My story begins one day while I was nursing a hangover (I know, world. I’m admitting it right now. Scandalous, I’m sure. But yes I, Claire Norsworthy, suffered a few hangovers in my twenties.) At the time, I was working at a charming little café nestled between shops, apartments, and maple trees in NW Portland, and as I buttered bagels and poured shots of espresso, I was inwardly groaning. No amount of ibuprofen was easing my pounding head.
And that’s when my amazing co-worker turned to me and said, “Have you tried kombucha?”
“Have I tried what!?” I asked. I’d never even heard the word.
A few blocks away was a natural grocer, and minutes later, my co-worker bounded back with two G.T.’s Kombuchas. One was regular flavor, and that was the one he handed me. I took one sip and thought I might throw up after all. I made a face, and he said, “Do you want mine?” His was some fruity flavor.
Yes, please. Anything but this.
He kindly traded, and I was able to get half of it down.
And then, like magic, my headache faded away. My energy came back. I felt… normal.
“What’s in this stuff?” I asked him.
“It’s a de-toxifier. Also, after a hangover, your body craves alcohol. The tiny bit in the kombucha as a result from natural fermentation satisfies that need.”
I marveled at this.
When I got my next hangover (No judging people. The twenties were rough on me.), I remembered kombucha. It had the same effect.
And so I shared the knowledge of this wonderous tonic to anyone who would listen. And instead of buying booze, we’d by bottles of booch. (I still vividly remember the one that exploded all over my car.)
When I met my husband, I introduced him to this magical drink, and he immediately fell in love. When my husband takes an interest in something, it’s never just cursory. He researched the drink, finding out that you can easily make your own. He contacted a friend, and she brought over a SCOBY.
“I had no idea kombucha was made using internal organs,” I said when I saw it.
Turns out, it wasn’t somebody’s pancreas. A SCOBY is a “Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria.” And will I bore you with the science behind it? No, I will not. First, because I’m not a scientist and secondly because it’s fascinating to learn about it for yourself. Just do a quick Google search of Kombucha’s many health benefits and why it works. It’s amazing!
After the friend brought over this horrifying living mass, my husband set to work setting up a brewing station. His kombucha turned out a lot like vinegar. Like really sour and repellent vinegar. We’d all take a sip and smile and pretend we liked it, but inside, we were groaning. And then we’d go out and buy a GT, and life would be better.
After about a year or more of making batch after batch of really gross vinegar, he threw in the towel. We inwardly rejoiced.
Then, a couple years later, I unwrapped a special book on Christmas morning. “I thought we might give kombucha another try,” my husband said as I held The Big Book of Kombucha in my hand.
I thought that would be cool. But first I vowed that I would read that book from cover to cover before starting.
When I finished, we began our second round of booch brewing, and that’s when everything changed. Instead of spending $4 per bottle of booch, I was now spending mere pennies for something that tasted the same, if not better than what I’d found in the store.
So why is kombucha so special? Several reasons. Kombucha contains probiotics which contributes to gut health. Have you ever had an upset stomach, and your whole attitude changes? You feel irritable, maybe depressed. If you’ve suffered chronic stomach problems, you know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s because your gut is connected to your brain. The Kombucha book calls your gut your “Second brain.” Kombucha helps cleanse your gut, improves liver function, digestion, bowel function, blood pressure, kidney function, and more.
Most people enjoy a sweet drink during their day, and those that don’t are usually trying to battle that impulse. Kombucha is lightly sweetened and also carbonated, fulfilling the need of a soda pop. Moreover, it actually helps reduce your sugar cravings altogether.
So maybe it’s time to try it. Maybe it’s time to make it! What would be the first step? Call a friend and get a SCOBY. If you don’t have a friend with a SCOBY, search social media. You’ll find someone in no time (And if you’re one of my friends on social media, then you’ll definitely find one in no time!). If not, you can buy a SCOBY online.
Next, brew a batch. But how? What I have done is taken a book’s worth of knowledge and boiled it down to two pages of instructions and recipes.
Remember, kombucha is an acquired taste, but my five-year-old loves it already. In fact, he loves it so much that he even eats the fermented fruit from the bottle. Now that’s dedication.
So, find your SCOBY, and let’s get this party started!
Claire’s Basic Kombucha Batch Brew Method:
(Makes 1 gallon)
What you will need:
1.5 gallon ceramic or glass brew container. (It does not need a spigot.)
1 cup organic cane sugar
5 bags of organic black or green tea (I prefer black.)
7-8 kombucha bottles (You can reuse ones you’ve bought from the store.)
1 Scoby with 1-2 cups starter fluid
- Place Scoby and starter fluid in a clean, sterile kombucha brew container. (I sterilize mine with a mild soap that is NOT antibacterial, then finish by rinsing it with vinegar (Do NOT use raw vinegar as this can cause vinegar eels!).
- Set brew vessel aside and get out a pot to boil water.
- Make sure all pots/utensils/hands everything is clean and sterile.
- Bring to boil 4 cups of filtered water in clean pot on stove (I use 4.5 cups because of evaporation).
- Once boiling, turn down to low (or off) and add 5 bags of organic black or green tea.
- Let tea steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove tea bags, and add 1 cup organic cane sugar.
- Stir in sugar to dissolve completely.
- Turn off heat and remove pot from stove.
- Add 4 to 6 more cups cold, filtered water to pot (until water is cool enough to add to glass kombucha brewing container).
- Add remaining 8-10 cups cold water to glass or ceramic kombucha brew container.
- Add warm tea brew to the brew container where your Scoby is. (Putting in sink helps with the spills. Sweet tea is very sticky.) Make sure that your water is not too hot as it will scald the scoby.
- Stir completely. It’s okay if SCOBY sinks to bottom of container or rises.
- Cover brew vessel with breathable cloth (a bandana or old t-shirt will work. Do NOT use cheese cloth). Secure cloth with rubber band. Put kombucha brew in a warm, dark place that is well-ventilated (not in a cupboard).
- Let sit for around 9-10 days at a temperature between 77-80 degrees Fahrenheit (It’s best to buy a warming band if you live in cooler climates). Taste test every day between day 7-14. When the kombucha is slightly too sweet but still has that boochy taste, it’s time to flavor and bottle. If not flavoring, you can bottle anyway and let sit out for several more days so that kombucha can carbonate.
- Create whatever fruit/spice/herb concoction you can think of. (I use frozen fruit that I’ve either picked over the summer or from the store.)
- Finely chop all ingredients.
- Place individual ingredients in each bottle. (I fill about 1/6 or less of my bottle. Some people do more. It’s a personal preference how sweet you want it to turn out.)
- STIR the kombucha brew with a clean, sterile wooden spoon (Avoid putting metal near the Scoby if you can) to mix the bacteria and yeast proportionately.
- Add kombucha brew to bottles. (I use a ladle to scoop out brew and then use a funnel to pour it in the bottle).
- Make sure to leave at least one cup of liquid with the SCOBY.
- When finished, screw bottle caps on tightly.
- Let sit out for another 3-4 days for secondary fermentation.
- Once it tastes perfect, move to refrigerator to slow fermentation process.
- When pouring your kombucha, use a tea strainer to strain out yeast strands, fruit, and globs of scoby that may have formed.
- Enjoy your delicious kombucha!
- Strawberry ginger (I buy fresh ginger, thinly slice it, and freeze it for future use.)
- Blueberry ginger
- Raspberry, lemon, ginger
- Peach, mint leaves
- Blackberry ginger
- Cherry, strawberry, ginger
- Peach, mango, ginger
- Strawberry, mint, ginger
- Strawberry, basil
- Blueberry, strawberry, blackberry