Making dragonfruit kombucha takes just as long as sourdough and it looks even weirder. Do you need another science project? Do you want to
pretend you’ll somehow drink less during COVID: The Winter Months? Or perhaps you just like dragonfruit. Then dragonfruit kombucha is the drink for you.
It will take about ten days to two weeks to make your dragonfruit kombucha, but what does time even mean anymore? Once you’re set with supplies, it’s an incredibly affordable way to drink something fancy. Ready? It’ll get a bit weird (a rubbery Alien Baby will live in a jar in your house) … but if you’ve seen sourdough, you can handle it.
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How to Make Dragonfruit Kombucha
If you’re already a kombucha pro, skip straight to the dragonfruit. If you’re starting from scratch, let’s gather some supplies.
Supplies you need
Week One – Making the base/unflavoured kombucha
- Large glass jar – 1 gallon or 3.78 litres
- Stirring implement (large spoon/spatula/ladle/etc)
- SCOBY (see explanation below)
- Green, black, white or oolong tea (or a mixture)
- Cane sugar*
- Store-bought unflavoured kombucha (for your first batch only)
- Digital kitchen scales are really useful if you have them, but there’s no real need for the precision (I just like the Woman vs Nature control).
*Cane sugar: Go for the slightly off-white stuff, rather than brown or dark brown cane sugar.
Week Two – Making/bottling the dragonfruit kombucha
- A glass dish or glass measuring cup (big enough for your SCOBY and two cups of liquid)
- A ladle
- Glass bottles (total volume will be about 96 to 112ml )
- Funnels (not metal*, I use silicone)
- Red dragonfruit (fresh) or red dragonfruit powder/pitaya powder
- Non-metal sieve or a method of straining
*No metal: Bad science stuff happens when kombucha meets metal. Use glass where possible or silicone.
What the #$@& is a SCOBY?
SCOBY = symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Arts major? It’s the rubbery alien baby that lives in your kombucha jar and makes everything fizzy and fermented. It is not beautiful and it will breed alien children. Weirder things have happened this year – just go with it. While it’s possible to make your own SCOBY, it’s an unnecessary step when starting from scratch. I bought my SCOBY from Amazon about two years ago and its great-great-great-great-great alien baby grandchildren are still happily, um, symbioting.
Green, black, white or oolong tea? A mixture?
If you’ve got a fancy tea stash – hold up. For kombucha, you can only use specific kinds of tea: it can’t have added flavours and it can’t be decaffeinated. So, while, plain green tea is ideal for kombucha, ‘decaf lychee peach green tea’ isn’t so good for your SCOBY. English Breakfast and Orange Pekoe are ideal types of black tea to use (just double check there’s nothing else added). Also, note that green tea doesn’t include matcha.
So buy a tin or two of the tea you like most – just check the ingredients for any added oils or flavours. I don’t like the taste of black tea – but the SCOBY does – so I use a mixture of half black tea, half green tea.
Loose leaf or tea bags?
Totally up to you. I used up all the tea bags I had in my cupboards and now use loose leaf because it’s quick to measure with digital scales (and therefore feels more like a science project).
Why cane sugar?
This is one ingredient you might have to buy especially for your kombucha – as most white sugar is made, in whole or part, from sugar beets.
I guess, 2200 years ago, when Chinese monks were inventing kombucha, they’d just done a Whole Foods shop. Ever since then, SCOBYs only want the good stuff. So it’s cane sugar and only cane sugar for SCOBY Food – no honey, no stevia, no maple syrup, etc. – just cane sugar.
Do I need special, fancy water?
I use what I’d normally use for my drinking water (where I live – it’s tap water). If you rely on filtered or bottled water – use that. Just make sure it’s room temperature before it meets your Alien Baby (SCOBY). More on that below.
If you’re new to drinking kombucha – go easy! It’s packed with probiotics and, at first, your tummy might be interested to make their acquaintance. Start with just a small measure rather than a whole bottle. Also, kombucha is caffeinated so be aware of what time you’re drinking it – lunch might be preferable to dinner.
