This year my husband and I have decided to commit to a monthly ‘Homesteading in the City’ post to document our adventures in farming / harvesting / chicken-raising / foraging from our tiny plot of land in Toronto. So far, you’ve learned all about our chickens, and our favourite ways to preserve & ferment our backyard bounty. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you enjoy our new adventures in Kombucha making from This Doctor’s Homestead.
A healthy gut is the foundation for optimal wellness and I love prescribing a cup of kombucha daily as part of my patient’s customized integrative wellness protocols. Great health begins in the gut and while processed and unhealthy foods damage the intestinal lining, fermented foods and drinks like kombucha can actually help to repair intestinal damage and heal your digestive system.
Kombucha is made by fermenting sweetened tea with a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (aka SCOBY, aka SCOBY-Steve in our house). During fermentation the bacteria in the SCOBY breaks down the sugar in the tea to release healthy probiotic bacterium. This fermentation process also creates a ton of beneficial nutrients including glucuronic acid (helps build collagen & cartilage), caprylic acid (a natural anti-fungal) and butyric acid (which can strengthen the gut lining and feed the short-chain-fatty-acid producing bacteria in the intestines). A recent study which analyzed the health benefits of Kombucha also found it to be rich in 2 strains of beneficial bacteria; Gluconacetobacter and Lactobacillus. These two bacteria are important to gut health since they’re two of the most prevalent beneficial strains found in a healthy human microbiome.
In a quest to save a little money on our astronomical monthly grocery bills (organic food is a splurge but 100% worth-it) my husband Kyle and I began brewing our own Booch at home. We started by taking a class with Vibe Kombucha a few years ago and have been slowly perfecting our recipes & approach ever since. Here’s everything you know about making your own Kombucha at home:
- Water: the most important place to start is with clean, purified water. Kombucha is a living organism and unfiltered tap water contains things like chlorine and fluoride that can kill the beneficial bacteria in your SCOBY.
- Organic teas – pick 1 – 2 of the following for your brew: black tea (made from fully fermented green tea, it produces a deep rich flavour and a dark amber coloured brew), oolong tea (half way between green and black, it partially ferments to combine the taste of green and black tea), green tea (characterized by a light green colour and a delicate taste), white tea (unlike other teas on this list it’s not rolled or steamed and is instead left to air dry in the sun which preserves more of it’s antioxidants [3x more antioxidants and polyphenols than other kinds of tea]).
- SCOBY: we buy ours from Vibe Kombucha, or reuse them from previous batches. You can easily order a SCOBY online, or check with your local health food store.
- Organic cane sugar: sugar is the primary food source for your SCOBY. I lovingly feed our SCOBY friends only the best food, which why I recommend using organic cane sugar – it’s minimally processed and free of bleach and other harmful chemicals.
- Brewing vessels: I recommend using either glass or handmade ceramic to house your Kombucha as it ferments. Glass is most commonly used, but either way make sure you’re using a food safe and lead-free container. We recently splurged on a new handmade ceramic vessel from Mudslide Stoneware and it’s hand down the best kitchen purchase I’ve ever made.
- Brewing supplies: large stainless steel pot, large wood mixing spoon, large glass bowl, fine mesh strainer, cloth, large rubber band, measuring cup & glass Ikea bottles with stoppers if you’re planning on doing a second ferment to add flavour and colour to your booch.
How to Brew Your Booch:
First, make sure all your pots, vessels and materials are clean and free of soap residue to prevent harmful bacteria from gathering in your ferment. You can put all your supplies through a hot dishwasher with organic dish washing liquid to ensure that all is clean before your begin. Bring your water to a boil in a pot on the stove then add your tea and steep for 30 minutes. Once your tea has steeped remove your tea bags/strain your tea and add the sugar, stir until it’s completely dissolved.
Fool proof ratio for Kombucha making:
4 cups filtered water + 8 tea bags / 2 tbs loose leaf tea + 1 cup cane sugar
Add the warm tea & sugar concentrate to your brewing vessel along with additional cold filtered water to cover 3/4 of the volume of your glass or ceramic vessel. Check the temperature of your tea to make sure its 80F or below, then add your SCOBY and starter tea (this is the liquid that comes with your SCOBY + 1 additional cup of brewed and fermented kombucha from a previous batch). By adding a ‘starter’ to your batch you will lower the pH of your brew to prevent the growth of mould or bad bacteria. Once everything is added cover your vessel with a cloth or paper towel and secure with an elastic band. Set your Kombucha out of direct sunlight and let the new brew fermented for 7 – 14 days.
Ideal brewing conditions:
- Temperature – 74 – 80F, this is the idea range for fermentation
- pH: a lower pH (or higher acidity) prevents bacteria and mould from invading your kombucha, the ideal range for kombucha is 3.5 – 3.5 and can be measured using wine testing strips.
- Love: talk to your Booch baby lovingly and blow it little kisses when you walk by … just kidding, I’m not THAT woo woo.
After 7 days taste test your batch, if it’s still too sweet let it sit for a few more days until it tasted slightly vinegary and acidic.
Bottling your batch of Kombucha:
After 1 – 2 weeks your booch is ready to bottle and drink. For bottling, you will need to have some clean sterilized bottles ready (white vinegar is an excellent soap-free sterilizing agent along with some boiling water). With clean hands reach in and remove your SCOBY and put it in your clean glass bowl along with 2 cups of kombucha (around half from the top of the vessel and half from the bottom is ideal), store the SCOBY in the fridge until you are ready to brew another batch – if you’re planning on leaving it more than a couple weeks you should feed it some sweetened tea weekly to make sure it has enough food to live. Pour your booch into those clean bottles and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Optional 2nd ferment:
The 2nd ferment is optional, but highly recommended. It’s a shorter fermentation process which allows you to add additional flavours or sweetness to your kombucha. It also increases the carbonation of your brew since the sugar added during this phase reactivates the yeast in your kombucha which consume the sugar and produce carbon dioxide as a by-product (one of my brews exploded in our fridge last year – the carbonation is real people!). Most experts recommend ‘burping’ your bottles daily to prevent over carbonation and explosions. There’s no hard and set rules as to how long a second ferment should take so I suggest tasting it daily until you’re happy with the flavour, at which point you can store them in the fridge for 1 week.
Some of our favourite flavour combinations so far include: mojito mint (mint + lime), mixed berries + ginger, chaga chai, peach + ginger, strawberry + basil, citrus (mixed juices + peels) and grapefruit mimosa.
Looking to connect with a Naturopath in Oakville to discuss your gut health and develop a personalized plan? Book your appointment here.
At home fermenting is generally safe, and always extremely gratifying. Be sure to use caution and store / sterilize your bottles and vessels thoroughly to prevent harmful bacteria from accumulating. Use your judgement when consuming homemade fermented products – if it looks ‘off’ it’s always best to toss it and start again. Dr. Sarah & This Doctor’s Kitchen are not responsible for any at home brewing misadventures.