Mill City Cooks


by Nick Schneider

Kombucha is fermented tea that is brewed or cultured with a ‘mother’.  This culture is actually a lichen, symbiosis between a funghi and a bacteria. It’s mildly acidic and can be made to be more or less sweet.  It is consumed as a tonic for the liver, digestive system and immune system.

A secondary fermenting process after bottling is often done to add a pleasant carbonated quality not unlike Champagne.  However, kombucha produces only trace amounts of alcohol (<1%).

There are many ways to flavor kombucha using fruits and other aromatics during the secondary fermentation process: strawberry, ginger, elderberry, grape, apple.  Jams are often used for the flavoring of the secondary fermentation.

A ‘mother’, also called a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) must be obtained from someone else who is brewing the tea.  A mother will grow and produce more scoby “babies” as it is actively fermenting, which can be peeled off like layers and passed on to others interested in brewing kombucha at home.

Check out Freecycle to obtain a kombucha mother:

Traditional Foods MN is one network of individuals make and share this tea:

  • 1 gallon filtered water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup black tea or mixed black and green (unflavored teas)
  • ½ cup + kombucha liquid
  • One kombucha mother

Bring water to a boil water. Turn off heat and add tea. Steep tea long enough for leaves to open.

Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Cool to room temp.

Strain tea into a glass container (must not use metal or plastic).

Add kombucha liquid and stir

Float kombucha mother on top of tea – smooth side up.  It is ok if the mother sinks

Cover container with tea towel or pillowcase and secure with string.

Kombucha Culturing instructions:

Place container in a warm spot (70-80 degrees F) that will not be disturbed and is out of direct sunlight. Cover with an extra cloth if necessary.

Culture tea for 6-8 days.  The longer the tea cultures the more acidic it gets.

Place the mother in a glass bowl for next batch and cover with a small amount of the tea, as you need unflavored kombucha tea to start each new batch.


Note on container:

The bowl or container needs to be wider at top then bottom.  More open the better.  This is an aerobic process that needs surface area exposure for the mother. Narrower opening vessels may take longer to ferment.

Secondary Fermenting – This process involves several steps:

Use clean bottles with tight fitting caps – this is important because you want the pressure will build up, but you don’t want the bottles to explode.

Add to each bottle a small amount of something sweet: diced fruits, jam, or a strongly flavored simple syrup – about 1-2 tablespoons per 16 oz. bottle.

Remove the mother from the tea and funnel tea into bottles.

Leave a small amount of head space; approximately ¼ to ½  inches.

Seal tightly with a cap.

Age again for 3-5 days.  Notice if cap is bulging under pressure, indicating carbonation.

Store in a refrigerator to slow the fermentation. This is living food that is subject to growth of beneficial microorganisms, but if it is left out long enough the bottles will explode.