The Big Book of Kombucha: Brewing, Flavoring, and Enjoying the Health Benefits of Fermented Tea

The Big Book of Kombucha: Brewing, Flavoring, and Enjoying the Health Benefits of Fermented Tea


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2016 Silver Nautilus Book Award Winner

Brew your own kombucha at home! With more than 400 recipes, including 268 unique flavor combinations, you can get exactly the taste you want — for a fraction of the store-bought price. This complete guide, from the proprietors of Kombucha Kamp, shows you how to do it from start to finish, with illustrated step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting tips. The book also includes information on the many health benefits of kombucha, fascinating details of the drink’s history, and recipes for delicious foods and drinks you can make with kombucha (including some irresistible cocktails!).

“This is the one go-to resource for all things kombucha.”
— Andrew Zimmern, James Beard Award–winning author and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612124339
Publisher: Storey Books
Publication date: 03/08/2016
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 55,986
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory created Kombucha Kamp ( to provide the highest quality brewing supplies, information, and support. Known as “The Kombucha Mamma,” Crum speaks at consumer and corporate events nationwide. LaGory is a writer and producer who, with Crum, mentors homebrewers and serves as commercial brewing consultant. The couple co-founded Kombucha Brewers International in Los Angeles, where they reside.

Read an Excerpt


Fermentation Nature's Nutritional Gift

The simplest description of kombucha is that it is fermented tea. Sure, we all know what tea is, but what exactly is fermentation? And how could a whole generation of Americans have been raised thinking "fermented" means "rotten and moldy" or "alcoholic" when for millennia fermentation has been inextricably linked to human survival? The good news is that fermentation's stock is on the rise, and kombucha is a big reason why.

"Who wants to drink moldy tea?" You may hear this and similar questions should you begin offering your very own homebrewed kombucha to friends and family. You can either dazzle them with your knowledge of fermentation or just ignore their petty insults. Either will work because, as you may already know, kombucha tastes delicious and they'll soon be begging you for more.

How has the ancient and once essential tradition of fermentation come to be so misunderstood and maligned in the modern world? To fully understand this vital symbiosis between microorganisms and humans, we need to take a closer look at our bacterial brethren.

We Are Our Bacteria

Humans and bacteria coevolved over millions of years. As the cosmic dust from the formation of the universe cooled, bacteria shuffled strands of DNA, evolving from single-celled organisms into multicellular beings and developing more efficient and sophisticated symbiotic relationships. Humans are supra-organisms, which means that several different types of organisms — human cells, bacteria, yeast, viruses, parasites — live in symbiosis on and within our pliable skin covering.

Research conducted over the past few decades has completely transformed the way in which we see bacteria. Crowd-sourced science experiments designed to map the living contents of our digestive systems are proving that we are essentially bacteria-powered organisms — or, as we like to say, "bacteriosapiens."

The mind-blowing truth is that bacteria cover every surface on the planet. That includes the external surface of the human body, as well as every internal surface. If you were to turn yourself inside out, you'd still be completely covered in bacteria!



One of the key visual clues that a ferment is working is to look for bubbles, so it's no surprise that the root comes from the Latin word fevere, which means "to boil." It makes sense: the action of the yeast converting sugars into CO creates a layer of foam that looks exactly like the bubbles created by boiling water.

The Benefits of Fermented Foods

Being covered in bacteria may sound creepy, but when we consider that most bacteria are our allies, not our enemies, the meaning of "bacteria powered" becomes easier to appreciate. And it makes sense that consuming foods containing those beneficial bacteria can help support the bacteria in and on our bodies.

Here is where fermentation comes into play: fermented foods are rich sources of probiotics — that is, those beneficial bacteria. And they are ubiquitous! Most people can find fermented foods lurking in their fridges right now. These familiar foods all undergo fermentation:

* Most cheeses (cheddar, blue, Brie, etc.)

* Cured meats (prosciutto, salami, etc.)

