Kombucha: A Health Tonic You Can Make at Home

At this point, most Americans have probably heard of kombucha. The beverage has been getting a lot of press in recent years thanks to its numerous health benefits. For some folks who want to enjoy the drink, however, the cost may not be justifiable. While most bottles go for around $3, some of the fancier varieties can get up to around $5 or even $6.

Fortunately, kombucha is something virtually anyone can make at home. But before we get to kombucha homebrewing, let’s cover some of the basics.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea. It is typically prepared with black or green tea leaves, or with a blend of the two, and a large amount of sugar. Don’t worry, the end product isn’t sugary — the sugar is added to feed a SCOBY, or a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. By the time the batch is finished fermenting, an eight-ounce serving of kombucha will typically have only a few grams of sugar. This is great news for those who are trying to replace sugar-laden energy and sports drinks, which can cause a 1.5% to 3.1% loss of your tooth enamel. By making the switch to kombucha, you can preserve your tooth enamel and keep your oral health in tip-top shape.

Kombucha was reportedly first brewed over 2,000 years ago in China. In the past few years, it has exploded in popularity in the United States, with Nielsen pricing the industry today at roughly half a billion dollars. The effervescent probiotic beverage has enjoyed such broad appeal due to both its taste and health benefits.

What are the health benefits of kombucha?

Drinking kombucha is believed to have a positive effect on digestive health. While there needs to be further study, it is thought that the bacteria present in kombucha serve as probiotics, which can contribute to a healthy microbiome. Of course, kombucha is just one component of a healthy lifestyle. Diet and exercise are key — unfortunately, only one in three children get physical activity every day.

Since it’s a tea, kombucha also contains all the beneficial compounds we associate with unfermented tea. The most notable of these are polyphenols, antioxidants that help combat free radicals in the body.

Does kombucha contain alcohol?

Kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol. Unless it is specifically labeled as 21+, kombucha has less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. Thanks to tight regulation, any kombucha with an ABV that exceeds 0.5% requires valid identification with purchase. Given that 11% of all alcohol in the United States is consumed by people aged 12 to 20, it is good news that this industry is carefully monitored and regulated.

How do you make kombucha at home?

To make kombucha at home, first brew seven cups of tea. Then mix in half a cup of sugar and let the mixture cool to room temperature. Put in a SCOBY and some starter tea from a past kombucha batch, and wait one to two weeks. Once the batch has fermented, you can either drink it or bottle it in airtight containers for a second fermentation which will add effervescence. This is also the time to add any fruit, juice, or other flavors you want. Give another week for a second fermentation to occur, then enjoy.

Have fun exploring the tasty world of kombucha, and happy brewing!

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