I started making Kambucha in the 90’s and loved it! After moving and lifestyle changes, I got out of regular production for a long time. Then a few years ago, I got the bug again. Someone mentioned that they knew someone in Valladolid that had one going, and for a few months, anytime anyone mentioned Valladolid, I asked if they knew someone there with a SCOBY. Haha!
Then one day I was at a woman’s luncheon at a friends house and was actually just leaving, when I heard someone behind me say “WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” and I knew what it was before I even turned around….I had found my new SCOBY love. We have been regularly producing from 20 to 50 liters per week for about 3 years!
Since I have my massage studio in my house in Tulum Mexico, I have a regular stream of people from all over the world going through my home. I always offer Kambucha and it is fun to see the reaction. Many have not heard of it. Some have and start to make a face. I never go into too much detail about what it is until I have served them some and they have declared it good. I have a lot of experience with seeing that people will get the experience they expect! I have had alcoholics refuse to drink it due to the alcohol content…..but then I tell them it is recommended for babies, and if they are more sensitive than a baby, then they probably should avoid it! Haha!
I won’t go into the medicinal properties here, there are many conflicting reports. For me, it is about eating something alive. Good bacteria and yeast keep balance on bad bacteria and yeast. We come from people who have always eaten fermented live foods and these days, everything is dead long before it hits our kitchens. Since I live in Mexico, it seems more important to have good bacteria going into my gut.
I often get asked if I will sell it to people….and so for a while was making it and selling it to a store, so I didn’t have an even bigger stream of people going in and out of my house, and I will do that again next high season. I have a couple of friends who really like it, and they usually each get about 2 liters a week, so it goes fast. At one point I had two 20 liter jars and a 10 liter jar going for a total output of about 40 liters a week. It takes me about 30 minutes to do each batch.
I am about to take off on an extended journey and have a couple of friends babysitting my SCOBY’s so thought this would be a good time to write it as a blog post so they can have the directions. Also I get asked how to make it ALL THE TIME, so now, they also can just go to my website and find it! I don’t have time to add video today, but I will at some point and edit it into the blog!
Hope you enjoy this.
How to make Kambucha! Also Jun!
Measurements will follow.
Kambucha is a fermented tea. To make it you need a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Many people refer to it as a mushroom or fungus, but it is not, but it does look like one. It is bacteria and yeast.
If you need one, go on Facebook and ask if any of your friends have one, they will be happy to share with you. Each batch of Kambucha produces more SCOBY. Most people go out of their way to give it away, and there are many blog posts about what to do with the extra SCOBY. I have never been that strict about getting rid of SCOBY, in fact, I do what is called “continuous brew”, so I just leave it all in there! My SCOBY’s are HUGE! I have never read about anyone else doing this, but I have been doing it for years and my Kambucha is DELISCIOUS!
If you can’t find one, you can buy them on line.
First of all, this needs to be a very clean process…wash your hands, make sure all the bottles and other utensils you are using are clean and rinsed well. Anytime you touch the SCOBY, make sure your hands are clean and not soapy.
They say only glass, no plastic, but really they are saying that as plastic pitchers and bowls are often scratched up on the inside leaving lots of places to harbor bacteria. I think if you are using a new plastic thing that will not get scratches you are just fine. I personally don’t like plastic for most things, but honestly, in the second ferment, plastic stays sealed tighter and so ferments better and gets bubblier than any glass that I have found. The lids just don’t seal as tight.
They also say you are never to touch the SCOBY to anything metal…she seems a lot hardier than most of the blogs give her credit for!
I am a big SCOBY fan, it is nice having her in my life. She is alive and I treat her with much respect and gratitude for being willing to impart her life and health giving properties into my body and soul. She is a good roommate who doesn’t ask for much in return.
To change a batch and start a first fermentation.
The first fermentation is usually ready after 7 to 10 days. Go to the shorter side of that scale if it is hot. You can go longer, the longer you go, the more risk it will turn to vinegar. All is not lost if you do…..use more sugar next batch to compensate.
