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How to Make Kombucha (Without Starter Tea)

How to Make Kombucha (Without Starter Tea)

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When it comes to one of the most popular health drinks around the world today, there is next to nothing that carries the same amount of popularity as kombucha does.

Although the surge of fame and attention that kombucha has received is somewhat recent, the actual kombucha drink has been around for centuries and is renowned for its health benefits.

Because of its relatively inexpensive price and the fact that it is far healthier than most teas, many people enjoy having some kombucha in their lives.

Of course, it is going to be less expensive for you to learn how to brew and ferment the kombucha yourself. When you are able to make your own in multi-gallon quantities at a time, while only paying the price for a SCOBY and the containers for the kombucha to ferment in, it becomes a financially prudent decision to turn to making your own kombucha.

Unfortunately, for many people who are not well-versed in making this type of drink, the process can be more trouble than it’s worth.

Traditionally, to brew kombucha, you are going to need four items. You are going to need a base starter tea, which can sometimes be substituted with a store bought, unflavored kombucha, some sugar, a SCOBY, and a container for everything to ferment in. All of these items are pretty easy to obtain except for one.

You can purchase SCOBYs online and from reliable retailers, and sugar is a staple in all grocery stores, and many online retailers will offer large enough containers for the fermentation process. The missing link to this puzzle is going to be that base tea you need.

Some people might struggle because to get the kombucha starter tea, you need to have a brew of unflavored kombucha, and it becomes a cyclical problem of needing the finished product to create a new one.

Other times, as long as you know where to shop efficiently, you can purchase a relatively inexpensive and unflavored kombucha drink at your local store and you can use this as your starter tea, but this can get expensive when you are making the drink in bulk.

All of this may lead you to begin wondering whether or not it is possible to begin brewing your kombucha without the starter tea, as it doesn’t seem to be as much of a part of the integral process as the other ingredients, right?

While it is certainly true that some ingredients in kombucha, such as the SCOBY, cannot be replaced, there are some ingredients that can, and the starter tea is one such item.

Before you can begin to fully understand how you can safely replace the starter tea in kombucha, you will first need to have a solid understanding of how to brew kombucha.

This will help you know what steps will be affected by this substitution, and why some liquids may be more suitable than others for your kombucha.

The Traditional Brewing Method

In many ways, brewing kombucha is actually quite similar to how people brew beer and wine, as the process makes use of good bacteria and yeast to produce the desired effects and flavor.

However, rather than using wheat or fruits as a base for your drink, kombucha uses green or black tea (more commonly black teas) as the base.

The traditional brewing method for kombucha consists of three parts, depending on who you ask. For some people, especially those who purchase fresh SCOBYs, the step of creating the SCOBY doesn’t count.

Aside from that, kombucha is known for being unique as it is one of the few drinks to go through a double fermentation process.

The first pass of fermentation is focused on turning the sweetened tea into the fermented kombucha, while the second pass of fermentation is more focused on adding the right flavoring and level of carbonation.

Where your starter tea will come into play in the standard brewing method is going to be either in the phase where you are feeding and growing your SCOBY or when you are beginning the first pass of fermentation.

When making the SCOBY, the starter tea will act as the fuel to grow the SCOBY, as black teas with added sugars are the perfect fuel for the bacteria and yeast found in SCOBYs.

By using a high-quality kombucha starting tea, you can feel confident in knowing that the bacteria in the SCOBY is going to absorb and ingest even more nutrients than it would get from the sweet tea alone.

Likewise, during the first pass of fermentation, you will usually add about two cups of unflavored kombucha. This kombucha can be specifically designated as a starter tea, or it could be an unflavored kombucha you found at the store, and if you have been doing this for a while, then it may even be from an old brew.

Here, the fully grown SCOBY will use the sugars in the sweetened kombucha starter tea to fuel its chemical processes, allowing for there to be more nutrients in the kombucha by the time you can serve it to friends and family.

As you can tell, the starter tea plays a considerably important role in the brewing of kombucha. In more ways than one, it is going to be one of the foundations that you rely on if you continue making kombucha.

Because of this, you might begin to worry that you don’t have anything that you can use to feed and ferment the SCOBY with for your kombucha, but thankfully, there are quite a few ingredients and food products that can serve as decent for your kombucha-related needs.

