Kombucha is all the rage these days, and for good reason. Its unique taste is not only amazing, but it may also offer health benefits. Kombucha has been brewed and enjoyed for centuries, but until relatively recently, was considered somewhat of a mystery to mainstream consumers, especially those who wonder how to brew kombucha. Kombucha could only be found in certain health food stores. My, how things have changed.
Today, kombucha can be found in the majority of convenient stores, grocery stores, vending machines, and restaurants. Even the most skeptical have likely given the fizzy beverage a try.
Kombucha is unlike most commercially-sold beverages. Wikipedia defines it as “a fermented, slightly alcoholic, lightly effervescent, sweetened black or green tea drink commonly intended as a functional beverage for its supposed health benefits.” Sounds interesting, but where did it come from?
The Chinese are credited with its origin, as far back as 2,000 years ago. Kombucha brewing then spread to other parts of Europe, Japan, then to the United States. While the basic process of brewing has held fast, some manufacturers have altered recipes and brewing processes for mass production and consumer taste preferences. We’ll walk you through some of the variations.
Kombucha begins as tea. When specific yeast and bacteria are added with small amounts of sugar, the fermentation process begins. The concoction steeps as it slowly converts the carbohydrates into alcohol to produce kombucha’s trademark tanginess and fizz. The brewmasters are careful to keep the temperature of the brew below a level where the bacteria can be killed. This allows for the natural development of probiotics and what makes the kombucha “raw.” A wide variety and number of “good” bacteria colonies develop during the fermentation process, much more so than most store-bought probiotic supplements.
While it is unknown as to whether the Chinese left their kombuchas alone at this state or added flavorings, today’s kombuchas are anything but flavorless. The oldest recorded methods of brewing involved adding botanicals, fruits, and herbs to the brew while it is steeping. In this way, the kombucha develops a deeper, brighter flavor without additives or additional sweeteners.
Not all kombuchas are brewed using the traditional method, however. Some manufacturers heat their kombuchas to a higher temperature in an effort to kill any “bad” bacteria that may be introduced to the brew from the outside environment. Unfortunately, this also kills the good bacteria. In order to enrich their kombucha with the probiotics many drinkers expect, brewers add probiotic supplements to their brew.
People have been brewing kombucha in their homes since kombucha was invented. It is a highly precise process that requires specialized equipment and plenty of knowledge. How to brew kombucha begins with first purchasing or making a kombucha tea starter culture, also known as SCOBY. SCOBY is simply the yeast and bacteria needed in the fermentation process.
Similar to canning foods, kombucha brewing requires glass jars, filter, canning jar rings, and thermometer. Untreated water, white sugar, tea, distilled white vinegar and SCOBY in the right ratios come next. After following all of the brewing steps, the mixture then steeps for up to 30 days. The longer the kombucha ferments, the more vinegary it becomes. When complete, flavors can be added.
The biggest risk to homebrewers is bad bacteria. If any of the supplies, ingredients, or brewers are not sterilized, bad bacteria colonies can quickly develop. Sanitizing a kitchen is not as easy as it sounds. Studies have shown that the average kitchen harbors more bacteria than a toilet seat!
Brewing kombucha is a labor of love, so if you don’t have the time, patience, or knowledge to do it right and ensure safety, we recommend you leave it to the pros. There are amazing kombuchas on the market that have all of the health benefits, flavors, and pizzazz you crave, without the risk.