Excellent kombucha can be made from black, green or white teas. This basic black tea recipe produces a full bodied base kombucha that will be a great starting point for secondary fermentation or cooking.
- 1-gallon glass jar or 2 half-gallon jars (with canning lids)
- Large pot with lid
- Large pitcher
- Measuring cup and spoons
- 2 coffee filters or clean cotton cloth and rubber band
- Optional: mesh strainer or (if using loose-leaf tea)
- 14 cups purified or tap water
- 8 tablespoons organic loose-leaf black tea (or 10-15 teabags)
- 1 cup pure organic cane sugar
- 2 cups starter tea, from a previous batch
- 1 SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)
- Sanitize glass jars, lids, measuring cup and spoons, and the large pitcher. At a minimum, wash thoroughly and run through a heated dishwashing cycle or rinse with very hot water. Technique: Using a homebrewing sanitizer, like Star San acid sanitizer, can make sanitation easier.
- Add water to the pot and heat until almost boiling, stirring every few minutes. Remove from heat at the point where small bubbles are beginning to form in the bottom of the pot. Science: Over boiling can deoxygenate the water, stunting fermentation and resulting in an overly sweet kombucha.
- Add the pure cane sugar in small increments, stirring constantly. Avoid letting the sugar clump on the bottom of the pot.
- Once the sugar has completely dissolved, add the tea. If using loose-leaf tea, add directly to the pot. If using tea bags, hang them evenly around the edge of the pot. Steep for 4 minutes, stirring once halfway through.
- Remove the tea. If using loose-leaf tea, place the mesh strainer above the large pitcher and carefully pour the tea through the strainer. Tip: If you don’t have a pitcher with enough volume, you can use a second large pot.
- Allow the mixture to equilibrate to room temperature. Technique: If using purified water, reserve half of the volume and add it back to the concentrated tea at this step. If using tap water, pre-boil half of the volume and allow it to cool while covered or store it in a sanitized vessel in the refrigerator. This will allow the tea to come to room temperature quickly. Science: Throughout most of the US, tap water is perfectly adequate for making high quality kombucha. Boiling removes most of the potentially harmful chlorine.
- Add the starter tea and stir thoroughly.
- Pour the tea into the 1-gallon glass jar or divide between 2 half-gallon jars, leaving at least 3-4 inches of headspace in each vessel.
- With rinsed hands, gently lay your SCOBY on the surface of the tea. Tip: If using two jars, separate the layers by peeling them apart into two thinner SCOBYs. If the SCOBY cannot be separated by peeling, cut the SCOBY down the middle with a clean knife or kitchen shears.
- Cover the jars with two coffee filters and use the rim of the canning lid to secure it. Trim any excess filter paper with scissors. (See image). Alternatively, use rubber bands to secure a clean cotton cloth around the opening of the jars. Technique: The coffee filter approach can be more effective at preventing fruit flies from gaining access to your brew.
- Place the jars in a warm, dark spot (72-78 degrees) and leave undisturbed for 7 days.
- Starting at day 7, taste your kombucha every day or every other day. Technique: The easiest way to sample your kombucha is to slide a straw between the glass and the SCOBY. After allowing the liquid to enter the straw, place a finger over the top to create a vacuum. Withdraw the straw and taste the kombucha. Use a new straw or clean it thoroughly between each tasting in order to avoid the introduction of foreign bacteria into your kombucha.
- When the taste is to your liking, proceed to secondary fermentation and flavoring or bottle it directly for use in cooking.