Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kombucha Tea and Vinegar (GAPS-legal)


Kombucha tea is a wonderfully refreshing and healthy drink. It is reputed to protect against cancer and gray hair, and it is also a powerful detoxifier.

Homemade kombucha tea is very inexpensive to make. We especially like it with a large squeeze of lemon or lime juice. If you've never drank kombucha tea before, start slowly as the resultant detoxification can cause headaches if you drink too much before your system is used to it.

Making kombucha vinegar is as simple as letting your normal brew ferment for awhile longer. The resultant vinegar can be used in salad dressings, sauces, and any recipes calling for vinegar.  You can also add a splash to bath water for a detox bath.

If you know anyone who brews kombucha, they likely have SCOBYs you can have for free.  If not, SCOBYs can be purchased from Cultures for Health for about $12 or you can grow your own using this method from Food Renegade.

Kombucha Tea and Vinegar
Makes about 3 quarts
  • 4 organic tea bags (black or green tea can be used; we currently prefer 1 black tea bag and 3 green tea bags)**
  • One cup white sugar (this gets consumed during fermentation)
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) of filtered water
  • One cup of kombucha to act as a starter
  • One kombucha SCOBY
  • Equipment needed: one gallon glass bowl or jar, clean white kitchen towel, a large rubberband
  1. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add sugar, stir, and continue to boil for 5 minutes.
  2. Turn off heat. Add 4 tea bags to hot sugar water.**
  3. Steep for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove tea bags and let tea/sugar mixture cool to room temperature. This will take several hours, or you could put the whole pot over an ice bath. Do not let it cool too long (don’t leave it overnight, for instance, as mold could form.)
  5. When mixture has reached room temperature, pour it into your glass brewing bowl/jar.
  6. Stir in one cup of kombucha starter. Then, with clean hands, add the kombucha SCOBY.
  7. Cover with a clean, white kitchen towel and attach with a large rubber band.
  8. Move the brew to a quiet location with no direct sunlight (we use our home office room; try not to leave it in the kitchen as food particles could get in and ruin your brew).
  9. For kombucha tea, let it ferment for 7-21 days. Don’t move it at all for at least 7 days. You can taste a spoonful to see if it is done when you see a new baby SCOBY on top that is about 1/8” thick. In the winter, it takes 3 weeks for ours to get to our preferred sourness; in the summer it takes 2 weeks. This varies greatly from house-to-house depending on temperature, etc. We also like ours very tart, so it won’t take as long if you like it a bit sweeter.
  10. For kombucha vinegar, let it ferment for at least 4-6 weeks, or even longer.  The longer it ferments, the more vinegar-like the tea will get.
  11. When it is time to bottle the kombucha, pour it into clear glass bottles and store in the refrigerator (we use old bottles from store-bought kombucha). Reserve one cup of the finished kombucha for making your next batch. 
  12. If you want your kombucha to be more fizzy, try bottling it with a tight lid and letting it sit on the counter for a few days.  Beware, though, that it can build up pressure quickly sometimes, so it is recommended to keep it in a cardboard box just in case it pops!  
  13. If you want to have flavored kombucha, follow this recipe.
  14. Store the SCOBY in the 1 cup of finished kombucha. You can leave it at room temperature for a few days, but if it will be longer before you start the next batch you can store it in the fridge. (It is preferred to just start another batch rather than putting it in the fridge.) The SCOBY will get bigger each time you brew, so at some point you will probably want to divide it and either start another batch, give some away, or compost it.
*Kombucha tea is GAPS legal so long as it is fully brewed to be tart.

**If desired, the caffeine content of the final brew can be reduced by doing one of the following:
  • Use only green tea, which contains less caffeine than black tea.
  • Pre-steep the tea bags for 30 seconds in a small pot of boiling water. This removes most of the caffeine content. Then proceed with step 2 by adding the tea bags to the large pot of hot water.
This post is part of Kombucha Challenge Carnival, Fat Tuesday, Monday Mania and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways!

26 comments:

Natalia said...

