A Trio of Homebrewed Kombuchas: Lavender Chamomile, Lemongrass Ginger, and Apple Spice

Hello everybody! The good news is – my camera (and therefore blog) is back in action! The bad news is – I’m heading overseas again for two weeks this weekend. Well, this should keep you busy.

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I’ve had quite a kombucha obsession for a while, particularly GT Dave’s Gingerade Kombucha. But my pocketbook was begging me to quit the habit, as those little 16-oz bottle run about $4 a pop.

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Enter homebrewing.

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A friend gave me a SCOBY, the disc of bacteria and yeast necessary to ferment sweetened black tea into kombucha. If you don’t know anybody  that brews, you can order them online. They are really good at making babies so it should be a one time purchase. Consider yourself warned though: SCOBYs are not pretty.

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The actual process is really simple. This source is a really good guide, as is this one. I recommend reading through instructions before you start. Here are my simplified tips in summary of what I’ve learned:

  • Don’t use metal utensils with  the SCOBY or kombucha
  • Don’t wash your hands with antibacterial soap before you handle the SCOBY. Rinse them well with water and pour vinegar over your hands before you touch it
  • It works best with plain black tea, nothing flavored like earl grey.
  • It works best with plain, old-fashioned white sugar. Maple, honey, turbinado sugar, agave, etc. won’t work because they cause the wrong pH for fermenting. This is the only use for white sugar that I recommend! 🙂
  • You can use tap water but it works best with purified, filtered water without the added fluoride and other minerals.
  • Watch for signs of cross contamination like mold, or damage to the SCOBY like black spots.

You will need:

  • Large glass container
  • Clean kitchen towl
  • Large rubberband
  • Black tea bags
  • Purified water
  • White sugar
  • SCOBY
  • Starter liquid: 2 cups plain commercial or homemade kombucha from a previous batch
  • glass bottles or jars for second fermenting
  • flavors (optional)

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The process:

1. Make sweet tea! Combine the water and sugar, and then add tea bags when it reaches a boil. I have a 1 gallon container so I made 1.5 gallons of water, used 1.5 cups white sugar, and 12 teabags. If you have a smaller container you can use these amounts: 1 quart water, 2 teabags, and 1/4 cup sugar.

2. Let it steep a long time. I did 10 minutes. You want it a lot stronger than you would if you were drinking it.

3. Let the tea cool completely. If it’s too warm, it can kill or damage the SCOBY.

4. To your clean glass container, add the starter liquid, cooled sweet tea, and scoby.

5. Cover with the clean towel, and rubberband it. The SCOBY may float, sink, or hang out somewhere in the middle. All are normal.

6. Allow it to sit and ferment for 1-4 weeks. A “baby” SCOBY will start to form over the top surface. At 1 week, begin tasting it periodically. I used a straw – slid it down past the baby forming, covered the top opening with my finger, and pulled some up like a pipet.

7. When you like how it tastes, it’s time for the second fermentation – where you flavor the kombucha and/or allow it to carbonate. I used small mason jars but I’ve heard flip-top bottles are much better. The second fermentation lasts 5-14 days. It’s ready when you like the flavor. Here are my recipes for the three flavors:

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Lavender Chamomile

For every 8 oz of kombucha, add 1/4 tsp chamomile flowers and 1/8 tsp lavender buds.

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Apple Spice

For every 8 oz of kombucha, add 2  slices of apple, 1/2 inch thick, and 1/4 tsp whole mullling spices (blend of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg)

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Lemongrass Ginger

For every 8 oz of kombucha, add 2 pieces of whole lemongrass (each about 2 inches long) and 1-2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

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I actually tested out a whole bunch of other flavors -ginger, lemon ginger, lemon chamomile, jasmine, pomegranate, pomegranate ginger, and plain.

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After the second fermentation, store the kombucha in the fridge so the fermentation slows down. You can store the SCOBYs until your next batch. I made a SCOBY hotel. 🙂

I would love to hear your experiences and ideas for brewing kombucha!

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