Kombucha is the drink choice of health-conscious individuals. If you love kombucha and want to learn how to make your own, this article will show you how, step-by-step. You will also find handy tips and useful information. The best news is that you don’t need expensive equipment to make and enjoy kombucha in your own home.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a lightly effervescent, fermented beverage made from tea, bacteria, sugar, and yeast. Other flavorings, spices, juices, and fruit can also be added. kombucha is believed to have originated in 220 B.C in northeastern China 

 

Health Benefits of Kombucha

In recent years, kombucha has grown in popularity, and many people have started drinking it for its health benefits and as a healthier alternative to sodas. 

Did you know that kombucha is rich in probiotics and antioxidants? Kombucha is believed to help your body eliminate toxins and improve your digestive system, aiding in weight loss. It is also said to boost energy levels and your immune system. 

There are claims that this fermented tea can lower high blood pressure and reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Some research suggests that kombucha, like other fermented foods, can improve a person’s overall gut health because it is rich in probiotics. Probiotics are effective at maintaining a healthy community of microorganisms in the body.

The Different Methods of Brewing Kombucha

1. The Batch Method

Batch brewing is when you make your kombucha in individual batches. It involves removing your entire brew when it’s ready and starting a new brew each time. 

When using the batch brewing method, you will typically have a harvesting day where you bottle your finished kombucha. You will then add new sweet tea to your fermenting container along with a small amount of starter liquid and SCOBY from your previous batch to kick off the process again. 

This is the traditional method of making kombucha. It is effortless, affordable, and doesn’t require fancy equipment or very large fermenting vessels. There is a lot more flavor control with the batch method. This is a very hands-off method because all your batching and flavoring happens in one day, and then you leave your kombucha to ferment for the next week or two until it is ready to be bottled. 

The batch method does, however, require weekly maintenance. You will need quite a few bottles because your whole batch will be ready at the same time. It may also be time-consuming to bottle your entire kombucha brew in one go. 

2. The Continuous Brewing Method

Typically, a continuous brewing setup will involve a larger container from which you will draw the kombucha through the spigot whenever you want to drink it. You will then add the same amount of sweet tea to the top without removing the SCOBY or starter liquid. 

The continuous brewing method means you get a lot of kombucha with less work. The SCOBY is also handled less than with the batch method, meaning it’s less likely to get contaminated. 

The continuous brewing method does, however, make it less convenient to flavor and bottle your kombucha. It also requires a larger vessel and some daily maintenance by adding new sweet tea to replace the harvested kombucha. You’ll need to stir your batch of kombucha before harvesting it, because the yeast settles at the bottom of the container. 


Choosing the right method of making kombucha for you


Batch brewing is a great option for people looking for a more straightforward, hands-off method of making kombucha. The batch method also works for people who only want a glass or two of kombucha a day or people who like to change the kombucha or tea flavor they use regularly.

The continuous brewing method is more suitable for large households because you have larger fermenting vessels, resulting in more Kombucha. The continuous brewing method is also a wonderful idea for people who like their Kombucha fresh and straight from the first fermentation run (there is no effervescence or flavor). There is no need to wait for harvest days with the continuous method.

Making Kombucha

Tools and Ingredients Needed

The SCOBY

SCOBYs can be bought at various health stores in the form of a kombucha starter kit or on its own. If you are using a store-bought kombucha in the starter for your new SCOBY, make sure that it is raw and unflavored. You can also ask a kombucha-brewing-friend for a piece of their SCOBY and take it from there.

Sugar

The best sugar to use is white cane sugar. Raw or brown sugar may shorten the SCOBYs' lifespan and is not recommended.

Starter liquid

Starter liquid or starter tea is the healthy fermented kombucha from a previous batch. This liquid contains the living bacteria and yeast required to kick start a new batch of kombucha.

Tea

The types of tea you use can affect the taste or your kombucha as well as affect your SCOBYs health, so it is best to use real tea. Pure plain black tea is recommended for those just starting.

