[DIY] Kombucha

We had the pleasure to meet Frantisek from the Food Hacking Base a few months ago. He introduced us to brewing probiotic drinks with a Kombucha fungus workshop, and before he had left Vienna we got one to start our own batch at home. Now it’s our time to share it with you! Read our instructions, complete them with Frantisek’s manual Kombucha is easy. If you are interested to brew yourself, you can also contact us for a workshop.


Frantisek’s Kombucha workshop at the Viennese Metalab

Kombucha is worldwide known for its healthy properties. You can read many things about it, for instance, it should prevent or cure several illnesses, even cancer. We don’t know to which extent this is true, but it is definitely good for the digestion system. So yes, it’s healthy and it tastes good! Do you know these “Carpe Diem” drinks? They are quite popular in Austria. Do you know what’s inside? Kombucha! This workshop will show you how to brew your own at home, it’s cheap, fun and very easy. It takes only 5-10 active minutes a week, during which you will harvest your culture (and get something to drink for yourself) and feed the fungus. It is recommended to only use the basic ingredients (black or green tea and sugar) in the brewing container, but after you have retrieved your drinking solution you can mix it with anything you want!

#1/9 What you'll need for 1 liter of Kombucha drink:
  • Kombucha fungus
  • Brewing container
  • A second container and maybe another one
  • 6 g black or green tea (around 3 tea bags or 2 tea spoons of loose tea)
  • 60 g sugar (about 6 big soup spoons)
  • 1 l water
  • A piece of organza textile
  • Elastic
  • Funnel
This is our Kombucha  brewing container. You need to protect it from the flies and other intruders with a piece of organza textile. Always keep it covered when you are not processing the content. It is better to not store your Kombucha in the kitchen, because this is the place of your house with the most bacteria. Kombucha is also full of bacteria but they do not like to mix with other bacteria. Also do not expose it to direct sunlight. A living room or bedroom is suitable as repository.
The fungus is usually called SCOBY, it stands for "Symbiotic Culture Of (friendly) Bacteria and Yeast". It doesn't look nice but it is friendly because these bacteria are good for your health. The SCOBY we have here is quite small and not so firm because we started it recently, but it's for sure older than you and me. People have been sharing some pieces of it for decades and it's maybe multi-centenary. You can find pictures with better looking SCOBY but ours is totally fine. Green mould is bad, if it happens you should simply throw away everything and ask someone for a new fungus. But white or brown is OK. You can also find some black dots if you didn't filter your solution well (our fungus has already captured some solid black tea parts).
Start with removing SCOBY from its container. Wash it a bit with tap water from the tap to remove the dead skin. Do not brush it, do not try to peel it. Just let the water and the gravity do their job, what is left will go off the next time. Pour the drink into another container and also wash the original container with tap water (no soap nor other detergent).
  For 1 liter Kombucha, infuse 6 g of tea with 250 ml hot water. That's approximately 3 tea bags or 2 tea spoons of loose tea. Tea bags are OK but it's recommended to use pure and organic black or green tea with no additional taste.
You have to add about 60 g of (cane) sugar per liter. 60 g make approximately 6 big soup spoons. It's quite a lot but fermentation needs sugar. In the end, it will be possible to dilute your ready-to-drink Kombucha solution with more tea, so it will lower the amount of sugar per liter of drink. Please mix with energy to completely dissolve the sugar.

It may be easier to use another container to mix the sugar or to do it directly in the empty brewing container before you go to the next step.
Let the tea infuse and during this time, pour back some of the original Kombucha drink to your brewing container. Here the colour is light because we also added some water, you can do that now or later. In the end, the important thing is that you want 5-10 cl of the original drink to return to the brewing container as it will help the new culture to take a good start.
When the tea is infused, use the organza textile to filter it and pour it into the brewing container. Please don't let any solid tea parts in the container! Complete with water almost until the top of the container (leave about 3 cm to allow you moving it without spilling it in the room).

The reason why we already served some water before (see previous step) is that we didn't want to pour the hot black tea directly in these few centiliters of original drink, because the heat might kill the friendly bacteria. But if you like a stronger taste, you can leave the black tea infuse for 20 min instead of 5-10 min and then it will not be so hot anymore (no need to pre-fill with cold water).
Finally return the SCOBY where it belongs with the white side to the top. The white side is the younger one and it will be happy in contact with the air. Wash the protective organza textile with tap water and replace it over the container. Done!

