How to make kombucha

Kombucha – it's that effervescent, tangy fermented drink that seems to be ever-growing in popularity.

But keeping up with the latest fermented foods trends and probiotic benefits can come at a hefty price.

Why shell out $3 to $4 a bottle when can learn how to make kombucha from the comfort of your home? We'll show you how to make up to a gallon of kombucha (that's 8 bottles) for a fraction of the cost of commercial brands.

Whether you’re new to making kombucha or a seasoned fermenting expert, now you can brew delicious kombucha tea at home with our easy-to-follow kombucha recipe and How-To Video.

Kombucha SCOBY with Ingredients on white background

Making kombucha tea at home is easy, and it only requires a few pieces of equipment to get started. You can learn more about choosing the best equipment for making kombucha in this article, but in short you will need:

  • Quart-Size Glass Jar
  • Plastic or Wooden Stirring Utensil
  • Tight-Weave Cloth or Paper Coffee Filter
  • Something to secure the cover to the jar (rubber band or canning jar rings work well)

Most of the supplies you need can also be found in one of our DIY Kombucha Kits. These kits make getting started easy. All you supply is a glass jar and a few kitchen staples. Everything else from a SCOBY and tea to bottles, and flavorings are included.

Kombucha Starter KitKombucha Starter Kit

Ginger Kombucha Starter KitGinger Kombucha Kit

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1. Water, free from chlorine and fluorides.

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2. White cane sugar. The kombucha SCOBY needs something to feed on!

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3. Tea bags or loose tea. Black tea works best but there are options you can use after your kombucha is reliably culturing for a few batches.

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4. Starter tea (tea from a previous batch of kombucha) or distilled white vinegar. You'll need one of these acidic liquids to keep the proper pH. See the chart below for ratios.

How_to_Make_Kombucha_Active_SCOBY_3

5. An active SCOBY. This acts as the starter culture for making kombucha. Be sure to watch our HOW-TO VIDEO on activating a dehydrated Kombucha SCOBY first!

  • How_to_Make_Kombucha_Ingredients_Water
  • How_to_Make_Kombucha_Ingredients_Sugar
  • How_to_Make_Kombucha_Ingredients_Tea
  • How_to_Make_Kombucha_Ingredients_Starter_Tea
  • How_to_Make_Kombucha_Active_SCOBY_3

While it may be tempting to experiment with different types of vinegar, it's very important to always use distilled white vinegar to ensure an appropriately acidic environment. Apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar are not appropriate for making kombucha tea.

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Once your kombucha SCOBY is active you can make kombucha on a regular basis using the ratios below. Keep in mind that these ratios are for making regular batches of kombucha.

For your first batch, when activating a dehydrated kombucha SCOBY, you will need to refer to ratios in the activation instructions.

If you have just started making kombucha, we also recommend slowly working up to larger batch sizes to help maintain proper ingredients ratios and to avoid stressing the SCOBY.

3. Select Ingredient Ratios for Making Different Amounts of Kombucha

Benefits of Continuous Brew Kombucha

Like many newcomers to traditional foods, I began to brew kombucha years ago using the method outlined in Nourishing Traditions; that is, I brewed kombucha in small batches, exchanging jars.  For several years now, I’ve favored the continuous brew method, because it’s easier, it’s cleaner and it produces a healthier kombucha mother that is less likely to be contaminated by stray microbes – though, admittedly, kombucha mothers are sturdy and are not typically prone to contamination.

As with any fermented food, different strains of microbes will proliferate at different times during the fermentation cycle (you can read more about this in the best-selling book the Art of Fermentation).  By only consuming kombucha at the end of its cycle, as in batch-brewed kombucha, you’re consuming a smaller array of beneficial microorganisms.  With continuous brew, the sweet tea that serves as the start for kombucha is in a constant state of flux, so you typically consume a wider variety of microbes which enables you to better take advantage of kombucha’s many health benefits.

Continuous Brew Kombucha

What You Need to Get Started

Ingredients for Making Kombucha

To make kombucha, either with batch-brewing or with the continuous brew method, you’ll need the same basic ingredients: tea, caloric sweetener, a kombucha mother (find one here) and a bit of previously brewed kombucha tea.

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The tea should be true tea; that is, it should be from the camellia sinensis, and while experienced brewers typically favor black tea, you can also create successful brews from green tea, oolong or pu erh.  I favor darjeeling for my brewing.

I favor organic white sugar for brewing my kombucha; remember, the sugar’s not for you: rather we use it to support the optimal growth and feeding of the microorganisms in the kombucha.  Most of the sugar will be consumed by the microorganisms in your kombucha, so very little remains in the final brew.

You’ll also need a kombucha mother which is a large, moist, flat beige-colored disc developed by a matrix of beneficial bacteria and yeasts.  You can purchase a kombucha mother and a bit of starter tea online (see sources).  Since a healthy kombucha mother readily produces baby cultures, you might also ask a kombucha-brewing friend for a starter as well.

Choosing a Continuous Brew Container

The type of container you choose for your continuous brew kombucha is critically important; it should be large enough to contain 2 to 5 gallons of kombucha, with enough airflow to keep the kombucha mother healthy as, unlike other fermented foods, kombucha relies on and needs air circulation.

I picked up a glass jar with a lid and a small plastic spigot at is base.  Consistent contact with metal may inhibit the help of your kombucha culture, so avoid metal containers or containers with metal parts.

 Maintaining the Continuous Brew

To maintain the brew, remember to add sweet tea in the equivalent you take out.  So if you take out a quart of the finished kombucha, add a quart of room temperature sweet tea back to the brew.  Over time, your kombucha mother will thicken.  You can remove the mother, separate the babies that form on top of the mother and compost them, give them away to friends or make an assortment of other foods including dehydrated kombucha jerky or kombucha candy.  You can clean the jar out once in a while – every six months to a year or so.  Take care that no residual bits of detergent adhere to the jar lest they negatively impact your brew.  I run mine through a dishwasher, without added detergent or soap.

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Continuous Brew Kombucha
  • 2 tablespoons loose-leaf tea
  • 1 cup organic white sugar
  • 1 kombucha mother
  • 1 cup kombucha tea from a previous batch
  1. Bring one quart of water to a boil. Turn off the heat, stir in tea and organic sugar. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the tea to sit undisturbed until it cools to room temperature.
  2. Strain the tea through a fine-mesh sieve into your continuous brew container. Stir in 3 quarts water. Add the kombucha mother and the kombucha tea to the container. Cover it loosely, and allow it to ferment about a week.
  3. After a week, draw off up to 25% of the kombucha, bottle it, and replace it with an equivalent amount of sweet tea. After the initial week of fermentation, you can draw off kombucha as frequently as you like – usually 1 to 3 times a week – as long as you replace it with an equivalent amount of tea.
  4. To bottle the kombucha, pour your kombucha into a flip-top bottle, adding up to ¼ cup sweet tea or fruit juice to the bottle. Close the bottle and allow it to ferment a further 2 to 3 days, then transfer to the fridge and consume when you like it.

 

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How to make kombucha using a kombucha mushroom and kombucha starter

To make 2 quarts of kombucha you will need:

2 quarts/litres of filtered water

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5 tea bags (black, English Breakfast, or green)

½ cup white or organic raw sugar

1 cup kombucha starter from a previous batch

1 kombucha scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) from a previous batch of kombucha

¼ tsp. Celtic sea salt

2 quart glass jar

Long handled wooden spoon or glass rod for stirring tea and kombucha (do not use metal or plastic)

Kombucha tea bags

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