All equipment should be cleaned and then sanitized prior to use. To sanitize pot, utensils, and bottles, immerse them in a solution of 1/2 Tbsp. BTF Iodophor dissolved in 2 1/2 gallons of water for two minutes. Then allow them to air dry, but do NOT rinse as that could reintroduce contaminants.
Place 5 1/2 cups of water in refrigerator.
In soup pot, bring 2 cups of water to boiling. Turn off heat.
Add tea (in tea ball if using loose), cover and set timer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. If using tea bags, press them against the side of the pot with the back of the spoon to release as much tea as possible.
After 20 minutes, remove tea bags (or ball) or strain out loose tea.
Stir in sugar until completely dissolved.
Add 5 1/2 cups of chilled water, then 1/2 cup of kombucha mother liquid OR 1 1/2 Tbsp. vinegar*.
Once sugary tea has cooled to room temperature (~75°F), pour into sanitized half-gallon jar and add SCOBY.
* It is necessary to add mother liquid or vinegar to the tea to increase the acidity to a suitible level for the SCOBY and to inhibit other organisms.
Primary and Secondary Fermentation
Cover jar with cheesecloth and affix rubber band. Set in a warm (~75°F) dark place (inside a cabinet or wrap in a dark t-shirt) for 5 days.
After 5 days, begin tasting! Once kombucha has reached a level of tartness to your satisfaction (usually 5-14 days), remove SCOBY along with 1 cup of (mother) liquid. Store SCOBY in this liquid in a loosely covered container for up to 1 month at room temperature or for up to 3 months refrigerated. If storing longer in either of these conditions, then refresh tea solution.
At this point, you have "young" kombucha, which can be quite sharp, but perfectly acceptable to bottle or consume. You may want to go through a secondary fermentation with additional fruits, teas, or herbs by adding them to the now SCOBY-free jar of kombucha and affixing the lid, stopper and airlock (filled to the line with water). Secondary fermenting can smooth out the finished kombucha and is a fun way to add your own twist. Pieces of ginger root and/or strawberries are a fantastic starting point.
Secondary ferment for anywhere from 1-3 weeks at a slightly cooler temperature if possible (~65°F).
TASTE TASTE TASTE! Once you are happy with the taste, funnel into bottles, chill and enjoy!
A note on SCOBY babies: After each round of fermentation, the SCOBY will generate another small layer that can be removed to start another batch or can be left on to thicken and strengthen the current colony. Extra SCOBYs have many interesting uses...refer to Sandor Katz's book, The Art of Fermentation.
Make a solution with 1/2 Tbsp. of cane sugar dissolved in a 1/4 cup of boiling water. Cool solution and gently stir into to kombucha. Funnel into bottles, leaving 1/2- 1" headspace. Store in a warm place for 4-7 days. Chill in refrigerator for 24 hours before open ing. Adjust ratio for increased volume; this amount is for 1/2 gallon.
Experimenting with Carbonation
After you have made this recipe a few times, feel free to gradually increase the amount of carbonating sugar up to 2 Tbsp per half gallon batch to increase the amount of carbonation. You can add fruit to the bottle instead of additional sugar, but start with a small amount, (i.e. one berry or one raisin) and be cautious as this adds an unknown amount of fruit sugar and can lead to over-carbonated and potentially explosive bottles. It is helpful to use one 16-oz. plastic bottle in conjunction with the glass bottles to monitor carbonation. After filling and leaving 1/2" -1" headspace in plastic bottle, squeeze out excess air in bottle and cap. Once plastic bottle has re-inflated to normal size and is resistant to squeezing, all the bottles will be carbonated.