By Felicity Evans
In kombucha brewing, the sugars convert into acids, leaving a low-sugar drink. I like to harvest the kombucha when it’s still a little sweet. However, if you want to make a vinegar or
a totally sugar-free product, allow it to ferment for several weeks and use the kombucha vinegar in salad dressings.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Fermentation time: 1–5 weeks
Shelf life: Refrigerate for up to 3 months
Makes: About 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups)
1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) filtered water or springwater
4 black tea bags or 1 tablespoon loose-leaf black tea
3 tablespoons raw or white sugar (see notes)
3 tablespoons kombucha starter culture liquid (see notes)
1 kombucha Mother, a little smaller than the size of your palm
// PRIMARY FERMENTATION
Bring 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of the filtered water to a simmer. Pour into a teapot or heatproof bowl, add the tea bags or tea leaves and leave to steep for 3–5 minutes. Strain the
tea into a heatproof 1.5 litre (52 fl oz/6 cup) wide-mouth glass jar and discard the tea bags or tea leaves. Add the sugar to the jar and stir to dissolve. Pour in the remaining filtered water. When the liquid has cooled to room temperature, add the kombucha starter culture liquid and Mother. Cover the jar with a piece of muslin (cheesecloth) and secure with an elastic band. Place the jar out of direct sunlight in a cool spot where it won’t be disturbed. Leave the liquid to ferment for around 4 days in hot weather and 14–20 days in cooler weather.
Gently remove the Mother to re-use or rest. Retain 3 tablespoons of the kombucha liquid as the starter culture liquid for your next brew. Mix in any sediment that has settled at the bottom of the jar, or leave it as it is. Put a funnel in the opening of a 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid and put a strainer on top of the funnel. Pour the kombucha into the bottle through the strainer and discard any solids.
// SECONDARY FERMENTATION
Tightly seal the bottle lid and leave the bottle on the bench to build carbonation. This could take anywhere from 2–14 days, depending on the temperature. ‘Burp’ the kombucha daily to release some pressure by opening the lid slightly and then tightening it again.
// DRINK UP
When the kombucha is as fizzy and sour as you like (this could range from a small spritz to a ferocious fizz), store it in the fridge to slow the fermentation process, and enjoy cold.
You can make a fabulous hair rinse from kombucha that will leave your hair soft and silky. Allow fermentation to continue to vinegar stage, so that no sugar is left – the kombucha will
smell highly acidic. Bottle the kombucha and use it next time you wash your hair
SCOBY size: You need to purchase or source a kombucha Mother that is around the size of your palm to ferment a 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) brew. When the Mother gets bigger than that, you can increase the quantity of tea and honey. A bigger Mother will ferment faster and could turn vinegary much faster. A smaller Mother will take longer to transform the sugar tea.
Starter culture liquid: You should receive the kombucha starter culture liquid when you purchase the Mother. You need 3 tablespoons starter culture liquid to ferment a 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) brew. Once you start brewing, you can use the liquid from a previous brew. Reserve 3 tablespoons of the kombucha liquid at bottling stage each time you make a brew, ready to use in the next batch. Store the starter culture liquid with the kombucha SCOBY in a container – they should always be kept together as a set.
Images and text from Kombucha & Co by Felicity Evans, photography by Rob Palmer. Murdoch Books RRP$29.99