How to Make Kombucha: Part 1

Fermented foods are a fantastic way to get more probiotics into your diet. You can also drink your probiotics in the form of kombucha. This fizzy, fermented beverage aids digestion with acids and enzymes, detoxifies the body and promotes overall health.

A Kombucha habit is a pricey one though, around $4 per bottle. Thankfully, it’s rather easy to make your own.

First you need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). It’s a jelly-fish, blob-like thing that’s actually living bacteria and yeast. You absolutely cannot make kombucha without it.

There are three options: 
1. Buy one from here, here or here. They range from $10-30. 

2. Ask a friend to gift one to you. SCOBYs grow rapidly and in layers so if a friend makes kombucha regularly they will have extras to spare.

3. Grow your own. You can do this with a bottle of unflavored, unpasteurized store-bought kombucha. Watch my tutorial on how to do this below.

Once you have your SCOBY, you are ready to brew your first batch of kombucha.

½ gallon glass jar
8 cups water
starter kombucha
4 teabags or 1½ tbsp black, green or white tea (or a combination)
½ cup organic sugar
coffee filter or tightly woven piece of cloth
rubber band
warm, dark place with good air circulation

Wash glass jar well with warm soapy water, not antibacterial. You don’t want it sterile, just clean. I recommend using Dr. Bronners soap. Make sure it is completely dry.

Make sure hands are very clean too. Bad bacteria on your hands can transfer to the SCOBY and cause an infection.

Boil the water, steep the tea for 10 minutes and stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Then allow the tea to cool completely. This can take a few hours.

Bring the SCOBY and starter kombucha to room temperature as well.

If you buy or are given a SCOBY, it will come in a jar filled with starter kombucha. Keep this stored in the fridge until you’re ready to begin the brewing. Once you’re ready to make your first batch, take it out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.

If you grow your own, then it will already be at room temperature and sitting in it’s starter kombucha.

How to Make Kombucha How to Make Kombucha How to Make Kombucha How to Make Kombucha How to Make KombuchaHow to Make Kombucha

Once the tea, SCOBY and starter kombucha are at room temperature, you are ready to combine them all.

Pour the starter kombucha and sugary tea into the clean glass jar. Then add the SCOBY.

The fermentation process requires some air flow so don’t seal the jar. Cover with a coffee filter or tightly woven piece of cotton and secure with a rubber band.

Select a brewing location. This needs to be a dark, well ventilated space where the kombucha will be undisturbed. Ideal temperature is between 72-85 degrees F.  Above 90 and the SCOBY will die, below 60 and the SCOBY will go to sleep. I keep mine on a high self in the kitchen.

Brew time varies depending upon temperature and health of your SCOBY. It can brew from 5-30 days. The longer the brew, the more sour the kombucha.

Once the kombucha is fermented to your liking, reserve one cup to be used as your starter for the next batch. Then pour the remaining into glass jars or bottles, seal and refrigerate. For more carbonation action, leave the bottles at room temperature for a day or two, then refrigerate.

 Watch PART 2 of the Video here.

SUGAR: The SCOBY works best when you use plain, granulated sugar. Other sweeteners will make a weak SCOBY and your kombucha will not brew well.

TYPES OF TEAS: Black tea and green tea brew the the healthiest kombucha. The SCOBY requires these types of teas for growth. Herbal teas do not have the same chemical properties as black tea, resulting in failed kombucha brewing.

SCOBY: It is perfectly natural for the SCOBY to float at the top, on it’s side or near the bottom of the glass.

SUGAR: Yes, kombucha contains sugar and the content varies depending upon the brew time. The longer the brew, the less the sugar.

ALCOHOL: Yes, kombucha contains alcohol. For first-batch home brews it falls somewhere between .5% and 3%.

CAFFEINE: Yes, kombucha is caffeinated. It is half the amount in a standard cup of tea though since only 6 teabags are used for 1 full gallon of water.

FLAVORED KOMBUCHA: After the kombucha has fully fermented, you can do a second ferment to add flavor. Simply add a piece of fresh fruit or 1 tablespoon of fruit juice to each jar. Leave a 1 inch space at the top of the jar to allow room for the carbonation. Seal air tight and leave at room temperature for 1-2 days. Then refrigerate.

For all the myth busting facts on Kombucha, check out this article.

