you found it! I've been writing for a few weeks just for fun, but I haven't really told too many people about it yet. I am going to try to stick with it, so keep checking back!


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