3 Quarts of water
1 Cup of Cane Sugar
5 TBSP loose leaf Black Tea
You will also need a Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), a pot that can boil 3 quarts of water (with a lid), a 1 gallon glass jar, a rubber band and a coffee filter or tightly woven cloth to cover the jar. Optional items include a mesh strainer or a clean cloth teabag or tea ball.
First we brew a sweet tea to feed the culture of yeast and bacteria. It will convert the sugars and tea into nutrients, like healthy acids and vitamins, making it taste delicious, and completely different from the original tea.
Now I want you to follow these ratios and instructions for your first batch, but you can read my other pages for info on how to customize your batches later, once you have the hang of it and have an established SCOBY with some extras on hand. The tea and Sugar amounts are not actually set in stone, so you will be able to craft a recipe of your very own if you want to change anything. This recipe has been working for me for a lot of years, and it’s just delicious.
Bring your 3 quarts of water to a boil. Purified water is best, mostly to avoid anti-microbial things like fluoride and chlorine, so if you have a well, that should be fine. You should allow the chlorine to evaporate overnight before brewing if you are using city water.
Once the water has reached a boil, add in 1 cup of white or unbleached cane sugar. You can stir it if you want to help it dissolve, but a rolling boil will generally take care of that. Add the tea leaves directly to the boiling sugar water, either in a tea ball, cloth teabag or loose. Quickly cover it with a lid and shut it off right away. It might be overkill, but it is one of the main ways I consistently prevent microbial contamination.
Leave the tea to sit until it cools. You can speed this up by filling a clean sink with cold water and setting your covered pot in the water, but as long as it’s covered you can let it sit overnight (6-12 hours) on the stovtop if needed. If you do rapid cooling, make sure the tea leaves sit for at least 20 minutes in the hot water. You really do want all that bitterness in the original tea. The finished brew will not be bitter from over steeping the tea. It can actually steep for hours if it’s easier for you.
Wash your hands or put on gloves. Sanitize a gallon glass jar with boiling hot water or a brew equipment cleanser such as star-san. Sanitize your strainer if you are using one. Strain the cooled tea into the clean jar using the clean strainer or simply remove the tea ball or tea bag. You can skip the strainer entirely if you don’t mind a few of the leaves getting into your brew. A few leaves in the jar won’t hurt anything, and will possibly add something to the brew. An alternative method is to pre-heat your jar with boiling water, and pour the hot tea right into it, cover with a coffee filter and rubber band and allow it to cool completely before adding your SCOBY. It is important that the tea is room temperature so you don’t kill your SCOBY.
If you got the SCOBY from a friend without any or without much liquid, please just be careful on all points of sanitizing and temperature and your Kombucha should grow just fine. If you have the liquid, it will get things off to a better start, and be more forgiving of accidental exposure to microbes along the way. So SCOBY and liquid starter go right into the cooled sweet tea. It doesn’t matter if it sinks or floats and you don’t need to stir it. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or tightly woven cloth and use a rubber or elastic band to secure it. This is important to keep flies and airborne microbes out. Avoid loose weave cloth like cheese cloth and flimsy paper towels or napkins, because they are prone to failure.
Place the jar in a warmish location in your house. This could be beside a fridge or in a closet or a cupboard. It should not sit near a stove, as the heat can get to intense and kill your Kombucha culture. It should not sit in direct sunlight or in a super cold spot. The ideal temperature is from 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler will slow down the fermentation and warmer will make it ferment more quickly.
If it’s winter, and you don’t have central heating, you may need to purchase a special heating pad. You can contact me for sources.
Let the jar sit undisturbed. After 3-4 days, you will probably notice something happening on top of the tea. This is the SCOBY forming and is perfectly normal. It can range in color, and most colors are normal. What is not normal here is green or black fuzz. If you see either of these colors, something probably went wrong and you will need to start over. You can email me for support if you think you might have mold.
On day 6 it’s time to taste your brew. If you like it, you can drink it. If it’s to sweet for you, wait another day and try it again. It should not taste like tea anymore. It should not be bitter. It should be sweet and a little bit tart. Every day it will get more tart/sour and less sweet. I usually like it at day 7. You should note your favorite day and start another batch. If you remove the SCOBY, and put your brew in the fridge, it will basically stop fermenting. You can drink it as is or you can bottle it and keep it in the fridge. If you love the fizzy Kombuchas that are available commercially, you are going to want to learn to bottle carbonate. You can visit my page on bottle carbonating Kombucha for detailed bottling instructions.
If you are looking for sources of bulk tea or sugar, bottles or other supplies checkout my resources page. http://www.kombuchaworld.com/kombucha-resource-links and of course if you need a SCOBY, and you can’t get one from a friend, you can always get one from me Live Kombucha World SCOBY Culture.