How To Make Kombucha At Home

How To Make Kombucha At Home

Key points: 

  • It’s not very hard to make kombucha at home, and the main ingredients you need are water, sugar, tea, kombucha, and a SCOBY. There are three main points in making at-home kombucha: making or buying a SCOBY, the first fermentation when the SCOBY feeds on sugar, and the second fermentation when you bottle the kombucha with flavorings.
  • If you want to make flavoured kombucha, you can use anything you like: fruits, herbs, or juices. You will be adding the flavoring during the second fermentation. As for the equipment, you’ll need a wide-mouth jar, stock pot, piece of fabric, rubber bands, glass bottles, and a small funnel.
  • The main hazards you should look for when making kombucha are mold and fruit flies. If you see them, you will need to discard the kombucha and the SCOBY and start the process from scratch.
  • Homemade kombucha is safe and you’re unlikely to get sick from it. Just make sure to clean and dry all the vessels that you’ll use to make kombucha.

The Kombucha fan community is growing every day and more and more people are researching how to make this drink at home. While many people drink kombucha because of its health benefits, some just really like the taste of it. Surprisingly, you need only a few ingredients to make kombucha at home. This will not only save you money but also will give you full control over the drink you consume. In this article, we’ll give you some tips on how to make your own kombucha as well as provide you with trusted recipes. 

First, there are three major steps in making kombucha: the SCOBY, the first fermentation, and the second fermentation. A SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of yeast and bacteria that you need to add to sweetened tea. You can purchase it from a trustworthy source or make it yourself (we will provide a recipe). You will also need a large wide-mouth jar for brewing kombucha. Overall, kombucha takes approximately 1-1.5 weeks to make from scratch. 

What Is Kombucha Tea

Kombucha’s first ingredient is a sugary tea, to which you’re later going to add the SCOBY.  SCOBY is close to the mother used to make vinegar. These bacteria and yeast eat the sugar in the tea which makes it slightly sour and frizzy.

What Is The SCOBY

Even though SCOBY does not have the most pleasant appearance, it’s the main ingredient that makes kombucha, well, a kombucha. It’s disk-shaped and facilitates the fermentation process. Bacteria and yeast at some point form a layer of cellulose which protects the fermented tea from the air and maintains a homeostatic environment inside the jar. It usually floats on top of the tea, but if you see it at the bottom - don’t worry, it still does its job.

If you have friends or relatives who make kombucha, you can ask them for a SCOBY. You can also order it online and it’ll safely make it to you through the postal system, just make sure to put it in the tea as soon as possible. When you acquire a SCOBY, it comes with a liquid that you should add to the first batch. Don’t neglect this liquid as it contains vital bacteria and yeast and acid that will make a proper environment for the next batch. Sometimes you may hear a SCOBY called “kombucha mothers” or “kombucha mushrooms.” 

How To Make A SCOBY

A SCOBY is renewable by its nature and every time you brew kombucha, a new layer of SCOBY will grow on the surface of the old one.  This ability is what makes it possible to make a SCOBY at home from scratch. Here’s how you can make your own SCOBY:

All the measurements are the same as mentioned below and all you need is to complete the first two steps and store the covered jar for 2-4 weeks. Check the SCOBY every few days until you see some bubbles formed. These bubbles are a good sign - it means that the carbon dioxide has developed and it means that your SCOBY is a good fermentor. You’ll also notice a thin, whiteish, jelly-like film on the surface of the liquid and this film will become almost opaque in color. The SCOBY is ready when it's grown into a 1/4-inch-thick puck. After that your SCOBY is ready and you can make your batch of kombucha.

A SCOBY can last a very long time, but not forever. If it becomes black, it means that it has passed its lifespan. If you see green or black mold, then the SCOBY is infected. In both of these cases, discard the SCOBY and make a new one. 

If you want to prolong the lifespan of your SCOBY, follow the ratio of the ingredients mentioned below. You can try peeling off the oldest layer every few batches. If you wonder whether your SCOBY is healthy, just keep brewing batches but discard the kombucha they make. If it’s unhealthy then it will become apparent over time. If there’s no problem, then you should keep making new batches and the kombucha will be fine to drink.

