Kéfir and Bissap Kombucha

Not heard of those? It’s normal as we are not used to make our own fermented products…

Kombucha SCOBY


Kombucha is a fermented tea that can be flavored with almost anything. We discovered it in the exquisite restaurant of Terrae in Pollença, Mallorca. Antoine fell in love with it and decided to make some on board…

Making kombucha is like vinegar, you have to start with its particular sort of yeast. After talking with the restaurant owner, he kindly gave us some yeast to start our own production! Antoine took out his chemistry kit from childhood and we now have a drawer full of “experiments”, a.k.a jars of floating goo all fermenting with a slight smell of vinegar. Obviously, he did not stop at basic kombucha; he’s trying every possible flavor combination with the fruits we encounter at our stops. In Senegal, he’s replaced the tea with bissap (local hibiscus flower juice). Recipe at the end of the article!

3 secondes before the explosion!

In la Restinga, our pontoon neighbor Jacques (a chemist sailor as well) continues the chain : he tasted Antoine’s kombucha, loved it, and left with a piece of yeast to start his own kombucha – which is doing great until now!

In exchange, he gave Antoine some milk kefir. Had we stayed longer that 2 weeks at la Restinga, the two of them would probably have turned the boat into a laboratory…and transformed our mast into a bipod mast…

Milk kefir

Milk kefir is a kind of yeast that transforms milk into kefir in 2-3 days. It looks a bit like yoghurt but it can stay out of the fridge for a week without problem and it works with pasteurized milk (preferably  whole). And now, Antoine is trying to make cheese out of his production of kefir, where does it end?

This kefir aged for a week at 30°C and is still perfect!

Like kombucha, you have to start with a starter, which is part of a previous kefir batch. It is very simple: take some kefir and add milk – approximately 1 to 10 quantity –  in a jar, cover it with a cloth and wait for 2-3 days.


Recipe for Kombucha


Ingredients for 4 liters

  • 4 liters of water
  • 165 grams of sugar
  • 35 grams of tea (different teas give different flavors to the mixture)
  • Kombucha yeast called SCOBY
  • 25cl of starter liquid (liquid from a previous kombucha batch)
  • A big 6L glass jar
  • Glass bottles that can be sealed

Step by step

  • Put the water in a saucepan and bring it to boiling point
  • Add the sugar and the tea, cover and let it cool down to less that 35 ° (over that temperature, the heat will kill the yeast)
  • Clean a glass jar 1/3 bigger that the quantity of desired liquid (6L in our case) with fresh water and no soap. Then wash it with crystal vinegar. It is important to wash everything which comes in contact with the cooled liquid with vinegar, hands included.
  • Pour the SCOBY and the starter liquid in the jar
  • Pour the cooled infusion while filtering the tea leaves
  • Cover the jar with a vinegar-humidified cloth and tie it to the neck of the jar
  • Leave the jar for 4-5 days somewhere between 18°-35°C
  • On the 5th day a new SCOBY has developed on the top of the liquid, taste the liquid and feel free to bottle it if it suits your taste. Otherwise wait longer
  • Same sanitation rules apply for bottling: wash everything with crystal vinegar
  • You can add fruits or vegetables to flavor the bottled kombucha
  • Add 2 tea spoons of sugar per liter in every bottle and pour the kombucha in it
  • Seal the lid and wait a week. Filter before serving

Tips and tricks

  • If at any moment, green stuff appears on top of the liquid, that means there is a fungus contamination. You’ll have to start again
  • Putting the kombucha in the fridge slows the fermentation process but exposing temperatures lower to 18°C increases the risk of having a fungus contamination
  • It is possible to make a “SCOBY hotel” by keeping some starter liquid and putting it in the old SCOBYs. A new SCOBY will form on the top of the liquid and pushing it down will leave space for new ones to form!
  • The fermentation speed depends of the temperature, the new SCOBY can form in 3 days up to more than 10 days
  • Better served cold!
  • Only one layer of cloth is required, putting more will prevent a good air exchange and slow the growth
  • All kinds of combinations can be possible, you’ll just have to try!

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