Learn how to make kombucha at home and rejoice in the art of naturally fermented probiotic drinks!
On February 4, 2014, I released my cookbook, Delicious Probiotic Drinks, which includes the ins and outs of brewing kombucha as well as detailed instructions on brewing other probiotic drinks such as ginger beer, kefir, lactofermented lemonade, rejuvalac, and cultured vegetable juice. The book also includes 75 recipes for flavoring these probiotic drinks to make them absolutely delicious!
How I Started Brewing Kombucha:
I always thought it would be fun to be a home brewer. I have a friend who brews his own beer and my brother makes his own wine. How. Freaking. Cool. Fermenting is badass. No “ifs” “ands” or “buts” about it. Badass.
months years ago it dawned on me that I was buying kombucha almost every day. This little reality check lit the inspiration flame and I decided we needed to make it at home. Ferment at home. Brew. Be a badass kombucha home brewer. We began researching how to brew kombucha at home and began collecting bottles and other fermenting tools.
If you’re new to kombucha, here’s the skinny: kombucha is a natural probiotic drink which can aid in digestion, increase energy naturally, manage hunger and can create PH balance in your digestive tract. Similar to yeast or yogurt cultures, kombucha is made from a living organism called a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It grows, multiplies and ferments which means it is very important to make sure the SCOBY stays clean and healthy.
The photo above is what a healthy SCOBY looks like.
The Health Benefits of Kombucha:
What’s the buzz about probiotics? They help maintain healthy microflora in your gut, which ensure efficient digestion and aids in nutrient absorption. They help you get the most out of the food you eat. Probiotics prevent bad bacteria from attaching to the intestinal wall, which starves them of the nutrients they need to survive. This strengthens your immune system and fights disease. People who suffer from digestive ailments such as Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, ulcers, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Candida, etc. may find their symptoms improve with regular consumption of probiotic-rich food and drink.
Kombucha has also been known to boost your immune system (since it populates your system with good bacteria and rids your gut of bad bacteria), your energy level, and even your metabolism. Probiotics and kombucha have been linked to mental health, as new research shows your brain health is linked to your gut health. This fizzy beverage is also rich in folic acid, enzymes, amino acids, antioxidants, and Vitamins B1, B6, and B12. It also contains enzymesIn addition, kombucha contains small amounts of zinc, copper, iron, and manganese.
A Cautionary Note:
Making homemade kombucha can be risky if you are not careful. If you are new to making kombucha, please seek multiple how-to sources before making a batch. It is very important to keep all instruments used in the process of making kombucha clean and to keep the SCOBY healthy. Use common sense and make kombucha at your own risk. If you see a single spot of mold (from what I hear mold on kombucha looks similar to bread mold), abandon ship – throw out your whole SCOBY and discard all kombucha liquid. Please read instructions very carefully before starting a batch of kombucha. Kombucha is not for everyone.
When you first read the how-to, it may seem long and complicated. The first go-round definitely requires attention to detail, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quick and easy and saves you a TON of money since buying kombucha from the store can cost between $2.50 and $4.00 per bottle.
Ingredients for Original Kombucha:
- 1 Kombucha SCOBY (we bought ours online off)
- 1 Gallon spring water (we buy ours from the store in gallon jugs). Don’t use water from your faucet because it probably has chlorine and/or fluoride in it
- 10 black tea or green tea (no frills) tea bags
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
Other things you will need:
- Large pot for boiling water
- Large (1-gallon or 2-gallon) glass jug/container
- Distilled White Vinegar
- Long-handle spoon for stirring
- Stick-on or floating thermometer
- Stretchy rubber band
- Some type of heating device, such as a heating pad (if your house does not stay above 70 degrees)
- Space blanket (again, only necessary if your house does not stay above 70 degrees)
- An efficient method of transferring the kombucha from the jug to bottles or the dispenser you will be using to drink the kombucha out of.