The first fermentation is open; you will need a big jar with an open mouth. You will not be putting a top on this, just cover it with a cloth and then I use a big hair band to secure that cloth on. It is to keep the bugs out. It also keeps the SCOBY from view of people who might not find her as beautiful as I do. You can cover the whole jar if you want, it doesn’t seem to need much light to live. I use either a 10 or 20 liter glass jar like the ones used by Mexicans to make Ocheta and other drinks in. Making it in anything smaller than a 10 liter jar seems to be too much work for not much Kambucha to me. I never have problems getting rid of it!
What I do first is to start to syphon off the last batch from the big jar.
Insert one end of the tubing in the big jar and then place the container you are syphoning into on the floor below the big jar. I have a nice tubing set I bought at a beer making supply place, but you can just use any kind of tubing. I often have used just the clear plastic tubing you can buy at a hardware store. Suck on one end of the hose until most of the bubbles are out and then place your finger over the end to stop the flow and put that end into the target container and then let go with your finger. The flow of liquid should be strong and steady. Sometimes it gets SCOBY sucked into it which stops the flow, blow it out and then start the suction again. Keep an eye on it, I FREQUENTLY over flow it and have a mess to clean up. If you are a stickler and don’t want your mouth on something that is part of the process, you can get a pump type syphon at a beer or wine making supply company. I try to avoid drawing directly from the bottom, there is a lot of sediment down there, and also SCOBY making stuff, so I just leave that alone and try to keep it from clogging up my tubing.
You want to leave at least an 8th of the liquid in the big jar for starting the next batch. I have an abundance of Kambucha in my life, so I actually usually leave a 4th in there……….and it always turns out good!
Anytime the big jar is not being messed with, cover it back up with the cloth to keep bugs out of it.
While that is going, I get about a liter and a half or 2 liters of water in a clean pan on the stove, covered until it comes to a boil.
While that is going on, I get the tea bags ready. You can use Green Tea, Black Tea, Red Tea, or White Tea, but only TEA. Not herbs, like chamomile or anything like that….only TEA from the tea plant!
First I open all the packets of tea bags, and line them up bag on one end and tag on the other end. In the years of doing this, I have learned some tricks to make this whole process more streamlined. It used to be that the tags would fall off in the water while it was steeping and I would have to retrieve all of them out, without contaminating the tea, right? No fingers allowed! Then I learned to cut all the tags OFF and leaving the strings long, I then tied the strings together making 24 individual bags of tea into one thing to fish out of the tea!
So, now the water is boiling, turn it off, and drop in the tea bags….use a spoon or something to drench them all they way into the water….and let them steep for 10 minutes or so. Then fish them out. I usually put them into a clean bowl and let them cool then squeeze out any tea that is left in them…have even added cool water and resqueezed them again. I always wish I knew what to do with all of these used tea bags! Let me know if you come up with something awesome.
While the water is still hot, add the sugar and stir it around so that it dissolves into the tea. Put the lid back on it and let it sit until it is cool. If making Jun, it will depend on your honey. Of course if your honey is super thick, then you need the water hot to dissolve it. Here in the Yucatan, our honey is quite thin, you can even add it to cold water and have it dissolve! I love this. Bottom line, the less you can heat the honey, the more raw it stays which is good. If you have to, you have to, but if you don’t, don’t. You might try doing your honey liquidifying in the blender and see if that dissolves it rather than heating it if your honey is thick.
So, it always comes up, is there anything I can use besides sugar, and for years the on line answer has been no. Sugar and Tea are what your LIVE SCOBY is eating. In fact, they usually say, the more refined the easier it is for SCOBY to eat. Now, we are seeing people make Jun, and it is with Honey, and DELISCIOUS, so now I do both. Jun ferments faster and has a higher alcohol content. They caution not to add fruit in the second fermentation as it will make it more alcoholic. Like that is a bad thing? So, what I always say, is take some of your SCOBY and make a separate batch with what you want to try and see if it works! Just don’t risk your whole SCOBY on it. I usually keep a SCOBY parked in a sealed jar with LOTS of sugar for as long as 6 months to ensure I always have a SCOBY incase something happens to the production one. You can try adding more or less sugar to taste, but remember, there needs to be enough for her to eat! I use A LOT and people LOVE my Kambucha! If it doesn’t taste good, you wont drink as much, right? Attitude is important! A good tasting Booch will make you FEEL GOOD Drinking it, a bad tasting healthier one not so much.
