What Are the Best Tips for Brewing Kombucha?

Dan Harkins

The ancient tea known as kombucha, pronounced "com BOO cha," is more like tea on steroids. This meticulously concocted health drink is made from a simple blend of some tea, lots of sugar, and a bacterial culture that is allowed to ferment until the drink is adequately acidic and sweet, producing an elixir reported to allegedly cure baldness and ease arthritis to fight cancer and end insomnia. Brewing kombucha correctly requires careful preparations, particularly since some health problems have been linked to improper manufacturing and excessive consumption.

Ingredients for kombucha include green or black tea, sugar, and water.
Ingredients for kombucha include green or black tea, sugar, and water.

According to the American Cancer Society, as of 2011 no scientific proof exists to show that brewing kombucha, also known as mushroom tea, is a worthwhile practice to fight illness by adding colonies of beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract, much like eating yogurt. Nevertheless, the culture has been prepared for what appears to be at least 22 centuries, originating in Asia. It is unclear exactly where the drink was first prepared or by whom, but its popularity as an alternative remedy has exploded globally over the last century, particularly in the last few decades.

Brewing kombucha, also known as mushroom tea, requires careful preparation.
Brewing kombucha, also known as mushroom tea, requires careful preparation.

Perhaps the best tip for brewing kombucha is to learn a time-tested method for making this tea and following it exactly. A recipe from G√ľnther Frank, who wrote the book Kombucha: Healthy Beverage and Natural Remedy from the Far East, starts by making a simple black or green tea by adding two tea bags or 2 tsp. (about 9.86 ml) of tea to 1 qt (about 1 liter) of boiling water, then letting the tea sit for about 15 minutes. According to Frank, using green tea will improve the cancer-fighting qualities.

To this small batch of tea, as much as 3 oz. (about 100 g) of sugar is dissolved and then left to cool. After the tea has reached room temperature, a commercially bought kombucha bacterial culture is placed into the liquid, and the container is covered with a lid or cheesecloth. Adding the culture when the tea is still hot will destroy the culture. For the first batch, a commercial culture will be needed, but brewing kombucha again will merely require about 10 percent of the new liquid to be from the previous kombucha batch.

After about 10 days of storage at room temperature, the tea should be ready to consume. The zoogleal mat, a mold of mushrooming bacteria that forms inside the container, should be carefully removed before the drink is ready. Some also strain the liquid to remove any other impurities. For a sweeter drink, try consuming it after about a week; for a more sour drink, let it ferment for a few days longer than average.

Though the practice of brewing kombucha at home is a time-honored tradition, many health experts advise consuming a store-bought, pasteurized blend. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some patients were hospitalized in the mid-1990s after the tea caused excessive lactic acid levels. Despite the drink being typically safe to consume, the CDC reported that home brewers were more susceptible to consuming dangerous pathogens.

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