I distinctly remember drinking my first sip of kombucha. In Melbourne with my best friend Rosa, she was already obsessed with the stuff and I was tempted by a ginger and tumeric brew. Since then, kombucha essentially runs through my blood, but it’s expensive and usually comes in bottles with plastic labels. Fortunately, kombucha is really easy to make at home, in a zero waste friendly way!
Kombucha is essentially a healthy soft drink. It’s fizzy, full of flavour just without all the bad shit that you get in soda. It’s simply made from tea and sugar, and uses a fermentation process to chew up the caffeine and sugar and turn it into healthy probiotics. These healthy probiotics are reportedly great for gut health and was researched in a 2014 study which you can read about here. There are also studies that link kombucha to preventing growth of cancer cells, which you can read about here and also here. Other illnesses kombucha is reported to help with include heart disease, type 2 diabetes management, liver health, and depression and anxiety.
Where to start
Making your own kombucha is essentially broken down into two stages of fermentation. The first stage is to make the kombucha tea itself, then you can go on and add flavouring and carbonation later on. For saving a long read, this post will be about the first stage of kombucha making! So with that in mind, the first step in any kombucha making is made possible with a weird little thing called a scoby.
What the heck is a scoby
Scoby stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. Simply put, a scoby is made up of a mixture of bacteria and yeast that forms into a big wiggly disc thing that looks super fucking weird. I’m a nurse, and have seen some weird stuff in my time, but none can compare to holding a scoby. To re-iterate, it’s not gross, it’s a wonderful colony of bacteria that is fantastic for your gut. This magical scoby is what chews up the caffeine and sugar and turn it into those wonderful probiotics mentioned earlier.
If you care to learn more about what a scoby is, then read this! It explains how scobys are used to make other stuff like ginger beer, and even in textiles. There are a few ways to get your own scoby, you can buy one, make one, or get one from a friend.
Get a scoby from a friend
Because scobys grow during the fermentation process, you end up with more scoby than you start with! This means you can pass one on to a friend that’s interested in making their own kombucha. I got my scoby from my friend Lili! (Thanks again Lil x). If you pass one on to a friend, pop the scoby in a jar with a cup or two of your own kombucha brew and seal the lid tight. The kombucha tea will be used as a starter for your own kombucha making.
Buy a scoby
Buying a scoby is also a possibility too. If you jump on to Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, sometimes people are selling their scobys for a cheap price. Otherwise if you go online their are plenty of retailers who sell ‘kombucha starter kits’. Places like the Good Brew Co. sell starter kits for $20. If you live in Melbourne you can pick the scoby up from their store, otherwise they are able to ship it to you. However, by the looks of their photos the scoby is wrapped up in plastic packaging, so not totally ideal. But have a squeeze around online for other scoby sellers.
Make your own scoby
This is less complicated that it sounds. If you can’t source a scoby from a friend or don’t want to splurge some cash online, making your own scoby is your last option. I have literally no experience doing this, it’s another fermentation process that’s apparently quite simple, but does take time. Go onto youtube and watch some videos if you’re really keen!
Now that you’ve got a scoby, you’re ready to start making your own kombucha! You’ll find that many recipes will differ on the amount of tea and sugar, but the ratios are around the same. I watched a video on youtube which I highly recommend, by a bloke called Brothers Green Eats. It’s really easy to follow along too and explains everything in a very understandable way. So here is his recipe!
Big rounded glass jar (do not use plastic jar)
1 cup of kombucha starter (if you get a scoby from a friend, get them to give you 1 cup of their brewed kombucha. If you don’t have a friend to give you some, go to the store and get a plain kombucha and use that instead. Do not use a flavoured one)
16 cups of filtered water
24g of black tea (or 12 tea bags)
1.5 cups of white sugar
Muslin cloth or tea towel + rubber band
1. Start by boiling the water, you may have to do this in two lots if you have a smaller kettle
2. Pour half of the boiled water into a large bowl, add strainer and tea leaves and let brew for 10 minutes. If using tea bags, simply place the tea bags in the water. Add other half of boiled water to jar.
3. Once brewed, add your giant tea batch into the big jar. Add sugar and stir till dissolved!
5. Let cool for a few hours until its not hot anymore. Wash hands with hot, soapy water and add your scoby and 1 cup of the kombucha starter to the brew. Excuse the photo quality, this was done after the cooling off period and the sun had gone down!
7. Put tea towel, cheese cloth or muslin wrap on top of jar and seal with a rubber band.
The fermenting process begins
Pop your lovely kombucha brew in a shady space away from sun. Mine is living in my pantry! The fermentation process is super context based, so if you brew it in a warmer space for longer compared to a cooler place for a short time, then the taste of the kombucha will be different. Accepting this trial and error stage is super important, and the beauty of home made kombucha is you can make it to suit your own personal taste buds!
Let the brew ferment for 7-10 days. Check your scoby to see if it’s healthy during this time as well. If it’s got a blue fuzz or any bright redness, then you kombucha is probably bad. Chuck it out, and start again. When it’s fermented to your desired taste, take out the scoby and pop the kombucha in some bottles and store in the fridge or cupboard!
The second fermentation
Although the kombucha you have made in this first fermentation process is perfectly drink-able, adding flavouring and giving it some carbonation (if you so desire) is the next part of the process. I’m currently testing out this second stage of fermentation as we speak and I’m looking forward to writing about it!
For study on effects of kombucha to gut health, head to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24290641
For study on Kombucha effects in cancer cell growth head to https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18979556 & also
For more detailed information on scobys, head to http://www.trubucha.com/SCOBY
For the Good Brew Co. kombucha starter kit, head to https://goodbrew.com.au/shop/kombucha/kombucha-scoby-starter-kit/
For Brothers Green Eats Kombucha beginners guide, head to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3Axb37lMWI
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