Water

Choose water that is as free from contaminants as possible and not too high in minerals, as they may be harmful to your SCOBY. Inexpensive spring water is the best to use to brew your tea.

Pot or kettle

You will need to heat water in a pot or kettle to steep the tea. It doesn't matter what material your pot or kettle is, because it won't come into direct contact with your SCOBY or the kombucha.

Wooden spoon (or non-metal spoon)

You will need this to stir to dissolve sugar in the tea base. If you choose to make the sweet tea in your brewing vessel, make sure your spoon has a handle long enough to reach the bottom of the vessel.

Brewing vessel

Look for a container that is large enough to leave room for air circulation at the top. A glass jar with a removable stainless steel or food-grade plastic spigot is needed for continuous brewing. Be sure to look for a leak-proof spigot.

A tightly woven breathable cloth or mesh

Brewing a batch of kombucha may attract fruit flies and other pests. You need to cover your fermentation vessel with a breathable cloth or mesh to keep your kombucha and SCOBY protected from outside elements.

Rubber band or kitchen twine

The rubber band or kitchen twine secures your cloth, paper towel, or mesh onto your container. Don't use a tight lid on your container because your kombucha needs good airflow to ferment.

stainless steel strainer

Strainer (if you use loose-leaf tea)

If you're using loose-leaf tea, you will need a fine-mesh strainer to collect the tea leaves after steeping. Opt for a plastic or stainless steel strainer, or you can use a nut milk bag.

Step-by-Step Guide to Making Kombucha

The Batch Method

Ingredients & Tools:

  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 – 5 tea bags or 1 – 2 tablespoons loose-leaf tea
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 full-size SCOBY (4-5 ounces)
  • 1 cup starter liquid
  • Brewing vessel: a 1 gallon glass jar

Step 1: Prep your vessel and utensils

  • Wash your container and utensils with water and a mild dish soap. 
  • Rinse the soap off thoroughly with hot water.
  • Let dry completely.

Step 2: Make the sweet tea

  • Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Remove from heat.
  • Add tea bags or tea leaves to the hot water. 
  • Let the tea steep for 5 – 15 minutes, and then remove the tea leaves or tea bags. 
  • Add the sugar to the hot tea and stir until completely dissolved. 
  • Pour the remaining 3 quarts of cool water into your brewing vessel. 
  • Add the hot, sweet tea mixture. 
  • Cover with a clean and breathable cloth until it’s lukewarm. 

Step 3: Add your SCOBY to the vessel

  • Make sure your hands are clean and dry before touching the SCOBY.
  • Gently place the SCOBY in the cooled, sweet tea solution.
  • Pour starter liquid on top of the SCOBY.

Step 4: Ferment

  • Cover your fermentation vessel with breathable cloth or mesh. 
  • Secure the cloth with a rubber band or kitchen twine.
  • Place the vessel in a warm location away from direct sunlight. 
  • Let it ferment for 7 – 14 days.
  • Start tasting your kombucha after 5 days. To taste, use a non-metal spoon to take out a little bit of the kombucha from the jar.

Step 5: Harvest your kombucha

  • Harvest your kombucha when the brew reaches your desired flavor. 
  • Collect at least one cup of kombucha from the top of the brew. This will be the starter liquid for your next batch. You can store this starter liquid in a clean non-metal bowl. Place the SCOBY in the bowl with the starter liquid, cover with a clean towel and set aside until you’re ready to make the next batch.
  • You can now enjoy the rest of the kombucha straight from the vessel or flavor as desired with fruit, spices, juices, or other flavorings. 
  • Store at room temperature or in the fridge. 

Step 6: Start the next batch according to your schedule

When you’re ready for the next batch, repeat the process, you can either use the original scoby or the new one that was formed from your first batch (or both of them), together with the liquid.