How to Make Kombucha

Kombucha: Myths vs. Truths,

Kombucha Tips and Troubleshooting,

To buy a Scoby:
Kombucha Brooklyn,

Kombucha Kamp,


How to Pickle for Probiotics

Crunch into a tart, juicy pickle. Pickling vegetables throughout the summer is one of the best ways to capture the season’s produce. But perhaps that approach is all wrong.

Vinegar is most commonly used to achieve a sour flavor and act as a preservative. This method misses out on the entire reason the world began pickling foods. The goal is to produce fermented vegetables that turn them into healthy probiotic food.  When a brine of salt and water is used rather than vinegar, the salt reacts with the bacteria in the vegetables creating good bacteria that helps our digestive systems. However, you can try this out if you need to fix your refrigerator water filter.

The majority of store-bought brands are vinegar pickles, but a few companies are making small-batch fermented vegetables, like Real Pickles and The Brinery.

Probiotics for Digestive Health
Now for a little biology lesson. More than 100 trillion individual bacteria and yeasts live in the gut. Their purpose is to help digest the food we eat and in turn the food we eat feeds them. Eating probiotics gives the bacteria what it requires to maintain optimal functioning of our cells. Think of your body as it’s own ecosystem. That system can easily be thrown out of balance if the wrong bacteria takes over. Eating high starch and high sugar foods leads to our bodies producing more sugar-loving bacteria and yeasts because we are literately feeding these microorganisms. Sugar-loving bacteria throws off the body’s ecosystem causing poor digestion and all the problems this brings. By incorporating probiotic foods into your diet, you are feeding the bacteria that keeps your ecosystem in balance.

How Does Fermentation Work?
In order for fermentation to occur, vegetables sit in a brine at room temperature for about 3 days to 2 weeks. The bacteria required for fermentation are found right on the cucumbers. All plants have naturally occurring bacteria existing on them. When placed in the brine, the bacteria react producing carbon dioxide and lactic acid. Eventually, the conditions within the jar become too acidic for these bacteria to survive and they die out, replaced with bacteria that can better handle the acidic conditions such as Lactobacillus (lactic acid bacteria). It is this bacteria that aids in gut health.

Fermented Pickles Fermented PicklesMaking Fermented Pickles
Fermented foods are super simple to make and it’s easy to customize the flavors to your liking.

For pickles, choose cucumbers that are a good size for your jar. Pickling or “Kirby” cucumbers work well. Persian cucumbers can go limp and do not stay as crisp as the others.

The water must be filtered for the fermentation to take action. Chlorine is added to most municipal water supplies and counters the chemical reaction. If you don’t have a water filter at home, pick-up some filtered water from the store.

As for the container, pickle crocks, wide-mouth glass canning jars or glass jars with clamp lids can be used.

Once all the supplies are gathered, you’re ready to pickle!  

Using filtered water, scrub the cucumbers and remove the stems. Then slice into spears.

Dissolve the salt into the water and set aside.

Add in all spices and herbs to the jar, then pack in the cucumbers one spear at a time so that they’re neatly stacked.

Now something is needed to weigh down the cucumbers to keep them submerged in the brine. I like to use a large cucumber by slicing it in half and packing it on top of the jar. Pour in the brine until one inch is left at the top.

Leaving a one inch space at the top of the jar is necessary for air bubbles to escape during the process. The chemical reaction causes pressure to build up inside the jar. If using a jar with a clamp lid, remove the plastic seal. For screw tops, twist in on half way. Then make sure to check on the jar every day and open it to relieve the pressure.

Sometimes fermentation can be temperamental. It will take between three to nine days to fully develop and its important to keep the jar in a stable environment. Store it in a dark place and as close to 75 degrees as possible. Temperature affects the growth and activity of the fermentation process and if kept too high the wrong consistency will result. It’s also possible for the lactobacillus to become too acidic early on in the process and then the food will spoil.

In about five days, you’ll have crisp, sour pickles. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

With this basic recipe, you can pickle almost anything. Try it with any vegetable or combination of vegetables and get creative with fresh herbs and spices.

