Combine the current interest in probiotic drinks with the DIY craft brewing movement and the endpoint is kombucha, a health drink presently making inroads among the health and wellness crowd. The piquant slightly fizzy concoction starts out as sweetened tea and morphs into fermented goodness with the help of a scoby. That is a "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast" to newcomers to the burgeoning fermenting and brewing scene.

Why drink it? Advocates claim kombucha benefits the gut flora inhabiting our intestines that boost our immune system and the perceived wisdom is a daily dose promotes overall good health. But I would argue that the real reason for making a batch of the "booch" is the thrill of experimentation and the taste. It's a sweet and sour blend with a memorable zing brought together by the fermentation process.
How to get started: First, find a kombucha-making friend by posting a note at the food co-op or online at sites that cater to the fermenting community. Next, gather your supplies and equipment. A scoby resembles a translucent flattened jellyfish, and is a bit slimy to the touch. Yum. Keep in mind, a scoby is a living culture, so it requires nutrients and a stable environment in which to prosper. Once activated, they tend to grow, and then divide into more scobies. So be prepared to share scobies with other people.
Making a small batch of kombucha isn't all that difficult, but attention needs to be paid to details because taking a slapdash approach toward brewing the stuff will likely lead to poor results. The following are guidelines for continuous kombucha, a brewing technique that keeps the scoby healthy that streamlines the fermentation process.

Prep time: 10 minutes 

Total time: 408 hours, including fermentation and sitting time

Yields: 12 cups of kombucha

Kombucha

Equipment you'll need

  • 1 gallon-sized Mason jar with plastic spigot
  • 2 6-cup Mason jars with plastic lids
  • Small saucepan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cheese cloth, coffee filters or open-weave polymer bags to filter
  • 4 flip-top glass bottles or wine bottles with polymer corks
  • Distilled vinegar
Some of the ingredients and equipment needed for making kombucha

Photos: Enrique Gili

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 8 to 10 black tea bags
  • 1 scoby
  • 3 1/2 quarts filtered water
  • 16 oz. unflavored kombucha, at room temperature (optional)
  • 1/2 cup lemon lime juice
  • 2 oz. fresh ginger, sliced
  • 2 oz. crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 cup frozen berries, muddled
Cooking directions
  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in saucepan. Slowly add sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Add tea bags, remove from heat and allow water to cool to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, wash glass jars, bottles lids, spoon and spigot in hot sudsy water and air dry. If needed, wipe clean with paper towels and a bit of distilled vinegar to sanitize.
  3. Pour tea into 1 gallon Mason jar. Then add 3 1/2 quarts of filtered water and place scoby in the jar. To hasten the fermentation process, add 16 oz. of ready-made unflavored kombucha, if available. Cover jar with cheesecloth, open weave polymer bag, or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Place jar on a high shelf out of direct sunlight and let it stand for 7 to 10 days. Kombucha fermenting
  4. At this point, the kombucha is ready to drink. However, you can also add small amounts of ginger, fruit juice, lemons, limes or berries in smaller glass jars to boost the flavor and increase the fizziness factor. For a basic kombucha, use 2 oz. of fresh ginger and 1/2 cup apple cider. For a berry kombucha, use 1/2 cup frozen berries and 2 oz. fresh ginger. For a limeade kombucha, use 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon and lime juice plus 2 oz. crystallized ginger.
  5. To add your selected flavorings, combine ginger, berries or juice in 2 6-cup Mason jars. Use the rounded end of a wooden spoon to press contents against the sides of the glass, releasing juices. Add the kombucha to the glass jars, leaving about 20 percent of the fermented tea remaining in the 1-gallon jar.
  6. Seal glass jars and set them aside out of direct sunlight for up to 1 week. Strain and pour contents into flip-top glass bottles or wine bottles with polymer corks. Seal and store kombucha in a cool, dark place or refrigerate. Bottles of kombucha
  7. Repeat steps one through six to make more batches of kombucha, using the scoby and kombucha remaining in the 1-gallon jar to continue the fermentation process.

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