At this time you can start to add some water into the big jar again, but make sure you leave enough room for the sweet tea to be added in as well. Don’t ever over fill your Big Jar, as sometimes air gets trapped under the SCOBY and it makes it bubble up and then SCOBY touches the cloth top. Where the SCOBY touches the cloth will usually mold and get bugs. I have only ever had a mold problem once, and that was how it happened. It didn’t affect the whole SCOBY, so I just pulled that part out and threw it away.
SCOBY’s are kind of ugly, sort of like slimy organ meat…this is not for the faint of heart or stomach. (I don’t recommend ever showing anyone your SCOBY before they have declared the Kambucha delicious! SCOBY will usually be caramel goldish in color, but can be lots of colors and still be ok. But never black. Get rid of it if it turns black. Jun seems to produce a lighter colored SCOBY.
When the sweet tea is cool enough, add it to the big jar. Don’t want to burn our friend!
Now cover it up and secure the cloth. I usually take a piece of paper and write the day I made the tea on it and also figure out the date it should be done and write that on there as well. TA DA! In 7 to 10 days, you will have your new batch of Kambucha!
Second fermentation and Flavoring
Now, your second fermentation starts on the Kambucha that you drew out and put in the bottles. The first fermentation is open, in the big jar with just a cloth over it to keep the bugs out. The second fermentation is closed, in a jar or bottle with a lid that seals it up. This is where the big bubbly comes in. It is ready to drink as soon as you drew it off of the big Jar with the SCOBY, but it gets better if you do the second ferment. When to drink it is up to you…..the longer you wait, the bubblier it gets, but if you wait too long, it can be like vinegar.
So, you can do your second fermentation in individual bottles or in big bottles, your choice. I usually do it in a big bottle then in a couple of days I pour it into individual bottles. When doing big batches, I just use a 20 liter Crystal Garafon like the one you use in your water dispensers, and seal it tightly with the lid. (PS my water guy swears they will recycle those lids, so save them and give them to a Crystal driver!)
In this second fermentation, you can also do the flavoring. NEVER ADD FRUIT OR ANYTHING BUT TEA, WATER AND SUGAR TO THE BIG JAR WITH THE SCOBY> the flavoring is done in the second fermentation.
Some of my favorites are Ginger and Basil, mango, pineapple, hamaica, guyabana, really any fruit works. I have even used habanero!
So you just cut the fruit up into a size that will fit through the opening, and then put the top on TIGHT as you can! This does not have to be refrigerated. In fact, refrigeration stops the fermentation process; so wait until it is how you like it before sticking it in the fridge.
Another thing that happens in this second fermentation is that it starts making baby SCOBY’s so I always use a strainer when I am pouring it. Nothing will turn a person off to Kambucha for the rest of their lives like getting a big old SCOBY loogie in their mouth! YUCK!
If you should happen to be going out of town for an extended time, SCOBY will be fine. Just giver her double or triple the tea and sugar and not so much water, and put her away covered in a cool dark place…..they say not to put it in the fridge, but I have done it without consequences. She may be quite like vinegar when you come home. It may take two batches if it was really vinegary to come back to her usual sweet self, but it is still drinkable. Maybe dilute it to drink it? It would be amazing for health I believe. Also save some of this and use it in place of commercial vinegar. It will keep in the fridge pretty much forever!
So, enjoy the heck out of your new friend. I hope you get as much health and enjoyment out of your SCOBY as I do mine. It is an incredible gift to share with people!
Measurements for making one 10 liter batch of Kambucha
1/8th to 1/4th of Kambucha from a previous batch. If you don’t have that, you can use commercial Kambucha or even vinegar, but it will take a couple of batches to get drinkable Kambucha if you start it with vinegar. I have heard of people starting their Kambucha only with commercial Kambucha and not having a real SCOBY.
12 bags of Tea
2 cups of sugar
water to fill the Big Jar.
For 10 liters of Jun
1/8th to 1/4th of Kambucha from a previous batch
10 bags of GREEN TEA (on line it says to only use Green Tea….not sure why?)
750ml’s of Honey
water to fill the Big Jar
Jun ferments faster, so you are going to draw off every 5 t0 7 days