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How To Make Kombucha

For about 1 gallon of yield you will need: 

  • 3 1/2 quarts water;
  • 1 cup sugar (preferably regular cane sugar);
  • 8 bags of black tea, green tea, or a mix;
  • 2 cups of plain unpasteurized kombucha (you can buy it at the store, opt for one with some SCOBY in it);
  • 1 scoby per fermentation jar.

As for the equipment, you’ll need: 

  • Stockpot;
  • large, wide-mouth canning jar (make sure it’s clean and dry);
  • a thin, clean, tightly-woven piece of fabric or tea towel (but not cheesecloth); 
  • a few sturdy rubber bands;
  • Six 16-oz glass bottles with plastic lids (you can use clean soda bottles too);
  • Small funnel.

If you want to make a flavored kombucha, here are some extras:

  • 1-2 cups chopped fruit;
  • 2-3 cups fruit juice;
  • 1-2 tablespoons flavored tea;
  • 1/4 cup honey;
  • 2-4 tablespoons of fresh herbs or spices.

Step 1: Make A Sweet Tea

Steep the tea bags for 20-30 minutes in boiling water until the sugar completely dissolves. Let it cool to room temperature and then pour the tea into a canning jar. Make sure to let the tea cool because otherwise, it may kill the cultures in your SCOBY. You can also cool the pot by placing it in an ice bath.

Note: Avoid keeping kombucha in contact with metal for a long time both during and after brewing. This can change the flavor and weaken the scoby over time. 

Black tea is the most reliable one for kombucha but once you get your own SCOBY, you can try other tea types. Green tea, white tea, and oolong tea also work well for kombucha. If you want to use herbal tea, make sure to mix them with a few bags of black tea so that the SCOBY receives all the nutrients. Don’t use teas that contain oils, such earl gray or flavored teas. Avoid decaf as well.

Step 2: Pour The Starter Tea

Remove the tea bags and pour kombucha (which is the starter tea) into the jar. Opt for a kombucha that has a bit of SCOBY in it - that will facilitate the growth of a new SCOBY. You can pour the mixture into a 1-gallon jar or split it between 2-quart jars but in the second case, you’ll need two scobys. Add the SCOBY into the jar and cover it with a piece of fabric and secure it with rubber bands. Usually, a new SCOBY attaches to the old one, but it's also ok if they are separate. 

Tip: Don’t cover the jar with cheesecloth because it doesn't protect the kombucha from small insects. It’s better to use a tightly woven cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels, and secure it with rubber bands or twine.

Step 3: Store The Jar 

Store a covered jar for 7-10 days, away from direct sunlight in a room-temperature area. After the first week, you can start tasting the kombucha by pouring a little out of the jar. When it has a perfect sweet and tarty taste that you like, you can bottle it. This is the first fermentation process when the yeast feeds on sugar.

Brew your kombucha at a room temperature above 21°C, but the perfect temperature range is considered to be 26-27°C. Fermentation slows down at 18°C and if it’s above 30°C the yeast proliferates. 

Step 4: Remove The SCOBY

Before bottling your kombucha, remove the SCOBY. Prepare and cool another pot of strong tea for your next batch of kombucha, carefully lift the SCOBY out of the kombucha with clean hands and set it aside on a clean plate. Make sure to check it over and remove the bottom layer from the kombucha.

Step 5: Bottle Your Kombucha

Measure out your starter tea from this kombucha batch and save it for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha, you can strain it if you want, into bottles using the small funnel. Pour it while adding anything you want for a flavor: juice, herbs, or fruits. Don’t fill it completely - leave about a half inch of headroom in each bottle. As an option, you can pour the kombucha into another jar, infuse it with flavorings and leave it for a couple of days. Then pour it into the bottles. Store the bottled kombucha for 1-3 days at room temperature away from direct sunlight and wait for it to carbonate. This is the second fermentation process.

A tip: it’s easier to monitor how quickly your kombucha carbonates if you bottle it in plastic bottles: the kombucha is carbonated when the bottles feel rock solid. Then put the bottles in the fridge to stop fermentation and carbonation, and drink your kombucha within a month. 

