Kombucha is a delicious & bubbly drink your whole family will love! It is a healthy, naturally fermented beverage made from brewed tea. Learn the basics and you’ll be making kombucha at home in just a few easy steps!

Kombucha 101

What Is Kombucha?

Put simply, kombucha is a fermented tea that is carbonated, slightly sweet, and filled with good things for your gut. Because of its increasing popularity, many studies have been published in recent years which prove its health benefits. The major ones being that this delicious drink contains, among other things, probiotics, enzymes, and B-vitamins.

What Do I Need to Make Kombucha?

You may purchase prepared bottles of kombucha at the store for around $4 each, however, it’s so simple and much more cost-effective, to make it yourself at home. No fancy tools or expensive ingredients are needed; just a glass jar, a SCOBY, some starter liquid, tea, sugar, and water. In no time at all you will be making your own kombucha at home for pennies a bottle!

What is a S.C.O.B.Y?

If you are not familiar with kombucha, you might be thinking, “What is a SCOBY?!”

S.C.O.B.Y. is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony [or culture] Of Bacteria and Yeast. Some people call it a ‘mushroom’, however, it is not a fungus. It is just a collection, or colony, of bacteria and yeast that is kept alive and thriving by feeding it regularly. You’ll see the same thing forming in homemade apple cider vinegar, and ‘SCOBY’ is what is meant when a store-bought bottle of apple cider vinegar says, “With the Mother.”

Rabbit trail. A friend asked me the other day, “How do you keep your mother alive? I killed mine.” Thankfully we were not in public, but it does bring up a good point: the live culture/colony feeds on sugar; even though it seems like you are adding a lot of sugar to your kombucha, most of it will be consumed by the ‘SCOBY’. When all the sugar is consumed, the mother will die.

Anyway …

A SCOBY will take on the shape of whatever container you put it in. For example, if you have a friend that has a SCOBY, you may simply cut theirs in half or peel off a few layers, and over time it will fit your container perfectly. Ask your friend to give you 1.5 cups of kombucha for a starter, and you’ll be ready to make your own at home. If this is not an option for you, read on.

You may purchase a SCOBY (with starter) online, or you may make one yourself at home. To make one at home you will first need to purchase a bottle of plain, raw kombucha from the store. Drink about half of it, and leave the rest to sit out on the counter; I’d pour it into a wide-mouth mason jar, add a few teaspoons of sugar, mix well, and cover with a coffee filter and rubber band. After a few days, a layer of slimy stuff will begin to form at the top and get whiter and whiter as time goes by. This is the formation of a SCOBY, and the liquid is the starter. Even a small SCOBY will be enough to start a small batch of kombucha. It will grow and grow as time goes on.

If you make your own SCOBY or buy a really small one, you will need to cut the following recipe in third until your SCOBY gets bigger and stronger. 

How to Make Kombucha

Kombucha Ingredients

Only a few ingredients are required to make homemade kombucha, most of which you probably already have in your home!

  • filtered water
  • sugar
  • black tea
  • green tea
  • SCOBY
  • starter, a.k.a. finished kombucha

Basic Method for Making Kombucha

It’s time to learn how to make kombucha! Place the filtered water into a pan on high. Stir in the sugar and tea. Cover. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and sit for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill the glass gallon jar halfway with filtered water. Place a mason jar funnel (optional but very handy) with a small screen sieve over it on the glass jar (see pictured above).

When the tea is done steeping, pour it into the sieve, and funnel it into the glass jar. You should now have a lukewarm mixture, which is very important because too much heat will kill the SCOBY and starter. If you believe your mixture is too warm, it’s best to let it sit until room temperature.

Now add the starter (or finished kombucha) and mix well. Add the SCOBY. For the gallon batch, add more filtered water until you have about 1 inch of headspace.

Taste it and make a mental note; it should taste pretty much like sweet tea.

Now cover it with a coffee filter (or any breathable cloth or paper towel) secured with a rubber band to keep the critters out. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about a week.

If it’s warm in your home, it will be ready sooner. If it’s cold in your home, it might take a little longer. Also, if the SCOBY is just starting off, it might take a little longer. My home is generally around 65* right now and I make more kombucha every week, no-fail. When I first got this particular SCOBY going, however, it took about 10-11 days. In the summer I will probably have to switch to every 6 days or keep it at 7 but have a less-sweet drink. Your home environment is different from mine; I’m just sharing this to help you see that it can vary.

If you are new to making kombucha, it might help to taste it every day just so you can get an idea of how the sugar really is being consumed by the SCOBY, but this is not necessary. You will however need to taste it when you think it’s ready to bottle for the second part of the fermentation process where carbonation is built up.

So, when you think it’s ready, give it a gentle stir and taste it. You are looking for a little bit more than a hint of sweetness, but not even close to as sweet as it was when you first began. More sugar will be consumed during the second fermentation process, so that is why I say “a little bit more than a hint of sweetness”.

How to Bottle Kombucha

To bottle kombucha you will need a few supplies.

