With the renewed focus on health this year due to coronavirus, one category of drinks that seems to have flown under the radar happens to be probiotic drinks or fermented drinks. Of all the variations out there, Kombucha seems to be the most popular fermented brew available in the market today.
Thankfully, it’s also simple enough to make at home. However, there are niggling questions that need to be answered before you embark on your Kombucha adventure. Here are 10 essential things to know before you start making your own Kombucha.
1 – First things first, what’s a Kombucha you might ask? It’s basically a carbonated and fermented drink with mild fizziness that is created by using starter tea, normal tea leaves, sugar syrup and something called SCOBY which is an abbreviation of Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.
2 – What’s the difference between starter tea and regular tea? Well, starter tea is actually the most important ingredient for making a good Kombucha. Starter tea is basically a previous batch of kombucha that the SCOBY lives in. It’s the catalyst that kickstarts the whole fermentation process by signalling to the SCOBY to start its work once all the ingredients are in.
3 – Don’t try to use fancy teas like matcha or oolong or hibiscus while making your brew. It’s advisable to use loose leaf black tea to prepare Kombucha. The drink requires a mixture of about 1:8 ratio of starter tea to regular black tea to make your brew.
4 – Everything works on room temperature. Don’t make the mistake of pouring hot black tea onto your SCOBY; neither does using cold starter tea work while making Kombucha.
5 – The best material to brew is glass. Use glass jars and bottles as much as possible (but maybe not beer bottles because they’re brittle). Using plastic or metals can interfere with the brewing process in unexpected ways and worse, leech unwanted foreign particles in your brew.
6 – Sanitisation is important for good brews. You need to use clean containers, utensils, bottles and yes, clean hands while handling SCOBY and preparing your brew. Just because the SCOBY looks and feels icky in your hands doesn’t mean you can play dirty with it.
7 – Kombucha requires two rounds of fermentation to complete brewing. Yes, it requires patience from you to give you the best results. The first fermentation is typically anywhere between a week to nine days. This is when the SCOBY actually ferments the tea with the bacteria and yeast living off the sugar to deliver a mildly tart flavour in the end.
8 – The second fermentation takes place when you remove the SCOBY, filter your Kombucha and store it in bottles to allow carbonation to take place. So, first fermentation is for well, fermenting your brew and the second fermentation is to add fizz or carbonation to your brew. Thankfully, the second brew takes just about three days to complete on average.
9 – As a rule of thumb, remember to never cover your brew during first fermentation and always cover it during second fermentation. That is to say, cover your first fermentation with a light cotton cloth and seal it with a rubber band to allow oxygen to pass but not dust and stray insects. For the second fermentation, use tight-screw bottles to ensure that no air passes out of the bottle. This will make the carbon dioxide released by the bacteria and yeast to convert to fizz.
10 – Finally, don’t get stuck to one recipe and don’t worry if your Kombucha starts looking or tasting different. Making Kombucha is more of an art than an exact science so you don’t need to write down instructions and follow everything step by step. Remember to stay in control of your brew, not the other way around. That way you also get to have fun while making your own Kombucha.
Now that you know what it takes to make Kombucha, are you excited to try making your own? Don’t let the lack of SCOBY or starter tea worry you. You can find a good SCOBY on Amazon like we did to make our first batch of Kombucha. If you have any other questions about brewing Kombucha, let us know in the comments below and we’ll be happy to answer them.
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Priyanko Sarkar is the Founder Editor of Gurgl.in. He has been a writer for over 15 years and this site is his attempt to document India's growing beverage sector with impactful and interesting stories. His favourite drink is Vietnamese Coffee and his favourite spirit is Turkish Raki.