Do you want to make kombucha at home? Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that is refreshing, fizzy, and has many health benefits. Home-brewed kombucha is much cheaper than the ones available in store, and is just as good. Kombucha brewing can be intricate, but if you follow this guide you will become a pro.
For brewing kombucha, you should have a glass fermentation vessel (4L is a good size), fermentation bottles, and a tight-weaved cloth.
Starter kits are great as long as the materials included are unnecessary. Most starter kits include a fermentation jar, tea, and sugar. Better starter kits include materials like: an auto-siphon, bottles, extra tea/sugar, and a temperature strip. It is much cheaper to buy a starter kit than to buy each item separately.
|–||4L Fermentation Jar – $15.00|
|–||4 1L/8 500ml Bottles – $40.00|
|–||Sugar – $1.25 (2 brews)|
|–||Tea – $2.00 (2 brews)|
|–||Tight-Weaved Cloth – $3.00|
|–||SCOBY/Starter – $14.00 or $0 (received from a friend)|
|Total Cost: $53.00||Total Cost: $61.25 – $75.25|
What is a SCOBY? SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY is the culture that ferments the tea to produce kombucha. Essentially, a SCOBY looks like a slimy, jelly-like thick disc that varies in colour from white to dark brown (depending on age). It contains colonies of bacteria and yeast that are essential for kombucha. All SCOBYS have different strains of bacteria and yeast that produce different outcomes.
Where can I get a SCOBY? You can get a SCOBY by cultivating it, buying it, or getting some from a friend.
Cultivating a SCOBY is good if you have time, and want to make your SCOBY. You can cultivate a SCOBY by using raw, unfiltered kombucha from the store and homemade sweet tea, and letting it ferment for 2-4 weeks until the SCOBY forms.
- 2 cups unflavoured, raw kombucha
- 5 cups filtered water
- 8g black tea
- 2/3 cup organic sugar
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a stainless-steel pot.
- Add the water to a 2L glass jar, and add in the tea.
- Steep for 10 minutes, and remove the tea.
- Add in the cold water, stir, and cool to room temperature.
- Mix in the kombucha, and cover with a tight-weaved cloth.
- Place the jar in a dark, warm place for up to 4 weeks, checking for SCOBY growth.
- Remove the SCOBY from the jar, and start brewing.
- The leftover liquid can be used as starter tea to start new batches.
Buying a SCOBY is an easy way to get a SCOBY, and is simple because it can be delivered in days. When you buy a SCOBY make sure you buy it from a reputable source with positive reviews. The SCOBY will come in a plastic bag with some starter tea. The SCOBY can be used immediately to start brewing.
Getting a SCOBY from a friend is the best way to get a SCOBY because they will a ton of extra SCOBYS from brewing, and they are usually the most reliable SCOBYS to use. Make sure to ask your friend to give you about 2 cups of starter tea to start your brew.
Baby SCOBYS are produced after first fermentation, and can be used to brew new batches. For a couple a batches, brew the mother SCOBY with the baby SCOBY until the baby has matured into a thicker disc shape.
How long is my SCOBY good for? A SCOBY is usually good for about 5 brews, colour is a primary factor that can determine if it is good or not. A young SCOBY will be bright white, and a mature SCOBY will be brown. Once, a SCOBY has turned very dark brown (almost black), it is time to discard it. Another indicator of a healthy SCOBY is the texture, a healthy SCOBY will be firm, and will have a slimy film on the exterior. If your SCOBY is very sloppy, and dry, it should also be thrown away.
What is starter tea? Starter tea is the acidic kombucha that is produced after first fermentation. You must use starter tea every time you brew a new batch of kombucha to prevent harmful pathogens from contaminating your brew. Essentially, the starter tea lowers the pH of the brew which jump starts the fermentation. By simply reserving 2 cups of kombucha after first fermentation, you don’t have to make any extra tea.
What is first fermentation? First fermentation is the initial stage that produces acidic kombucha. During first fermentation, the kombucha pH lowers producing a favourable environment for good bacteria and yeast.
Is tap water okay? No, tap water will kill the cultures, and produce poor flavoured kombucha. Use either filtered water or distilled water. If you don’t want to pay for water, you can fridge filtered water, or you can distill water by leaving tap water in an open container for a day.
Which teas can I use? The best teas for kombucha are black, green, and white teas. Nevertheless, use some black tea because it contains nutrients that are important for the SCOBY. Also, organic teas are better because they are higher-quality in terms of flavour and nutrients. Avoid herbal teas, or teas that contain oils in first fermentation because they can interfere with the cultures in the brew.
Is any sweetener okay? No, not all sweeteners are usable for kombucha brewing. The best sweetener is cane sugar because it pure, natural, and is simple for the culture to consume. Regular granulated sugar has been processed, and may alter your SCOBY, but granulated sugar may be used. Do not use artificial sweeteners because the SCOBY will be negatively affected by it, and it will not be broken down. In addition, do not use liquid sugars (honey, agave, etc.) because it is difficult for the SCOBY to convert these sugars due to their complex composition. Lastly, use the full amount of sugar, even though it may seem like a lot, most of the sugar will be converted into acetic acid by the SCOBY.
What vessel can I use? A 4L glass jar is the best jar to use for brewing kombucha. I would not recommend any other type of material besides glass.
Is metal bad for the SCOBY? Stainless-steel is okay for stirring or boiling the water in, but never use aluminum. Aluminum denatures the SCOBY culture, and results in metallic-flavoured kombucha.
