Kombucha is a beverage that, in recent years, has both been praised for its range of curative properties, and come under fire for the risks created during unsanitary home brewing if you’re not careful. The probiotic bacteria used to aid in fermenting the lightly effervescent beverage certainly helps in developing healthy gut function. The amount of kombucha readily available in stores has no doubt risen with its popularity. In this easy to read piece, we will tell you a little about kombucha, its benefits for your body and a quick intro into homebrewing the popular beverage. The NBA, Portland Trailblazers, even have their own Kombucha!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a black or green tea sweetened with sugar, honey, or fruit juices that undergoes fermentation utilizing something called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Yeast and Bacteria). The SCOBY, also sometimes known as the Mother or Mushroom utilizes yeast’s ability to ferment sugar into alcohol. That fermentation is then followed by a bacterial conversion of alcohol into acetic acid and other compounds (2). This results in a tangy, slightly effervescent beverage with low alcohol which can have a range of infused flavors.
Why Drink Fermented Tea?
A vast array of health benefits have been assigned to kombucha. It has been claimed to lower blood pressure, help fight cancer, and aid in liver detoxification (3). While very little testing has been done to verify these claims, kombucha is rich in a variety of nutrients and micro-fauna that have been linked to proper health. These include:
- Polyphenols – Antioxidants used in repairing damaged cells
- B Vitamins – Helps the body make new cells and regulate amino acids associated with heart disease
- Probiotics – Bacteria used to absorb vital nutrients in food
While the advantages of kombucha are clear, they ultimately come with mixed results. One of the main complaints of those opposed to the beverage is that the pasteurization process, which is necessary to arrest fermentation and keep alcohol below the legal minimum of .5% ABV, kills off the probiotic bacteria (7).
Probiotics – Your Gut’s Favorite Bacteria
The benefits of probiotics cannot be understated. These bacteria, found naturally in your digestive tract, essentially help your body absorb vital nutrients and minerals, while simultaneously filtering out toxins and non-essentials. The list of positive aspects of probiotics is extensive; Probiotics have been linked to reducing things like :
- Bladder Cancer
- Digestive infections
Beyond avoiding these frustrating ailments, the increased nutrition you absorb through your food will enhance your vitality and general vigor (1).
A Better Alternative
With all of the benefits found in probiotic bacteria, the question becomes: How do you keep the healthful aspects of the beverage? The better alternative is to find your own SCOBY and start brewing kombucha at home. The process is quite simple, though if proper sanitation is not applied, the results can be disastrous. The most important rule when doing any type of cooking or fermentation is to keep your tools clean. Especially with something like kombucha, where brewers are fostering an environment designed for bacterial growth, this cannot be stressed enough. Outside bacteria in home-brewed kombucha has been known to call stomach cramping, digestive issues and, in one rare instance, death (5).
The home brewing process requires very few materials up front and, once you have your SCOBY activated, is easy and takes very little time. First, you will have to find a SCOBY, this can be ordered online from a number of sites, or you can take a sample from a friend and grow your own. SCOBY will keep growing as long as you keep adding sugar. A general rule of thumb is to keep SCOBY the same diameter as the container. It is easy to ‘trim’ your SCOBY before placing it in your container for optimal use.
Materials necessary for a one-quart batch of kombucha include:
- 1 ½ teaspoons of loose leaf tea or 2 tea bags
- ¼ cup of sugar
- 3 cups of Water
- ½ cup of white vinegar (Optional)
- 1 Coffee filter
- 1 SCOBY
The brewing process takes less than 30 minutes of labor and is done in these 8 easy steps (6) :
- Start by sanitizing a one-quart mason jar and add hot water. The water should be warm enough to steep the tea, but not boiling.
- Add sugar and tea to the jar and stir until sugar is dissolved. Let the mixture cool to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. After 10 minutes, remove the tea bags.
- Once the tea has cooled, add white vinegar. (Optional)
- Add your SCOBY.
- Cover with the coffee filter and tightly seal the jar.
- Let sit between 68 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 to 30 days. Longer fermentations will make the tea less sweet and more tangy.
- Pour the liquid off the top and enjoy!
- Retain SCOBY and ½ cup of Kombucha as a starter liquid to replace white vinegar for your next batch.
With the potential for infected batches, it is not recommended that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or people with compromised immune systems drink home-brewed kombucha.
With its link to probiotic health, kombucha can be a great choice to replace many other effervescent beverages in our lives. The best choice when drinking kombucha is to find a local brewer who you trust in order to take advantage of the healthful benefits the tea has to offer, or just brew it yourself. One of our favorite brands, Shang Tea, just started brewing their own Kombucha and it is absolutely delicious. While not a cure-all, the compounds and microorganisms found in kombucha certainly have a bounty of healthful effects.