- Small fine metal strainer (we use a metal coffee strainer)
- Sealable glass bottles, such as EZ Flip Cap Bottles
How to Make Homemade Kombucha:
- Sanitize EVERYTHING you’re using to make kombucha. You can do this by running it through the dishwasher, handwashing in very hot water, or by coating it in distilled white vinegar. We keep the jug we use for brewing sanitized by handwashing it and pouring about ½ a cup of white wine vinegar in it and sloshing it around.
- Boil water. If you are making 1 gallon of kombucha, you do not need to boil the entire 1 gallon….just enough (1/2 gallon or so) to brew the tea.
- Once water has reached a boiling point, remove it from heat and add tea bags.
- Steep for 15 minutes
- Remove tea bags
- Add the cane sugar and stir well
- Allow the tea to cool to roughly 75 to 80 degrees (or if you only boiled half a gallon of water, add the remaining half gallon of cool water so that the hot water cools faster).
- Once the tea is in the 75 to 80 degree range, add the SCOBY (if this is your first time making kombucha and you bought your SCOBY online, simply remove it from its package and slip it in).
- If you have a flat sticky thermometer, stick it on the outside of the jug.
- Cover the jug with cheesecloth so that the kombucha can continually breathe.
- Secure the cheesecloth with a stretchy rubber band
- Place jug in a dark place (closet) that stays relatively warm and is not disturbed by people and light.
- Allow kombucha to brew for 5 to 8 days (the longer it brews, the stronger it is)
- Continually check the temperature of the kombucha. It needs to stay in the 70 to 80 degree range for best results. If it falls below 70, it’s not a huge deal, it will just take longer for the kombucha to brew. If the kombucha reaches above 85-degree temperature, you’re running the risk of growing mold on your SCOBY. If you see any mold (it will look like bread mold…green/white and fuzzy circles), discard the SCOBY and the whole batch of kombucha.
- When your ‘bucha is ready, remove the cheesecloth.
- You will notice your SCOBY is bigger – it will grow to the width of the container it’s in and a second SCOBY will form. SCOBYs will always continue to grow. Once a SCOBY gets to be a couple of inches thick, you need to cut off slices in order to keep the SCOBY healthy. You can give these slices to your friends (who are super jealous that you’re making your own ‘bucha) to start their own batch.
- OPTIONAL: Now you can get creative with your method of bottling the kombucha or you can simply leave it in the same jug you brewed it in and ladel it out when you want to drink some (either way, it will need to be refrigerated). We use a soup ladel to ladel the kombucha from the jug into a water pitcher. We then add juice (organic pomegranate blueberry 100% juice is my favorite), stir and fill the bottles about an inch from the top. Seal the bottles well.
- Leave the SCOBY in the jug with enough kombucha to barely cover it (or if you want to clean the jug, remove the SCOBY and place it in another container while you sanitize the jug. The jug does not need to be sanitized between batches unless your SCOBY becomes unhealthy). Cover the container with cheesecloth. The SCOBY is fine to sit like this until you make another batch – just make sure you check the SCOBY before starting another batch.
- Now you have a choice to make. If you would like, you can simply refrigerate your bottled kombucha now and be done with the process.
- Or, you can leave the bottles of komucha at room temperature in a dark place, which will initiate a secondary fermentation process. During this process, the cultures eat the sugar you just added (fructose from the juice) and continue to ferment. This makes the kombucha a little stronger and a little fizzy (“effervescent” is what the industry calls it). We allow our kombucha to go through the secondary fermentation every batch. Allow the kombucha to stay out and ferment another 1 to 3 days. **See note below
- Place kombucha in the refrigerator. Enjoy your super badass homemade kombucha and revel in the fact that you get to consume healthy probiotics.
