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How to make your own kombucha, part 2: Flavoring and carbonating

Right now I have five quart-sized jars of kombucha in my closet to prepare for the apocalypse. Kidding — I’m actually in the carbonation/flavoring phase of my kombucha-making process. The jars need to be stored out of direct sunlight.

In case you missed it, last week I concocted my first batch of kombucha with sugar, tea and a scoby, guided by a friend’s instructions and some online reading materials. Seven days later (as in, now), the gallon of kombucha fits the taste I was looking for: slightly tart and certainly sweet. There’s also a touch of orange because of the type of Lipton black tea I brewed it with.

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First taste test.

Now for the fun part: flavoring and carbonating the kombucha.

I haven’t quite reach Bob Peters status, so I don’t plan to try mixing kombucha with alcohol, like he’s done with Lenny Boy flavors, just yet

But I did ask Townes Mozer, owner/brewer at Lenny Boy Brewing Co. (I live for their Elite Beet), what inspires his flavors. “Our flavors are inspired by the seasons and what is available throughout our local organic farming network,” he said. “We are proud to support our local organic farmers.”

I need to graduate to this phase. For now, I took a trick from my kombucha-making yogi friend and used Trader Joe’s frozen berries. I’ve had strawberries on my mind since the Full Strawberry Moon rose this week. (It sounds like a dessert phenomenon, right?) So I braved the Metropolitan parking insanity and snagged a $1.99 bag of Trader Joe’s frozen strawberries — please note that they are are Grade A Fancy. 

Then I got to work.

The process

– Start making sugared tea for your next batch of kombucha. Directions: here.

– Wash your hands and remove your scoby from your gallon jug. Set it on a clean dish.

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Septimus the scoby.

– Add fruit, herbs or juice of your choice to a clean jar, or multiple jars. I chose quart-sized glass mason jars and those fancy Trader Joe’s frozen strawberries.

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– Pour your brewed kombucha (it should have fermented for at least seven days at this point) into the jar(s), leaving about an inch of room at the top. Keep enough of this batch to cover your scoby, about 1/2 cup. Set the scoby aside in this liquid.

– Seal the jars that contain your fruit and brewed kombucha.

– Place the jars out of direct sunlight for 1-3 days until the kombucha has carbonated and adopted a flavor to your liking. Consider straining the liquid. (Note: if you don’t want to flavor it, you could just strain it, bottle it and carbonate for 1-3 days.)

– Refrigerate the jars (this stops fermentation and carbonation) and drink in the next month.

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Meanwhile, for the next batch: Wash your 1-gallon glass container that you’re using for your next batch.

– When your brewed sugary tea is cool, pour it into your 1-gallon jug.

– Add the kombucha you set aside for the scoby, then gently add the scoby. Your 7-10 day fermenting process is beginning again.

Two takeaways from my experience

(1) Cost: For my process for one batch, I spent $2 on tea bags, $1 per quart-sized mason jar (I ultimately used five jars, so $5), $2 on a small bag of sugar, $2 on frozen strawberries, $1 on a gallon of spring water. Total: $12. This blew my mind because I easily spend more than this on kombucha in a week. (Again, I don’t plan to give up store-bought or local brands, just cut back.)

(2) Benefits of probiotics: It can take weeks or months for the benefits of probiotics to kick in. I’ve been drinking kombucha almost daily for probably close to three months, and have noticed one main difference: I feel bloated less frequently. (I’ve also cut down on dried fruit, so there’s that.)

Regardless, I plan to be sipping on my homemade, Full Strawberry Moon Kombucha in a patch of sunlight this weekend.

Photos: Katie Toussaint

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