Kimbucha bottle and glass. Kimbucha bottle and glass. Israeli Kitchen At Levinsky Cafe the Kombucha (bottled, left) is dressed up with fruits and herbs. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

How to make Kombucha the right way

This fermented tea beverage is actually super easy to make at home.

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  • Total time: 1 week
  • Yield: 1 quart
  • Level: Easy
  • Prep time: 15 minutes

Kombucha! It's a health drink that's seemingly everywhere these days, but you'd be hard pressed to find someone who knows exactly what it is. In search of an answer, I went to Cafe Levinsky, in Tel Aviv, Israel's famous outdoor Levinsky Market, to find out.

Proprietor Benny Briga has become popular for his gazoz, a fanciful take on soda made with fresh fruit and herbs. He makes a rendition with kombucha, and showed me how he makes the base.

Kombucha, it turns out, is fairly simple. It's made from tea and sugar. A SCOBY (an acronym for 'symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast') is placed into the sugary tea and, over a period of a week or two, eats most of the sugar in the tea, transforming it into a fermented beverage.

You can make it at home, or you can spend a small fortune buying bottles at your local grocer. If you want to go the cost-effective route, here's how it's done:

Ingredients

  • 1 SCOBY
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon tea
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup starter tea or distilled white vinegar

Directions

You can always get a kombucha starter kit, which is easily available, or you can do it yourself like we set out below. We'll keep it small, with a recipe that produces a quart of kombucha. You can multiply the ingredients as needed.

1. Get your SCOBY (they are available online, or if you know someone making their own kombucha, you can borrow theirs. Cafe Levinsky reuses the ones from previous batches). Make sure to wear gloves so that you don't contaminate the SCOBY with bacteria from your hands.

Bucket of SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast The SCOBY is the essential component of kombucha, turning the tea into a fizzy, fermented drink. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

2. Brew the tea and sweeten it with the sugar as you would if you were making yourself a pot of tea.

Jars of tea leaves and ingredients for homemade Kombucha sitting on a counterTea and sugar are used to make the kombucha. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

3. Once the tea is ready, you can combine it with the SCOBY and the starter liquid in a glass jar (or other vessel). Cafe Levinsky skims starter liquid from a previous batch.

If you don't have that available to you, you can use store-bought kombucha or distilled white vinegar. It's actually not totally necessary to use starter liquid, but it will cut down on brewing time by days.

The scoby at work.The SCOBY eats most of the sugar over a period of weeks, turning it into kombucha. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

4. For a quart, you'll want to let the liquid sit for about a week. No need to refrigerate. Just store it somewhere at room temperature. You can test it around that time, and if it is fizzy, fermented and slightly sour then you're ready to go. At this point, funnel the content from the jar into a clean new bottle.

Woman pouring homemade Kombucha into a carafeAn employee at Cafe Levinsky transfers the kombucha to a glass bottle. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

5. Enjoy your kombucha, but remember to refrigerate it. It'll go bad quickly, and you don't want to drink kombucha that's gone bad.

American tourist drinking kombucha.A group of American tourists came through the cafe and ordered a few kombuchas while we were visiting. (Photo: Zach Pontz)

Related Topics: Drinks and smoothies

Recipes from the Israeli KitchenRecipes from the Israeli Kitchen
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