DIY Kombucha sounds like a virus waiting to happen. I mean, life 101: don’t play with bacteria, right?
But according to Felicity Evans, author of Probiotic Drinks at Home, you don’t need a lab and bubbling beaker to brew gut-friendly drinks at home. She says there’s no need to be afraid of the lurgy (sorry, SCOBY).
“We have become quite alienated from fermentation, so it can seem scary to some people … [but] the risks are very very few–I’ve been doing this every day for four years and nothing has gone wrong!”
Felicity’s journey with fermentation was a very personal one. After a string of diseases left her lethargic and bedridden and pumped with antibiotics, she began searching for answers to long-term health. Recalling an encounter with a Guatemalan local where she tasted a sacred life-giving drink—a water kefir—and felt amazing, she began experimenting in her kitchen. Through trial and error, she learnt how to create probiotic elixirs that proved vital throughout her healing process.
To this day, fermented drinks remain pivotal to Felicity’s personal health. “I have a couple of fermented products a day because they make you feel so good! I’ll usually start my day with a beet kvass shot (which is a sugar-free fermented beetroot tonic), then with lunch, I’ll have a big glass of water kefir and then when I get home from work, I love to have a honey mead as a replacement for a glass of wine. It hits the spot perfectly and it’s so delicious!”
While Felicity enjoys three hits per day, she’s a well-seasoned brewer. If you’re just starting out, try once a day and build from there. And if you think you may have an inflamed or leaky gut, you may need to heal it first before introducing fermented foods.
Ready to get your lab coat on? Before you do, Felicity has one golden rule: use filtered water. The chlorine in tap water can kill the good microbes that you need to help the fermentation along. Other than that, keep everything clean, trust your gut and you are good to go. Cheers to good gut health!
Basic Kombucha Recipe
Prep: 15 minutes | Ferment: 1–5 weeks | Difficulty: Medium
Shelf life: Refrigerate for up to 3 months | Makes: About 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups)
“In kombucha brewing, the sugars convert into acids, leaving a low-sugar drink. I like to harvest the kombucha when it’s still a little sweet. However, if you want to make a vinegar or a totally sugar-free product, allow it to ferment for several weeks and use the kombucha vinegar in salad dressings.”
1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) filtered water or springwater
4 black tea bags or 1 tablespoon loose-leaf black tea
3 tablespoons raw or white sugar
3 tablespoons kombucha starter culture liquid
1 kombucha Mother, a little smaller than the size of your palm
Bring 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) of the filtered water to a simmer. Pour into a teapot or heatproof bowl, add the tea bags or tea leaves and leave to steep for 3–5 minutes.
Strain the tea into a heatproof 1.5 litre (52 fl oz/6 cup) wide-mouth glass jar and discard the tea bags or tea leaves. Add the sugar to the jar and stir to dissolve.
Pour in the remaining filtered water. When the liquid has cooled to room temperature, add the kombucha starter culture liquid and Mother. Cover the jar with a piece of muslin (cheesecloth) and secure with an elastic band.
Place the jar out of direct sunlight in a cool spot where it won’t be disturbed. Leave the liquid to ferment for around 4 days in hot weather and 14–20 days in cooler weather.
Gently remove the Mother to re-use or rest. Retain 3 tablespoons of the kombucha liquid as the starter culture liquid for your next brew.
Mix in any sediment that has settled at the bottom of the jar, or leave it as it is. Put a funnel in the opening of a 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) glass bottle with a tight-fitting lid and put a strainer on top of the funnel.
Pour the kombucha into the bottle through the strainer and discard any solids.
Tightly seal the bottle lid and leave the bottle on the bench to build carbonation. This could take anywhere from 2–14 days, depending on the temperature.
‘Burp’ the kombucha daily to release some pressure by opening the lid slightly and then tightening it again.
When the kombucha is as fizzy and sour as you like (this could range from a small spritz to a ferocious fizz), store it in the fridge to slow the fermentation process, and enjoy cold.
+ Tips and tricks … You can make a fabulous hair rinse from kombucha that will leave your hair soft and silky. Allow fermentation to continue to vinegar stage so that no sugar is left—the kombucha will smell highly acidic. Bottle the kombucha and use it next time you wash your hair.
Images and recipes from Probiotic Drinks at Home by Felicity Evans Murdoch Books, RRP $27.99 Photography by Rob Palmer