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How To Make Kombucha

Learn how to make kombucha with this comprehensive, step-by-step photo guide! If you're a beginner, don't despair, this guide will teach you everything you need to know!

Now that you have mastered growing a SCOBY from store bought kombucha, it's time for the fun part: making homemade kombucha! And this guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of how to brew kombucha at home!

Brewing kombucha is a fairly simple process, but there are a few things you need to know before getting started. The most important thing is to make sure you have a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). If you don't have a SCOBY, you can buy one online or grow your own!

This kombucha recipe is a 2 stage brewing process that takes around 14 days to complete. During the first stage, the SCOBY and starter kombucha is added to sweet tea to ferment. In the second stage, the kombucha is allowed to ferment in bottles at room temperature with fruit, vegetable, and or herb flavoring.

What are you waiting for! Let's get our brew on!

This how to brew kombucha guide is dedicated to not waiting!

Plain brewed kombucha in a bottle.

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So.... What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a naturally effervescent fermented tea that is made with sugar, black tea, and a SCOBY. Kombucha is thought to have originated in China over 2000 years ago and has been gaining western popularity in recent years.

Kombucha is known for its probiotic benefits as well as being a good source of antioxidants. It's also low in calories and sugar, making it a great alternative to sugary sodas and juices.

Kombucha tea can be enjoyed plain or flavored with fruit, herbs, and spices.

What Is A SCOBY?

If you are looking to brew kombucha at home, you will need a SCOBY --> Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.

Like with a SOURDOUGH STARTER, the yeast and bacteria in the SCOBY are responsible for brewing kombucha and act as a starter culture, converting sweet tea into tangy, fizzy kombucha. The SCOBY is sometimes called the kombucha mother, much like a vinegar mother!

To be totally technical, the SCOBY is actually the microbes within the liquid or starter tea themselves, while the pellicle is what is commonly referred to as the SCOBY. I will be calling the pellicle by both its proper name and referring to it as a SCOBY interchangeably.

Check out my guide to making your own SCOBY from kombucha purchased at the grocery store!

What Is A Pellicle?

It is a slimy, flat disk that forms on the surface of kombucha during the fermentation process. It sounds gross, and it looks gross, and it feels gross, but it's necessary gross!

The pellicle is made of good bacteria and yeast cells and is held together by cellulose. The "mother" pellicle will grow "baby" layers with each batch of kombucha you brew as more cellulose is produced. This means that with each batch, a second, baby SCOBY or pellicle is formed.

The mother and the new layer be separated or kept together, it's up to you but a larger pellicle can lead to vinegary tastes before the kombucha brew is properly fermented.

You can grow as many new SCOBY as you want BUT they are like sourdough starters, they multiply rapidly and need to be fed even if they aren't producing! Give them away to friends, or find creative ways to use your extra pellicles.

Removing the SCOBY from vessel.

How Does Kombucha Taste?

Kombucha has a slightly sweet and acidic taste with a delightful effervescence. The flavor is similar to sparkling apple cider or white wine. The longer the kombucha ferments, the more tart it will become.

If you're new to kombucha, start with a shorter fermentation time and work your way up to a longer fermentation for a more tart flavor.

Flavoring kombucha is a great way to customize your brew and make it your own.

As an advanced kombucha brewer, you can experiment and add fruit, herbs, spices, or even juice to flavor your kombucha. The possibilities are endless!

Tips + Tricks

No. 1 --> Avoid metal and plastic containers. Metal can react with the acidic kombucha and hurt your fermenting buddies, while plastic is porous and can harbor the baddies (mold or bacteria we don't want)

No. 2 --> Temperature matters! In more than one way, the temperature of the tea when you're adding your kombucha starter and SCOBY needs to be close to room temperature, as too high can actually kill the guys in charge of fermentation. Brew temperature matters too: most kombucha ferments best between 75 - 80f.

No. 3 --> Cleanliness is king when making kombucha, and any fermented foods, really. Make sure all of your equipment is clean and sterile, including hands and work surfaces.

No. 4 --> Brewing kombucha can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it's important to remember that it's also an art. There are many ways to do things and no one right way. Don't stress if something doesn't go perfectly the first time!

No. 5 --> I like to start the second fermentation for my kombucha when my first fermentation reaches a PH of 3.2!

A ph test strip showing PH of kombucha.

Key Ingredients

SCOBY + Kombucha Starter Tea: Kombucha brewing needs very few things, but one of the important ones is a SCOBY and a pellicle. You can grow your own SCOBY using my guide, or you can buy one, but your SCOBY must be mature before you can use it to brew your first batch of kombucha.

Tea: While you can technically use any tea to brew kombucha, I recommend using black or green tea if you're a beginner as they have the right amount of nutrients that the SCOBY needs to grow and thrive. If you can find it, organic tea is the best bet, but it's not a deal-breaker. Once you're familiar with the process you can move on to oolong tea or white tea!

