How to make kombucha

I first started making kombucha in 1995, but when we had our first child in 1997, I was knocked out of many patterns, including making this tasty fermented beverage. About a month ago I started making it again. It's really easy.

Before you make your own kombucha, here are a few reasons why you might not want to:

Why do I drink it? Because it's fun to make and the flavor is almost addictive. The benefits outweigh the risks, at least for me. Here's how I make it. (Click on photos for enlargement.):

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1. Get some live kombucha. I foolishly paid $25 to an online store that sells the culture in little vials (as seen above). As I later found out, you can buy a bottle of kombucha for a few dollars at grocery store and use that as your starter.
If you have a friend who makes it, ask them for a "mother" (the floppy, blobby, disc that floats on top of a batch of kombucha) and a cup of the kombucha tea.

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2. Collect the ingredients: sugar, vinegar (or a half cup of the kombucha tea from your last batch), tea bags (any kind). I used green tea for my first batch, but I'm now using decaf black tea.

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3. Add 4-8 tea bags into a little less than one gallon of water. I used filtered water and a ceramic crock. I've heard you shouldn't use metal containers to make kombucha. Let it steep for a while. You can use hot water to steep the tea, but let it cool down before you add any culture (to prevent killing it).

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4. Stir in 1 or 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar. The sugar is the fuel for the kombucha microbes. I have been using one cup of sugar, but in the batch I started yesterday I used one and one-half cups because I want it to be stronger and more vinegary. I have heard that the more sour it is, the more resistant it is to bacterial infection. (How do you like my hand carved spoon?)

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5. Stir in 1/2 cup of kombucha from your last batch, or 1/4 cup of vinegar and a vial of expensive kombucha culture you foolishly purchased over the Internet.

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6. Cover crock with cloth for a week. If a "mushroom" (not a real mushroom) has grown on the surface, that means it worked! Save the mushroom and use it to cover your next batch. In a week, the mushroom will have another mushroom attached to it that you can peel off and use, discard, or give away.

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7. Transfer the tangy, fizzy beverage into a bottle and refrigerate. Some websites say not to store kombucha in plastic but I like this one gallon bottle.

If you have any tips to share about kombucha, please put them in the comments.