Growing a S.C.O.B.Y for Kombucha

Last year at a local farmer’s market I bought Kombucha from a local vendor.  It tasted light, lovely and a little fizzy.   I would get one or two each week in different flavors (the strawberry banana is to die for) but at $4.00 a bottle it started to add up.

I didn’t know much about Kombucha but it was popping up in stores and at the markets I visit so I got curious as to why the upswing in this odd drink.  I did some reading about it and realized it has many health benefits.  What are some of the benefits to drinking it?  It has probiotics which help our digestive system.  Our digestive system contains 80% of our immune system so keeping it running smooth also helps us stay healthy.  Kombucha also improves our metabolism, lord knows I need that … how about you?

Now that I had developed a love for this fizzy bottle of fabulousness the frugal health nut in me began to wonder if I could make my own.  I’ve already done some fermenting of vegetables and for a couple of years now I have wanted to start doing beverages (I already do kefir but I don’t think it counts since it is more like liquid yogurt and barely takes a day to make)  so this seemed a good place to get to getting!

A phone call from my mother jump started my kombucha making.  She had already begun her kombucha fun and offered to come help me get mine going.  Yay for moms!

Like other types of ferments Kombucha needs a “starter” to get it going.  For some vegetables it is whey, for kefir it is called a grain and for kombucha it is a SCOBY.  What is a SCOBY?  SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) aka the ugly blobbish looking thing that only a mother could love… I adore mine already!)  The photos show my SCOBY after one week of growth.  They say it takes 1-3 weeks to grow it and at the week and a half mark mom and I tested mine, it was PERFECT!  It had a beautiful light tea flavor and was not to acidic.  Good thing we tested it because I was prepared to let it grow for three weeks and that would not have been good!  My SCOBY was not the same beige color of my mothers or my girlfriends so I thought it needed more growth time …wrongo!  Not to worry, the outer edges of the SCOBY are slowly turning that beige color, so in time i’m sure it will end up looking just like hers.

Interested in growing a SCOBY and making your own kombucha?  It is surprisingly easy!

Here’s how we did it and the tips we learned along the way.

Grow your own SCOBY

Ingredients

7 cups of spring water

1 bottle of GT original kombucha

1/2 cup sugar – we used organic cane sugar

4 tea bags – plain black tea

This recipe is for use in a 1/2 gallon glass container.

The SCOBY can react with metal (stainless steel is safe) we used wood/plastic utensils for the job.  Metal is safe to use until the SCOBY starter is added but I sometimes forget things while I work so I just stick to wood/plastic and save myself the possibility of creating a problem.

 

Directions

Chill 3 1/2  cups of the water.  Boil the other 3 1/2 cups of the water.  Pour the boiling water into your 1/2 gallon container and suspend your tea bags into the water.  Steep for 10-15 mins.  Remove the tea bags.  Add the 1/2 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add the chilled water.  Check the temperature of your mixture and let it cool until it is below 90 degrees (This is necessary so we do not kill the starter in our bottle of GT kombucha).  In the bottle of GT kombucha we need the sediment that is on the bottom of the bottle (see photo below)

Kombucha
The sediment on the bottom contains the “starter” for our scoby

Without shaking it up, remove one cup of liquid from the GT bottle.  Shake the remaining one cup so that the sediment from the bottom is mixed in.  Add that to your 1/2 gallon container.  Cover with a coffee filter and secure the filter with a rubber binder.  It is ready to ferment!  Place in a warm dark environment for 1-3 weeks.  Now let it do it’s magic!

Test your kombucha after about a week and every few days after that.  Just remember not to use any metal for testing other than stainless steel.  When it has a nice fermented flavor but is not to acid or vinegary tasting it is done.

The times are estimates that can be affected by the weather, humidity and temperature of the area you live in.  Because of those differences testing your ferment is important.

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