* Yogurt

* Pickles

* Miso

* Tempeh

* Kimchi

When done right, fermentation of food helps with nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, breaking down proteins, alkalizing pH, restoring homeostasis, boosting immunity, and producing immunoglobulins. When we consume this somewhat predigested food, our bodies do less work for more gain, something that keeps us coming back for more. Fermentation not only provides superior nutrition, it acts as nature's fridge, allowing us to preserve food through long cold winters when the land is fallow. And it allows us to extract nutrition from foods that would otherwise be toxic, such as when the process removes cyanide from cassava or destroys phytic acid in grains.

The real genius of fermentation is the way in which it naturally evolved with our needs. Take sauerkraut as an example. Like any fruit or vegetable, cabbage has its own contingent of bacteria, especially on its outer leaves, which come from the soil. Humans can nurture these bacteria by providing a low-pH environment in the form of brine, similar to (but not as sour as) the human stomach — and then letting the bacteria do their thing.

The healthy acids created by the bacterial digestive process (that is, fermentation) break the cabbage leaves down into their nutritional components, at the same time creating a unique new flavor and smell. By trusting their guts, early humans learned that creating a pro-bacteria environment not only led to improved immunity and mood, but also provided a means of survival, especially during harsher months when food was scarce.


"We are living in a bacterial world, and I am a bacterial girl!"

Weston A. Price, pioneering nutrition researcher of the early twentieth century and founder of the American Dental Association, meticulously documented the native dietaries of indigenous people from all parts of the earth. He found, over and over, that adults of childbearing age — both women and men, but especially pregnant women — were fed the most highly prized nutrient-dense foods and ferments to nourish themselves, from before procreation to pregnancy all the way through nursing, thus ensuring healthier newborns, maximum milk production, and increased nutrient density in that breast milk.

Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation and godfather of the modern fermentation revival, has made, consumed, and studied fermented foods for many decades. His work attests that every human society on earth includes ferments in their diet.

Two Brains Are Better Than One

In addition to the brain in your head, the one you've been told does all the work, you have a brain in your gut, too, called the enteric nervous system. Consisting of neurons that line the digestive tract from esophagus to colon, your enteric brain carries out complex processes and is capable of learning and remembering, just like the one in your head. It is the seat of what we call "gut instinct."

As a fetus develops, its enteric system and brain are formed from the same tissue. Connected by the vagus nerve, which acts as the core of the gut-brain axis, these two brains send and receive signals that control heart rate, sweating, and speech, among other behaviors. When the mind experiences nervousness, that feeling travels down the vagus nerve, causing blood to pump faster, palms to sweat, "butterflies" to arise in the stomach, even a nervous stammer. Nearly 90 percent of all stimulation of the vagus nerve originates in the gut, making it a key pathway of communication to the brain.

What a revelation this can be! Knowing that the brain in our head and the brain in our belly are intimately connected illuminates why and how the foods we eat have an impact not only on our physical well-being but also on our mental and emotional wellbeing. Seemingly disparate conditions from food allergies to autism and irritable bowel syndrome to mental illness have been tied to the relationship between the neurological and gastrointestinal systems and the bacterial diversity of the gut.

Understanding this relationship can drastically change our approach to resolving various neurological and gastrointestinal ailments, whether through individualized diet plans or healing treatments. For the latest research, check out the Human Microbiome Project or American Gut project.

The Fermentation of Tea

Through the alchemy of fermentation, tea, the most popular beverage in the world, becomes a healthy, bubbly brew. Just as in other types of fermentation, a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) and an inoculant (starter liquid) are added to the substrate (sweet tea) for a period of primary fermentation that typically lasts seven or more days. After that time, the sweet and tart liquid is often flavored with fruit, herbs, and/or spices and is bottle-aged or secondary fermented to create additional carbonation and flavor. This dynamic health duo — tea and fermentation — packs a nutritional punch that improves digestion and boosts immunity in one tasty quaff.

Fermented Beverages of the Ancient World

One of fermentation's most important uses is turning questionable drinking water into delicious, nutritious, low-alcohol drinks — think ginger "ale" and root "beer" — suitable for children and adults alike via the addition of herbs and barks. Modern sodas try to cheaply imitate the sweet-tart flavor of living ferments by combining table sugar with man-made acids and bubbles, failing miserably but profiting nonetheless.

