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DIY-On-The-Fly: Kombucha

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For how expensive it is to buy at the store, you'd think kombucha would be a pain to make. It's not. Making your own fermented tea is only a tiny bit more involved than brewing regular tea, not to mention a fraction of the price. Plus, you can pick your own flavoring to add, it's yummy and carbonated like soda and has a laundry list of purported health benefits. And bonus: A kombucha "mother" can make a great gift for the right person. Check it out: There's even a Kombucha Home Brewers Society of the Twin Cities on Facebook. We'll walk you through the process. You'll be cool and have kombucha of your own in no time.

Probably the trickiest part of making kombucha is getting your hands on a mother, also known as a "SCOBY" (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) or zoogleal mat (and yes, the thing looks about as gross as it sounds). You can make your own, but ask around first. Since each mother reproduces itself during the brewing process, anyone who regularly makes kombucha should have an extra one on hand sooner or later.

Once you've got a mama (which looks like a smallish, thick, squishy, beige pancake), you're in business. Here's the other supplies you'll need:

1 gallon distilled water 1 c. refined sugar 5 black tea bags 10 oz. kombucha or apple cider vinegar

1 large glass jar (a sun tea jar works great) 10-12 pint-sized glass jars (or a number of other sized glass jars)

40-48 oz. of the juice of your choice (cranberry, apple etc.)

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Bring 1/3 of the gallon of distilled water to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, turn off the heat, add the sugar and tea bags and let it brew for 10-20 minutes. Then remove the tea bags, and add the remaining 2/3 of the water. Then add the kombucha (from a previous batch or store-bought) or vinegar.

Cool to room temperature and add the SCOBY. (It looks kind of like raw chicken, doesn't it? Feels sorta like it too, though try to keep from touching it in order to avoid contamination.)



Next, pour the tea into the large jar and add the SCOBY. Cover with a cheesecloth, or a kitchen or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Put in a warm, dark place. If it's summer, it'll only take up to a week to be ready. In the winter, it's closer to two. Leave the tea as undisturbed as possible.

When the kombucha is ready, it'll look a little something like this, ie somewhat more gross than when you started out. It should taste both sweet and vinegar-y. If it's too sweet, give it a couple more days. A new SCOBY will have grown from the mama and will probably be attached to it, and a film will likely have formed over the top. Remove the mama and baby, separate them and store them with enough tea to cover them for later brewing (or gifting). Chuck the film.



Pour the tea into jars along with 4 oz. of juice and let them sit at room temperature for at least 2-3 additional days, during which a second fermentation will occur. (Separate and save 10 oz. the tea to add to future batches if you prefer it to apple cider vinegar.) After that, refrigerate and then: ENJOY! Healthy, fruity, soda-like deliciousness! (Another film may develop on the top of the tea in the jars, which you can just pitch when you're ready to drink.)