Even though you may not heard of it, kombucha is every bit as old as yogurt, if not even older. And since there is plenty to read on the World Wide Web about kombucha, we will not try to duplicate or even summarize what is available. In the spirit of full disclosure, there are mixed reviews about kombucha. We tried viewing the latest opposition through Quackwatch. The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancel Center has this to say about kombucha:
Champagne of Life, Manchurian Fungus, Manchurian mushroom, Tea Fungus, Kargasok Tea, Haipao, Fungus Japanicus, Combucha, Kwassan, Spumonto, T'Chai from the Sea, Tschambucco
Prepared by fermenting sweetened black tea with a symbiotic culture of yeasts and bacteria, Kombucha tea has been used to treat a wide variety of symptoms as well as certain diseases such as cancer, AIDS and diabetes (3). The high caffeine and sugar content of the tea may account for increased energy some users have reported following consumption of the product (4). In vitro and animal studies show potent antioxidant, immunostimulating (5), and hepatoprotective (6) (18) effects with limited toxicity (7), however clinical studies in humans are lacking (8).
Because of the fermentation process, Kombucha can easily become contaminated. Allergic reactions, jaundice, serious illness and occasionally death have been associated with the consumption of home-grown Kombucha tea (9) (10) (11). It may also reduce the absorption of drugs that are sensitive to the pH level of the stomach (12)."
For more: Sloan-Kettering
How do I make kombucha?
We found the following link most helpful: http://www.kombu.de/anleit-e.htm
There are 2 basic ways of making kombucha
- in batch mode where you start from scratch, make the tea, put it in a clean jar, put in the SCOBY and then cover it with a fine-mesh towel so the SCOBY can breathe, and
- in a continuous process which is how we make it.
In the continuous process, you start it using the available instructions and make it in a large jar - we use a 2 gallon jar we bought at Target for a little over $10. (See "batch mode" above and refer to the link above) While the first batch may take up to 2 weeks to mature (ours did), subsequent batches take only a matter of days as follows:
- Pour or siphon off about half the jar of mature kombucha - for us that is about a gallon of kombucha. You can sweeten, flavor or drink it as-is although it is very tart. We check the pH (around 3.0) with available strips from Amazon. Then we bottle it.
- Replace what you siphoned with cooled fresh sweetened tea. We use about a cup of plain white sugar per gallon of fresh tea.
- Put the towel back on the jar and keep it in a warm place like on top of your fridge as we do.
How do we finish off our kombucha once it is taken from the continuous process jar? After testing it to make sure it is at the right pH, we then:
- add a 50-50 combination of Splenda/sugar to taste. Usually a cup or so for the kombucha will sweeten it a bit as the process of making the kombucha has coverted much if not all of the sugar added earlier.
- add about a teaspoon of Crystal Lite Cranberry-Pomegranate powder - this is to the gallon of kombucha we have siphoned as above.
- add about a quart of fruit juice. We have experimented with various flavors and a combination of cranberry and prune juices seems to work well.
- bottle the kombucha in 12 oz containers and tighten the caps well.
Raw kombucha, even though finished as through some of the above steps, is still fairly unpalatable until it is aged. Here is how we make our final kombucha:
- We always save some kombucha from a previous batch. In that way we have leftovers to add to the raw kombucha. We add at least 25% liquid from a prior batch to the raw kombucha.
- If it is winter, we put the bottles in secure coolers outside for a couple of days. During the summer, use your fridge or cool basement should you have one.
- Aging can last a week or a month, it is up to you - make sure the containers you use are not tightly capped unless you have containers that can take high pressure like wine bottles.
We start drinking the kombucha when it is 2-3 days old and no longer "bites."
And please remember that there are instructions on how much to consume initially - some say 2 - 4 oz the first day when you first start. The concern is in getting your body accustomed to kombucha.
How much can you consume daily? We are not sure, but we usually drink no more than 12 oz daily.
What about alcohol? Normally kombucha has no more than half a percent (0.5%) alcohol in it if that much. Using only a cup of sugar per gallon of tea limits the amount of alcohol produced by the yeast portion of the SCOBY. The bacteria, then, takes that alcohol and makes it into other things like acetic acid which is where you get that "bite."
Please note that we neither make nor subscribe to any claims as to any health benefits of kombucha. From what we have read, as long as kombucha is properly made, the FDA considers it a dietary supplement and, as such, unregulated.
Again, from what we read - and this link says it all: Kombucha Antimicrobial Studies the only worry is from any mold growing on the SCOBY. So far, we have not experienced any problems - but with the continuous process, we start off with a very acidic brew which greatly reduces the possibility of any pathogenic organisms existing in the kombucha. And this is confirmed by the studies referenced by the link.