Make your kombucha (1st fermentation)
PSA – If you’re new to kombucha and ‘first fermentation’ sounds scary or confusing – don’t worry! It’s boiling tea, dissolving sugar and putting your Alien Baby (SCOBY) in its new glass house. Couldn’t be easier.
This step takes about a week: it’ll be quicker if you live in a warmer climate and vice versa. The time also depends on your preferences – if you like a sweeter taste, you can call it done earlier. If life gets busy and you return to it after 12 days – don’t worry. Pretend you’re a Chinese monk in 220B.C. (except with modern sanitation and silicone kitchenware).
1. Gather your supplies
- 1 large glass jar (1 gallon/3.78 litre)
- 1 SCOBY
- Tea towel, cheesecloth, coffee filter, etc., and a rubber band – to cover the jar when finished. It must be breathable but without large holes or gaps.
- 150g (¾ cup) cane sugar – if you like sweet drinks, you can add up to 200g
- 2 tablespoons loose-leaf tea – for a strong taste like black tea use 2 tablespoons but with a milder tea (green or white), you could use 3 tablespoons. I use a mixture: 1T black, 2T green. (Alternatively, use 8 tea bags instead of loose-leaf).
- 2 cups store-bought unflavoured kombucha (just for your first batch, and then you can use your own). This is to give your SCOBY some placeholder magical powers and keep it happy while it’s converting the tea and sugar into new magical powers.
- 12 cups water (2.8 litres) – approximately 2 cups to brew the tea, 2 cups to dissolve the sugar and 8 cups to fill up your glass jar.
2. Sanitise your equipment
This one’s easy – run the dishwasher with your kombucha kit. The first time you make a batch, you won’t need much. But for your second batch onwards, you’ll need to prepare your bottling equipment. I just run everything through the dishwasher on a sanitise setting: hot, hot, hot.
For your first batch – add your large glass jar and anything you can use to stir* the mixture to your dishwasher and run it on a sanitise setting.
For your second fermentation onwards – add your kombucha bottles, ladle, glass dish or measuring cup, silicone funnels and – if using – a sieve or silicone strainer (not metal) to the dishwasher and run it on sanitise.
*Avoid metal and wooden spoons (metal reacts with kombucha). If you’ve got any silicone spatulas, they’re perfect – otherwise, a plastic spoon or ladle that’s in good condition. (Scratches on plastic can harbour bacteria).
No dishwasher? No problem – just wash well in hot soapy water.
3. And that’s the tea
Temperature tip for impatient people: Temperature is important when you’re making kombucha. Rather than get too fussy, I work with ‘room temperature’. As such, it’s most convenient to boil a kettle of water and brew your tea and dissolve the sugar a few hours in advance (or even overnight). As I tend to make a batch every week or so, it’s an easy ‘potter around the kitchen on a Sunday morning’ task – and then I make the kombucha sometime later in the day.
Measure out the tea and the sugar into separate glass measuring cups. Again, that’s:
- 150g (¾ cup) cane sugar (don’t add less in a bid to ‘be healthy’ – your SCOBY will die)
- 2-3 tablespoons loose-leaf tea
You could streamline the process and add both the tea and the sugar to the same measuring cup, but I like to do them separately so I can see if (A) the tea leaves are strained properly and (B) the sugar has fully dissolved. (Or, another option: If it’s hot where you are and fruit flies are a problem – a teapot with an in-built strainer is perfect – even a French press).
Add boiling water to both. The exact amount of water doesn’t matter at this point because you’re just making a concentrate. I use a 500ml (2-cup) measuring cup for each mixture.
4. Time your tea
Set a timer for five to fifteen minutes, depending on the type of tea you’re using. (Check for brewing recommendations on the tea packaging. The green tea I use suggests seven minutes, whereas the black tea suggests fifteen minutes). You want the tea to be as strong as possible without being bitter, so longer is better than shorter.
