This acidic, sweet and vinegar-like elixir is derived through fermentation of bacteria, yeast, sugars, and tea. First described in 221 BC, this “Tea of Immortality” was lost for centuries. From its origins in Asia, the name Kombu originates from the Korean physician who used this beverage to treat Emperor Inyko with a magical “cha” or tea, hence Kombu-cha.
Though seemingly able to revitalize persons on various illnesses, kombucha was lost to popularity until Dr. Skelnar in Germany began to revive this beverage to treat metabolic conditions and assist patients with cancer. Since this time, kombucha has gained popularity in the health culture here in America. Treating individuals with intestinal issues, adding a powerful source of fuel for shifting the gut microbiome has been a useful friend.
How does it work
Kombucha is a fermented tea that involves growing a bacterial and yeast-based power plant termed a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). This SCOBY, which appears a white or yellow jelly-fish like a disk, feeds on the sugars in the tea and produces acid, vitamins, minerals and amino acids, all serving for pre-pro biotics, useful for maintaining a healthy gut.
Main acids produced by the SCOBY include:
- Glucuronic acid (for liver detoxification, joint healthy and allergens)
- Lactic acid (for pH balance)
- Acetic acid (gut equilibrium)
- Usnic acid (anti-viral)
- Oxalic acid (for power generation in cells)
- Malic acid (detoxifies liver)
- Gluconic acid (anti-fungal)
- Butyric acid (for gut health and anti-fungal).
Using its’ cellular derivatives, the SCOBY also produces vitamin B and vitamin C. The SCOBY also generated carbon dioxide, leading to the bubble formation, and often contains low percentages of caffeine and sometimes alcohol (made by yeast, but often changed from alcohol into acid by the bacteria in the SCOBY).
As stated above kombucha is a great source of probiotics and pre-pro biotics (food for bacteria). This source is natural and less-easily digested by stomach acid given the vehicle for which it arrives in the gut. Given that kombucha is often made of green or black tea it does contain polyphenols and antioxidant substances. These substances search your body for harmful breakdown products of metabolism called free radicles, which can cause cancer. These antioxidants can remove free radicles.
Other assertions include improvement in cholesterol, diabetes control, and fighting cancer. However, these potential benefits have only been founded in rats, not people.
Making Kombucha at Home
When making SCOBY it is vital to stick to the basics in the initial steps. Use green or black tea only when making your SCOBY and when performing your first and second fermentation. Many other herbal teas and flavored teas contain oils that will have deleterious effects on your SCOBY. It is also important to use cane sugar and not beet or processed sugar. Again, these impure forms will introduce harmful contaminants into your brew, making for a potentially sick base. Do not use raw honey on these first steps as raw honey can contain botulism bacteria which You don’t want in your life, trust me.
Commercial sealed, dehydrated or frozen SCOBYs can be purchased. DO NOT BUY A SCOBY! These are usually predisposed to infection and DO NOT WORK! How can a living thing survive if it is frozen? If obtaining a whole SCOBY, get one from a friend. After all, you wouldn’t want to just booch with some rando on the internet, right?!
Instead of buying a SCOBY, we recommend using 1 cup of unflavored unpasteurized kombucha to make your own. When making a SCOBY, it is important to use unflavored, unpasteurized, kombucha. Flavored kombucha will likely contain products that may be harmful to your bacterial factory. Pasteurized booch will not having living elements, so…won’t be successful. Additionally, pick a bottle with a particularly large number of particulates, as this will serve as fuel for your SCOBY baby, then watch it grown. HOORAY SCIENCE!
Making a SCOBY
½ gallon mason jar **note do not use metal as the ions will negatively affect your SCOBY**
3 Rubber bands
7 cups of water
4 bags black or green tea
½ cup sugar (cane)
1 cup unflavored raw and live kombucha (ideally with lots of baby SCOBY)
- Remove mason jar from shipping contents, wash thoroughly
- Cut 3 equally sized pieces of cheesecloth which can cover and drape over the mason jar lid
- Measure 4 cups of water and place on the stove using high heat.
- 4.Measure sugar
- Once a rolling boil is reached pour sugar into water and stir until dissolved.
- Place tea and steep for 5 minutes
- Discard tea bags, add remaining water, and let the tea sit until room temperature (70-75 degrees) reached
- Pour the tea into a mason jar leaving 1 cup of liquid space and some room for air
- Pour 1 cup of unsweetened kombucha into the jar including baby SCOBYs
- Cover with cheesecloth and secure with rubber bands
- Place in a dark place 70-75 degrees and let sit x 4 weeks.
1 Gallon glass container with a spigot
3 Rubber bands
14 cups water
8 bags black or green tea
1 cup sugar (cane)
1 cup unflavored raw and live kombucha
1 SCOBY (above)
- Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a clean pot
- Once boiling, add the sugar and dissolve
- Next, add your tea bags and steep per instructions on the side of the box (usually 5 minutes)
- Add remaining 10 cups of water and let the tea cool to room temperature
- While cooling us sterile technique to remove your SCOBY from your SCOBY solution and place on a clean plate
- Reserve 1 cup of your Kombucha liquid from the SOBY solution and pour into the glass container with a spigot
- Once the tea has cooled, gently pour this into the gallon container
- Add your SCOBY using sterile technique
- Let ferment for 2 weeks in a dark dry place 70-75 degrees
6 glass bottles with a rubber stopper
1 A gallon of Fermented Kombucha
Flavoring including 1 and 1/2 Tablespoon of a sweetener (cane sugar is best for carbonation)
- Clean and sterilize your glass bottles
- Using your glass container with a spigot, empty kombucha into each bottle leaving 1.5 inches at the top (thumb and a half) with your funnel
- Add your flavor/sweetener
- Fruit – Ex. Blueberries/Raspberries
- Natural Sweetener – Ex. Honey/Maple
- Spices – Ex. Ginger/Tumeric
- Herbals – Ex. Mint/Basil
- Let sit for 3-10 days to carbonate in a dark dry place 70-75 degrees
- When you think it is ready, place in the fridge to deactivate your yeast
- Pour and consume!
Note that you should repeat the First Fermentation step to make your next batch of kombucha while doing the carbonation step.
How to Booch!
After you have made your booch, start with drinking 4 oz daily in the AM. You may go up from there. If you experience bloating, nausea, diarrhea, or flu-like symptoms, this likely indicates the Herxheimer reaction. This reaction is unrest in your present unhealthy biome because they are getting evicted from their cozy homes in your gut by the new healthy stuff. This WILL PASS! If this occurs, make sure the rest of your diet is “CLEAN,” decrease the dose, keep moving forward, IT IS WORTH IT!
Kombucha is not a new product but is making a resurgence back into popular culture. It is expensive to buy, so making your own is an easy and cost-effective thing to do. Grow your SCOBY or get one from a friend and take care of it with surgical sterility. Carbonate with your desired flavor, drink in small amounts and add nutritious foods as fuel for your microbiome to stay happy.
Want to Learn More about Booch and Microbiome?
Continue to The Microbiome 101 and Transbiosis: Remodeling Your Microbiome