Perhaps the very first fermented beverages were prehistoric accidents involving berries, trees, honey, standing water, and wild yeast.

Ever since, humans have found countless applications, from medicinal to nutritional to social, and archaeologists have long understood that the fermentation of beverages played a vital role in the development of human society.

One of the most important and prolific categories of ferments from a nutritional, food-storage, and medicinal standpoint is vinegar, which humans have long consumed in combination with other herbals. Here are some traditional vinegar beverages from throughout history.

Chomez. A mixture of vinegar, oil, and dates, chomez likely was the vinegar beverage that Ruth of the Old Testament (Ruth 2:14) was said to have consumed. It is still popular in the Middle East to this day, a refreshing beverage in the heat of the desert.

Oxymel. Oxymel is a combination of vinegar and honey boiled down to a thick syrup, the benefits of which were described by Hippocrates as far back as 400 BCE and included treatment of acute illness. The Romans revered it as a panacea. The Arabic version of oxymel, sekanjabin (a Persian drink with mint), is traditionally made with sugar and was first mentioned in texts dating back to the tenth century.

Posca. Adding vinegar to water is an ancient practice that not only made the water potable but also imbued it with a refreshing flavor. The Romans called this drink posca, and soldiers from many cultures sipped it to increase strength and stamina and to stave off disease.

Shrubs. Shrubs are sweetened fruit syrups preserved in vinegar. Developed as a method of preserving the harvest and popular in the United States during colonial times, they saved countless sailors from scurvy on long voyages across the ocean. (See more on shrubs.)


Why Kombucha Tea?

All fermented foods offer nutrition as well as beneficial bacteria and yeast, so why drink kombucha? The answer is both obvious and a mystery. It is obvious because kombucha is the most versatile ferment in the world. Consumed at all times of day, it can be brewed as sweet or sour as desired, is equally delicious with savory flavorings and sweet ones, and pairs just as well with a salty slice of pizza as with a chunk of chocolate. In many homes around the world, it replaces sodas, carbonated waters, alcohol, and other store-bought drinks with an inexpensive, homemade option.

Kombucha has left its mark in countries on every (inhabited) continent and is suitable for any type of diet. Safe and easy to brew and flavor at home, it can even be used in place of products sold for the kitchen, bathroom, pantry, cleaning closet, garden, and more. For these reasons and more, kombucha's appeal is obvious.

Yet kombucha's appeal is also a mystery — some people never acquire the taste for it, others have a hard time saying why they enjoy it, and many people drink it every day, yet would never brew their own. People discover kombucha for a variety of reasons, but they almost always remember the first time they had it (Kombucha Kismet!).

Many decide to try kombucha because they've heard it can ease or alleviate a variety of ailments, and indeed, when they begin drinking kombucha, they often experience positive results in a short time. However, kombucha doesn't cure specific ailments; rather, it gives the body the opportunity to return to balance so that the immune and other physiological systems function more efficiently.

Kombucha is often referred to as a gateway food, because this one health-promoting choice can lead to a whole host of others, bringing balance to body, diet, and lifestyle. With regular consumption, kombucha can be part of deep, positive changes in all aspects of life.

Reconnect to the Gut with Kombucha

Too often people regularly consume toxic foods while complaining about how sick and tired they feel without drawing the connection: "Garbage in, garbage out." The rebalancing effect of regular kombucha consumption often sparks a reconnection to the gut by "closing the loop," allowing one to make informed choices based on how the body experiences different inputs.

Drinking kombucha on an empty stomach is a great way to feel its effects on the body. Starting with 4 ounces or less first thing in the morning gives you a chance to more keenly observe how it makes your body feel. As the gut adjusts to a regular influx of living bacteria and yeast, as well as healthful acids that stimulate the body, it will communicate which foods support health and which don't.

Some who are new to fermented foods may feel energized and crave more, while others could spend the day in bed or the bathroom experiencing a Herxheimer reaction (see The Detoxification Process). There is no wrong way to determine which foods support your individual system.

What Can Kombucha Do?

