How to Make Kombucha by Katie of Wellness Mama

how-to-make-kombucha-easy-recipe

*Another post to enjoy from Katie of Wellness Mama!

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that has been around for centuries. The high concentration of b-vitamins, digestive enzymes and glucaric acid in kombucha are credited with a variety of health effects, including detoxification, improved digestion, increased liver function and more.

Many Kombucha drinkers also report increased energy from regular consumption. Some studies have even shown that compounds like glucaric acid can help prevent cancer, though the evidence on this is limited. Interestingly, President Reagan reportedly drank kombucha daily as part of his regimen to battle stomach cancer when he was diagnosed in 1987 (He died in 2004 of old age).

Countries around the world, from China to Russia, value Kombucha for its health benefits, though few scientific studies have been done in the US. Despite this, Kombucha has gained popularity, especially in some parts of the country.

Kombucha is now available commercially, though prices range from $3-5 per bottle or more.

Making Kombucha at home is another option, as a gallon of Kombucha can be made at home for a dollar or less and the process is really rather simple.

The culture that creates Kombucha is referred to as a “Mother” or a “SCOBY,” which stands for “Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.” If you are interested in brewing your own Kombucha, there are several ways to obtain a SCOBY.

How To Find a SCOBY to Brew Kombucha

  • If you know someone who already brews Kombucha, ask them if they have an extra you could have. A SCOBY reproduces itself and has a “baby” every batch or two, so often someone who brews Kombucha will have one to pass on.
  • You can order a SCOBY from a reputable online source. It will come in a dehydrated state with instructions for how to brew. I’ve gotten one from Cultures for Health, and they also have great tutorial videos on brewing Kombucha.
  • Grow your own. I haven’t personally had great success with trying to grow my own, but this tutorial explains the process. You will just need a bottle of organic, unflavored Kombucha.

Finding a SCOBY is often the most difficult part, as the actual making of Kombucha is pretty easy…

How To Brew Kombucha:

You will need:

  • A gallon size glass jar
  • 1 gallon (or a little less) of brewed sweetened tea, with a ratio of 1 cup organic sugar to 1 gallon of tea – must be cooled t room temperature!
  • 1 Kombucha SCOBY or dehydrated SCOBY
  • a kitchen towel or coffee filter and a rubber band

Instructions:

[Note: It is very important that all materials and surfaces are very clean and that your hands have been washed before starting this process!]

  1. Prepare the tea (1 cup organic sugar in 1 gallon of brewed regular tea- decaf is ok too!) Use 3-4 family size tea bags or 8-10 regular size ones.
  2. Let the tea cool and remove tea bags. Make sure that tea is completely cool before going on to next step.
  3. Pour the tea into a gallon size glass jar, leaving at least an inch of room at the top.
  4. Add 1 cup  of liquid from a previous batch of Kombucha or from a store bought bottle of plain organic Kombucha.
  5. Gently place the Kombucha SCOBY at the top of the liquid. It should float, but don’t worry if it doesn’t. Once you have put it in, don’t stick your hands into the tea to get it to float!
  6. Cover the jar with a coffee filter or towel and secure with a rubber band.
  7. Place in a warm location (around 70-75 degrees) and let sit from 5-30 days depending on your preference (it will be less sweet and more potent the longer you leave it).
  8. When it is finished brewing you can store in smaller jars or in another big jar with a lid and repeat the brewing process with the SCOBY to make more batches. Every 1-2 batches, the SCOBY will have a baby that can be used to make other batches or given away.
carbonated-kombucha-how-to-make-kombucha-soda
 

Once you’ve gotten the hang of making Kombucha, you can do a secondary ferment with grape or apple juice to make a carbonated Kombucha soda that has very little trace sugar left but is carbonated

This video from Cultures for Health is helpful when first starting off brewing Kombucha.

Ever brewed Kombucha? Grossed out by the SCOBY? What do you think?

Comments

    • says

      Haha! Yeah it can be scary, but fermented foods are such an important part of our heritage and historic diet. Sauerkraut, kvass, kombucha. I bet you don’t think wine is gross, hmm?

