how to make kombucha (from your homemade scoby) + second round fermentation
If you missed the first part to this series on making your own scoby, click here, or if you acquired a scoby from somewhere/someone else (hey friends! mine will be up for grabs again soon!), then forge ahead! So, kombucha making… it's fun! And, doesn't take a lot of time to make a ton of kombucha at all (the longest part is making a scoby and after that you're laughing). Because I'm so excited to share this process with you (and pretty sure a bunch of you have been waiting patiently for this post), I'm not going to prolong it anymore. Let's get on with the details (and sorry about the length of the post - I wanted to be detailed without going overboard, but it's still on the wordy side)!
Here's what you'll need to make 1 gallon of kombucha:
- 1 gallon glass jar/container
- 13 to 14 cups (or around 3-3.5L) reverse osmosis/filtered water (chlorine-free)
- 2 tbsp loose leaf tea or 8 tea bags (I switch between organic green tea or black or combo of both, but just make sure the tea you use is unflavoured)
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 1 scoby (homemade or acquired)
- 1-2 cups starter tea (from your homemade scoby creation!)
- paper towel/coffee filter/tea towel (aka something breathable) + rubber band
- super clean hands!
And just incase a gallon is too much, here are some different volumes of kombucha:
How to prepare your kombucha:
1. Boil your water then add the loose tea or tea bags to the water and steep until cooled to room temperature.*
*alternatively, you could boil a small amount of water (I used 2 cups) and make a tea concentrate, add the sugar to it, stir to dissolve, then once cooled/done steeping, add room temperature water to the concentrate to get to your final volume.
2. Add in your sugar while tea mixture is still warm and stir until fully dissolved.
3. Once completely cooled to room temperature, transfer to jar.
4. With very clean hands, add scoby, then the starter tea to your cooled tea batch (never add a scoby to a warm tea mixture!). Make sure you add the starter tea as the last step. Having it on the top will help acidify the pH of the tea near the top where the culture is most vulnerable & offer a layer of protection!!
(Note: your scoby does NOT need to be put on top of the tea mixture, like how it formed there when you made the scoby. With the kombucha, you add the scoby and starter tea to the prepared sugar tea, and the scoby can float in the mixture. It could eventually float back up to the surface, but if it doesn't, that's ok too. A new scoby will form no matter where the mother/original scoby!)
5. Cover jar with towel and secure with rubber band (to keep flies out!). You should also label the jar so you know when your kombucha started brewing.
6. Let your kombucha sit to brew for 5-30 days. The length of time will depend on how sweet you want your kombucha to taste + the temperature of your kitchen. The longer it sits, the longer it ferments, and the more the taste will turn to vinegar and less like sweet tea.
7. A NEW baby scoby will start to form on the surface of your kombucha. If your mother scoby is free-floating, then the baby scoby will foam by itself on the surface of the tea, but if the mother scoby floats up to the surface, then it could fuse with the newly developed scoby (but don't worry, they're super easy to take apart).
Where to store your kombucha while it ferments:
- out of direct sunlight
- somewhere in your house that is between 70-80*F
- somewhere that you can check, smell and taste fairly regularly (ex: in the kitchen corner, on a desk, on the kitchen table, etc.)
Watching your new baby scoby form:
Here's a look at a few pictures of how mine developed.
I skipped ahead a few days after Day 2, and in Day 7's picture, the white you see in the upper left portion of the jar is the new baby scoby forming (and my mother scoby did actually float up and they joined together):
I actually thought I had messed up by Day 10 and that 'bad' mold was forming, but it was just my new baby scoby sitting over the mother scoby that made it look like greenish mold. Phew!
How to know when your kombucha is done brewing for your personal preferences:
- Start taste-testing after five days. If you have a pour spout on your jar like I do, then it's easy enough to pour a bit out to sample OR alternatively, you can stick a clean straw in the top of the mixture, past the scoby, down into the kombucha, then put your thumb over the straw to capture some liquid in it, remove the straw and pour into a glass.
