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How to Brew Kombucha

Booch. Kombucha. Komboocka (if you’re my father-in-law). Kabookie (also if you’re my father-in-law).

However you say it, you’ve probably heard about it. Maybe your friend’s crazy crunchy-granola hippie friend drinks it, maybe your somewhat-wacko mom drinks it, or maybe you’ve just heard about it through all the natural blogs you read. Either way, you’ve heard about it and you want to know more.

If you were to type in “what is kombucha” on Google, you’d get:

“a beverage produced by fermenting sweet tea with a culture of yeast and bacteria”

Mmmm.. culture of yeast and bacteria…. Wait, don’t run away yet!! I know the whole, “culture of yeast and bacteria” sounds a bit weird, but I promise, it’s the good bacteria you want to keep around.

I really don’t want to go into too much of the scientific detail of kombucha (you can learn about that here though) because, well, I’m not a kombucha expert. I have no place to be rattling off probably true claims like that it acts as a probiotic (aiding in gut health and digestion) or that it boosts your immune system because it’s rich in anti-oxidants.

Nope, I just want to share how to brew kombucha with you because in the Adams’ household, we are kombucha lovers and I’m sure you’re longing to love kombucha, as well.

Plus, if you start adding up those $4 bottles of kombucha that your son drinks in one day and wants more the next, well, you’ll start to realize that you’re probably going broke… and quick.

The funny thing is, brewing kombucha wasn’t one of my first “crunchy granola” acts (making bone broth was). In fact, it took me a long time to brave up the courage to brew kombucha in my home.  Something about the fermenting and getting the scoby scared me off, but now that I’ve been brewing kombucha for 6 months, I realize I should have started brewing it a long time ago.

I’m here to let you know that it is easy and there is nothing you need to be afraid of.

There are a few things that you’ll need to make brewing kombucha at home easy. You may have seen the pre-packaged kombucha brewing kits you can buy (and you can certainly get one of those), or you can do it like me and piece everything together.

Scoby

A scoby (or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is that mushroom placenta looking thing that lays on the surface on the kombucha. Finding a scoby is the hardest part — if you will — of brewing kombucha. I got mine from a friend and I suggest if you have Facebook, find a kombucha group and see if someone can mail you a scoby. If not, you can purchase a scoby online.

Glass Gallon Jar

I try and brew 2 gallons of kombucha each week. I started off with one but when I realized that we were going through one gallon quicker than I could blink my eye, I needed to double time it. With that being said, I have two different glass gallon jars for brewing and I have to say, the taller, more narrow one is my favorite over the short and fat one. I have a very small kitchen with even smaller storage space so the narrower one makes more sense for me. Plastic is a no-no for brewing kombucha, and you can read why here.

Breathable Cloth Cover

You’ll need a breathable fabric to go over the top of your kombucha while it’s fermenting. You can use a cheese cloth, unbleached flour sack, or even a cloth napkin, along with rubber band to secure it. I got the little cloth that fits specifically for the taller jar and I love it. Simply because there is not a lot of excess cloth hanging over and it’s more stream lined. I use a homemade cloth napkin for the short and fat jar.

Tea, Sugar, and Starter

Part of the fermentation process includes the tea and sugar. I use the big package of Whole Food’s brand organic black tea and organic green tea (organic teas do not have fluoride in them) and use a natural white cane sugar that I know is not genetically modified (read more about how to tell if your sugar is genetically modified). I was using the organic white cane sugar but because of how often we go through kombucha, it simply was not affordable. White cane sugar is also the easiest for the scoby to digest. You can learn more about using different types of teas and sugars here.

The starter is basically brewed kombucha (the finished product). If your friend didn’t give you some with your new scoby, you can buy plain kombucha at the store and use that.

Bottles

If you want to flavor your kombucha, finding good bottles for the second ferment is a must. If you don’t have a good seal, it is less likely that you will end up with fizzy kombucha. I personally like the fizz, so I took care to find bottles that work. I bought flip top bottles from Ikea but the seal does not work well. Then I found these flip top bottles on Amazon and they work much better. Ideally, you really want dark colored flip top bottles because from what I’ve heard, they are much stronger than the clear glass. Eventually, I am going to make the switch to the amber bottles. We’ll talk more about what flavors to use in the next post where I have over 15 ways to flavor your kombucha.