After brewing the tea for approximately fifteen minutes, strain the tea leaves and set the brewed tea aside to cool.
Check on your sugar water – is it dissolved? If not, add a little more boiling water and stir.
PSA Part II: This part is bucket chemistry – as long as everything is clean, you cannot mess it up. You’re making tea and dissolving sugar; no stress.
5. Bring your liquids to room temperature
When you ‘assemble’ your kombucha in the next step, you’ll want everything to be at room temperature.
When your glass jar is clean, pour both tea and sugar into it. Then, top up with drinking water. The exact amount will depend on how much you used to make the tea and sugar but, roughly, you want about 12 cups (2.8 litres) of tea, sugar mixture and added water total.
You’re free to leave your kombucha components alone for a few hours now while they cool. (If you’re in a rush you could add some ice cubes to both measuring jugs to speed the cooling process).
One last step – take your store-bought kombucha out of the fridge so it, too, can get to room temperature.
6. Make your kombucha
Once all the liquids have cooled to room temperature and your equipment is clean, it’s time to make your kombucha. Guess what? It’s really easy!
Wash your hands using every skill you’ve learned during COVID.
Pour in the two cups of store-bought (unflavoured) kombucha and stir everything with your ‘sterilised stick’.
Retrieve your SCOBY (Alien Baby) from its packaging and place gently in the glass jar. It might sink for a few days but that’s perfectly fine.
Finally, cover the jar with a tea towel (or similar) and secure with a rubber band. Place the jar somewhere dark and cool-to-comfortable (not the fridge!) for about a week. An ideal temperature is where you don’t need the heat on, nor air-conditioning (about 20-24 Celsius/70-75 Fahrenheit).
Note: If you’ve still got your sourdough going strong, keep them separate.
Dragonfruit kombucha recipe (2nd fermentation)
About a week later, the colour of your kombucha will have lightened and there might be lots of slimy, stringy bits hanging from your SCOBY (Alien Baby). I didn’t say this was going to be pretty. Quite likely, your SCOBY has floated back to the top of your glass jar and may have formed an (even uglier) new layer on top.
As for exact time – it’s really up to you. You could leave your ‘first fermentation’ kombucha a few days longer if you’re busy. Rather than letting your Alien Baby dictate your life – just remember that this stuff originated in 200 B.C. and time was probably a little more fluid back then. Six days later? Eight days later? Twelve days later? Whatever suits. The only thing to know is that, the longer your kombucha ferments, the less sweet it will be. (You know that Kombucha Girl meme? Hers was probably ten days plus).
Why is fruit added in the second step? For your kombucha’s second fermentation, keep in mind that your Alien Baby (SCOBY) has already eaten most of the cane sugar from last week and it’s hungry. Adding a small amount of something sweet – like fruit – gives it enough of a boost to carbonate. (Also? It makes it tastes good!)
1. Gather your supplies
Let’s gather our supplies for the fun part – actually making dragonfruit kombucha.
- Glass dish or bowl (big enough for your SCOBY)
- 500ml (2-cup) glass measuring cup
- Glass bottles (I use about 6 or 7x 16ml bottles)
- Silicone funnel
- 1 red dragonfruit (make sure it’s red!) OR red dragonfruit powder
- Sieve, cheesecloth or a method of straining
Again, no metal. Check that your ladle, funnels and sieve are silicone or plastic that’s in good condition (no scratches).
Glass bottles? A few choices here – starting with, how fizzy do you want your dragonfruit kombucha to be? If you’re not bothered about carbonation, you can use any glass container to bottle (like a glass mason jar). If you want as many bubbles as possible, use flip-top glass bottles (aka swing-cap/Grolsch-style bottles). Me? I use the bottles of store-bought Health-Ade kombucha.
Red dragonfruit? If you can’t tell whether it’s red or white dragonfruit (or even yellow dragonfruit), red dragonfruits are often marked with a small amount of wax on the outside. Struggling to find any dragonfruit locally? You can occasionally find it fresh on Amazon, otherwise, you could substitute red dragonfruit powder (also called pitaya powder). Slightly longer-term project? You could grow your own dragonfruit from seed.