The health issues that can purportedly be relieved by kombucha read like a laundry list of modern ailments. Here are some of the benefits that have been observed:

* Promotes healthy bacteria in the gut

* Rebalances homeostasis in the body

* Supports healthy liver function

* Boosts metabolism

* Improves digestion and bowel function

* Rebuilds connective tissue

* Boosts energy

* Reduces blood pressure

* Relieves headache and migraine

* Reduces occurrence and size of kidney stones

* Destroys free radicals, which are known to cause cell damage

* Aids healthy cell regeneration

* Improves eyesight

* Heals eczema

* Prevents arteriosclerosis

* Speeds healing of ulcers

* Helps clear up candidiasis (i.e., yeast infections)

* Lowers glucose levels (prevents energy spikes)

How can one beverage possibly be good for so many seemingly different problems? These are the types of claims that cause some people to refer to kombucha as a "panacea" and others to call it "snake oil" — but both are wrong. It's just a healthy food that doesn't cure or prevent any disease.

However, the more we understand the effects of diet and stress on our human organism, the more it becomes obvious why kombucha is of such great benefit for so many of our modern diseases. When experiencing digestive or systemic imbalances, the body generates signals of stress that indicate impending failure. These signals are the symptoms of disease. Unlike over-the-counter or prescription medications, kombucha does not aim to simply alleviate the symptoms of disease; it empowers the body to get to work on the root cause.

While large-scale, double-blind human trials may still be out of reach, a growing body of in vitro and in vivo research demonstrates the potential mechanisms by which kombucha can correct systemic imbalances. This research, in conjunction with the body of anecdotal information from millions of kombucha consumers, generates the kind of interest that will lead to the type of studies needed for Western medical proof. (See What's in Kombucha, and Highlights of Kombucha Benefits Research.)

Getting Started with Kombucha

When first introducing kombucha to your diet, start slowly. Drink just 2 to 4 ounces, perhaps mixed with water, first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Then wait to see how your body reacts over the next few hours. Observing how food makes your body feel is a powerful tool for truly learning to trust your gut.

If your body reacts well or even craves more, gradually increase your consumption, but remember that too much too fast can lead to detoxification symptoms and a healing crisis. If this happens, reduce intake and drink more water, then ease back into the booch as your body recalibrates.

You might feel ravenous for kombucha when you first begin drinking it. This is normal, and it likely indicates that the kombucha is supplying some nutrient that your body needs to correct a deficiency. Kombucha is a tonic, so for greatest effect it is best consumed in small amounts regularly rather than in large amounts every once in a while. Once your gut tells you that it's ready for a regular regimen of kombucha, most people find that consuming eight ounces of kombucha, one to three times a day provides the flavor and nutrition they seek. Then again, you might drink a gallon today and none tomorrow. There's no wrong way to consume kombucha if it makes you feel good.


Excerpted from "The Big Book of Kombucha"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Hannah Crum and Alex M. LaGory.
Excerpted by permission of Storey Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

A Note from GT Dave
Foreword by Sandor Ellix Katz
Preface: Our Komucha Journey
Part 1: Getting Started
1 Fermentation: Nature’s Nutritional Gift
2 Why Kombucha Tea?
3 It All Starts with the SCOBY
4 The Other Ingredients: Tea, Sugar, Water
5 Brewing Equipment and Supplies
Part 2: Just Brew It!
6 The Batch Brew Method
7 The Continuous Brew Method
8 In the Bottle: Conditioning, Filtering, and Flavoring Your Tea
9 Advanced Techniques for Flavoring, Brewing, and Carbonation
10 Troubleshooting
Part 3: It’s More than a Health Drink
11 Flavor Inspirations
12 Smoothies, Sodas, and Spritzers
13 Kick Back with a “Kocktail”
Part 4: Cooking with Kombucha
14 Pantry Staples
15 Snacks, Salads, Sides, and Sweets
16 Consuming Your Cultures
17 Beyond the Beverage: Other Uses for Kombucha
Part 5: The Storey of Kombucha
18 The History and Science of Kombucha, Condensed
19 Craft-Brewed Kombucha: Taking It out of the Kitchen
Appendix 1: What’s in Kombucha
Appendix 2: Highlights of Kombucha Benefits Research
Appendix 3: Brew Minder Logs

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