Kombucha is a hot trend these days, and with good reason. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also believed to promote good health and naturally energizing. It may be a better morning alternative for some than instant coffee.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn key information about kombucha and its health benefits. It also covers the most popular brands and flavors, as well as how to brew your own.
- What Is Kombucha?
- Health Benefits of Kombucha
- What is a SCOBY?
- How to Make a SCOBY
- Popular Kombucha Brands
- How to Make Kombucha at Home
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a beverage made by fermenting bacteria and yeast with black or green tea, as well as sugar. While alcohol is usually present due to fermentation, the amount tends to be minimal.
It is enjoyed around the world for its health benefits and unique flavor, which is highly adaptable to personal tastes and preferences.
Health Benefits of Kombucha
- Kombucha is rich with probiotics that aid the digestive process, as well as antioxidants.
- It contains polyphenols and acetic acid, which help to prevent growth of undesirable bacteria.
- In some studies, it has been shown to improve cholesterol levels.
What Is a SCOBY?
SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.”
It is sometimes referred to as a mother, mother culture, kombucha culture, pellicle, pancake, or mushroom.
This gelatinous mat of bacteria and yeast is a living body, similar to a coral reef in the ocean. You can often see pieces of the SCOBY present in both homemade kombucha, as well as store-bought, although some manufacturers filter it out.
This great video by YBK explains SCOBY in more detail:
How to Make a SCOBY
- Boil 1 gallon of water in a large clean pot.
- Once the water is to a boil, remove it from heat, and add / mix in 1 cup of sugar.
- After the sugar is evenly mixed into the water, drop in the 8 bags of black or green tea, and let the tea steep into the hot water. You only need to steep the tea for 3 to 4 minutes. While steeping for longer is OK, the blend might become bitter.
- Allow the sugary tea to cool until it reaches room temperature.
- Transfer 3 1/2 quarts of the tea mixture into an empty 1-gallon jar.
- Add 2 cups of unflavored and unpasteurized kombucha. This can be store-bought, or reserved from another batch.
- Place the woven cloth, or two layers of a paper towel, over the jar. Secure it using a rubber band.
- Set the jar out of direct sunlight, then let it sit for 2-4 weeks.
- Wait for a 1/4-inch gelatinous disc to form near the top of the jar.
- Inspect the new SCOBY. Make sure the jar doesn’t smell rancid or off-putting. If it does, restart the process.
Popular Kombucha Brands
GT’s Living Foods
GT’s makes a variety of “living beverages” besides its organic and raw kombucha, including adaptogenic tea, water kefir, non-dairy coconut yogurt, and probiotic shots.
Their kombucha comes in several varieties:
- Enlightened Kombucha: This is brewed with living cultures, yielding a light and smooth tasting probiotic powerhouse.
- Enlightened Synergy: This is brewed with living cultures, and contains fresh-pressed organic juice or fruit puree, making it the smoothest of their offerings.
- Classic Kombucha: This combines their Organic & Raw Kombucha with complex blends of vegetable juices, spices, herbs, and botanics. It is brewed with heirloom cultures to bring the same signature, small-batch taste that GT’s first introduced in 1995. This is for kombucha drinkers 21 and older, because the fermentation gives this an alcohol content above 0.5%.
- Classic Synergy: This combines their Organic & Raw Kombucha with fresh-pressed organic juice or fruit puree. Like the Classic Kombucha variety, its alcohol content is above 0.5%, so it’s for ages 21 and older.
Best GT’s Kombucha Flavors
Kevita’s flavors are not as pungent as others on the market. For that reason, don’t go reaching for your favorite smoothie just yet! Kevita is a great gateway for new drinkers who haven’t quite acquired the taste for kombucha yet.
Additionally, the bottles typically contain no SCOBY. Their flavors are more like flavored sparkling water, rather than a probiotic beverage.
Best Kevita Kombucha Flavors
Health-Ade is a very popular brand, brewed in Los Angeles, California. You can likely find this brand anywhere from large supermarkets to your local gas stations while your grabbing your favorite snacks.
The company boasts that their brewing process is “All Glass,” meaning they don’t use any metal or plastic containers to prevent leaching of the materials into the brew.
Health-Ade also brews in 2.5-gallon batches. This small size yields quality results for every serving.
Best of all, they use high-quality ingredients, and cold-pressed juices from organic produce.
Best Flavors of Health-Ade
Founded in Bend, Oregon, Humm is a brand built on inclusion and communication, with a vision of peace, mutual respect, and equality. It’s available in all 50 states, as well as Sweden and Guam.
Best Flavors of Humm
How to Make Kombucha at Home
Brewing your own kombucha sounds far more complicated than it really is, once you’re accustomed to the process.
Many drinkers prefer their own brews in both taste and quality, in fact, and rarely—if ever—purchase store brands again.
- Gallon of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 8 bags of black or green tea
- 2 cups of starter kombucha tea (unpasteurized/neutral flavor; can be store-bought, or reserved from a previous brew)
- 1 SCOBY, or the ingredients to make one:
- Gallon of water
- 1 cup of sugar
- 8 bags of black or green tea
- 2 cups of starter kombucha tea
- Large pot
- 1-gallon jar
- Tightly woven cloth (or paper towels)
- Rubber bands
- Small funnel
- 6 16-oz glass bottles
1. Make the tea base for the SCOBY
The SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is the key to the entire process, and where the probiotics and many health benefits of this drink stem from.
To make the tea base for your SCOBY, boil a gallon of water in a large clean pot. Remove from heat, then mix in a cup of sugar.
After the sugar is evenly mixed into the water, drop in the 8 bags of black tea. Let the tea steep into the hot water.
You only need to steep the tea for 3 to 4 minutes. Steeping for longer is fine, although the blend can become bitter if steeped too long.
Finally, let the sugary tea cool until it reaches room temperature.
2. Add the starter kombucha
Add 2 cups of unflavored and unpasteurized kombucha. This can be store-bought, or reserved from a previous batch of kombucha.
3. Add the SCOBY
Gently place the SCOBY into the jar with the tea mixture, and cover it with the tightly-woven cloth. Two layers of paper towels will work fine, as well. Secure with a rubber band.
4. Ferment for 7-10 days
Let the mixture sit, out of direct sunlight, for 7-10 days.
After 7 days, you can begin to taste the kombucha every day. When it reaches a flavorful balance of sweet and tart, the batch is ready.
5. Remove the SCOBY
At this point, you’ll want to remove the SCOBY from the jar. If you’d like to make another batch, you can re-use this SCOBY in this same process.
6. Transfer to bottles
Using the small funnel, transfer the liquid into the glass bottles, then seal them shut.
If needed, use a ladle or small cup to move the liquid from the large jar into the funnel.
7. Store at room temperature for 1-3 days
This is where the kombucha will carbonate. Keep the bottles out of direct sunlight for 1-3 days during this process.
It might be helpful to put some of the new kombucha into a plastic bottle before this step.
This will help you gauge how long the drink takes to carbonate, by feeling the firmness of the bottle—once the plastic bottle becomes very firm, the drink is sufficiently carbonated.
Refrigerating the kombucha will stop it from carbonating further. And once it’s cold, it’s ready for you to drink!
While it’s definitely an acquired taste for many, most kombucha enthusiasts will tell you it’s not just the taste you’ll fall in love with—it’s how this drink makes you feel that’s so irresistible.
Many claim their digestion, mood, sleep, and overall health improve noticeably, once this fizzy drink joins their fridge lineup.