Sunday, November 16, 2014

Make Your Own Kombucha {AIP, Whole30, Paleo}

Make your own kombucha

I don't have easy access to fun paleo things here in Belgium. No convenient snacks, no awesome beauty products - and no kombucha. I searched high and low for kombucha here in Belgium, wanting even to simply taste the drink everyone in the healthy-eating community so raved about, but I couldn't find any for about two years! 

Then, randomly, my cousin found some at our local grocery store. Score! I tried it and liked it - and then I started seeing this fermented tea all over the place! Now if only I could get my hands on a live bottle of kombucha to grow my on scoby...

Healthy scoby

Wait - what?! A scoby? Scoby is a fun little acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. The scoby is what makes regular tea turn into deliciously fermented kombucha - and it's alive. Most of the kombucha found in regular grocery stores is no longer alive - it has been pasteurized, or heated, for safety reasons. This process kills off any harmful bacteria that may be in the tea, but it also kills off all the beneficial bacteria naturally found in kombucha, thereby removing any point to drinking it.

Kombucha is reputed to being highly beneficial for gut health. Apparently, it promotes a healthy bacterial balance in our intestines, leading ultimately to better overall health. Kombucha doesn't cure anything, but it creates a healthy bodily environment allowing our health to take control. Many people find gastro-intestinal relief from drinking a glass of kombucha per day, but other symptoms seem to be helped as well, such as rheumatoid arthritis. It really is a magical drink, but one I thought I would have to live without.

Then I got lucky. My aunt gifted me a couple bottles of live kombucha that she bought at a small health foods store, and this is where my kombucha journey begins...

Growing a Scoby

In order to grow a scoby, you need some live kombucha. {You can also buy a scoby online.} You'll be able to drink most of the bottle of kombucha, but you'll want to save about a cup's worth. Place this kombucha in a different glass jar - this will become your brewing jar, so choose a size that works for you.

Tip: Start smallish and work your way up to a bigger jar - don't immediately go for the 5 gallon barrel. I started my kombucha in a half-gallon jar.

Brew 1-2 cups of plain green or black tea, using 2-4 tea bags. When the water is still hot, stir in 3 tablespoons of sugar. Use regular old cane sugar for this. The anti-bacterial properties of honey will kill your scoby. When the tea has cooled to room temperature, add it to your kombucha starter jar. Cover the jar with a square of cloth held with a rubber band {old t-shirts work great for this} and place in a cool area {meaning, not hot, not cold} out of direct sunlight.

You should start to see growth after about a week. {If there's no growth after three weeks, your kombucha was dead. Throw out the liquid and try again with new kombucha.} The top of the tea will become thick and jelly-like. After about two weeks the jelly mass should solidify and become tan in color. Continue to allow the scoby to grow until it is at least 1/4 of an inch thick.

Healthy scoby

Making Kombucha

Now that you have a scoby, you're ready to make kombucha! Brew enough green or black tea to fill your brewing jar, using enough tea bags to make it strong and enough sugar to make it sweet. {Taste it - it should be too strong and too sweet.} Very carefully remove your scoby from the jar {with clean hands!} leaving the starter tea in the jar. Place the scoby on a small plate and sprinkle with a bit of kombucha. Pour the room temperature tea into the jar, mixing it with the starter fluid. Gently return the scoby into the jar ad cover with the t-shirt. Place the jar once again in a cool area {meaning, not hot, not cold} out of direct sunlight.

The next part is up to you. Allow the tea to ferment for at least a few days, then taste it. To taste, simply slip a straw into the jar below the scoby and take a sip. If it's to your liking, you may bottle it and start a new batch. If it's not yet how you would like, return it to it's fermenting spot and allow it to continue doing its thing.

A 7-day ferment will yield a rather sweet kombucha, with it getting progressively tangier and then more bitter as time goes on. {I like it best after about 15 days.} Once the kombucha is as you like it, remove all but a cup of the fluid from the jar. Start a new batch using the directions above if desired.

The kombucha you removed can either be drank plain, or it can be flavored. The easiest way to flavor kombucha is to mix it with fruit juice in whatever proportions you want.

You can enjoy the drink right away - or you can allow a second ferment to happen. To do so, simply place the jars of kombucha in a cool area {meaning, not hot, not cold} out of direct sunlight for 1-3 days. This will result in bubbly kombucha.

Make your own kombucha

Scoby Tips & Tricks

The biggest thing you can do to care for your scoby is to always wash your hands before handling it! Keeping it clean ensures that it will stay healthy. If your scoby starts to mold {has black, green or red spots} you'll need to throw it and the tea away. Brown bits or strings are usually okay and are just yeast overgrowths. If in doubt, throw it away.

Each batch of kombucha will most likely produce a baby scoby, though sometimes the mother scoby will just grow a bit thicker. You can either store these extra scoby's in a "scoby hotel" in the fridge {a small jar with a bit of kombucha} or give them away to people who would like to make their own kombucha. There are also other ideas online, such as including them in recipes or even eating them plain. Run a quick Google search if you're interested.

Sometimes scoby's will float nicely on top of the kombucha, but other time they'll sink down to the bottom or even float sideways halfway up the jar. This is just fine, as long as the scoby is healthy, and will not affect the quality or taste of your kombucha.

Don't use flavored teas to make your kombucha as the different spices, oils or other ingredients may hurt your scoby or even make it mold.

"Floaties" in your kombucha are just fine to drink - they are either baby scoby's or yeast growths. If you don't want to drink them, simply filter them out.

Who else makes their own kombucha? 
What tips or tricks do you have to share with us?


  1. Like you, we don't have these convenient paleo foods available every where in Scotland. I can't just rock down to my local Whole Foods, or Costco, and pick stuff up. I like that I can't do that though, and instead, I get to do some modern foraging by looking for quality ingredients from local shops, my grocery store or ordering online.

    I've never tried Kombucha, but I'd like. I've found some at a health food store in Aberdeen but haven't had the courage, nor wanted to shell out £6, for the bottle they had. If the store-bought one doesn't have a scoby, then it's not alive?

    1. I agree - hunting down quality edibles is pay off the fun!

      As for the Scoby, the bottle shouldn't have a Scoby in it when you buy it, but if you allow the bottle to ferment and no Scoby grows, then it wasn't alive, either because it "died" or was killed through heating.

      Maybe the £6 would be worth getting a Scoby growing? Then you'd make your own :)

    2. Hi, I live in Belgium near Brussels and I'm trying to find good kefir grains and scoby+starter tea to grow our kefir and kombucha at home. Any advise of where to find both? Did you try an online site that you can recommend? I'm worried they get spoiled in the shipping. Thank you!!

    3. As stated in my article, I didn't buy my scoby online. And this has nothing to do with kefir, either. I'm sorry, but I don't think I can help.

  2. Any suggestions on how else to flavor kombucha? Ie raspberries

    1. Sorry to reply so late, I just saw this! There are many recipes online, but that's about all I can say about flavoring. Good luck!

  3. Hi, do you know where I can buy a mother kombucha en Belgium? Thank you so much

    1. Nope. If you read the article I explained how I finally got my hands on a live scoby ;-)

  4. hi meg, im looking for a scooby ?