      • Giftty says

        I tried making kombucha this summer. I left it maybe a little too long, but into the third week, a small colony of white mold starts to grow on SCOBY…. is it because the environment is not clean enough?? I want to give it another try but am also scared of contamination :(

  1. says

    I’m not sure how to ask my question per se, but does the sugar transform itself during the process? Bottom line, as a diabetic, will drinking kombucha have a measurable effect on my blood sugar or will the sugar gone through some sort of transformation which makes it less sugary?

    • Danielle says

      The kombucha scoby “eats” the sugar. The longer you let it ferment, the less sugar will be in the tea. I would buy some kombucha at the store to see if you have a problem before you make it yourself.
      I let my kombuch ferment for about 10 days, then I transfer it to grolsch bottles with a little bit of fruit juice, frozen fruit, or candied ginger. I let this sit in the capped bottles for about 2 more days to increase carbonation. Also I started my kombucha scoby from a store bought bottle of G.T. Synergy. Happy Brewing.

    • says

      As Danielle said, the SCOBY “eats” the sugar. I leave mine for 3 weeks or more and it is almost vinegar-like by the time I drink it. From what I’ve read, after about 10-14 days it has very little sugar left at all.

      • Jenny says

        I am an undergraduate student who has spent the last year doing experiments on Kombucha in an independent research project. If you are a diabetic, I suggest you use caution when you start drinking your own brew and here is why:
        1. SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeasts. The bacteria and yeasts metabolize the sugar (mostly the glucose) into acids and carbon dioxide (the bubbly part). Fructose (the other part of the sugar molecule) is not metabolized by most of the bacteria and yeasts you find in a typical Kombucha colony. So there is always some left over. The amount varies greatly depending on your colony, the conditions the tea was brewed in, and the amount of time you let it go for.
        2. There is no standard Kombucha Tea colony, and the different kinds of acids in the brew are dependent on what bacteria are present. In the lab, I have discovered that this slightly acidic sugary environment is great of lots of different kind of bacteria. You will pick up bacteria from the environment when you brew at home ( this is not always bad, a good sourdough starter depends on this). I just want to make clear that the colony will vary depending on where you get your SCOBY from.
        3. Because it can not be said enough- do not brew in metal or ceramic containers- when your kombucha is done it is usually at a pH of 4. There are acids in the brew that will form complexes with metal ions, making them easily absorbed by your body. Don’t do it.
        4. All that said– I have been brewing and enjoying Kombucha for years. don’t be scared off, be informed.

  2. chris says

    so it tastes like vinegar? what amount do you drink? do you keep supplementing your batch? and what does the “baby” look like?
    ive heard of it and am interested i just know very little about it.

    • says

      It depends on how long you brew it. If you only let it brew for about a week it isn’t very vinegar-like at all, but after 3 weeks it is! I drink about 16-32 ounces a day, but I started with a much smaller amount and worked up to that. Right now, I actually have four gallons brewing in rotation.
      Every 3 weeks or so, I pour the brewed Kombucha into smaller jars with lids (to carbonate it) and re-brew tea to start the process again. The baby looks and feels similar to a big mushroom, and it usually reproduces itself each batch, depending on how long you leave it.

  3. Laura B says

    Nice to see some ‘buch love! I’ve brewed my own once, but then let it go. The weather’s been a roller coaster here (in MA) but maybe once we’ve got the heat on steadily I will start up a new batch.

    I’ve read you shouldn’t use herbal teas and that traditionally it’s either black or green tea only. What’s your thoughts on this?

    • says

      I’ve gotten adventurous and killed a few baby scobys this way. From my understanding, herbal teas can have antibacterial properties that actually kill the SCOBY or change the pH so that it dies. You can definitely add flavor variation by adding fruits or natural flavors once it is brewed though. My favorite right now is Elderberry Kombucha and it is illness preventing too!

        • G Swango says

          What about using Nettle Tea. I am a newb at brewing anything but i started with a glass jar with a lid like my friend uses, it isn’t vape-locked…my brother said he ferments wine and if he doesn’t vapelock it then it turns the wine into vinegar….is this the same or a little different.

  4. Suanne says

    I’ve made several batches and yes Laura, I’ve heard the same thing about the tea. Regular black tea is best to use. The baby is just a thin film that develops at the top of
    your batch. I like to add in chopped fresh ginger after mine has sit and brewed for the original 2 weeks or so to add in some nice ginger flavor. A little lemon juice at the time
    of consumption is good too.

