Kombucha. You might have heard one of your hippie friends talking about it. You know, that friend that’s BPA-free, into yoga, does wheatgrass shots on the regular, shops only at the farmer’s market, wears moccasins and, if a woman, can’t stop talking about the Diva Cup.
In fact, kombucha is pretty cool. It’s an effervescent fermentation of sweetened tea. It’s fizzy. And for starters it contains probiotics, B vitamins, C vitamins, amino acids, live enzymes, and basically pure awesomeness.
And why drink it? The probiotics help the flora of your intestines, the live enzymes aid in digestion and the amino acids aid in detoxifying your body and oxygenating your blood.
With that out of the way, why in the heck is this on a personal finance blog? Great question!
The reason I’m writing about kombucha is that Mr. Everyday Dollar started brewing his own to save some everyday dollars. I consume far more water on a daily basis than any other liquid. I will go days and weeks where I only drink water and a cup of coffee each day (and some red wine thrown in there for good measure). But I do enjoy myself some good carbonation to switch things up because I gave up soda a decade ago. So I figured my options were to:
- Shell out some dollars for cans or bottles of sparkling water.
- Buy one of those Sodastream contraptions to carbonate water at home (have I told you I really dislike small kitchen appliances?).
- Shell out everyday dollars for something like GT’s Kombucha, which I have an affinity for.
- Brew my own kombucha at home.
Of course, since I like to save money I picked the last option. Plus, I like brewing kombucha because I don’t have to lug bottles or cans of sparkling water or kombucha home. And, it is way more environmentally friendly than the manufacture, transport and waste of bottles and cans – think about the lovely trip that bottle of San Pellegrino took from Italy to your store’s shelf and onward to your home.
When I got hooked on GT’s Kombucha a few years ago I was spending $2.99-$3.99 a bottle on it and drinking 3-4 a week. Over 10 years my kombucha habit would have cost me well over $12,000!
Another example how a small habit, one that’s even good for you, can have a large impact on your finances over time.
Some people brew kombucha one batch at a time. I prefer the continuous brewing method because it’s easier and we’ll cover that later. So let’s get this kombucha show on the road!
Before anything, you need a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY). Also known as the mother. Also known as the mushroom. You can score one of these from a friend who brews kombucha or sometimes you can find free ones on your local Craigslist. The first time I tried my hand at brewing kombucha I used a SCOBY from a friend and my batch developed mold. So then I decided to grow my own SCOBY.
How to grow a SCOBY
- 1 bottle store bought kombucha (I use GT’s Original, you want a non-flavored one)
- 2 bags of either green or black tea (I use organic black tea)
- 1 TB sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
- 1 large glass bowl (I use a Pyrex measuring cup)
- 1 clean kitchen towel or a sheet of plastic wrap with holes poked in it
- 1 rubber band to secure the towel or plastic wrap
Put the sugar and tea bags in the glass bowl, add 2 cups of boiling water and allow the tea to steep for 10 minutes.
Remove tea bags and stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool to room temperature and add the whole bottle of store-bought kombucha.
Cover the bowl with either the towel, securing with a rubber band, or stretch the plastic wrap tightly over the bowl. Keep the bowl in a warm dry space for two weeks without disturbing it. Then go check on it and you will see that you have birthed your mother SCOBY!
Now that we have grown a SCOBY we can start brewing our own kombucha!
How to brew kombucha
- 1 large (4 quart+) glass or ceramic kombucha vessel (I use a water crock)
- 1 clean kitchen towel
- 1 rubber band to secure the towel
- 3 quarts water
- 1 cup sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
- 4 bags of either green or black tea (I use organic black tea)
- 1/2 cup kombucha from a previous culture (can use GT’s Original)
- 1 SCOBY
If you have grown your own SCOBY like I did, then you will not need the last 2 items (kombucha and SCOBY) as you have them.
Boil the water in a large pot. Remove from heat, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the 4 tea bags and steep until water has completely cooled, overnight works well. Remove the tea bags and pour the liquid into the brewing vessel. Stir in the kombucha and place the mushroom on top. Cover with the towel securing with a rubber band and keep in a warm dry space. Let the mixture sit for 7-14 days. When the mixture is ready the mushroom will have grown like a spongy pancake and the tea should be a bit sour and fizzy.
The continuous kombucha brew method
The main thing you need for continuous brew is to use a kombucha vessel with a spigot like the water crock I use.
1. Harvesting the kombucha
Once the kombucha taste is to your liking you can remove the portion of the kombucha that you want to drink for the week and bottle it. Be sure to leave about 20% of the kombucha in the vessel as the starter for the next batch.
2. Feeding new tea
I prepare the same amount of new sugared tea using the kombucha recipe above and omitting the kombucha and SCOBY ingredients. After it has cooled I pour it into the vessel.
3. Timing harvesting and feeding
I do this every week, on Sundays. I harvest and feed. Some people like to draw off kombucha daily to drink but it will taste more sugary in the beginning of the week before it gets more sour later in the week. I prefer the consistency so I opt for the Sunday ritual. After I bottle the tea I let it sit on the counter for a couple days for the second fermentation. This will cause the tea to carbonate. After a couple days it goes in the refrigerator to slow the fermentation.
The vessel and spigot will eventually need cleaning because it will become clogged with yeast particles. To clean I remove the kombucha and SCOBY, clean the vessel with vinegar and add the kombucha and SCOBY back in.
5. The out of control SCOBY
The only downside to the continuous brew system is that it will development a rather unsettling SCOBY. It will be thick, scary and take up way too much space. When this happens it can be removed and cut up using a non-metal utensil to distribute it to friends or on Craigslist so others can enjoy brewing their own kombucha as well!