By: Althea Burke
Have you ever wondered what the heck Kombucha is and why people drink it? This post contains some research that I’ve done on Kombucha and instructions on how to make your own home brew!
Kombucha tea is made by combining the Kombucha culture (aka the SCOBY: a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast / “mother”/ “mushroom”) with black tea, sugar and at times other ingredients.
The beverage has a long history – over two thousand years – of stories of health benefits like preventing and fighting cancer, arthritis and other degenerative diseases. People have used the “Immortal Health Elixir” for memory loss, premenstrual syndrome, aging, high blood pressure, constipation, increasing white cell counts, boosting the immune system and the metabolism. I discovered Kombucha in my quest to understand “Leaky Gut.” Arising research is substantiating the claim that there is a connection between immune health and gut barrier integrity. 80% of our immune system resides in the gut, making a strong gut one of the most important factors determining immune health. Our gut needs to be selective in what it lets into the blood stream and what it blocks otherwise autoimmune challenges in the body can develop. Fermented foods like tempeh, yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, kimchi, vinegar and Kombucha have helped to repair and maintain a healthy barrier function.
- Detoxification Kombucha is rich in many of the enzymes and bacterial acids the body produces and/or uses to detox your system, thus reducing the pancreatic load and easing the burden of the liver.
- Digestion & Gut Health The microorganisms in the SCOBY enjoy an acidic environment. In fact, the Kombucha tea is safe to consume by humans at a pH level of 3.5 or below – a level that repels molds and harmful bacteria. The naturally fermented SCOBY when ingested fights candida (harmful yeast) overgrowth and improves digestion by “cleaning up the gut.” These two elements alone produce mental clarity and mood stability. As such, Kombucha is noted for reducing or eliminating symptoms of fibromyalgia, depression and anxiety.
- Immune Boosting Kombucha has also been dubbed “Red Bull only with healthful properties” because it is antioxidant rich. Antioxidants are known for boosting the immune system and increasing energy levels.
Note: Weigh loss is not a direct benefit of consuming Kombucha but it is a great effervescent alternative to pop and calorie heavy drinks. It contains approximately 2 grams of sugar per eight ounces serving.
Skepticism & Warnings
Because the average consumer can make this beverage for as little as 50 cents a gallon and in turn, no one in the drug industry standing to make a profit there are no major medical studies being done in the USA on the health benefits of Kombucha. Before I started brewing my own Kombucha I was well on my way to spending over $1400 (USD) annually. The cost savings since brewing my own is drastic. The cost now includes tea bags, sugar and fresh ingredients for the double ferment when I am ready to make a new brew, which is every month or two. I also invested in two, three-gallon glass water jugs with spigots and reused old Kombucha bottles. Despite the fact that no major research is being conducted in the USA on Kombucha right now, ample research has been conducted on its health benefits in China, Russia and Germany.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in April 1995 that linked homebrewed Kombucha with the illness of two women who were hospitalized with severe acidosis (too much acid in the blood and other body tissue). One woman died of cardiac arrest and the other was revived after her heart stopped. Both women had been drinking the beverage made from the same SCOBY daily for two months. Even though no direct link to the tea was proven, the Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to use caution when making and drinking the tea. “Drinking this tea in quantities typically consumed (about 4 ounces daily) may not cause adverse effects in healthy persons; however, the potential health risks are unknown for those with preexisting health problems or those who drink excessive quantities of the tea,” according to the FDA report.
Whenever possible, select raw Kombucha. If not, it may have been pasteurized. Pasteurization involves briefly heating a liquid to kill harmful bacteria, which is normally good; however, there are millions of probiotics (good bacteria) in Kombucha that are borne during the fermentation process. If the Kombucha is heated, many of these probiotics and Kombucha's health benefits will be lost.
Special Precautions & Warnings
- In people with diabetes
- If you have IBS or diarrhea
- If you have a drinking problem
- If pregnant and/or breastfeeding
- If you have a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDS or other causes
A small percentage of people have experienced stomach upset, infections and allergic reactions when drinking Kombucha. It’s a good idea to start with a small amount in moderation and gradually work your way up to drinking more to see if you have any negative reactions. Do not exceed eight ounces per day.
How to make it
1) Boil about 2 gallons of alkaline or filtered water on the stove top. Add to approx. 12 tea bags and steep for 5-10 minutes. Stick to black or green teas at first.
2) Remove tea bags and add 2 cups of white refined sugar (this is food for the yeast.) Stir sugar until it dissolves. Stevia, cane sugar, honey etc. could ruin the brew or inhibit growth of yeast.
3) Transfer tea to large glass jar(s) with a wide mouth. Pour the liquid that came with the “mother” into the cool sweetened tea, then carefully place the SCOBY on top of the tea mixture. *** Make sure you use glass jars and make sure tea is cool or room temperature *** (SCOBY might float on top, it might sink to bottom or hover somewhere in between – all is well.)
4) Cover your glass container(s) with a cheese cloth or a clean, thin, non-textured/fibrous kitchen cloth. Secure cloth with a large rubber band. Place container(s) away from direct sunlight.
5) Let ferment for 5-7 days away from direct sunlight.
6) Remove the SCOBY and set it aside in a non-metal bowl, pouring about a ½ cup of the fermented tea mixture over the SCOBY to keep it moist. Put it in the refrigerator. (You will most likely have a “baby” that grew on top of the old SCOBY. If so, this new SCOBY will become the starter for your next batch of Kombucha – keep it or give it away.)
NOTE: IF YOU WANT TO FLAVOUR YOUR TEA THEN FOLLOW REST OF STEPS. THIS IS CALLED "DOUBLE FERMENTATION"
7) Pour about 2.5 ounces of fruit juice (no pulp) per quart-sized jar into bottles you’re using to bottle your Kombucha. (TRY THIS MIX! Place 3-4 pieces of raw ginger, raspberry preserves and a bag of tea (like Hazelnut) into each bottle)
8) SAVE at least a ½ cup to full cup of tea to mix in with your new batch. Pour Kombucha tea on top of the fruit juice or your favourite mix, leaving about 1.5-2 inches of space to the top of the bottle, close bottle tightly.
9) Let ferment for additional 48 hours away from direct sunlight.
10) Start a new batch of tea with SCOBY that was previously stored in the fridge.
11) After 48 hours of fermenting put bottles in the refrigerator and chill completely before opening. Do not shake. When you open, remove the thin film of new “mother” that accumulated throughout the double fermentation process.