To power your digestive tract, ferment those vegetables.
Fermented PicklesFermented Pickles

Fermented Pickles

Fermented Pickles
Yields 1
Pickles made by fermentation for probiotic benefits.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
  1. Wide-mouth half gallon glass canning jar
  2. Dark place at 75 degrees for storage
  4. 4-5 pickling cucumbers - stems removed, sliced and scrubbed
  5. 4 ½ cups filtered water - must be chlorine free
  6. 1 ½ tbsp sea salt (1 tsp per cup of water)
  7. 2 cloves garlic - crushed
  8. ½ tsp dill seed
  9. 2 tsp black peppercorns
  10. 2-3 sprigs of fresh dill
  11. 3 hot chilies
  1. Combine water and salt, stirring to dissolve.
  2. Place garlic, dill seed, peppercorns, fresh dill and chilies into the jar. Then neatly stack the cucumber spears vertically.
  3. Slice an extra cucumber in half and use it as a weight to keep the spears submerged in the water.
  4. Pour salt water over the cucumbers and spices, leaving 1 inch at the top. Cover with the lid but only seal part way. If using a jar with a clamp lid, remove the plastic seal. For screw tops, twist in on half way.
  5. Place in a dark place that is able to maintain a 75 degree temperature.
  6. Check on the jar every day and open it to relieve the pressure.
  7. Test the pickles after the third day to make sure the chemical reaction is working properly.
  8. After 5 to 7 days, the fermentation will be complete. Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.
  1. Optional seasonings: red pepper flakes, hot chiles, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, celery leaves, bay leaves, fresh herbs, onion, cinnamon stick, cloves
Sparkle Kitchen

Fermented Pickles

Making Healthy Habits Stick: Part 1

Healthy habits come from regular practice and discipline, right? Many other co-factors make this a complicated question. Your unique personality traits actually play a big role.  How do your habits impact your health? Do you know what it takes to make a new routine stick?

What if there was a way to figure this out? Gretchen Rubin’s book, Better Than Before may help. She’s identified four personality types, or tendencies, based on the way people develop habits and make decisions. I have become a bit obsessed with this categorization and now look for signs in my friends to see which category they fall in. I’ll first define the four and then provide some examples.

Upholder – “Respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations”

Questioner – “Question all expectations, and will meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified.”

Obliger – “Respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations.”

Rebel – “Resist all expectations, outer and inner alike.”

I’ll use myself as an example. I’m a classic Questioner. I will not commit to anything until I have done the proper research and am satisfied with my findings (one of the reasons why I like demystifying the diet/food world). So if a friend recommends a new restaurant I won’t try it until I look over the menu and read several reviews. The same goes for books, movies, clothes, anything. It’s not that I don’t trust and value my friend’s opinion, I just want to find out for myself as well. This can be a terrible time suck and I’m working on ways to short-cut the process.

To find out your personality tendency, take this quiz.

Once you know your tendency, it can be easier to make desired changes and create new habits.

I’ll throw out some examples. Every night you tell yourself you’re going to work out in the morning before work. Morning comes, your alarm goes off and you hit snooze. But what if you had a friend waiting for you at the gym? Accountability systems work very well with Obliger personalities. They refuse to disappoint their friend.

Upholders commit to themselves and to others easily, making habits easier to put in place. If they make a plan to exercise each morning then they will, without the need for external accountability.

What habits would you like to form?

Regular exercise? Healthy eating? Getting more rest and relaxation time? Better organization methods? Having closer connections with friends/family?

If we want to be healthy, we have to set-up our lives for health. We have to know ourselves better.

Goals are not sustainable.
Now I want to focus on the difference between habits and goals. Goals have an end marker. Goals begin and end. Say your goal is to lose 20 pounds. Setting a goal weight can be counter-productive if getting there involves restrictive dieting and a grueling exercise schedule. What happens when you achieve your weight goal? Maintaining the minimal diet and intense exercise is not sustainable and the weight will come back.

Now transition your thinking to longterm. Consider what lifestyle changes are necessary for lifelong health. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and taking care of your whole health is a sustainable model. These become lifelong health habits rather than a goal you achieve and forget about a month later.


So how do you make new habits?

1. Take a look at your days, weeks and months. What patterns are currently in place?

2. Take note of the patterns you’d like to change.

3. Make a list of the habits you want to implement.

4. Use your habits personality to recognize what it will take to put a new habit in place.

5. Work towards habits, not goals.


What habit are you working towards? What is your habit personality?

Let me know in the comments below!