Does it Need to Be Homemade Kombucha?

More often than not, when you are searching for recipes and brewing methods for kombucha, you will come across the comments that when you add the starter tea, it is going to be better in the long run and economically for you to make your own kombucha as a starting tea.

To an extent, this statement is true, as once you get the kombucha brewing, you can always set aside a portion of it to use before you flavor it, meaning that you won’t ever have to worry about starter teas.

The easiest solution to this problem is to go down to your local grocery store and purchase a bottle of unfiltered, “raw,” kombucha to use as your starting tea. These products might be marketed as bases, raw, unfiltered, unflavored, and other descriptors that fall within the theme.

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to be in a place where there is going to be a good chance that there will be raw, base kombucha in the supermarket’s produce section, meaning that while this solution might be the easiest, it is also one of the more troublesome methods in terms of trying to find the bases when they are in stock.

Similarly, you can also find this vein of products with online retailers. It can be hard to gauge the quality of something when you can only see it on a screen, rather than being able to feel the weight, smell the aroma, and so on.

Here, you will be able to find your raw kombucha base for a somewhat higher price, as many online retailers have inflated prices and expensive shipping.

Some people may believe that, for a starting tea that is meant specifically for kombucha, only kombucha bases can be used to create a successful brew. While this kind of specification may certainly contribute to the quality of the food or drink being produced, there are also many ways to work around the “rules” of kombucha.

For example, the starter tea can be made out of the least expensive black tea leaves that you can find and a little bit of spices to liven things up.

The Starting Tea of Kombucha

As mentioned above, kombucha’s starter tea is typically known for being the base and the foundation for your kombucha. The starting tea doesn’t have to be kombucha related and can be used in just about any form that is acidic.

For a successful kombucha brew, you will always want to make sure that you are working with a decent starting base.

The main ingredients of a kombucha’s starting base is going to be dependent on what your own preferences are. You will have to be careful when you are brewing your own kombucha brews, even if they are just starting brews.

With this in mind, the full fermentation process of the kombucha depends on the sugar content of the drink. The more sugars there are, the more those sugars can be absorbed, and this means the more nutritional content can be produced by the SCOBY.

At the same time, if you are worried about the drink tasting off, you can always add a splash of vinegar to it to try and offset that flavor profile.

For the people who have been doing this for a while, it will be easy to determine what drink specifically should be used as a kombucha starter tea. For most people, black tea that has had sugar added to it on top of the natural sugars that are in apples will do the trick perfectly.

Other places might make use of sweetened green tea for their kombucha base, but it has been found that the green teas do not respond nearly as well to the SCOBY as the others did, giving you all the more reason to stick with the ones that have been proven to produce a good kombucha base.

What If There Is No Tea?

If times have been busy for you, you may find yourself in a situation where you may not have the time, resources, or money to invest in an expensive brew of tea or an even more expensive single bottle of unflavored kombucha.

This situation will only work under the assumption that you already have a sugary drink to let the bacteria feed off of. Otherwise, you may run into some problems, as sugar is a crucial component in the kombucha brewing process.

One of the best non-tea related solutions that you can consider is going to be a small amount of vinegar or hot sauce. As for the type of vinegar that was the most used during these times, you can expect that the apple cider vinegar will be the most popular, although many people will find all of the variants of kombucha during their lives.

The reason why you should consider using that in place of a decent kombucha starter tea is because the vinegar can provide countless health benefits not only to your stomach, but the rest of your body.

Because of vinegar’s natural healing properties, you will be able to get even more out of what is a naturally healthy drink.

Working with What You Have

In the end, you are going to have to work with what you have in your pantry and what you can get from the store in a reasonable amount of time.

In some cases, this will mean that you only have black tea leaves and a splash of cinnamon, but for other people, this would mean a trip to the grocery store or an order placed online.

As long as you put forth the effort to create something that you can be proud of, you will be able to enjoy the healthy benefits of a cold glass of kombucha every morning, before bed, and throughout the entirety of the day.

If you are someone who enjoys tea and enjoys carbonated beverages, then kombucha is going to be one of the best possible drinks for you to turn your attention to.

The best part about it is that once you have that first set of starter teas to use for the second pass of fermentation and future kombucha brews, you won’t have to worry about purchasing a starter tea again.