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Kombucha is a type of fermented tea that is a great source of organic acids, B vitamins, and various strains of probiotics and is a wonderful addition to the diet while on the Autoimmune Protocol. You start with a sweetened tea, and over time the starter culture (made of yeasts and bacteria) consumes the sugar and caffeine and turns it into a low-sugar, fizzy probiotic beverage! While it is something that can be purchased at the store (especially now considering it’s exploding popularity), I find it preferable to make at home mostly because it costs cents on the gallon, and saves a lot of glass bottles compared to the store-bought variety. Although there is a little bit of a learning curve, once you get a hang of making your own brew there is no going back!
There are some affordable tools that make brewing kombucha a little easier, although they are not completely necessary. At the very least, you will need a wide-mouth, gallon-size glass container, a sanitized dish towel, as well as a large rubber band to secure it to the top of your container. I’ve been brewing my kombucha using only these few tools for years, and although it takes a little longer and involves a little more guesswork, it is totally do-able. For those who want to experiment less, a seedling mat, thermometer, pH test strips, and some swing-top glass bottles for a secondary ferment are super handy.
You can find a starter culture (called a scoby) at some natural groceries as well as online, but the best source is to find someone you know locally who can give you a “baby” from a successful culture. The scoby looks like an opaque, jello-like glob and should come accompanied by some starter liquid. Once you make your kombucha for the first time, you will end up with an extra scoby to start a double batch or give to a friend!
This recipe uses turmeric and ginger because of their sparky flavor as well as anti-inflammatory properties (note: some people with autoimmunity can be sensitive to turmeric in their diets, read this article to find out more). You can easily come up with your own flavor additions when it comes to the secondary ferment!
- To Brew Kombucha:
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 5 bags of green tea
- 1 cup granulated sugar (don't use honey or agave nectar here)
- 1 kombucha starter culture
- 1 cup starter liquid (this should either come with the starter culture or be from a previous batch)
- 1-gallon glass container
- Cheeseclothor sanitized dish towel
- Large rubber band
- To Bottle-Ferment:
- Swing-top glass bottles or glass jars with tight lids to hold 1 gallon of liquid
- 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
- 2 tsp fresh grated turmeric (or 1 teaspoon ground dried turmeric)
- 2 tsp fresh grated ginger (or 1 teaspoon ground dried ginger)
- Bring the gallon of water to a boil, turn off heat, and add the tea bags. Steep for 3 minutes and remove.
- Add the sugar and stir to combine. Let cool completely to room temperature.
- When the sweetened tea has cooled, pour it into your gallon container with the starter culture and starter liquid (don't do this before it is cooled, you will kill your culture!). Cover with a cheesecloth or sanitized dish towel and let the jar sit in a dark corner, on a seedling mat if using.
- Depending on the temperature of your room and if you are using a seeding mat or not, your brew will ferment faster or slower. A brew fermenting at 75-80 degrees (which you can use the jar thermometer to monitor) will take about 10 days to get to a pH of 3. If you don't use a seedling mat and it is during the colder months, it could take 2-3 weeks for your brew to get to that point. I like to do a taste test, as well as use the pH strips to see where the brew is at.
- When the taste and pH of the brew are ideal (I like how mine tastes with a pH of 3), pour most of the kombucha, sparing the culture, into bottles and/or jars, leaving a few inches of head space.
- Distribute the apple matchsticks, turmeric, and ginger evenly among the bottles and/or jars. Top off with remaining kombucha, making sure to leave some head space in every bottle for the fermentation to continue.
- Leave the bottles in a dark corner at room temperature (not on the seedling mat) for 3-5 days, making sure to "burp" them daily to release any pressure that has built up. Use caution here--I have certainly sprayed my ceiling with a batch that I forgot about for a couple of days!
- When you like the taste and fizziness of your brew, place them in the refrigerator. This will slow down, but not stop the fermentation process, so consume within 2-3 weeks for most consistent flavor.