Kombucha, a fermented tea that is served chilled and can be flavored with a variety of fruits and juices, is a trendy beverage these days. There are many health claims as to its benefits, and while I’m only a doctor with a PhD, I can definitely say that I feel better when I drink it. It took many tries before I actually decided I liked it. One of my friends, who lives in a zero-waste household and has a home business selling organic products that she grows on her own urban farm, served me some of her homemade raspberry-ginger kombucha, and I was hooked. It was tangy yet sweet and fruity, with the slightest bit of fizz, and after I drank it, the skies opened and I felt an amazing sense of internal peace. Whaaaat? Well, maybe not quite that extreme. But it felt good on my stomach. And it’s supposed to be good for you – it’s a probiotic, like yogurt.
But the cost of drinking kombucha adds up! Even on sale, each bottle costs about $2.50, and frequently more. Also, commercial kombucha often has a bunch of other stuff in it – I checked the labels on two different bottles, and while one was pretty pure, the other was full of random ingredients. A kombucha habit can add up – so how to make it affordable and frugal?
My friend said she’d grow a scoby for me so I could start making my own. “Scoby” stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast,” and they are the starters you use to create your own kombucha. In the process of brewing, they often send off little offshoot babies, and once they’re big enough, you can use them to start a new batch. They look a little freaky – like a rubbery, discolored mushroom – but they’re essential to the brewing process. During my childhood, my mother made sourdough bread from a starter that she kept alive for many years, so I kind of like the idea of a living thing used to create food, even if the appearance of the scoby can be a little unnerving. Also, my dad used to brew beer, so I have fond memories of that as well.
You can get a scoby from a friend on make your own (here’s how), but once you have one, how do you make your own kombucha home brew? And in the Instant Pot? Some people will tell you never to let the kombucha come into contact with metal, but many kombucha experts say this is a myth, and stainless steel, which is what the Instant Pot is made out of, is ok. I’ve been using my friend’s recipe and have had several batches so far that have turned out well. It’s infinitely customizable, too, so at the end when you bottle it, you can flavor your kombucha with whatever you have on hand – juice, fruit, spices, coconut water, etc. So far we’ve tried raspberries and fresh ginger, frozen cherries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, pineapple juice, cranberry and pomegranate juice. My favorites have been pineapple juice and also cherries.
Honestly, you don’t need to make this in an Instant Pot, we just happen to have two big metal inserts so I have been keeping one to brew under the counter. I plan to buy a big glass vessel at some point. As long as you can make 16 cups of tea and transfer it to something to sit for 7-10 days, any vessel will do, although plastic is not recommended.
I absolutely love having our own homemade kombucha in the refrigerator in the reusable bottles we’ve saved. It tastes delicious after a long day of work, it’s fun to see what different batches are going to taste like, and is a healthy substitute for an after-work de-stress cocktail.
To make kombucha, all you’ll need is a large storage vessel, a scoby (see link above for making your own), a box of black tea bags, and some fruit or juice later on in the process. Simple!
INSTANT POT KOMBUCHA
Step 1: set your Instant Pot to saute mode and pour in 16 cups of water. Bring to a boil.
Step 2: Add twelve black tea bags and one cup sugar. Turn off Instant Pot and allow to steep for 20 minutes.
Step 3: Remove tea bags. Take stainless steel insert out of Instant Pot, cover and let sit on counter until tea is cooled to room temperature.
Step 4: Add scoby and 1 cup kombucha (usually the scoby is sitting in its on kombucha to feed on)
Step 5: Cover with cloth and a rubber band.
Step 6: Leave in dark closet or pantry for 7-10 days. Give it a stir every day or two and taste to see how it’s developing.
Step 7: When kombucha is ready to bottle, take the scoby out with a cup of its liquid and store it for the next batch, preferably in a glass container with a cloth over it, attached by a rubber band.
Step 8: Place your flavoring of choice (fresh or frozen fruit, juice) in the bottom of your bottles, filling about ¼ full. I like pineapple juice or pineapples and frozen cherries. You could do anything – strawberries and basil? Mint and watermelon? Leave an inch of room at the top and close tightly.
Step 9: Return bottles to their dark pantry storage place for 3 days.
Step 10: After 3 days, refrigerate and enjoy.
Step 11: Repeat! You can make a new batch as soon as you remove the scoby from your first batch.