2. Sanitise your equipment
Return to this step to sanitise your glass dish, measuring cup, ladle, silicone funnel, sieve and your kombucha bottles. As the glass jar is filled with your kombucha it obviously won’t join this dishwasher excursion. Once sanitised, allow everything to cool down before using.
3. Set the SCOBY aside
Using your cleanest possible COVID hands, remove your Alien Baby (and its babies), the SCOBY, to the glass dish or bowl.
4. Remove some liquid
Using your ladle, remove two cups of kombucha and pour into the glass measuring cup. Ideally, take this liquid from the top without stirring. This will be your ‘starter’ liquid for your next batch – replacing the need to buy storebought kombucha ever again.
Place both the SCOBY and the starter liquid aside, and use them to return to step one to make a brand new batch for next week.
It’s a dragonfruit time.
5. Choose your dragons
You have three choices for your dragonfruit kombucha.
A) Fresh red dragonfruit, cut into pieces. Pros – your kombucha will be clear. Cons – hard to get the pieces out of the bottles when finished.
B) Fresh red dragonfruit, pureed. Pros – Easy to get in and out of the bottle. Cons – your kombucha will need straining before serving.
C) Red dragonfruit powder (aka pitaya powder). Pros – Available any time, easy to keep in store. Cons – your dragonfruit might appear slightly cloudly.
5. Unleash your dragons!
The exact proportions are up to you but aim for at least 1 tablespoon of a sweet fruit per cup of kombucha. The Health-Ade bottles I use are 40ml (2 cups), so I used ⅓ cup of pureed dragonfruit per bottle. Again, I tend towards bucket chemistry rather than an exact science.
If you’re using red dragonfruit powder, experiment with the amount – from 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon per cup of kombucha. As long as there’s no added sugar in the powder, you might add a small piece of orange (or a little bit of fruit juice) to each bottle.
Dragonfruit isn’t particularly sweet so, while the kombucha will be pretty, you could add another fruit to increase sweetness – cherries or pineapple, perhaps.
Using your funnels, add the red dragonfruit concoction of your choice to each bottle. (Again, your total liquid volume will be about 96ml to 112ml, depending on how much fruit you’re adding. Using 16ml bottles, I end up with about six full bottles and partial seventh bottle).
Then, stir the kombucha remaining in the glass jar and use your ladle to add it to each bottle.
Leave ‘headspace’ of at least an inch (2.5cm, or slightly more for flip-top bottles).
6. Seal the bottles (and don’t murder your ceiling)
If you value life, limb, and your ceilings – THIS is the most important part. You’ve just created a total carbonation station. Sealed tightly and left alone, when you uncap the kombucha bottle – it’s going places. The first time I made kombucha I used extremely delicious (and so sugary) passionfruit. When I uncapped the first bottle it was so fizzy it shot straight upwards and all over my (freshly painted) ceiling. The passionfruit seeds left dents in the ceiling and the splatter stretched for miles.
As a result, I want nothing to do with carbonation – so I barely cap the bottles (just ‘finger-tight’ and nothing more). Then I unscrew the caps every time I walk past them to release any carbonation. Red dragonfruit exploding on your ceiling would look like the weirdest murder.
If you want your kombucha to be fizzy – use flip-top/swing-cap bottles – but do use caution! (Maybe open the first bottle outside or, better still, refrigerate it, then open outside?)
7. Fridge, then drink!
Taste your kombucha after two or three days – it should be ready! At this point, you can move the bottles to the fridge and the refrigeration will slow further fermentation and carbonation.
Then, it’s ready to drink. Enjoy!
Your dragonfruit kombucha will keep in the fridge for about a week. After that, it’s best to start over with a new batch. The second time around, making kombucha will be so easy and a perfect rainy day activity: boil water, make sugary tea … add an Alien Baby.