I am currently making my first batch of kombucha. There is lot of controversy on the Internet whether kombucha is safe to consume during pregnancy and lactation. What is your take on that?
I haven't had kombucha before, but am consuming kefir and sauerkraut on a daily basis. My son is 9 months old and I am still nursing, so I was wondering if I should try kombucha.

Sarah Smith said...

I have drank kombucha for years, including during my last pregnancy (and I am still nursing now). I think the main thing is to start slow, as kombucha is a strong detoxifier (and toxins could be released into your breastmilk as well). As long as you work up slowly, I think there is no problem. I would, though, try to minimize the caffeine with the pre-steep method at the end of the post above, just to minimize any caffeine getting to the baby. (I avoid caffeine for myself as well, as it is hard on the adrenals and I already have adrenal issues even though I've not drank coffee or tea for many years).

Natalia said...

The fact that kombucha is a detoxifier is my main concern. The last thing I want is to poison my baby with my toxins. I used all green tea and honey (supposedly my mushroom is Jun) for my first batch.
What dose do you think I should start with? I was thinking 1/8 of a cup.
As to caffeine, I try to avoid it at any cost because my baby turns into a hyper monster if I have even a little bit. And oh-boy do I love coffee! The sacrifices of motherhood:)

Sarah Smith said...

I think 1/8 cup sounds like a good amount to start with. You'll know it was too much if it gives you a headache afterwards. You could also try diluting it with water initially (we like to mix it with bubbly spring water as our home brew isn't usually very bubbly anyway). I've never tried using honey, I've heard it takes longer that way; let me know how it turns out!

Anonymous said...

So funny, I just finished counting my greys, logged on to my computer, and found a recipe for a food thought to be a grey hair preventative! Three months into GAPS I have yet to attempt home made ferments. Looks like I will have to give it a shot!

raeiaroberts said...

I just wanted to mention that the SCOBYs I purchased from Cultures for Health did not work for me (twice), but I was able to grow my own very easily using a bottle of GT's Kombucha. Now I continuously brew it every 10-12 days or so. I could never get it very bubbly until I started bottling it in re-purposed GT's bottles after it was done fermenting. Now, whenever I go grab a bottle, it's super fizzy and tastes awesome! I'm also experimenting with adding pure concord grape juice for a second ferment; that has worked well too and also makes it very fizzy. Yum!

Natalia said...

It is the the 11th day of fermentation and I can't make myself to try it. The baby mushroom is about 1/4 inch thick , white on top and very shiny; kombucha itself smells good. However, there is something inside that looks like a worm of settlements, it spreads on the bottom and is coming right up (like a cobra). Looks weird. Not sure what it is, maybe it is normal. I didn't want to try it before I figured out what it was.

Sarah Smith said...

Thanks for the tip about the SCOBY. I meant to mention about getting the kombucha to be fizzy, so thanks for the reminder!

Sarah Smith said...

It can definitely grow some funky little bits. Don't worry, if it smells good and you don't see any mold, it should be fine!

Megan said...

Perfect timing as I want to start rebrewing. I really want to try infusing it with some new flavors too. I must start slowly as when I tried it last year I pretty quickly got headaches! Man, it works fast!

My scoby has been in the fridge for almost a year though. Think I need a new one? It's plunged in kombucha though. I have local sources if I need to start over.

Sarah Smith said...

I'm not sure, Megan, as I've never let mine sit that long. I'd guess it would still be good, but I guess you'll find out the first time you brew again.

Natalia said...

So should I skim off all the weird stuff out? Now it looks like a tree growing in the brew.

Sarah Smith said...

If it is what I'm thinking, it is probably just more baby SCOBY strands. Mince also typically has some sediment on the bottom each time. We just pour off the top and then use the very bottom stuff (with the sediment) for our starter on the next batch.

raeiaroberts said...

Sure thing! Love your blog, by the way :)

Jill@RealFoodForager.com said...

Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

Be sure to visit RealFoodForager.com on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!
http://realfoodforager.com/fat-tuesday-january-24-2012

Share your great fermented food recipes at my Probiotic Food Linky – open through Februray 6, 2012.
http://realfoodforager.com/probiotic-food-challenge-linky/

Lara said...

