A few years ago we were making kombucha in mason jars and caring for a SCOBY culture, but we gave it up after a few months. I can’t remember why, but it just wasn’t the right time.
I’ve been alcohol free for two years now, and this has been the catalyst for so much positive change in my life. I started drinking Kombucha around the same time, as something to replace alcohol at home and at social gatherings. My body loved that I replaced alcohol with probiotic goodness, but I’m pretty sure I was spending more on Kombucha than I ever did on wine.
I also made a resolution to reduce household plastic waste last January. The kombucha bottles I was buying were recyclable glass, but the plastic lids couldn’t be recycled. I no longer wanted to be responsible for 100 plastic lids ending up in the landfill every year.
It seemed like the perfect time to start brewing our own kombucha.
Consider that a bottle of booch costs around $5 (Canadian dollars). This means I was spending upwards of $500 a year on this new habit. Making kombucha at home will cost you less than $75 a year for the same amount.
This doesn’t include the cost of a kit, but you can DIY a kombucha kit for less than $25.
Health benefits of kombucha
Kombucha contains a large number of healthy bacteria called probiotics. I’m sure most of you have heard about the importance of these little bugs. Probiotics contribute to gut health and, since a happy gut equals a thriving immune system, drinking kombucha every day is a fantastic way to heal your gut and boost immunity.
The fermentation process makes kombucha slightly alcoholic, but don’t worry – it’s equal to eating an overripe banana. It’s also very slightly caffeinated.
It’s often carbonated and makes a great replacement for soda (or pop). The sugar content varies, but it is fairly low calorie, somewhere around 60 calories per 250 ml.
Note that when kombucha is pasteurized, it loses most of its probiotic benefits, so be sure to read labels if you are buying it.
What you need to make kombucha
The materials and ingredients you need to start brewing a batch of kombucha are:
- 4 L or larger wide mouth vessel – (ceramic, glass, or plastic – no metal)
- 4L water
- 4-6 tea bags – black or green (you can use loose tea in a cheesecloth)
- 1 cup sugar – white or cane
- White cotton or linen cloth
- 4-10 L stainless steel pot
- Spoon (glass, wooden, or stainless steel)
- SCOBY or Kombucha culture
- Bottles (if doing second ferment)
My kit came from Sproutmaster and included a 2 gallon ceramic crock with a plastic spigot, a linen cloth to cover, instructions, a recipe book, and a SCOBY culture. It is simple and beautiful, but not essential.
For less than $25, you could ask a friend who makes kombucha or a local fermenting group for some of their SCOBY (it is always growing!) and buy one of these glass beverage dispensers.
I also love swing top bottles like these ones for the second ferment (which is how you add the flavours and the bubbles).
How to brew your booch
It may seem intimidating, but step by step instructions make it really quite simple. The three most important things to remember when making kombucha are
Get your ingredients right
Temperature is important
Keep your SCOBY healthy
We wrapped our vessel in an electric heating mat and taped it with electrical tape. This waterproof heating mat would work just fine. Or you can buy a fancy kombucha brew belt.
Cultures for Health is a great resource for learning about the fermentation process. Locals can hit me up for some SCOBY, or you can order from this lovely small Canadian company Culture Mother.
The basic steps are:
- Boil water in your stainless steel pot
- Add tea and steep
- Stir in sugar to dissolve
- Once cool to touch, pour into vessel
- Add SCOBY (never add SCOBY to boiling water)
- Cover with cloth and secure in place
- Place vessel where it won’t be disturbed
- Ensure the proper climate – temperature must be 23 to 28 C
- Note the date
- Five days later, you can test your tea. It should be slightly sweet and a bit vinegary – and loaded with probiotic goodness!
For a second ferment, separate the SCOBY and some leftover tea to start your next batch (repeat process above), and pour the rest of the fermented brew into bottles that seal.
How to flavour your kombucha
This is the fun part – deciding on your flavour combinations.
We are inspired by the herbs and medicinal plants we grow as well as seasonal fruit. We are also fond of using lemon and ginger for a kick. Some of my favourite combos so far are Rosemary Lemon, Rosemary Apple Cider, Tulsi Blueberry, Strawberry Basil, and Coffee (We follow the NOMA recipe for this one)
We stash plenty of strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and blackberries in our freezer – so the possibilities are endless.
Kombucha is delicious over ice and mixed with a bit of soda water – a perfect non-alcoholic summer drink.
Nova Scotia kombucha companies
If you aren’t into making your own kombucha, fortunately there are plenty of wonderful local options.
Cove Kombucha is a company whose product is in alignment with their values. Their kombucha is certified organic, made with ethically sourced non-gmo ingredients, and brewed for a month for optimal probiotics. They also donate some of their profits to 1% for the Planet.
The flavours they offer now are Orange Ginger, Blueberry Pomegranate, Mango Turmeric, and Raspberry Lemonade.
Goodmore Kombucha in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia brew their kombucha with a variety of teas with an emphasis on their subtle flavour differences- black, green, white, and oolong.
Solas Kombucha is brewed on an orchard near New Ross, Nova Scotia and features Annapolis valley fruit, including blueberries, strawberries, apples, and peaches. If you are in Halifax, you can refill your growler at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market.
My local general Petite Riviere General Store and regular haunt Fancy Pants Cafe both carry Solas kombucha, which I really appreciate.
Solas is working on some other non-alcoholic beverages. I will keep an eye out for those!
These are the more established companies that I am aware of, but I have also purchased kombucha from a variety of herbalists on the South Shore, such as Hummingbird Herbals in Mill Village.
Have you jumped on the kombucha wagon? Do you prefer to make it yourself or buy it? Are you in need of SCOBY? Maybe someone in our community can hook you up! Let us know. ?