Add Some Fizz to Your Summer with Fermentation

Kombucha with lemon and cinnamon | Natalya Stepowaya

There is a lacto-fermentation craze afoot. The superstar of the FIY (ferment-it-yourself) movement is kombucha, a fizzy tea-based drink that refreshes as much as it maintains your gut bacteria healthy and happy. Because it’s so good for digestion, proponents of kombucha recommend drinking it every day to make it a part of your body’s routine.

It’s been in grocery stores for years now, with its spot in a cooler near the produce section. These days, it’s just beginning to make its appearance in small town supermarkets in more rural areas of the country. Despite its availability, kombucha is not cheap. A twelve-ounce bottle will typically run between four and five dollars. If you want to take advantage of the benefits of kombucha by drinking it on a daily basis, then purchasing it at the store doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Luckily, kombucha is easy to make. The basic recipe is just mother bacteria – like when making sourdough – and sweetened room-temperature tea. Black or green tea is most recommended; whatever you do, do not use a tea with any flavoring added, because that can affect the behavior of the mother. The mother is also referred to as a SCOBY (short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).

To make your own kombucha, all you have to do is combine the SCOBY with tea and sugar in a large glass container. The oversized Ball jars sold at home goods stores are perfect for brewing kombucha. It takes between one and two weeks for the bacteria to eat the sugar in the tea until the kombucha tastes right. As the SCOBY chows down on its sugary treat, it will produce bubbles of gas, a natural carbonation of sorts. With home kombucha brewing, unless you want to get out your pH strips and turn it into a science experiment, there are no specific numbers or measurements to follow, because the fermentation will be a little different each time you do it. Because it all depends on the ambient temperature and some other environmental factors, it won’t take as long for your kombucha to ferment in warmer months as it does during cooler parts of the year.

After the first fermentation, you can add flavor with a second fermentation. Pour the liquid from the first fermentation into some airtight bottles, adding your flavoring. Be sure to leave a cup or so of liquid to keep the SCOBY company. For flavor, some people use fruit juice, but I prefer whole fruit. At this point, the kombucha is still alive despite being separated from the SCOBY, and it will react with the natural sugars in your flavoring, creating more bubbles and incorporating the fruit flavor into the whole liquid.

Throw in some strawberries, raspberries, mango, or peaches. Add some ginger for extra digestive benefits. I also like to add some dried or fresh turmeric root (which is all the rage in anti-inflammatory circles these days), and a sprinkle of cayenne gives my kombucha some teeth. Experiment with different flavors and have fun. This round only takes about two or three days. You might want to loosen and re-tighten the caps of the bottles once a day, to relieve the built-up pressure from the gas and to prevent any explosions.

There are so many simple ways to live a better life. Making a big pot of black tea once a week takes minimal effort and allows me to have kombucha fermenting all the time so my family and I can drink it every day. The beautiful thing about making your own kombucha is the SCOBY grows and grows. You can remove the fresh layer of SCOBY and use it to make another big container of ‘buch, or you can give it away to a friend looking for some natural refreshment.

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