Sugar: The yeast needs sugar to eat and convert into acids and carbon dioxide gas. This is what makes kombucha tart and fizzy. I always use granulated white but feel free to use organic cane sugar. Avoid honey and other non-pasteurized sweeteners.

Ingredients required for kombucha making.

How To Make Kombucha At Home

Prepare:

  1. Thoroughly wash everything! We are fermenting, so we want to make sure everything, including your hands, is clean and free of any contaminants. The best way to do this is to wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse. I like to give my glass jars and utensils and extra rinse in vinegar, too.
  2. Ensure that your fermentation vessel has at least 3 liter or quart capacity for this recipe.

Brew The Sweet Tea:

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a slight boil. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, measure 4 cups of hot water and stir 1/2 cup of sugar into the hot water.
  2. Then add 4 tea bags, I like black tea, but green tea works well too. Steep the tea in the hot water for at least 10 minutes, my preference is closer to 60 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags and transfer brewed tea to the fermentation vessel. Add another 3 cups of cool water to the brew vessel. This helps to cool the water more quickly so you can get brewing rather than waiting for it to gradually cool.
  4. Wait (im)patiently for the sweetened tea to cool to room temperature.

1st Fermentation:

  1. Once the sweet tea has reached room temperature, using really clean hands, transfer the pellicle/SCOBY from your starter liquid to the fresh sweet tea.
  2. Add 1 cup of starter liquid to the sweet tea.
  3. Cover the vessel with a breathable but tightly woven cloth cover secured with a rubber band, I like to use a coffee filter that I've rinsed in white vinegar, many people use a clean tea towel or layered woven cotton. This is to keep out dust, fruit flies and other debris.
  4. Place the kombucha jar in a warm place between 70-80f, away from direct sunlight, where it is not likely to be disturbed for 5-10 days, depending on the temperature.

Test The Booch:

  1. At around the 5th or 6th day, earlier if you're fermenting somewhere warmer, begin testing your kombucha brew. The easiest way to do this is to use a clean straw, slide it down the side of the jar and cover the top to draw some out. The brew should taste slightly sweet and mildy sour - it should be more sour than sweet tea but less sour than vinegar.
  2. Once the 1st ferment has reached your desired flavor, it's time to move onto the second fermentation.

*Note: if you don't want effervescent, carbonated kombucha, you can stop here! Bottle the unflavored kombucha and toss it in the fridge!

2nd Fermentation:

This is the stage where you'll be able to add flavor. You can use chopped fruit, veg or herbs, fruit juice, or even fruit puree like in my blueberry kombucha.

  1. Carefully wash all fermentation bottles, and set them aside.
  2. Prepare your bottles by adding 1 tsp of sugar per cup of kombucha that will fit in each jar.
  3. Using clean hands, remove the SCOBY and place it along with 1 cup of starter liquid aside for the next batch.
  4. Pour the kombucha into your bottles, leaving 1 1/2 inch head space.
  5. Set aside, out of direct sunlight to carbonate for 3-7 days.

Test The Booch:

  1. After 3 days, begin testing your kombucha by burping the bottles, or slowly loosening the caps to see if they have carbonation.
  2. It's important to note that kombucha sealed in a bottle with sugar can create A LOT of pressure leading to bottle rupture, which is as dangerous as it sounds! By testing the fizz factor daily after the 3rd day we can avoid any major destruction.

Chill Out:

  1. Once the kombucha has reached the your desired flavor and carbonation, the bottles can be transfered to the fridge to slow fermentation.
  2. Aim to drink your refrigerated kombucha bottles within 2-3 weeks. While it's likely to last much longer, the flavor can approach vinegar territory.

More Fermenting Recipes To Try!

Batch + Storage:

Batch:

This recipe makes about 7 cups of useable kombucha, and I say useable because it's important to save 1 cup of your starter liquid after the first fermentation for future batches, because like a sourdough starter, your kombucha needs that little kick start with the good yeast and bacteria!

I find this lasts me about 4-5 days, but I drink a lot of kombucha!

This recipe can easily be scaled up or down depending on your vessel constraints and available space.

Storage:

Once your kombucha has finished the second fermentation it's important to seal up the bottles and place them in the fridge. This massively slows fermentation and keeps the flavor of your booch just how it was when you put it in the fridge!

I would recommend drinking your homemade kombucha within 2-3 weeks for the best results. It can last much longer than that, but the flavor may continue to develop more sour notes and inch towards tasting like vinegar.

Labeled bottle of kombucha in a tray with ice.

Helpful Tools + Equipment

There are a couple of things that can help make your booch brew process go more smoothly, and easily.

  • A dedicated brew vessel with a spigot! Pick one that has a stainless steel spout and a large enough volume for your kombucha consuption!
  • Fluid measuring cups. I love my Pyrex glass measuring cups for this recipe.
  • A tightly woven cloth, I actually use Chemex coffee filters. They are a nice, thick, unbleached square filter that I'm able to reuse a few times before replacing!
  • Second fermentation vessels! Many, many people recommend using flip-top bottles, but I've always had luck re-using bottles from store bought bottles, like GTs!

