Thursday, September 11, 2014

Weird Scobies, Delicious Boochies.

Kombucha haters should click away now.
Just another poor misunderstood scoby.
Scobies are weird. They have disgusting names (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast AKA a biological mat), weird textures, and alien looks, and yet they have magic power. I would trade my favorite nephew for a good kombucha.

Neither sunshine, a cute pooch, pretty dahlias, or Pyrex fridgies can dress up the freaky scoby.
Even when you have an extra and you tie cute pink yarn on it and pose it in front of favorable things around the house, the scoby remains grim, ugly, and ever squoooooshy. Truly, the scoby's only saving grace is its ability to convert sweet brewed tea into the most thirst quenching, deliciously effervescent elixir on planet earth. It's a good trick.

Much better.
I lived in lots of shared housing in the 90s, and somewhere around '94 I lived in a house with a friend who was macrobiotic-ish. His friends gave us a kombucha "mushroom" with a xeroxed copy of its nutritional stats and basic instructions on what to do with it. Back then kombucha had no bubbles, and tasted as good as a scoby is pretty. No one I knew had any idea that 'booch could be terrifically tasty; I balked and refused it, and my roommate left it to languish in a bowl on the back porch.

Look at the bubbles!!
Fast forward a decade and a half, and my love for kombucha hath no limits (only my wallet does). Which is why I'm now brewing the stuff by the double gallon to keep up with my own interminable demand. With help from my friends Susan and Somer (Hiiiii!!!), and lots of reading on the web, I've finally figured out how to make a batch that satisfies.

Makes 1 gallon
I'm insanely sensitive to caffeine and sugar, so this recipe makes a 'booch that tastes great, but doesn't keep me up at night. If you don't have any empty gallon pickle jars laying around, I've found them scouting around recycling bins. Home Goods ::cough:: also has large glass jars that work well.

What You Need (1st fermentation):
1 gallon distilled water
6 bags organic green tea
2 bags organic black tea
1 1/2 cups unbleached granulated sugar
1 clean gallon glass jar
One wee scoby
2 cups kombucha
cloth napkin or clean tshirt

What You Need (2nd fermentation):
6 flip top bottles
julienned ginger
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice
bite sized fruit/herbs

What You Do:
Put 3/4 of the water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the tea bags, decrease the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags with a clean spoon and squeeze out any tea back into the pot.

While the tea is simmering, put the sugar into the glass jar. Add the tea and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the remaining remaining water and cover so no fruit flies buzz in. Let the tea cool until it is less than 88 degrees F (this may take several hours). Once the tea has cooled, add the wee scoby and the kombucha.

Cover the jar with the clean fabric and secure with a rubber band (it's important for the kombucha to breathe and also to be protected from pests and bugs). Let the tea rest undisturbed for about a week (the warmer the environment the faster it will culture). I've only been brewing in the summer, and mine usually takes about 11 days to get where I like it. With a clean spoon, taste the tea after about a week. When it's ready for the next step (2nd fermentation), it should be slightly sour, sometimes even a little bubbly, and just a bit sweet.

Second Fermentation:
The second fermentation is the most important step to making top notch kombucha. Flip top bottles are a must, since they trap the carbon dioxide created from the yeast feeding on the sugars in the tea (i tried using an air lock and a gallon jug, and the brew was not very bubbly).

Stir the tea and using the funnel, distribute it evenly among the flip top bottles. Be sure there is just enough room in each bottle for a few tablespoons of juice, a few pieces of fresh fruit, a sprinkle of ginger, and herbs (if desired).

How you flavor the tea is up to you, but I like to add ginger, fresh basil, lemon or lime juice, and some fruit to mine. Once you've added flavorings to each bottle (there should be about  1/4-1/2" of space at the top), clamp it down and let it rest on the counter near the sink. Burp the bottles daily (over the sink) until they're fizzy and delicious--in warm weather this takes about 3 days on the counter. Refrigerate and enjoy (strain out any seasonings, or leave them in the bottom of your glass).

I've really enjoyed flavoring with citrus, ginger, basil, rhubarb, strawberries, peaches, and watermelon. Right now I've got some blueberry-lime-ginger going, and the next batch I plan to experiment with herbal tea as flavorings along with fresh fruit (I'm thinking hibiscus and also chamomile/lavender).

P.S. If you wanna keep brewing kombucha, save your scoby and 2 cups of kombucha from each brew, and use it for the next. The scoby will get thicker after each batch. You can peel off the new scobies and use them for double batching, compost them, or give them away.

P.P.S. Be smart. If your scoby looks moldy, or weirder than a scoby should look, toss it away and start over. The internet has lots of forums and information for trouble-shooting.



  1. You are a hero to fermenters everywhere!

    1. I'm just so excited to be making something that satisfies me as much as the uber pricey stuff at the store. Plus, coming up with flavor combos is fun! I need to replicate the GT's Chai. MmMmM.

  2. Thanks for this post! I started a dehydrated scoby a few weeks ago. The first batch was strong and tasted of vinegar; I'm hoping the second will be milder. I appreciate your flavoring tips!

    1. Sounds like you cultured the tea a little too long. Be sure to taste it after a week, and then every day as it gets close. It's good to bottle and second ferment before all the sugar is gone, so the yeast has something to continue to feed on (that's why you add fresh fruit).


  3. I do not heart kombucha, but I heart you and your blog posts anyway. <3

    1. Booch-nooch free zone for Amey needed STAT.

  4. I love that you tried to dress up yr SCOBY!!! Hahaha! That is too funny. With the pink yarn!
    I love kombucha and its bubbles but have yet to make my own. Do you need to sterilize the jar first?

    1. Everything needs to be clean, but I don't usually bother sterilizing anything. I do run the jar through the dishwasher first, but one of my jars is too big for the dishwasher so I just wash it in hot soapy water. Kombucha is really forgiving. xoxoxoxo

  5. This looks awesome! I used to make kombucha, but my SCOBY bit the dust. I need to get a new starter and hop to it with this recipe!

    1. You should! I'm worried what will happen when the weather cools down. I will have to start brewing so much more!!!

  6. There was a time when kombucha didn't taste good!? Gasp! What did people during these dark days?

    1. seriously, it was sad. plain flat kombucha is not so good. :((

  7. Damn, it makes me happy when you put up a new post! Quality over quantity. Looking forward to your new book coming out :)

  8. I don't normally like Kombucha, but my sister-in-law made some and gave me a bottle for Christmas and it was incredibly sweet, like honey. I actually cornered her and grilled her about if she was slipping me honey because it tasted just like it.

    1. It could be that it wasn't brewed super long. The shorter the brew, the more sugar that's left behind.


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