That’s right. No SCOBY. No SCOBY hotel. No worrying if you don’t even know what that means. This is real, probiotic kombucha you can easily make yourself. Welcome to the lazy person’s kombucha.
If you don’t want to understand the science behind it, you can also simply scroll down to my sample recipe, you should be good to go even without any prior experience. The recipe is for Blackberry Ginger Kombucha but you can even skip the blackberry and ginger and follow the recipe just using the tea, sugar, and bit of kombucha from the store to get it fermenting/carbonating. At its heart that’s all kombucha is.
When I make soda, it’s usually from my ginger bug culture. I prefer the flexibility of not having to brew sodas always from caffeinated tea. Further, some people may just want to make a bottle or two to have around without committing to more cultures and ongoing ferments in my life. This method is perfect for such cases. You might also just grow a SCOBY of your own with this method too. My first ever SCOBY started to appear in one of these bottles, I transferred it to a mason jar, and after some time and sugar-tea feedings, I naturally grew my own.
If you’re already a kombucha maker then there’s a good chance you have at least one kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). If you’ve been reading about making kombucha, you’ve undoubtedly heard of it. But whether you are already an experienced kombucha maker or just starting out, it may come as a surprise to you that a SCOBY isn’t necessary. (Not to disparage them, they’re helpful, just not required.)
The SCOBY is a robust colony of the yeasts and bacteria you need, but this yeast & bacteria is also already in the liquid of a live, active kombucha. So whether it’s taking a bit of the liquid from a friend’s booch, or buying a small bottle of one of the many available store options, you can use this as a starter liquid to make your own larger batch.
To make kombucha, there are four other things that are absolutely essential: brewed tea (nothing herbal); a real sugar source (e.g. can’t sub with stevia); a strong fliptop bottle rated for kombucha-making; and last but not least, time.
One benefit of a SCOBY is that it can make the fermentation/carbonation process as short as a few days. Booch made this way may also arguably be less prone to problems. With only the starter liquid, you may be looking at a week or slightly longer ferment time, and there can be a concern about spoilage in the interim.
But if you are following good sanitary practices, such as washing your bottles and kitchen equipment in a dishwasher or with hot soapy water beforehand, there really is no reason to worry. The bottle is sealed and airtight which, along with the bacteria and yeast, doesn’t give harmful organisms an opportunity to grow. You just want to make sure there is minimal air (headspace) at the top of the bottle, 3″ or less.
If you want to have a continual supply of kombucha using this method, just start another bottle as soon as one is carbonated and drinkable. You’ll just pour out 1/2 cup of that kombucha and use it in a new bottle before you even drink any of it.
So, in short, what you need is some kombucha to get you started. I would consider starting with one that has a flavor profile similar to what you have in mind. If you want a neutral flavored kombucha, then just get a plain one made with tea, starter culture, and sugar only. (GT’s “original” flavor comes close to this but contains a splash of kiwi juice.) My recipe below is an example of this. Once you’ve made your own liter bottle of kombucha, you can just keep using the bottom 1/2 cup of the liquid to start a new one.
Here’s a sample recipe for making your own batch. Also know that you can take any viable recipe you find which calls for a SCOBY and modify it to fit this practice of using only the starter liquid. You could slightly up the amount of starter liquid called for in the recipe.
Blackberry Bergamot Ginger Easy Kombucha
You will need:
- 1-liter fliptop bottle
- Bottling funnel
- Fine mesh strainer
- Medium saucepan, lid, and wooden spoon
- Measuring cups & spoons
- Suggested: 4-cup measuring container with spout
- 3.75 cups filtered or distilled water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2-3 teabags, caffeinated (in the featured photos I used two bags of Stash’s Double Bergamot Earl Grey, which I love)
- 1/2 cup raw, active kombucha (I used GT’s Synergy Organic Gingerberry)
- 20g fresh ginger (one finger), grated
- 1/2 lb. frozen or fresh blackberries (or other berries of choice)
1.) In the saucepan, combine the water, sugar, teabags, grated ginger, and berries. Keep covered and bring to a boil. Once boiling, give a few good stirs with a spoon, then return cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for ten minutes.
2.) Remove liquid from heat and allow to come to room temperature. Keep covered. (To speed up the process, you can transfer the saucepan to the fridge if desired.)
3.) Once the liquid has cooled, strain it with the strainer a few times. (Suggested to strain between saucepan and the 4-cup spouted measuring container, discarding any solids and debris each time.)
4.) Place the bottling funnel in a clean 1-liter fliptop bottle and then transfer in the 1/2 cup of live, active kombucha. Next, add the sweetened tea liquid (make sure it is room temperature). You want the liquid line to be about 2-3″ from the top, so you may have excess liquid, or if you need more, you can simply top up with some clean filtered water.
5.) Seal the bottle and keep at room temperature out of sunlight. After 4-5 days, start to monitor for active, consistent carbonation (not just a few bubbles here and there) and then transfer to the refrigerator. Allow another 24 hours in the fridge before opening.
That’s it! Just remember, if you want to keep making more batches, you need to retain some of the liquid. You can use less than 1/2 cup, like 1/3 cup, but it may take an extra day to carbonate sufficiently.
When opening: Be careful! Kombucha is typically a very active, fizzy ferment once it gets going. You are advised to press down firmly on the fliptop while unclasping it, and to release this hand pressure slowly. You may find quickly re-clasping and re-opening it a few times helps avoid spillover. You also may wish to open it over a sink.
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