While secondary fermentation is not necessary in brewing kombucha, this extra step is what enables you to flavor your kombucha as desired, and makes the drink “effervescent” or fizzy. Once your batch of kombucha has brewed, you can add a small amount of 100% fruit juice (I use 1 cup of juice per 1 gallon of kombucha), or fresh fruit and sugar. I love stewing fresh fruit with a little bit of water, sugar, and fresh herbs to flavor my kombucha. See below for flavoring ideas.
When you add sugar (juice/fruit/cane sugar), and allow the kombucha to brew a second time, the probitoics continue to grow as they feed off of the added sugar. It is during secondary fermentation that kombucha becomes fizzy! Once you have added your ingredients for secondary fermentation, pour the kombucha into glass sealable bottles (I use flip-cap bottles) and allow the bottles to sit in a warm, dark place for 3 days. When ready to drink, refrigerate to chill and open the bottles carefully, as the additional fermentation creates gasses that build pressure in the bottles. Note: Your kombucha will continue to ferment while in the refrigerator, although refrigerating it slows the fermentation process significantly.
If you put the kombucha through a second fermentation, more sediment (and likely a hunk of SCOBY) will grow inside of the bottles. I recommend straining the kombucha before drinking it, or else you will get a quarter-sized SCOBY in your mouth which has a strange and somewhat unsettling texture. Straining the ‘bucha with a fine strainer will avoid the ‘bucha booger interaction. We use a metal coffee filter to strain our kombucha before drinking it.
For secondary fermentation, I add either 1 cup of 100% fruit juice per 1 gallon of kombucha, OR 1 to 2 cups of fresh fruit (berries are especially divine) plus 1/2 cup of cane sugar (heat the fruit and sugar together on the stovetop in order to dissolve the sugar and release the fruit juices prior to adding it to the kombucha). I also enjoy adding herbs and spices.
Here’s a simple photo tutorial on How to Brew Kombucha:
Fill a large pot with spring or well water and bring it to a boil.
Add the tea bags and allow them to steep.
Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow the tea to cool to 75 to 80 degrees F
Pour the tea in a large glass jar and add the SCOBY.
Cover with cheesecloth bound by a rubber band and place in a warm, dark closet for 7 to 10 days.
Flavoring Your Homemade Kombucha:
As already mentioned above, you can add 1 cup of 100% fruit juice per gallon of homemade kombucha prior to bottling it for secondary fermentation. For the longest time, I used 100% pomegranate juice in order to flavor my kombucha. You can also use fresh fruit, herbs, and additional cane sugar in order to flavor the kombucha.
Here are some recipes to flavor your kombucha:
How to store your SCOBY after a brewing a batch of kombucha:
After you have brewed a batch of kombucha, you can start the process again by following the same steps! This ensures you have a continuous supply of kombucha and ensures your SCOBY stays active and healthy.
Since we typically brew 1 to 2 gallons of kombucha at a time, we don’t need to continue brewing batch after batch. When I take a kombucha brewing hiatus, I simply leave the SCOBY in the same jar I use for brewing along with plenty of kombucha liquid (I leave about 3 inches of liquid per 1 inch of SCOBY). I keep the jar covered with cheesecloth bound by a rubber band, place a bath towel over the jar, and store it in a warm dark place (just like I would do if I were brewing a batch).
If you take a break between batches of kombucha, it may take slightly longer for your next batch to brew because your SCOBY may take a little time to come out of hibernation mode. I have taken breaks up to 2 months between batches, although I wouldn’t recommend taking much longer than a month off in order to ensure your SCOBY stays alive and happy.
If you’d like more flavoring ideas for your kombucha, and/or if you’d like to learn how to brew other types of probiotic drinks, check out my cookbook, Delicious Probiotic Drinks!
Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions! Good luck on your kombucha brewing and remember: fermenting drinks at home is fun, easy, affordable, and healthy!!
Put it in a cool glass and sip!
For more tips, tricks, information and recipes on kombucha and other probiotic drinks, check out my book, Delicious Probiotic Drinks!!