  5. Marcheline says

    Uh… I’d like a little more description on the flavor of this stuff before getting involved. Just based on the way it’s made, it sounds pretty awful. The fact that one commenter had to start off with small amounts and “work up” to more isn’t encouraging, either. Open to more info, if it’s out there…

    • says

      The flavor really varies depending on how long you brew it. During the first week it really justs tastes like a mildly sweet tea and it gets more sour the longer it sits. The reason to work up is that the large amounts of enzymes and probiotics can cause some yeast die off symptoms if taken in large amounts right off the bat. I was nervous about the taste the first time I tried it, but it isn’t bad at all.

    • Kristen says

      Like you, I thought it sounded kind of gross!! I took what I called the “cheaters” way out and tried a bottle of flavored store bought Kombucha. The smell is strong, but the taste is actually very pleasant. I just recently tried the original plain flavor and it honestly reminds me of an apple soda!! At $4+ per bottle I am well onto my way of thinking I should be making this myself!! Let the fun begin! Don’t be scared!!

  6. Erin says

    Thanks for posting this! I used to make batches of Kombucha about 15 years ago. I let it go when I became pregnant with my 2nd child and I didn’t pursue researching the safety of drinking it while pregnant (didn’t have any “web’in skills back then).
    Once you get all your supplies lined up, its pretty easy. I only ever used regular black tea and never experimented with anything else. Separating a “baby” cake from it’s “mother” cake is quite the tactile experience!
    It can taste very vinegary, sort of like apple cider vinegar. My father-in-law impressed his cardiologist on a regular basis with his low blood pressure and cholesterol levels, having done nothing different but adding a daily shot of Kombucha (he had a massive heart attack at forty).
    My husband and I felt great on it. Being in our twenties was probably a contributor. Although, we both would take on our twenty year old selves since switching to a paleo/primal/gluten-free (time for a massive mash-up super word) diet and lifestyle. We’ve recently discussed getting back into brewing some tangy K. There is so much more info out now than 15 years ago!
    Thanks again for posting this.

  7. says

    We used to brew Kombucha constantly. I even used a leftover scoby to pull a stye from my son’s eye (I know that sounds gross; but I just placed a bit on the stye several times a day and it went away quickly). I shared Kombucha with a friend who suffered from kidney stones. He said it worked wonderfully.

  8. Erin also says

    @Elizabeth- the bacteria in Kombucha is different from those in your probiotics. When my youngest was 2 1/2 she had to have a course of antibiotics and was consequently experiencing gut issues. She didn’t like any of the probiotics I tried, but she liked Kombucha. Unfortunately, they’re not the same bacteria. Her pediatrician said Kombucha was ok in small amounts, but not to try and substitute it for acidophilus etc.

  9. says

    Please read my tutorial for culturing your own SCOBY from a store bought bottle. That way you are getting the best quality culture available (use GT Dave’s or High Country) right in your home, not a friend of a friend’s who had it in the fridge all last winter. Treat your SCOBY right and you’ll do okay. http://goo.gl/35zcT

  10. Tami says

    Early in the comments, “Real Fermenting” said “I bet you don’t think wine is gross, hmm?” That got my attention, as I do not care for wine or beer at all. I’ve tried and tried, but just can’t take it. ACV does not bother me, but then again, I’m not using it as a beverage. I’ve bought kombucha at the HFS and thought “ok, this is fruity beer – not for me.” Would you say the homemade product tastes similar? Thanks.

    • says

      It can be similar but you are totally in control of what it tastes like at home. You can brew kombucha in coffee! Or using any tea you like. Brew it more or less to get the sourness you prefer.

      I really encourage you to try my guide [http://goo.gl/35zcT] to culturing your own SCOBY from a store-bought bottle. It’s so cheap and you can experiment. What have you got to lose?

  11. Jennifer says

    I have been brewing for years! My favorite is raspberry lemon! I have made a SCOBY from a batch of plain KT from the store. The first batch wasn’t as strong but the second brew was GREAT!!!

  12. Christie says

    Anybody know how to recreate GT’s multi green? Is it just a matter of putting green powder in after you’re done brewing?

