Pure kombucha, also called starter liquid, can be bought commercially. Make sure it is unflavored, unfiltered, and non-pasteurized. Do not use anything less than pure kombucha. You need the real stuff.
For some notes on safety, make sure you have a full cloth cover, not something like cheesecloth. Fruit flies are drawn to the beverage and a full cloth will keep them at bay. Make sure to sanitize your hands and equipment with vinegar before working with the ingredients. Soap or harsh chemicals could upset the cultures.
As a beginner, it is probably best to buy a scoby, which you can get from Crum’s website, kombuchakamp.com. Store it in a dry, dark place. Do not use a dry or refrigerated scoby for brewing.
1 Bring to boil 4 cups of water and pour into the large brewing container.
2 Brew your tea: add the 6 tea bags, steeping for 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the tea bags.
3 Stir in 1 cup of sugar until it is dissolved.
4 Fill your large container with cool, distilled water so it’s 2 inches below the lip.
5 Wait until the brew is body temperature or below (lukewarm).
6 Add the scoby and starter liquid.
7 Cover the container with the cloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band.
8 Set the container in a warm place that is not in direct sunlight.
9 Let it sit for 7 to 10 days.
10 Leaving the mixture for a shorter time will keep it sweeter, longer will give it more of a dry, tart taste. Start taste testing with a straw under the scoby at the 7-day mark.
Once you are done, you can remove the scoby and a cup or so of starter fluid for the next batch. Strain the rest of the liquid and flavor to preference. Complete any cleaning with hot water or vinegar to sanitize. Keep the scoby and starter fluid together in the same container and in a warm, dry area with airflow. Throw out the scoby if mold develops.
Popular ways to flavor kombucha include adding fruit juice, pureed fruit, organic flavor extracts or dried herbs to taste.
©Excerpted from The Big Book of Kombucha (c) Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory.
Photograph by (c) Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.