Notes From The Crave Kitchen

Brewing kombucha at home is a fun and easy way to make this delicious drink.

At this point, we've walked through the process step-by-step. We started with how to prepare your ingredients and equipment, then brewed the sweet tea, added the SCOBY and starter liquid, and finally carbonated and refrigerated the kombucha.

With a little bit of patience and a few ingredients, you can have your own endless supply of delicious booch!

If you're looking for something a little more adventurous, why not try flavoring your kombucha during the second fermentation? There are endless possibilities - from adding fresh fruit or herbs, to using juice or tea concentrates. Be creative and have fun!

I will be adding some more amazing recipes for flavoring your kombucha in the near future, so keep an eye out for it!

📖 Printable Recipe

Plain brewed kombucha in a bottle.
Yield: ~2 Liters

How To Make Kombucha At Home {Step By Step!}

Prep Time: 10 minutes
1st Ferment: 5 days
2nd Ferment : 5 days
Total Time: 10 days 10 minutes

Can't get enough kombucha? Learn how to make kombucha at home! This process creates a naturally effervescent and refreshing beverage. Brewing your own kombucha at home is easy, fun, and rewarding.

Ingredients

sweet tea:

  • 4 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tea bags, black or green
  • 3 cups cold water

First Fermentation:

  • 1 SCOBY
  • 1 cup kombucha starter liquid

Second Fermentation:

  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, PER CUP of kombucha

Instructions

prepare:

  1. Thoroughly wash everything! The best way to do this is to wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse.
  2. Ensure that your fermentation vessel has at least 3 liter or quart capacity for this recipe.

brew the sweet tea:

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a slight boil. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, measure 4 cups of hot water and stir 1/2 cup granulated sugar into the hot water.
  2. Then add 4 tea bags. Steep the tea in the hot water for at least 10 minutes, my preference is closer to 60 minutes.
  3. Remove the tea bags and transfer brewed tea to the fermentation vessel.
  4. Add another 3 cups of cool water to the brew vessel. Wait for the sweet tea to cool to room temperature.

1st fermentation:

  1. Once the sweet tea has reached room temperature, transfer the pellicle/SCOBY from your starter liquid to the fresh sweet tea.
  2. Add 1 cup of starter liquid to the sweet tea.
  3. Cover the vessel with a breathable but tightly woven cover.
  4. Place the kombucha jar in a warm place between 70-80f, away from direct sunlight, where it is not likely to be disturbed for 5-10 days.

test the booch:

  1. Around the 5th or 6th day, begin testing your kombucha brew. The easiest way to do this is to slide a clean straw down the side of the jar and draw off some kombucha. The brew should taste slightly sweet and mildly sour - it should be more sour than sweet tea but less sour than vinegar.
  2. Once the 1st ferment has reached your desired flavor, it's time to move on to the second fermentation.

*Note: if you don't want effervescent, carbonated kombucha, you can stop here! Bottle the booch and toss it in the fridge!

    2nd fermentation:

    1. Carefully wash all fermentation bottles, and set them aside.
    2. Prepare your bottles by adding 1 teaspoons of sugar per cup of kombucha that will fit in each jar. For example, if your bottle fits 500ml of kombucha, add 2 teaspoons of sugar.
    3. Using very clean hands, remove the SCOBY and place it along with 1 cup of starter liquid aside for the next batch. Stir the kombucha in the fermentation vessel with a clean spoon.
    4. Pour the kombucha into your bottles, leaving 1 1/2 inch headspace.
    5. Set aside, out of direct sunlight to carbonate for 3-7 days.

    test the booch:

    1. After 3 days, begin testing your kombucha by burping the bottles by slowly opening the caps to check on the carbonation status.
    2. It's important to note that kombucha sealed in a bottle with sugar can create A LOT of pressure leading to bottle rupture, which is as dangerous as it sounds!

    chill:

    1. Once the kombucha has reached the your desired flavor and carbonation, the bottles can be transferred to the fridge to slow fermentation.
    2. Aim to drink your refrigerated kombucha bottles within 2-3 weeks. While it's likely to last much longer, the flavor can approach vinegar territory.

    Notes

    Batch:

    This recipe makes about 7 cups of useable kombucha, and I say useable because it's important to save 1 cup of your starter liquid after the first fermentation for future batches, because like a sourdough starter, your kombucha needs that little kick start with the good yeast and bacteria!

    This recipe can easily be scaled up or down depending on your vessel constraints and available space.

    Storage:

    Once your kombucha has finished the second fermentation it's important to seal up the bottles and place them in the fridge. This massively slows fermentation and keeps the flavor of your booch just how it was when you put it in the fridge!

    I would recommend drinking your homemade kombucha within 2-3 weeks for best results. It can last much longer than that, but the flavor may continue to develop more sour notes and inch towards tasting like vinegar.

    Nutrition Information:

    Yield:

    5

    Serving Size:

    1

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 94Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 18mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 1gSugar: 22gProtein: 1g

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