  13. Kryssq says

    You can buy really great organic scoby starter cultures (live & fresh) that come vacuum sealed and shipped same day from a company called ROCKY MOUNTAIN KOMBUCHA CO. I highly recommend getting your scoby starter from them, great prices, and honestly the only source I trust personally. I have been brewing my own kombucha now (ever since I bought 2 scobys from them) for the past 6 months – just a little input from a somewhat newbie = )

  14. says

    I just got a scoby from a friend. My kombucha tea is cooling now. I’ll then add the scoby. I’m so excited about adding this health benefit to my life. Apparently I’ve been missing out on this amazing drink. I do intend to add my own homegrown fruit to some of it. I have strawberries, blackberries and blueberries to add and ferment two more days. Yea!

  15. AthenaK says

    Sorry I didn’t read through all the comments so I apologize if this was already covered. Isn’t Kambucha a “sparkling” drink? How does it carbonate? I didn’t see any mention of this on the post. Thanks!

    • Heidi says

      Kombucha can vary from secondarily fizzy to pretty flat. I don’t know why it fizzles, but if you want fizz, you do the initial ferment, put some kombucha in a bottle that closes with a lid, add something sugary like a few raisins, and seal. After 2 days, it should be quite fizzy. Be careful when you open the bottle.

  16. Misha says

    I’ve heard some differing opinions on whether or not kombucha needs to be brewed in a dark place… Does anybody have a straight answer or personal experience with brewing it in a bright place?
    Thanks!

    • Sarah says

      I have brewed kombucha several times right on my countertop, not directly in sunlight but definitely not in a “dark” place and it’s been fine!! : )

  17. says

    I just started my first batch from a scoby gift. The original instructions came from a site that said to place the shiny side of the scoby up. Also, my starter was VERY large and very thick…enough so that I had to cut it to fit my jar. It’s been brewing for 7 days now and I don’t see the original expanding, nor do I see a baby forming. Any thoughts or advice?

  18. Bonnie says

    Loved your video- just learned yesterday a lady at church has a scoby for me…Psyched to try this.

  19. pat salem says

    I had kombucha in a 2 gallon glass jar on the kitchen counter, (about half full) when I left the house for what I thought was a 7-10 day trip. I was gone 31 days, when I got home it was like pure vinegar…! I am new at this and was wondering, do I need to discard that and start all over? or can I use 1 cup of that “vinegar” tasting kombucha to start a new batch, or can I just add another 3 quarts to it?

  20. Debbie says

    I have been using Rooibos Tea (Red) and mine has been fine. I just had a situation where I left mine for about six months, it was very much like vinegar but fine, the scoby was beautiful just took a bit off the bottom and used it to start a new batch of kombucha. Good Luck

  21. Faith says

    Was wondering if you can use a flavored kombucha in original batch? I have gingerade..can brown sugar be used rather than white? It’s not the raw sugar, I just have a lot of brown sugar :)

  22. says

    I made my kombucha from a scoby I bought at my health food store. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have black or green tea so I used chai roobios. Was that bad? It’s been fermenting for 7 days now, my scoby is at the bottom of the jar and there is a slimy clearish white film at the top, is this the baby? Also, my original scoby fell into te hot tea accidently and I scooped it out and put it in the cold tea immediately. Is my whole attempt failed or the slimy stuff at top mean it’s okay and working?

  23. Melissa Hayes says

    So the original scoby cannot be reused, right? The brew from the first scoby will produce a baby scoby an I’m to use that for my next batch? Also, do I save a certain amount of the brew to use in my next batch? Sorry if I am asking questions with seemingly obvious answers.

    • says

      You can use the same scoby multiple times! It’s fun to give the baby away to a friend. :) Yes, you should save a small amount of your original brew when you start a new batch (just enough to cover the scoby and than pour your new tea in on top). Happy brewing!

  24. Melisa says

    In the video, she puts her hands in her hair every few seconds and then puts her hands in the kombucha right after saying to make sure you have very clean hands! Gross!

  25. Tracy says

    Hi Katie ~
    Durring the 3rd week of making my first Batch of bucha, I took the cloth off (to look and see how strange it looked);)
    There was a small bug inside ; { I grabed a clean metal spoon scooped it out then covered it up…
    What do I do? Is it still good? I’m nurvios of contamination, negative results..
    Thank you so much for your advice
    Tracy

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