Do you have a kombucha SCOBY? If not, go buy a bottle of kombucha and grow one real quick. I’ll wait. Find a smallish glass / ceramic container in which to store your SCOBY between batches. While you’re at it, get yourself some pitcher-sized black tea bags, a bottle of (non-citrus) fruit juice, and a bag of white sugar (gasp!). And scrounge up a big, wide-mouth glass jar or bowl or… vessel of some kind, some empty bottles (flip-top bottles are ideal if you’re real fancy like I am), and something permeable to cover the top of your vessel. Optional but helpful, depending on your containers: funnel and/or ladle. Wash everything really well, but don’t use antibacterial soap!
Ready? Time to create some delicious, bubbly kombucha goodness!
Step One: Brew yo’self up some tea, dump a bunch of sugar in it, and then cool it down.
Make enough tea to mostly fill your big glass vessel, following the instructions on the package as far as tea bags/water ratio, and how long to steep it.
Take the tea bags out when it’s done, and dump a bunch of sugar in it (1 to 1.5 cup per gallon-ish).
Stir it around to dissolve the sugar. I use the measuring cup to stir it rather than dirtying a spoon, because I hate doing dishes that much.
Now cool the tea down, so you don’t kill your SCOBY by overheating it. I like to just set the pot in the sink with cold water around it for an hour or so, because my fridge is usually packed to the limit. When it’s lukewarm, you’re ready to go.
Step Two: Put the tea in the vessel, and the SCOBY in the tea in the vessel. Cover the vessel.
The SCOBY will feel really slimy and gross – but cowboy up, it’ll be over soon.
Your SCOBY might float, or it might sink, or if you’re lucky it might even do some weird thing where it stands on its end vertically.
Cover it all up with a little dishtowel or cheesecloth or something that allows air to circulate, but doesn’t allow bugs to circulate (the bad insect kind, not the good microscopic kind that I usually talk about). I use a coffee filter, mostly because I’ve got a bunch of ‘em lying around from my pre-French-press days.
Step Three: Ignore it for like a week.
Put it in the darkest, warmest spot you can find in your kitchen and ignore it for like a week. Some people let it go for ten days; I usually stop it at six or seven.
The first few times you make it, you might want to take a little taste daily starting around day 5, until you get a feel for how long it should sit in your particular climate and for your particular preferences. As it sits longer, it will get less sweet and more sour. If you’re going to keep following my process, you’ll take it through a secondary ferment with juice, so you’ll probably want to stop it when it’s still a little bit sweeter than you’d like. Protip: if it turns out tasting too sour for you, you can always dilute it with water or add a little juice to your glass! I did one of those two things with every single batch up until recently – it takes some time to learn how you like the ‘buch.
There might be a thin film of new SCOBY growing on top of your old SCOBY, or just on the surface of the tea-bucha (it’s kind of in the middle now, so I’m not sure what to call it…) if your old SCOBY sunk to the bottom. It might look like little spots of mold at first glance, but don’t freak out. It’s not mold unless it’s fuzzy! I would include a picture, but mine didn’t make any this time. You’ll know it if you see it, trust me. Baby SCOBY is kind of gross.
Step Four: Switch your kombucha into bottles and put your SCOBY to sleep.
Wash your hands really good (again, no antibacterial soap!) and grab your SCOBY out of its kombucha bath (yes, it’s truly kombucha now!). Again, it will feel gross.
Place it into its glass /ceramic container with a ladleful of your kombucha to cover it, and stick it in the fridge.
It’ll hibernate in there until you need it again.
Now pour some juice into your bottle(s), like an inch high. I used a half cup (I usually don’t measure but I was curious) of straight-up cranberry juice and it’s super strong, so you might need more of a less aggressive juice.
Fill ‘em the rest of the way with the kombucha from your vessel and seal ‘em up. (Sidebar: I usually just ladle it straight in, but this time I strained it through the coffee filter to prevent the creepy little floaties that usually sink to the bottom of my bottle. It definitely worked, but it took forever and I wouldn’t recommend it. Just stop drinking before you finish the bottle to avoid the floaties.) Wash your vessel and thank it for its service.
Step Five: Ignore it for a couple more days.
Stick your closed bottles in the same place as before, and wait 1-3 days (again, shorter is sweeter and longer is… sour-er). If you’re impatient like I am, sneak a glass before you put it away!
Step Six: Enjoy!
The best step! Keep it in the fridge.