  • Glass beer bottles with air-tight lids (either with Grolsch style bottle caps, or normal beer bottle caps and a capper)
  • A funnel that fits into your bottles
  • Glass bottle alternative: Though not really recommended, you may use heavy plastic juice bottles with air-tight lids. These work in a pinch and I’ve certainly had to use them, however, there is a concern with the chemicals in the plastic leaching into the kombucha.

Remove the SCOBY and place it in a bowl. Stir the kombucha and reserve 1 1/2 cups of the kombucha. This is your starter and SCOBY for the next batch; simply repeat the process above.

Funnel the remaining kombucha into the glass bottles, leaving as little headspace as possible. You may put a sieve over the funnel to catch any bits, however, the bits are safe to drink. Cap the bottles securely and set aside for a few days up to a week before storing it in the refrigerator. This “second fermentation” process eats up more of the sugars and in return builds up more CO2. Being in an air-tight environment, the CO2 cannot escape … and now you have fizzy kombucha!

How to Flavor Your Kombucha

Our absolute favorite is plain, unflavored kombucha, however sometimes I make it flavored. To do this, take about a cup of your finished kombucha and blend it with a cup or so of fruit (I love frozen strawberries!). Bottle the remaining kombucha but do not fill it up all the way. Split the blended strawberry mixture among the bottles. If you add the strawberry mixture first, it will fizz a lot and take a long time waiting for the fizz to go down in order to fill the bottles!! So, it’s best to leave room at the top instead.

If you are using plastic juice bottles, it’s super easy to simply add several pieces of fresh or frozen fruit to the bottle before the second fermentation process. Filter the fruit out before serving.

Looking for an alternative Kombucha recipe? Try this easy one too!


More Fermented Foods

Boost your gut health with more probiotic goodness! Try these other fermented food recipes and start feeling healthy now!


Basic Kombucha Recipe

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups filtered water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 bags or 1 Tablespoon loose black tea
  • 3 bags or 1 Tablespoon loose green tea
  • 1 SCOBY
  • 1 ½ cups starter a.k.a. finished kombucha
  • Additional filtered water

Instructions
 

Making Kombucha

  • Pour the 3 cups of water into a pan.
  • Stir in the sugar and tea.
  • Cover and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, fill the glass gallon jar half way with filtered water. Place a mason jar funnel (optional but very handy) with a small screen sieve over it on the glass jar (pictured ).
  • When the tea is done steeping, pour it in to the sieve and funnel it in to the glass jar. You should now have a lukewarm mixture, which is very important because too much heat will kill the SCOBY and starter. If you believe your mixture is too warm, it's best to let it sit until room temperature.
  • Now add the starter (or finished kombucha) and mix well.
  • Add more filtered water until you have about 1-inch of head space.
  • Taste it and make mental note; it should taste pretty much like sweet tea. Now cover it with a coffee filter (or any breathable cloth or paper towel) secured with a rubber band to keep the critters out.

Fermenting Kombucha

  • Allow it to sit at room temperature for about a week. (If it's warm in your home, it will be ready sooner. If it's cold in your home, it might take a little longer. Also, if the SCOBY is just starting off, it might take a little longer. My home is generally around 65* right now and I make more kombucha every week, no-fail. When I first got this particular SCOBY going, however, it took about 10-11 days. In the summer I will probably have to switch to every 6 days or keep it at 7 but have a less-sweet drink. Your home environment is different from mine; I'm just sharing this to help you see that it can vary.)
  • If you are new to making kombucha, it might help to taste it every day just so you can get an idea of how the sugar really is being consumed by the SCOBY, but this is not necessary. You will however need to taste it when you think it's ready to bottle for the second part of the fermentation process where carbonation is built up.
  • When you think your kombucha is ready, give it a gentle stir and taste it. You are looking for a little bit more than a hint of sweetness, but not even close to as sweet as it was when you first began. More sugar will be consumed during the second fermentation process, so that is why I say “a little bit more than a hint of sweetness”.

Flavoring Kombucha

  • Take about a cup of your finished kombucha and blend it with a cup or so of fruit. Bottle the remaining kombucha but do not fill it up all the way. Split the blended strawberry mixture among the bottles. If you add the strawberry mixture first, it will fizz a lot and take a long time waiting for the fizz to go down in order to fill the bottles!! So, it's best to leave room at the top instead.

Bottling Kombucha

  • Remove the SCOBY and place it in a bowl.
  • Stir the kombucha and pour out 1 1/2 cups. This is your starter and SCOBY for the next batch. Simply repeat the process above.
  • Funnel the remaining kombucha into the glass bottles, leaving as little head space as possible. You may put a sieve over the funnel to catch any bits, however the bits are safe to drink.
  • Cap the bottles securely and set aside for a few days up to a week before storing in the refrigerator. This “second fermentation” process eats up more of the sugars and in return builds up more CO2. Being in an air-tight environment, the CO2 cannot escape … and now you have fizzy kombucha!
Kombucha is a delicious, bubbly drink your family will love! Learn the basics and you'll be making kombucha at home in just a few easy steps!