- Do some experimenting. Have some after five days, then a week, and then a week and a half, to help you decide how you like the taste of your kombucha best.
I decided (for this batch) that after 12 days my kombucha was ready. I found it not too sweet, but just enough tartness (medium-to-strong vinegar taste) to it by then. But again, it's all based on personal preference!
In the end of this brewing process, you'll now have two scobys (a mother and a baby) to work with! Your kombucha scoby should last for up to 10 brew cycles - something useful to keep in mind!
And once you've decided that your kombucha is done brewing and ready to drink, it is up to you whether you want to just drink it the way it is (i.e.: unflavoured/natural) OR flavour it. This brings me to my next point...
Second Round Fermentation
Second round fermentation is when you take your newly brewed kombucha and ferment for a second round, but this time with fruits, juices, herbs, herbal teas, spices, etc. instead of a scoby.
You omit the scoby in this fermentation and put in an airtight bottle this time around (vs. covering with a towel which you did to make the scoby and brew the kombucha). Without the scoby, the yeast and bacteria in the kombucha can still consume the tea and sugar, which results in carbon dioxide building up and what gives the kombucha the fizzy texture associated with it (and also why you might see 'blobs' or new baby scobys forming when you buy kombucha because it's constantly working away!).
Second round fermentations are great because you can play with a ton of flavours, and it doesn't take long to achieve a finished kombucha product (I know, the end is finally here!). But if you like it plain too, don't worry, it's just one less step you need to do in order to start drinking your kombucha.
If you do want to play around with flavour combos, here are some of my suggestions for second round fermentations:
- peppermint + chlorophyll
- peach ginger
- blueberry maple
- goji berries
- fresh strawberries or other berries
You could also try juicing. Here are some ideas for it:
Now, let's quickly go over how to do it!
How to do a second fermentation:
1. Remove the scoby from your kombucha.
2. Get an airtight bottle and add your desired flavour combinations to it. (Organic peach and ginger in the below photos.)
3. Add your kombucha to the bottle, leaving some space at the top.
4. Close bottle (so it is airtight).
5. Allow bottle to sit at room temperature for 2 - 14 days (depending on the contents within the bottle; fresh fruit will require less time).
6. Be careful opening the bottle (because of the built-up pressure, especially if it's been sitting for longer). To test the level of carbonation with your first batch (and get a sense of the build up): you could place into a plastic bottle and assess the firmness of it as it sits!
7. Strain out the contents (i.e.: your fruits added to kombucha) prior to consumption, if desired + this will help strain out yeast strands.
8. Alternatively, the kombucha can be rebottled (after straining out fruits) and stored on the counter or in the fridge until ready for later consumption. This is also where you might notice new 'blobs' or baby scobys forming.
Once the kombucha has been used up for drinking au natural or put into a second fermentation, now's the time to either keep your baby scoby (to start brewing two batches of kombucha instead of one), or to package and put up for donation.
We'll be donating for the time being, and just working with our scoby we originally grew from scratch. So, if anyone around me is looking for a scoby in the near future, you know who to contact ;).
A quick recap: make a new batch of sugar tea, then add your scoby + starter tea to it, let it sit covered for 5 - 30 days, bottle kombucha and drink OR start a second round fermentation to flavour, then keep your new baby scoby (you will now have two instead of one) or donate it to a friend so they can get in on the fun!
So, now that you know how to make your own kombucha, it doesn't end there. There are other great tips to know about kombucha, like:
- creating a continuous brewing system
- what to do with the scoby as you keep brewing kombucha batches
- how to develop a consistent brewing system that works for you
- and any other missed details (usually the small stuff!)
If any of these topics interest you, or I didn't answer any of your questions/concerns/etc, let me know and I would be more than happy to put together another kombucha post. Until then, I will stop because I already feel like I might have overwhelmed you. So if I did, I apologize!
All I can say now is happy kombucha brewing! I hope you enjoy the process as much as I have, and realize how easy it is to do!!