The Continuous Brewing Method

Ingredients:

  • 2 SCOBYs (4 – 5 ounces each) 
  • 5 – 9 tea bags or 2 – 3 tablespoons loose-leaf tea
  • 2 cups sugar 
  • 6 quarts water 
  • 2 cups starter liquid
  • Brewing vessel: a 2 gallon glass jar 

Step 1: Prep your vessel and utensils

  • Wash your container, spigot, and utensils with water and a mild dish soap.
  • Rinse the soap off thoroughly with hot water. 
  • Let dry completely.

Step 2: Make the sweet tea

  • Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. Remove from heat.
  • Combine your tea and the hot water. 
  • Let the tea steep for 5-15 minutes, and then remove the tea leaves or tea bags.
  • Add the sugar to the hot tea and stir until completely dissolved. 
  • Pour the remaining 6 quarts of cool water into your fermentation vessel. 
  • Add the hot, sweet tea mixture.
  • Cover with a clean and breathable cloth until it’s lukewarm. 

Step 3: Add your SCOBY to the vessel

  • Your hands should always be clean and dry before touching the SCOBY.
  • Gently place the SCOBY in the cooled, sweet tea solution. 
  • Pour starter liquid on top of the SCOBY.

Step 4: Ferment

  • Cover your fermentation vessel with breathable cloth or mesh. 
  • Secure the cloth with a rubber band or kitchen twine.
  • Place the container in a warm location away from direct sunlight. 
  • Let it ferment for 7 – 20 days. 
  • Start tasting your Kombucha after 5 days.

Step 5: Harvest your kombucha

  • You are ready to harvest your Kombucha when the brew reaches your preferred flavor. 
  • Draw off some of the fermented kombucha into bottles and leave about 2/3 of the batch in the vessel. 
  • Flavor as desired with fruit, spices, juices, or other flavorings. 
  • Store at room temperature or in the fridge. 

Step 6: Kick off the brewing cycle when you're ready

Once you’ve harvested some of the kombucha, you can make and add more sweet tea to the vessel right away or wait until you’re ready to start the cycle again.

  • Tips and Tricks

    • Don't brew your tea in plastic, aluminum, or metal; if possible, stick to a glass container. Tea is acidic and may leach the chemicals from your container.
    • Always ferment your tea in a glass, lead-free ceramic, or wood vessel.
    • Cleanliness and a sterile working environment are vital to making good kombucha. You can use distilled vinegar and very hot water to sanitize your vessel.
    • Don't add your cultures to hot tea; wait for the tea to cool down before adding your SCOBY.
    • When collecting starter liquid for your next batch of kombucha, always take it from the top of the previous batch and not the bottom. There are dormant yeast strands at the bottom that you don't want in your new batch.
    • If your kombucha tastes too vinegary, brew it for a shorter time.

  • Common Mistakes

    • Using a sweetener, sugar substitute, or getting too fancy with the sugar. The yeast and bacteria digest plain granulated sugar the most easily.
    • Storing your SCOBY in the fridge will damage the fragile microorganisms within your SCOBY, weakening it. SCOBYs are very sensitive to extreme cold or extreme heat.
    • Not having enough ventilation for your kombucha will cause your brew not to ferment. Use a container with a wide-mouth and cover it using a breathable cloth secured with a rubber band.
    • Not "working clean" will more than likely lead to unwanted bacteria and contaminants entering your brew.

Flavoring and Bottling Your Kombucha

This is perhaps the most fun part of making kombucha at home. You can use fresh fruits, herbs, cinnamon sticks, gingers, and even edible flowers to give your kombucha a flavor boost. This is where you can get creative and experiment to your heart’s content. 

  • Prepare the number of bottles you will need. Make sure to clean, sterilize them, and let them dry and cool thoroughly.
  • Choose your flavoring agents of choice and add them to the bottles. 
  • Use a funnel to pour the fermented kombucha into the bottles, leaving some room at the top to retain as much fizz as possible. Tightly cap the bottles. 
  • Let the bottles sit at room temperature for a few days. This will give flavors a chance to develop and also build carbonation.
  • When the kombucha achieves the flavor and level of carbonation that you desire, place the bottles in the fridge for some delicious chilled beverage whenever you want. 