As I'm about to make my first batch, what are the rules with SCOBYS? My cousin gave me three for starters, but do we only really need one? How long do we keep them? Do we reuse them? What do I do with three?! :)

Sarah Smith said...

Yes, you technically only need one SCOBY. BUT, you might want to hang on to the others in case anything goes wrong as you get into the knack of brewing. For instance, we got mold on one of our first batches because the starter I used wasn't acidic enough (it was still too sweet). So you could put the extra SCOBY's in the fridge (in glass and submerged in kombucha) until you are sure you don't need them.

Yes, the SCOBY's get re-used. And actually, if you want to brew quicker, put in more SCOBY's. We let ours keep growing and growing bigger each time until we finally decide to get rid of some (by either giving it away or composting it).

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara, Some one had sent me a kombucha starter( looks like a pancake and some brown liquid) it has been in ziploc bag since 8/11. And i have not touch it yet. Since I have not used it it, do you think that the culture itself would still be good to use. There is nothing on top of this kombucha such as white or black mold. how do I know if is still alive?

Sarah Smith said...

Has it been stored in the fridge since you got it? If so, I think it is probably still fine. Besides mold, the only problems I've had is that some SCOBYs don't work well, for whatever reason. I initially had one that we tried over and over; it would grow a baby but would never consume the sugar and make a tart brew. We finally threw that one out and got another one from a friend, and that one worked fine. The only way you'll know for sure is to try it and see.

Tina B said...

Question...I made some Kombucha and forgot about it. I mean it's been probably 3 months and I just remembered it. Can I still use it? Can I use it in my detox bath or as my conditioner in place of ACV? I really don't want to throw it out...it's made about 15-20 mothers. Can I still reuse the mothers? Yikes, I can't belive I did this!

Sarah Smith said...

Yes! You now have vinegar. Use it in place of ACV and in detox baths. I'm not sure how active the baby SCOBY's will be, so you may want to use them for another batch or two before you give them away just to make sure.

eatingganesh said...

I just purposely let my batch go to vinegar (I hear it is amazing for marinades). As it happens, I also brew mead as a hobby and have all the bottles and corks and corker. Is it ok to bottle my kombucha vinegar in a glass bottle with a proper cork? Every website I've come across says the carbonation in the kombucha will pop corks and recommends bottling in those expensive swing tops... however, this is vinegar and has very little fizz to it. Will a cork be ok in this case? Thanks in advance for the advice.

Sarah Smith said...

eatingganesh, I store my kombucha vinegar in mason jars with no problems. I'm not sure whether or not the corks would pop; I think the big difference with kombucha vinegar is that even if you take out the SCOBY, it will grow more from the tiny strands left in, and sometimes there will be some fizz. This also means you may not be able to get the new SCOBY back out of the glass bottle if it has a small opening.

chaya said...

Honey is not a good sweetener for kombucha. like the Cultures for Health website for good information, (they actually say pasturized honey is ok).In all of my reading, honey is NOT recommended though. Raw honey has antibacterial properties, it kills the beneficial bacteria in the Scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), so it is not a good substitute for sugar!!! You can use sucanat, raw sugar, or plain white, which I find is the best. I will include a link to the website. They have all kinds of fermentation products, and info. I bought a scoby, and also made one from a bottle of plain kombucha, now I have more than I can handle, they replicate themselves easily!
http://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha-ingredients

chaya said...

I got my grolsch bottles from two dollar bottles of natural soda that I repurposed. You can find them at discount stores, and in the beer section. I think it is best to have that type of container. Otherwise, you should "burp" your containers, meaning let the built up pressure out every so often. You'd be surprised how carbonation come out of nowhere! Maybe you could use a container and not tighten the top all the way? To allow it to breathe. Good luck!

Me said...

Sarah - It's Anne! Got some kombucha this weekend at the co-op for sick kids and everyone loved the blueberry basil. We're inspired to try making our own, since everyone likes it... And it's $5 a bottle! I knew I saw it at your house, so I'm glad to find the recipe on your blog. I might be calling you for some SCOBY's. Seems like a good thing to incorporate into our diet at the start of cold and flu season.