How cold does the tea have to be before adding in the SCOBY and starter tea? The tea should be below 30°C at the highest, before adding in the SCOBY and starter. If you add the SCOBY in too early, the SCOBY will die, and your brew will fail.
Where can I put my brew? You should put your brew in a warm, dark place, like a high cabinet. If you don’t have a good spot for it, you can place it on your counter, and wrap it in a blanket or a scarf. The best temperature to ferment is about 20-28°C.
How long does first fermentation take? First fermentation usually takes 1-2 weeks, depending on temperature, initial acidity, and the composition of the SCOBYS. The finished kombucha should be acidic, with a hint of sweetness. During colder months, the first fermentation will take closer to a month, and in warmer months, it will be around a week. Also, in colder months, using multiple SCOBYS will speed up the fermentation to around a week.
What should my brew look like? Your brew will look the same for the first 2-3 days. After 2-3 days, a baby SCOBY start to form, it will look like a bunch of white dots, and those dots will merge into a single layer. The baby SCOBY will continue to thicken, and will change colour slightly. Also, the mother SCOBY(s) will move around the brewing vessel, which is perfectly fine. In addition, there will be dark brown strands of yeast dangling in vessel, which is a good sign. Furthermore, the colour of the kombucha will change into a lighter tone, and it may smell slightly vinegary.
What should my brew not look like? Your brew should be fine, you should only be alarmed if your brew has mould growth on top. Mould will only grow on the top of the liquid, and will be bright colours (green, blue, pink, or white). You cannot salvage a mouldy brew, throw away everything in the vessel including the SCOBY. A mouldy brew is likely due to a high initial pH (not enough/acidic starter tea). Mould growth can also be from a number of other reason, like contamination or cold/hot temperatures.
How do I know if my kombucha is ready? Kombucha is ready when it is acidic, with a hint of sweet. You should start tasting your brew around day 6 at the earliest (depending on climate). You will see a baby SCOBY grow on the top of the vessel, and many yeast strands flowing beneath it.
What is second fermentation? Second fermentation is the fermentation with flavouring that produces carbonation. During second fermentation, the yeast will feed on the sugar in the kombucha producing carbon dioxide (carbonation). Second fermentation is optional, but without it there will not be carbonation. If you don’t want carbonation you can add your flavouring (if any), and refrigerate it.
What bottles can I use? You may use any glass bottle that is meant for fermentation. Also, store-bought kombucha bottles can also be used. Flip-top bottles, and Boston-round bottles are the best varieties, but similar ones are good too.
What can I flavour my kombucha with? You can flavour your kombucha with fresh fruit, juices, herbs, or teas. If you flavour with fresh fruit, I would recommend pureeing because it makes it easier for the yeast to feed on the sugar. You can use any juice you would like, make sure it contains natural sugars only (not sweetened with artificial sweeteners or sugar-free). Unlike first fermentation, you can flavour your kombucha with any teas because it can no longer negatively affect the SCOBY.
Should I “burp” my kombucha? Many people suggest you should “burp” (open the cap to release excess gas) your kombucha, but I think it’s unnecessary. By releasing the gas in the bottles, the buildup of carbonation is wasted. You should only “burp” your bottles if you are fermenting in very hot area.
How long does second fermentation take? Second fermentation takes anywhere from 7-14 days, depending on what you used for flavouring, how much carbonation you want, and the climate.
What is a SCOBY hotel? A SCOBY hotel is a vessel for containing extra SCOBYS, and strong starter tea.
Why should I have one? You should have one if you’re serious about kombucha brewing, want to have a “safety-net”, and be able to brew multiple batches.
How do you care for it? You don’t have to worry a lot about the hotel, just make sure the SCOBYS are submerged and hydrated. You can replenish the liquid by adding in 2 cups of finished kombucha into the vessel. Every time you brew take 2 cups of starter from the SCOBY hotel for the next brew, and add in 2 cups from the finished batch.
Pour 4 cups of boiling water into your brewing vessel, with the tea. Steep for 10 minutes.
Next, remove tea, and stir in sugar until dissolved. Mix in the remaining water, and cool to room temperature (if not already).
Mix in the starter tea, and place the SCOBY into the vessel.
Cover the vessel with a tight-weaved cloth, and secure with a rubber band. Place in a warm, dark place for 7-15 days. Once, fermented, remove the SCOBY, and take out 2 cups of the kombucha, and reserve for the next batch.
Add 2-4 oz of juice/flavouring to your bottles. Stir the kombucha, and pour into the bottles. Tighten screw on the lids, and place in a warm, dark place for 7-14 days. Place the bottles in the fridge, and chill for at 4 hours.
Strain the kombucha before drinking. Enjoy!
- 15 cups cold filtered water
- 16 grams tea
- 1 cup cane sugar
- 1 SCOBY
- 2 cups juice/flavouring
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a stainless-steel pot.
Add the water to the brewing vessel with the tea, and steep for 10 minutes.
Stir in the sugar, and mix in the water.
Cool to room temperature (if not cold enough), and add in the SCOBY and starter tea.
Cover with a tight-woven cloth, and place in a warm, dark place for 7-15 days.
Remove the SCOBY, 2 cups of kombucha, and reserve for the next batch.
Stir the kombucha to disperse the yeast, and pour into the (1L) bottles along with 1/2 cup of juice/flavouring.
Twist on the lid tightly, and place in a warm, dark place for up to 2 weeks.
Chill the kombucha for at least 4 hours before drinking.