Kombucha Questions and Answers

  1. If your kombucha smells like beer with the sweet and sour notes of vinegar then you know it’s right. 
  2. Your brew should start with a higher acidity, which is more resistant to mold or harmful bacteria, ultimately protecting your brew. The pH of your brew will drop as fermentation takes place in your vessel. Finished kombucha tea should have a pH of between 3.2 and 2.5. 
  3. The kombucha lightens in color because the tea's tannins are also converted, along with the sugar, into healthy acids.
  4. Your SCOBY is healthy and gets thicker, or there is a new baby SCOBY in the brew. The formation of new SCOBY cellulose layers means that the microbes are in balance in your kombucha brew. 
  5. There is a balance of cellulose and brown yeast strands. A thick SCOBY body with a good amount of brown yeast strands hanging off signifies a healthy culture brew with all its microbes in balance.

SCOBY stands for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," which is essentially a mixture of bacteria and yeast that coexist together and is an important part of the kombucha brewing process, sometimes referred to as a mother. 

 

A SCOBY takes on the form of a slippery, rubbery disk that floats on top of the liquid tea, while it is fermenting and turning it into kombucha. 

 

The SCOBY has the round, disk-like layer to cover the top of the fermenting tea and protect it from the outside air. It helps maintain a very specific environment inside the fermenting vessel, keeping the kombucha safe from potentially harmful outside elements. 

 

The SCOBY is continuously renewing itself, and a new layer of SCOBY will grow on the surface of the old one every time a new batch of kombucha is brewed.  

99% of the time, a SCOBY is healthy, and no two SCOBYs look the same; however, just to be sure, here of some characteristics of a healthy SCOBY: 

 

  • White or tan color (or somewhere in between). If your SCOBY has streaks, it could just be the remains of some tea leftover from the previous batch. If you see mold on your SCOBY, discard it and start a new one. Mold looks like fuzzy or white growths on the SCOBY.
  • ¼ to ½ inches thick.

Give your SCOBY a little pinch between your thumb and index finger; if it tears apart, it is more than likely old and won't give you a good brew. 

 

A healthy SCOBY will always form a new SCOBY, and you will see this by yeast strands floating off your original SCOBY to form a new layer.

  1. Your SCOBY will smell bad. A healthy SCOBY will have a sweet-sour smell. If your SCOBY has a putrid smell, it's a sign of harmful bacteria. Throw it away. 
  2. There is mold growing on your SCOBY. You will know it's mold because mold has a green, black, or blue color and will float on top of the brew. The SCOBY will be covered with white fuzz. 
  3. If you notice your SCOBY isn’t growing, it may mean your brew is not doing well. A healthy SCOBY grows to cover the surface of the tea in your brewing container. 
  4. Your SCOBY will change color to black, which means it has died. It is best to throw the SCOBY away as well as that batch of tea. 
  5. Your SCOBY will have a very high pH between 4 and 2.

You can make a SCOBY hotel where you can store all your extra SCOBYs if you need one or want to pass one onto a friend. You can do this by storing your SCOBYs in kombucha tea in a jar. Don't keep them in the fridge. It is best to leave them at room temperature.

  • Short-term storage: if you want to store your SCOBY for less than six weeks, you can leave it brewing in a sugary tea, covered with a breathable cloth.
  • Long-term storage: if you want to store your SCOBY for more than six weeks, you can:
  1. Create a holding jar by adding sweet tea to the SCOBY and storing it in a covered container. Every 4-6 weeks, you need to drain half the liquid out of the container and refill it with new sweet tea. This method allows the SCOBY to be stored indefinitely.
  2. Dehydrate the SCOBY by allowing it to dry in a warm place on a piece of baking paper. Keep it protected from insects and other pests. Once the SCOBY has dehydrated, place it into a plastic Ziploc bag, and refrigerate for up to three months. You can rehydrate the SCOBY using distilled white vinegar.

