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How to Make Kombucha

Can you teach me how to make kombucha?

Of course I can, friend! If you have been balking at the cost of store-bought kombucha, why not give the homemade version a try?

If you can brew tea, you can brew kombucha. The process is much less labor-intensive than making other beverages—like, say, beer—at home.

And once you’re started with your SCOBY, you can make infinite batches of kombucha to your heart’s content.

how to make kombucha

(Then again, after life with kombucha, you may appreciate the cost of the bottles in the supermarket case just a bit more.)

Read on and watch the video below for the complete tutorial on how to make kombucha.

OK, so what is kombucha?

In simplest terms, it’s a fermented tea-based beverage with a tart taste.

Because it’s high in probiotics, kombucha is touted as being good for digestive health and immunity, among other claims.

homemade kombucha and SCOBY
Photo: Casey Barber

Also because of the fermentation process, there can be trace amounts of alcohol present in kombucha, but the regular stuff isn’t enough to get you drunk. Look for hard kombrewcha in the beer aisle if that’s what you’re going for.

Actually, in my experience, kombucha is a majorly effective hangover cure!

Wait, so then, what’s a SCOBY?

Oh, you mean the Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast? That’s the engine that keeps your kombucha running.

This living, gelatinous hunk of cultures feeds off the sweetened tea, transforming its sugars into alcohol, acid, and bubbles–and that, my friends, is the secret behind how to make kombucha.

You don’t do it so much as the SCOBY does it for you!

It’s the same process by which a “mother” turns wine into vinegar, or by which a sourdough starter makes bread rise.

homemade kombucha SCOBY
Photo: Casey Barber

While you can buy a SCOBY, it’s incredibly easy to make one yourself. All you need is black tea sweetened with regular cane sugar (like granulated sugar), and 1 bottle of store-bought kombucha to get it going.

Once the tea has completely cooled to room temperature, pour it into a quart-sized wide-mouth mason jar and add the kombucha.

Cover with a flour sack towel or cheesecloth and secure tightly with a rubber band or the ring from the mason jar lid.

Let rest in a warm-ish room temperature spot (around 70-75 degrees F is ideal) for 2-4 weeks. The SCOBY will grow like magic!

Follow the recipe below to use your SCOBY to learn how to make kombucha from it, batch after batch after batch….

homemade kombucha
Photo: Casey Barber

Care and feeding of a SCOBY

Remember, your SCOBY is ALIIIIIVE! Which means it will continue to grow and thicken with each batch.

When your SCOBY starts to get a little unwieldy, like more than an inch thick, it will start to separate into layers. Just peel off the bottom layer and either compost it give to a friend so they can start their own kombucha cycle.

If your SCOBY starts to grow mold, just compost it. It’s not healthy anymore, and it’s time to grow a new one from scratch.

And because the SCOBY is alive, it constantly needs to be fed with kombucha liquid, much like a pet.

how to make kombucha

If you’re going away for a regular vacation, just leave the SCOBY floating in its kombucha. The ‘buch itself will likely be much too vinegary to drink when you return, so just ditch the liquid (reserving 1 cup for a fresh batch) and start anew.

If you need to take a longer break from your kombucha-making (it happens!), you can also the keep it going by storing the jar in a cooler spot and only switch out the tea every 6 weeks.

Again, this will not be drinkable kombucha, but it will keep the SCOBY alive.

The internet is divisive as to whether or not refrigerating or dehydrating SCOBYs is a good idea, so I’ll leave that to the more experimental among you. Some argue that these methods kill the bacteria and yeast, but others swear that they’ve revived their SCOBY without any issue.

flavoring homemade kombucha
Photo: Casey Barber

Flavoring your kombucha

So once you’ve gone through a round of fermenting, and you’ve removed the SCOBY + plain kombucha liquid as starter for the next round, you’ve got a whole jar left of ‘buch to play with.

You can bottle it and keep it plain, or you can add flavored ingredients to the jar and let it sit for a few more days before straining, bottling, and refrigerating.

What to add? Everything! How about:

  • Fresh fruit of any kind
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Fresh ginger, turmeric, or lemongrass
  • Citrus zest and juice
  • Herbs like mint, basil, or sage
flip-top glass bottles
Photo: Casey Barber

Flip-top bottles are recommended for storing, because the kombucha will carbonate as it rests, and the pressure will build up in the bottle. These are strong enough to withstand it.

Read the full recipe below and watch the video, and you’ll be a pro in no time.

homemade kombucha and SCOBY

How to Make Kombucha

Yield: 1 SCOBY + infinite kombucha
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Additional Time: 21 days
Total Time: 21 days 15 minutes

Learn how to make kombucha from scratch, starting with growing your own SCOBY. You can flavor your own kombucha any way you want!

Ingredients

For the SCOBY

  • 1 black tea bag
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 (16-ounce) bottle plain store-bought kombucha

For the Kombucha

  • 1-4 black tea bags
  • 3-7 cups water
  • 1/3-2/3 cup granulated sugar

Instructions

To make a SCOBY:

  1. Make 2 cups black tea sweetened with 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Cool to room temperature.
  2. Pour the tea into a quart-size mason jar, then pour in 1 (16-ounce) bottle plain kombucha.
  3. Do not seal the jar with the lid, but use the ring to secure a small piece of flour sack towel, a thin cotton dishrag, or a paper coffee filter.
  4. Let rest in in a warm place (70-75 degrees F) out of direct sunlight for at least 2 weeks and up to 1 month. A SCOBY will begin to grow in the jar.
  5. When your SCOBY is at least 1/4 inch thick, it's time to start using it for new batches of kombucha.

To make a batch of kombucha:

  1. Carefully remove the SCOBY from the jar with very clean hands.
  2. Save 1 cup of the liquid from the jar (this is your starter kombucha).
  3. Pour in enough room-temperature sweetened tea (using the same ratio of 2 cups black tea to 1/4 cup sugar) to fill a jar of your choice. You can use a half-gallon jar to make more kombucha than the original SCOBY liquid, if desired.
  4. Cover with a flour sack towel, just as you did when making the SCOBY.
  5. Let rest at room temperature for 3-7 days more. The time it takes to get the flavor you want depends on the strength of your SCOBY and starter kombucha, as well as the temperature of the room.
  6. Taste with a clean straw every few days to see how it's doing and if it's strong enough for you.

To flavor and make your next batch:

  1. When the kombucha has fermented, it's time to flavor one batch, if desired, and start a new batch with your SCOBY.
  2. As you did with the earlier batch, carefully transfer the SCOBY and 1 cup starter kombucha to a clean jar.
  3. Add another batch of room temperature sweetened tea and start the whole process over again.
  4. With the remaining fermented kombucha, you can bottle it immediately (see below) or add flavors like fresh fruit, lemon peel, ginger, honey, or herbal teas like hibiscus.
  5. Add the flavoring agents to the tea and let it sit, covered as always, for 1-3 days.

To bottle:

  1. Strain out any flavoring agents and funnel into clean flip-top bottles.
  2. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

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