What is left in the second container, is almost 1 liter of Kombucha solution, you can mix it with another flavoured tea and drink it right now or store it into bottles that you will leave in the fridge for a few days of bottled second fermentation (like Belgium beers). We found for example out that melissa gives to Kombucha a nice taste similar to Austrian Sturm!

If you don't process your Kombucha for more then 7-10 days, it will ferment too much and it will taste like vinegar (then you can use it for your salad dressing).

SCOBY is growing with time. It will eventually use the whole neck of its container, that's why it is better to use container with a wide neck - the wider, the better. When your SCOBY is big enough, you can share it with other people: use clean scissors to cut a part of it, put it in a bottle with 10 cl of starter solution, give it to your friend and share the link to our article! You can also write us a message that we would forward to Frantisek, he loves probiotics and he is always happy to hear about people doing their own experiments.

Finally, Adrien has a nice anecdote for you: “When I was a kid my father started to brew Kombucha at home. My brothers and I were laughing about it because it looked and smelled strange. After some time he gave up and instead of flushing the Kombucha into the toilet, he threw it on a young banana tree, just to give it a try. We had several other young banana trees but just one got the Kombucha. I swear that a few months later, that one was 3 times higher than all the others! I told that to Frantisek and he told me that in Cuba, for example, they are doing researches to use Kombucha as a natural fertilizer.”

Would you dare to imagine a world in which Monsanto killing products are replaced by natural fungus? We do! (Adrien and Anna, dieKulturvermittlung, 13.01.2016)

Picture credits: (cc) dieKulturvermittlung

7 responses to “[DIY] Kombucha”

  1. Kat says:

    Hey I was at a workshop he ran and he had a great efficient way of labelling each experiment – the tea, the flavouring… I can’t remember the details though. Did you do this also? I’m about to get brewing and would love to use that system again.

    • Adrien says:

      Sorry I haven’t done any labeling, I do it a bit randomly… I stopped brewing for drinking (and taste) relatively fast, I did it then to get some vinegar for my salads :-) It working very good for 2 years, I had a huge SCOBY looking very healthy… then two months ago appeared a moist in the jar, I tried to save the rest but it didn’t work so I had to throw everything away :-(

  2. Paul says:

    Habt ihr einen Tipp, wo man am besten zu diesem Pilz kommt?


    • Adrien says:

      I stopped to harvest mine every week and do it 3-4 times a year only, in order to make vinegar that I use for salad dressing. You can get some if you want, but if you ask around you, you might find someone who has a “normal” one to share :-) I am not sure but I believe that my vinegar will make it harder for you to start a new batch.

  3. Adrien says:

    It took me some time to learn it, but here is a very important additional tip!

    If you see many bubbles under your Kombucha or around it, it is not good. The air should not be captured like that. This happens especially when you use a recipient which is not vertically “straight”, like a jar with a mouth which is not as wide as the base. So what you need to do in this case? Do not fill the jar so much. You will get less drink but it will be better for the mushroom. Each time you start a new batch, a new (white) thin Kombucha layer should form at the surface, but for this to happen your Kombucha needs to “swim” entirely in the solution. If it is pushed too much by air bubbles, it will be partly outside the liquid – over the surface – and you won’t get any new layer.

  4. Anna says:

    Lieber Rainer,

    das freut uns! Gerne geben wir dir ein Stückchen von unserem Scoby, sobald es ein bisschen größer ist.

    Lieben Gruß

  5. Rainer Galke says:

    Ihr macht Kombucha!
    Wie toll!
    Ich bin seit langem ein Kombucha Jünger, habe ihm auch schon zu einem Theaterauftritt verholfen, habe jetzt aber eine länger Pause gemacht. Euer Artikel hat mich wieder auf den Geschmack gebracht.
    Würde mich gerne als Abnehmer anmelden, wenn Euch der scoby über den Kopf wächst. Erfahrungsgemäß wächst er bei guter Pflege wie bolle.
    Das größte Problem ist immer einen gepflegten Pilz aus einem seriösen Haushalt zu bekommen…
    Liebe Grüße und viel Spaß mit dem scoby.

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