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My First Kombucha

Making this fermented tea is an easy first step to begin your fermentation journey. It’s made even easier with a kit from an expert.

| Winter 2019

Shutterstock/Max D. Photography

When I was in the research stage of this magazine, I opted to go hands-on with a ferment that was new to me.  Of course, this was made easy given my access to the inventory of the Fermentation store. I decided to try the Kombucha Brew Now Jar Kit, a prepackaged kit designed by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory of Kombucha Kamp. I was able to ferment great-tasting kombucha within 21 days, start to finish. The kit came with a 1-gallon jar, upcycled cotton cloth cover and rubber band, organic cane sugar, Hannah’s Special Tea blend, a reusable cloth tea bag, a fully developed SCOBY in starter liquid, pH strips for testing acidity, and an easy strip thermometer to attach to the fermenting vessel. I supplied nonchlorinated water, and extra ingredients for flavor. 

Key to your first kombucha is a SCOBY and starter liquid.  SCOBY is an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”; when the bacteria (Acetobacter xylinum) begins to grow, it produces a great deal of cellulose fiber. These fibers create a mat and bind the bacteria and yeast together. The dynamic duo of bacteria and yeast build a floating structure that protects the newly fermenting liquid of your kombucha, keeping out pathogens and allowing critical chemistry to proceed safely underneath.  A SCOBY is a durable living ecosystem that survives vacuum packaging and mailing, and even freezing!  Each and every batch of kombucha needs starter liquid from a previous active batch, as well as a SCOBY.  Adding starter liquid and active SCOBY to a new batch of brewed tea is a technique in fermentation known as “backslopping”.  Essentially, the new brew (or brine or cure or dough) is inoculated with active microbes from a remainder of the previous recipe that has finished fermenting.

Like a sourdough starter used to make bread, your SCOBY needs to be fed in order to grow and ferment. So, the SCOBY with starter liquid is backslopped into freshly brewed tea, and sugar is added to feed the microbes.  The fermentation is the process of these microbes eating and transforming that sugar, and the result is a slightly sour, slightly effervescent, microbe-packed, delicious drink.  You can make your first gallon as easily as I did by following these instructions using the contents of the kit, and then simply adding water and time!

Testing, Bottling, and Flavoring

Because I made my first kombucha in winter, I kept it in my gas oven that had a pilot light. This kept it warm and within the optimum temperature range. The handy self-adhesive thermometer helped with this.  I started to taste-test my batch after about 10 days by slipping a straw past the SCOBY for a sip.  At the same time, I tested for pH levels. I wasn’t sure about my taste test, so the pH strips were helpful.  An ideal pH is between 3.5 and 2.5, depending on how sour or tangy you like your kombucha.  My batch took 21 days to reach a pH of 3.0, and that’s when I decided to bottle it. 

Adobe Stock/sewcream



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