Kombucha is a fermented beverage made by adding a culture of bacteria and yeast to a solution of tea, sugar and other flavorings. It is a sour, effervescent drink that can be made in your own kitchen. Now considered mainstream, kombucha has long been a popular drink of choice for those who claim it provides alternative health benefits.
There are many probiotic benefits to drinking kombucha, like preventing diarrhea, improving digestion, curbing the growth of candida (harmful yeast), and boosting immunity. However, contrary to popular belief, there is no scientific evidence to support its other curative claims for arthritis, cancer or improved liver function.
Whether you’re interested in trying kombucha for the first time, or flavoring and bottling it yourself, we’ve put together a few important things you should know before getting started.
Enjoy kombucha while understanding the health and safety risks of home bottling.
While kombucha can be good for your gut it also contains lactic acid, which can be toxic when consumed in excess. Drinking four ounces per day of pasteurized kombucha tea is generally safe for healthy people. But, it certainly isn’t for everyone; pregnant women, elderly people, children and anyone with a weakened immune system should avoid it. Children love to explore anything new or different so if you decide to home bottle your favorite kombucha recipe, be sure to keep the mixture out of their reach.
Fermentation and bottling instructions
It is important to sanitize all equipment and utensils before making kombucha to ensure all bacteria are removed. Bacteria can compromise kombucha, counteract the probiotic benefits and in some cases make it toxic. Follow these instructions for proper kombucha bottling:
- Combine hot water and sugar in a sanitized glass jar.
- Stir until all sugar is dissolved.
- Place tea or tea bags into the sugar water and steep.
- Let the mixture cool to 68 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Wait 10-15 minutes before removing the tea bags or leaves.
- Add a starter tea (if available) or white vinegar.
- Add an active kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
- Cover the jar with a tight weave towel or coffee filter, and secure it with a rubber band.
- Set the mixture aside, but out of direct sunlight, and allow it to ferment for seven to 30 days (shorter fermentation yields sweeter kombucha).
- Flavor kombucha if desired or enjoy plain.
- Pour kombucha into sanitized bottles and seal.
- Keep new SCOBY, the thick residue at the bottom of the glass jar, for your next batch of kombucha.
Safety tips for pasteurization and alcohol levels
Pasteurizing kombucha kills pathogenic bacteria so the tea is safe to drink.
- Heat your kombucha to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Transfer and seal it into sterile bottles.
- Submerge bottles in a hot water bath that is also 180 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds.
- Use a cooking thermometer to make sure you get an accurate temperature reading in both cases.
- Cool the bottles and store at room temperature out of direct sunlight.
- Check the alcohol content; to be considered non-alcoholic it must be below 0.5 percent alcohol.
- Double-check the alcohol content to make sure it hasn’t gone up, which indicates continued fermentation.
Seven delightful kombucha tea flavors
Infuse your kombucha with these tasty fruit, herb and flower combinations:
- Mint and honey
- Chamomile and honey
- Lemon and basil
- Raspberry and ginger
- Strawberries and lemon
- Orange blossom and mint
- Hibiscus, chamomile and rose
Alana Nohrden,RDN, MBA, is a clinical dietitian at Queen of the Valley Medical Center.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.