A sinking SCOBY need not concern you. Some sink, some float, and others bob in the middle. If you wait a few days, you could find a new SCOBY developing, and the mother will float back up to the top of the brew.

The types of tea you use can affect the taste or your kombucha as well as affect your SCOBYs health, so it is best to use real tea. 

 

Pure plain black tea is recommended for those just starting. Wait until your SCOBY is healthy, and you have done four batches of brewing before using other teas like green tea, white tea, or oolong tea. 

 

Avoid teas that aren't organic, as well as herbal teas. You should also avoid using scented or flavored teas because the chemical compounds used in flavoring the tea could harm the health of your SCOBY.

Mineral water is not ideal for brewing your Kombucha because the water's high level of minerals may harm your SCOBY over time.

You can, but it is not recommended. The high mineral content may harm your SCOBY. Inexpensive spring water is the best to use to brew your tea.

Yes. Without sugar, kombucha cannot ferment. The bacteria and yeast digest the sugar, which in turn is what ferments your sweet tea, turning it into kombucha. 

You may be tempted to try and cut out the sugar, but it is vital for the fermentation process and cannot be substituted. If you use less sugar or the wrong sugar, you may end up starving your SCOBY. 

 

The best sugar to use is white cane sugar. Raw or brown sugar may shorten the SCOBYs' lifespan and is not recommended.

Using honey or other sweeteners like agave and maple syrup is not recommended as they can be hard on your SCOBY, causing inconsistent results in your brewing process.

Sugar substitutes like stevia, xylitol, and artificial sweeteners do not provide enough food or nutrients for your SCOBY and are not recommended.

Kombucha leans toward being acidic, with a typical pH of between 3.2 and 2.5; however, despite it being a weak acid, kombucha has been shown to alkalize the body.

There have been no large-scale studies done concerning the effects of drinking kombucha while pregnant. It may be best to avoid kombucha during pregnancy and breastfeeding due to its caffeine content, small alcohol content, and lack of pasteurization.

Kombucha is full of beneficial bacteria that may help strengthen the health of your intestinal ecology and relieve the effects of bloating from overeating or indigestion as well as ease diarrhea. However, due to kombucha's light carbonation, one should be careful not to consume too much of it, as it may potentially result in bloating

Before deciding when is the best time to consume kombucha, you should know that kombucha has small amounts of caffeine from the tea and trace amounts of alcohol. If you are a person who is easily affected by caffeine, you may want to drink it earlier in the day. For everyone else, you can enjoy kombucha at any time of the day.

 

The amount of alcohol in kombucha is below 0.5 percent. Most people won't feel the effects of this, but if you are very sensitive to alcohol, you will want to bear this in mind when you consider what time of the day you drink your kombucha

Every person is different, and there are various factors to consider. For example, is the kombucha store-bought or home-brewed? How long was the brew fermented? What type of tea or sugar was used? Do you have any medical conditions? Are you very sensitive to caffeine or alcohol? It's up to you to listen to your body and consume what you feel is right and what will contribute to your overall wellness.

Some recovering alcoholics may choose not to drink kombucha because the trace amounts of alcohol may affect them mentally or physically. Others drink Kombucha because they do not get an alcoholic buzz and the effervescence and flavor of kombucha is a great replacement for beer or wine.

No, vinegar should never be added to kombucha as a starter liquid. Vinegar may result in a bad tasting brew, cause contamination, or permanently alter your brew's balance.

Yes, you can use a bottle of store-bought kombucha as a starter liquid.

Herbal tea is not recommended as the herbs don't provide the kombucha with enough nutrients. Herbal teas may also add natural oils into your brew, which could affect the SCOBY's ability to absorb oxygen. They may add unwanted bacteria, affecting the SCOBY's health. It is best to use pure black, green, white, or oolong tea for brewing kombucha. 

Kombucha is fermented in a container for an extended period and will leach toxins from metal and plastic containers. It is best to use glass and lead-free ceramic vessels.

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