First off- what is kombucha? Kombucha is a delicious, bubbly fermented tea full of probiotics and flavored with fresh herbs and fruits. It’s a traditional drink in Asian cultures, but has gained loads of popularity in the West in the last decade. My uncle began making it shortly after I began drinking it, and at $4 a bottle, I was curious to try making my own as well. With a SCOBY and advice from my uncle and a quick purchase of a gallon jug on amazon, my kombucha experimentation was underway.
Almost a year, and countless batches later, I finally feel confident enough to share some of what I’ve learned for beginning kombucha-brewers like myself.
There are lots of reasons to start making your own:
- It’s a lot less expensive than buying it
- It tastes delicious and carbonated, a great alternative to soda
- It’s HEALTHY – the probiotics in kombucha help restore your gut to health (particularly good after a weekend of pizza and beer)
- And finally, it’s fun. I love having a low-maintenance side project to experiment with and share with friends
Okay so let’s get to the kombucha making
Here’s a quick video with the lowdown
Where to get it? Amazon, a friend who makes kombucha, or craigslist. Find one HERE.
Now we’re ready!
Boil 8 cups of water. Add boiling water to your clean kombucha jar with 8 cups of room temperature water. Add in 8 black or green tea bags (Do not use herbal teas, flavored teas, etc. Just classic black or green tea work and taste best). If you want to use loose tea, that works too. Use 2 Tbsp and make sure you have something that can strain the tea from the water later (a large strainer with small mesh lining).
After an hour, or when water has cooled to room temperature, remove tea bags and add 1 cup of sugar. Regular, plain white sugar. Remember, you’re not consuming the sugar, the bacteria are. And they like white sugar the best. Stir it around so it dissolves. Top that off with 2 cups of already made kombucha (from your last batch, or store bought if it’s your first time).
Finally, add your SCOBY, cover the jar with cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Store it somewhere cool (kitchen, basement), away from sunlight. I keep mine on my kitchen counter where I can keep an eye on it.
DAYS ONE TO TEN
This is the easy part, you let it sit, untouched, for ten days. I like this long because it gets a really nice fermented flavor. If you want your kombucha to be sweeter, end this step at seven days. I wouldn’t go much longer or it might start to taste sour, but you can experiment yourself!
Check on your kombucha! Unfortunately, there is a chance that there was contamination and mold- so if your SCOBY looks fuzzy or smells bad- toss the whole batch. However, a normal appearance will have brown edges, and will have begun growing a “baby scoby”. I’ve never had a batch go moldy, so you’re likely okay. A moldy SCOBY looks like this.
If your SCOBY is okay, remove it now and store it in a bowl. Add kombucha on top so that it is completely submerged. Cover this bowl with the cheesecloth, securing it with a rubber band.
Now we can add flavor! This part is optional, but I always do it. I like to add fresh or frozen fruit- I use 2 cups. You can also use fruit juice, I’d say 2-3 cups. At this time, add any herbs (mint, basil, sage, etc.) and flavors you want (lemon, ginger, spices). Get creative! You really can’t go wrong. Stir everything up and cover with the jar’s lid so it’s sealed.
DAYS TEN TO SEVENTEEN
Now the kombucha is having it’s “second ferment”. You will start to see carbonation appear and the kombucha will start to develop in flavor. Store it in the same spot as the first ferment, but this time you will need to “burp” the kombucha. Everyday, remove the lid to let it breathe for a second to release excess CO2, then replace the lid. This ensures your jar doesn’t explode. Once again, never happened to me. I burp it once or twice a day.
Some people only do second ferment for a few days, so you can taste it each day and see if it’s ready for YOUR taste buds! It’s ready to drink as early as day ten- the longer it sits, the more fermented and less sweet that it tastes. I like 7 days best.
You are ready to bottle your kombucha! Using recycled glass jars, or buy some here, slowly pour your kombucha into about 6 bottles. Store in the fridge and consume within one month. ENJOY!
It’s a lot of steps, but after you do it a few times, it becomes just another part of your routine requiring only a few minutes of your time. I usually start brewing a new batch the day I bottle my last one, so that I always have freshly made kombucha on hand.
I drink around 1/2 a bottle, or a cup, a day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. More will not hurt you! But of course, like anything, drink it in moderation. There is a small (~2%) amount of alcohol in a batch of kombucha. Nothing that you will likely feel physically, but it is something to be aware of. This is a side effect of fermentation, and there is no way to prevent it. The longer it ferments, the more alcohol will form. So if you’re feeding this to kids for example, you may want to stop at ten days. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, or at all concerned about drinking a “live” drink, talk to your doctor.
And that’s it! I’ll include a recipe below, but let me know if you have ANY questions and I’ll answer them the best that I can! And of course, tag me on social media if you make your own 🙂 Happy brewing!
- 1-gallon glass jar
- 6 16-oz flip top glass bottles
- Rubber band
- Wooden spoon (metal may react with the culture, so use wooden)
- 1 cup organic, raw sugar (you can also use refined white sugar)
- 2 Tbsp. loose black or green tea OR 8 tea bags
- 4 liters water
- 2 cups kombucha tea (from your last batch or acquired)
- 1 SCOBY (from your last batch or acquired)
- Second fermentation (optional):
- 2 cups of fresh/frozen fruit or 2 cups fruit juice
- Optional flavoring: ginger, herbs, spices, sweetener
- Bring 8 cups of water to a boil and pour it into your 1 gallon glass jar. Add 8 cups of room temperature water. Add 8 tea bags of 2 Tbsp loose leaf tea and let steep at least one hour, until room temperature.
- Remove tea bags or strain tea leaves out. Add the 1 cup of sugar and stir well to dissolve.
- Add 2 cups pre-made kombucha. Remove all of your jewelry and wash your hands thoroughly. Gently slip the SCOBY into the tea.
- Cover. Use a cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. You can even use a piece of paper towel or a coffee filter. The point here is to allow air to flow in and out of the brewing container, while keeping pests like fruit flies out (they love this stuff).
- Place the kombucha container in a place where it will not be disturbed, out of direct sunlight, but where it will get enough airflow. I leave mine out on the counter where I can keep an eye on it.
- Let ferment for 7-10 days. If you like a sweeter kombucha, one week may be enough time. If you like a less sweet, more vinegar-y kombucha then allowing the brew to ferment for 10 days or more.
- When ready, remove SCOBY and 2 cups kombucha and store them together in bowl, covered once again with the cheesecloth.
- Second fermentation – optional. If you want to carry out the second fermentation, add the juice, fruit, and flavorings to your jar and seal with the lid. Let sit at room temperature anywhere from 2-7 days. Very important: remember to release the pressure in the bottles every day that they sit at room temperature – this is called burping – open the lid briefly to let any excess gas out, which will prevent an explosion.
- Bottle kombucha using a funnel to make it easier. It may still be messy so have someone help you, and do it over the sink. It makes about 6 bottles for me. Seal and place them in the fridge.
- And now it’s time to brew a fresh batch! Start up at step 1 and complete the cycle. Now you’re a kombucha brewer!
Method adapted from My New Roots.
This batch will last about a month, but I consume mine within 2 weeks (because I love it)
Flavor Ideas (for second fermentation):
2 cups raspberries (fresh or frozen) + 1/4-1/2 cup fresh mint, minced
3 lemons, juiced and 2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
2 cups strawberries + 1/2 cup basil, boiled together then added to tea. Strain when ready to drink.
5 oranges, juiced