Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What You Need To Start Making Kombucha and The Big Book of Kombucha (review & giveaway)

If you follow my Instagram stories, you know that I now brew my own kombucha (a fermented tea beverage). I have been wanting to brew kombucha at home for a very long time. I enjoy drinking bottled commercial kombucha from the health food section of the grocery store, but it's expensive (about $4 or more per bottle). My husband and daughter like kombucha too; it gets pricey for the three of us to drink it. What stopped me from brewing kombucha earlier was that general mental barrier to starting something new. To overcome that mental block, a couple of months back I took a kombucha brewing class at my local library. The instructor sent us home with a basic kombucha recipe, tea bags and the SCOBY needed to start brewing kombucha.

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To round out the knowledge shared by the instructor, I turned to the bible of home kombucha brewing, The Big Book of Kombucha: Brewing, Flavoring, and Enjoying the Health Benefits of Fermented Tea. This book has answered every question I have had so far as I progress with brewing kombucha. It is a handy reference guide for the home kombucha brewer.

With The Big Book of Kombucha as a reference, you certainly don't need to take a kombucha brewing class like I did. The book, written by expert brewers Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, covers all aspects of kombucha brewing, from brewing methods (ie. batch and continuous brewing) to recipes using kombucha and even recipes using the SCOBYs themselves. (If you've never seen a SCOBY before, that's a jar full of them in the photo above.) SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast" - a SCOBY is the living material that drives the kombucha fermentation. The appearance of the SCOBY takes some getting used to - it's a bit odd and will likely gross out your children. But it's actually a really cool thing! After all, it makes for a delicious, health-promoting drink. As author Hannah says in her intro, "We are 'bacteriosapiens': we have a vital relationship with bacteria. In fact, when you get down to the most basic level, every living thing on this planet - from plants to fish to birds to humans - is powered by bacteria. Without bacteria, none of us could exist." When you look at it this way, SCOBY isn't so gross after all!

The Big Book of Kombucha outlines the benefits of fermented foods in general and kombucha in particular. While no individual food or beverage is a miracle food on its own, kombucha has been observed to promote healthy bacteria in the gut, support healthy liver function, boost energy and heal eczema, among many other things. I reach for kombucha whenever I have a headache or feel low generally. The book also details the history and science behind kombucha, how to get started brewing, how to flavour and carbonate your tea and how to troubleshoot problems. It details how to create a SCOBY hotel for SCOBYs that you wish to save. There are recipes for flavouring your kombucha with fruit, herbs, vegetables and superfoods. Additional recipes show how you can incorporate kombucha into smoothies, shakes, ciders, spritzes and cocktails. Find out how to make kombucha vinegar, which can then be used to make kombucha mustard and ketchup. There's even a recipe to make fruit leather with your SCOBY. (Not sure I could persuade the kids to try that one though.) The Big Book of Kombucha is a one-stop shop for anybody looking to make kombucha and incorporate it into a healthier lifestyle.

What You Need To Start Making Kombucha

In addition to a recipe to follow (which you can find in The Big Book of Kombucha), you need some green or black (English Breakfast, Orange Pekoe) tea, either bags or loose leaf , along with sugar to create a sweet tea. To start your kombucha brewing adventures, you will also need a SCOBY. If you know somebody who brews kombucha, you can get a piece of SCOBY from them. Each time you brew a batch of kombucha, a new SCOBY is created, so you quickly have more than you need. If you don't have a friend to share a SCOBY, you can order one online. It will come in some starter fluid, which you will also need for your first batch.

If you also need a vessel to brew in, consider ordering a kit like this Kombucha Shop Kombucha Brewing Kit, which includes a 1-gallon glass brew jar, a SCOBY and starter pouch, a temperature gauge, pH strips and loose leaf tea. I got my brewing vessel (which holds 2 gallons) at The Bulk Barn store here in Canada. You could also use a large glass jar that's left over from a large portion of jarred food.

I bought some Grolsch beer in the swing-top bottles because a friend advised that the bottles (once drained of beer and cleaned, obviously) are good for the second part of the brewing process - flavouring and carbonation. I bought a few swing-top bottles at the dollar store as well. They've worked out well so far, but buy at your own risk, because I've read stories online about bottles exploding in the carbonation phase.

Apparently some people put the bottles in a closed cooler at the carbonation phase in case glass breaks after pressure builds up. Please note that screw-top bottles and mason jars may not be sealed enough to create the carbonation you desire. (That small jar with the glass lid in my photos holds blueberry kombucha that never did carbonate enough.)

The initial investment in kombucha brewing supplies pays off quickly, especially if you drink kombucha quite regularly (or you would like to). Once you have the jars that you need, the SCOBY renews itself and all you need to buy is sugar, tea and flavourings. For the flavourings, I have been using small amounts of frozen and fresh fruits, along with minced ginger and freshly squeezed lemon juice. These are all quite affordable options.

Yesterday, I set simple flavourings into glass swing-top bottles for the carbonation phase of my fourth-ever batch of kombucha, at the same time boiling water to create the sweet tea for my fifth batch. The mental barrier gone, I find the process incredibly simple and the results just as tasty (if not more tasty) than store-bought kombucha. If you've been wanting to brew kombucha at home but feel intimidated about getting started, take it from me - it's a lot of fun and really not difficult at all.

Questions for you

What's your favourite flavour of kombucha (whether store-bought or homemade)? If you haven't made kombucha, what's stopping you?

Enter to win a copy of The Big Book of Kombucha

Thomas Allen has generously offered to give one Canadian reader a copy of The Big Book of Kombucha. Enter for a chance to win using the rafflecopter widget below until June 3rd.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I don't know what my favourite flavour of kimbucha is. I've only tasted it once, and I don't know what flavour that was.

    1. I tend to like the fruity flavours, as well as ginger. :)

  2. My fave would be a blackberry!

  3. Maureen L AndersonMay 17, 2019 at 10:13 AM

    I love ginger

  4. I enjoy berry flavours. I'm not sure which would be my favorite, because I've only tried a couple so far.

  5. Have not tried it yet, would love to try a Berry flavour!maybe raspberry!

  6. My favorites are all kinds of berry flavors.

  7. My favourite flavour is lemon ginger.

  8. I haven't tried it yet, but I would love to try the sweeter flavours, especially any kind of berry flavour.

  9. I've only had it once and I'm not sure what flavor it was. It tasted good and I would definitely like to learn how to make it.

  10. I love pumpkin spice kombucha

  11. My favourite flavour would have to be grape.

  12. I love berry flavors but I also enjoy a nice ginger kimbucha.

  13. My favorite flavor is ginger.

  14. I'd make lemon ginger! I've always wanted to make Kombucha!

  15. I like the tumeric and ginger flavors.