To make a fresh batch of kombucha, mix the starter tea from your last batch with the fresh batch of sugary tea. Pour it into the fermentation jar (clean it beforehand of course), put the SCOBY, cover and leave it for 7-10 days.

More Tips On Homemade Kombucha

Keep in mind that at the beginning of the brewing process, kombucha has a neutral aroma and then the smell becomes more vinegary. If your kombucha smells unpleasant or rotten then it means that something went wrong. In that case, you should check it for mold. If there’s none, then discard the liquid and start with a fresh tea. If there's mold then throw away both the liquid and the SCOBY and start again.

If you add fruits to the secondary fermentation, it’s a new source of sugar that feeds the yeast and creates more carbon dioxide. If there is too much sugar or the bottle is too full, some of them may gush on opening, so it’s better to open them over a sink.

If your kombucha SCOBY isn’t fizzy enough and it looks lifeless it can indicate that you ferment it at too low a temperature. Try moving the jar to a warmer place. If it is still not fizzy enough then when making the next batch, draw starter liquid from the bottom of the jar as there are more yeast cells there. If there isn't enough carbonation try bottling the kombucha when it is still a bit sweet. Also, make sure that you secure the bottles properly and that the carbon dioxide doesn’t escape the jar.

If you see a sign of 'kahm yeast' which looks like a white film on the surface, then it’s better to start a new batch with a fresh SCOBY. This film is not harmful but it means that the kombucha solution was too weak.

Is Homemade Kombucha Safe

Some people may be worried about whether homemade kombucha is safe but it’s unlikely that it will make you sick. Kombucha has been around for centuries and only recently it became available on the market. Before that - people brewed it at home. All you need is to keep your jars clean and pay attention to the whole process. But if the SCOBY is healthy, then the kombucha will be safe.

Alcohol in Kombucha

Kombucha does contain a few traces of alcohol since it’s one of the by-products of the fermentation process (along with acid). Usually, the alcohol content is no more than 1%, so you won’t really feel it. Still, people who are extremely sensitive to alcohol should be aware of its presence.

Sugar In Kombucha

You can’t brew kombucha without sugar as it is the food for the yeast and bacteria that facilitate the fermentation process. If you use too little sugar, it can starve the SCOBY. Don’t be afraid of it though, after fermentation the bacteria transform it into healthy acids. The longer you ferment your kombucha - the less sugar will remain. You can’t use artificial sugars or sugar substitutes to make kombucha because they won’t feed the SCOBY. Don’t use honey because it’ll introduce different yeast and bacteria cells. 

Putting Kombucha On Pause

If you’re leaving for vacation and want to put kombucha on pause, make a fresh batch and leave it on your counter. If you’re away for 3 weeks, it’ll be too tart to drink, but you can use it to collect the SCOBY. If you’re leaving for longer, store the SCOBY in a fresh batch of the sweet tea base mixed with a starter tea in the fridge. Change the tea for a fresh batch every 4 to 6 weeks.

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How to make kombucha scoby?

It’s very easy to make kombucha scoby and it’s also renewable, meaning you can use it for a long time for new kombucha batches! All you need is sugar, black tea, and kombucha with some scoby in it. Steep the tea, dissolve some sugar in it, let it cool, then add starter tea and seal the jar. Let it sit for a week or so at room temperature.

How to make kombucha taste better?

If you’re making homemade kombucha and want to experiment with its flavors, there are different options you can try. During the second fermentation, when you’re going to bottle your kombucha, add some flavor to it. You can add fruits, herbs, or juice that you like. Just make sure to still leave someplace on top and not fill the bottle completely.

How to make a kombucha starter?

A starter for kombucha is, well, kombucha. If you have some of it left from the last batch, feel free to use it for a new batch of this delicious drink.

What do you need to make kombucha?

You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make kombucha. All you need is black tea, sugar, water, and kombucha as a starter tea. As an option, you can later add different flavors such as juices and herbs. As for the equipment, you’ll need a wide-mouth jar, stock pot, piece of fabric, rubber bands, glass bottles, and a small funnel.

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