To brew or not to brew? My Kombucha Conundrum

I don’t really remember the first time I had kombucha I am not sure if it was an acquired taste, or if I stuck with it just because I thought it was good for you. But eventually I got hooked.

I loved discovering a new store that carried it, or trying to figure out my favorite brand and flavor. Then – as an obvious next step for me -- I got into researching more about what was in it, and just how beneficial the drink really was.  I am still not sure exactly what to believe about the benefits. You can find sources of pros and cons for the supposed health reasons to sip on the fizzy fermented tea. The verdict may still be out as to whether it helps stomach troubles and contains enough probiotics to be helpful, but the fact that the drink is pricey is seldom disputed.

Prices can vary, but it’s a good find when I get a bottle for under $2.50. So, when I heard about brewing it yourself for a fraction of the cost, I was intrigued. I had a friend (thank you, Holly!) share a SCOBY with me and give me a tutorial for making it on my own.

What’s a SCOBY you ask? Well, that’s an acronym for a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. And it’s what you need to brew ‘buch at home.

I brewed several of my own batches and was delighted with the end product. It was slightly fizzy and tasted good. In fact, I preferred my home brew to many of the brands I could buy at the store. But then I started encountering problems. Well, they were problems to me, but some others might call them paranoia or just plain ridiculous thinking.

The first problem was the fact that each brew produced a new SCOBY. At first it was fun. I liked the concept of having more “baby” SCOBY’s available to brew more kombucha. But it wasn’t long before I felt like a SCOBY hoarder. I didn’t know what to do with them all! They just kept multiplying and growing. I looked for other ways to use them (and there are options), but I felt like I was denying the baby SCOBY’s a chance to fulfill its true destiny to brew!

I read about creating a space for the SCOBY’s to hang out for a while, then put them into a rotation to brew a batch. Thus, my SCOBY hotel was created, and I felt a bit better. The hotel seemed to be working well, but then I encountered major problem #2. It started to really freak me out that I was fermenting something and then drinking it. For some reason, the bottle in the store seemed less likely to make me sick or be contaminated than my own batches at home. Even though I obsessively cleaned and checked temperatures of each batch of ‘buch, it became more and more worrisome to me that instead of making something that was healthy, I was creating batch after batch of potentially contaminated liquid that I would regret drinking.

So my current kombucha-brewing status is pending.  I now have 2 SCOBY hotels (one for black tea, the other for green tea). I still have two jars of brewed kombucha in my refrigerator, too. And I have been buying the tea at the store more frequently again. The $3-a-bottle price seems more justified for the peace of mind it gives me in drinking something that I think tastes good, but that I wasn’t responsible for fermenting. I assume (again for peace of mind) that the retail versions of kombucha are regulated in a much better manner than my kitchen efforts. There must be some standards or requirements before you can sell the beverage that ensures I am drinking a safe end product, right? If you know different, PLEASE don’t tell me. And if you want a SCOBY of your own, I have some available. Just be warned…they will multiply! Have an exit plan prepared.