You’ll notice I have included two ways you can brew your kombucha. I use the first way after a friend suggested to me that she brews her kombucha like that. The second way is what you’ll find in Nourishing Traditions and other traditional kombucha brewing sites. I believe you boil the water to get rid of any possible contaminants in the water (which could affect how your brew turns out). I haven’t had any issues doing it the first way but I just wanted to throw both ways out to you so you can choose what you feel most comfortable with.

How to Brew Kombucha
 
Ingredients
Equipment Needed
Ingredients
  • 12 cups water, filtered if possible
  • 4 bags organic black tea
  • 1 bag organic green tea
  • 1 cup organic or natural cane sugar (non-GMO, please)
  • 1 cup starter liquid (obtain from a friend with scoby, or purchase original GT kombucha from store)
  • 1 scoby (find one from a friend or purchase here)
Instructions
Way 1
  1. Pour 1 cup of sugar into your glass jar
  2. Add 4 cups of warm water; stir to dissolve sugar
  3. Pour in the remaining 8 cups of water; stir
  4. Place tea bags in the water and let sit for 5-10 minutes; remove tea bags
  5. Pour in your starter liquid; stir
  6. Place scoby on top; cover with breathable fabric; place rubber band around cloth so it doesn't move
  7. Place in a warm, dark cabinet for anywhere from 5-30 days (we usually do about 7 days)
  8. Kombucha is ready when another scoby has formed on top of the "mother" and you notice small bubbles when you move the kombucha around
  9. At this time, you can drink as is or flavor for the second ferment (blog post coming soon)
Way 2
  1. Boil 12 cups of water; add in 1 cup of sugar; stir to dissolve
  2. Turn off heat; add in tea; brew for 5-10 minutes; remove
  3. Let sit until the tea becomes room temperature (this can take 5-8 hours)
  4. Repeat steps 5-9

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17 Comments

    1. Hello,

      I am following your instructions and I have placed my SCOBY a and liquid in the sweet tea. I noticed however that even after straining my tea (I used bags but one of the bags opened), there are tea leaves in my brew.
      1) will this have a negative effect?
      2) I used a metal strainer which I washed with soap and thoroughly rinsed and then sprayed 3% h2o2 on – will this metal have a negative effect?

      Thank you!

      1. Hi there! No, it won’t affect your brew negatively. Regarding the metal strainer, I’ve heard that you were supposed to use metal because the kombucha reacts. Do you have a cheesecloth or flour sack towel you could use?

        1. I used a metal strainer so I’ll see if my first attempt doesn’t work! It never directly contacted the SCOBY a but the liquid passed through as I strained it from the pot into the jar.

          My SCOBY was floating for the first couple days and is now at the bottom, which I hope is okay! Thanks for your help 🙂

    2. Hello! I made my first batch of booch ever!! So excited! Im getting ready for second ferment and this is so helpful thank you! Question for you, do you have info or can you direct me to figure out what to do with baby scoobys? Do I just leave them in the brew, move them in another container?? I’m just not sure about this. Thank again!

  1. I brewed my hooch as always like your recipe but decided to do a double brew for some fiz! I think I put it to much smooshed berries and juice. About 2 Tbs and its not fizzy? Should I put it in the fridge and be done with it ?

  2. Hi there – I arrive here looking for interesting flavours for my kombucha (good ideas here, which I will be using this afternoon) and saw your comment re boiling/or not boiling the tea. I’m British, been drinking tea since the late 1950s – if you don’t put boiling water on the tea leaves you aren’t going to release all the flavour in the tea. I have a problem with the method I use wanting the tea bags “boiled for 10 minutes”. I do it that way – but having tea boiling away on the stove top: well, my old Grandma is turning in her grave, “you’re going to stew that tea Hinnie, you take the boiling water to the pot and just put it on the tea leaves, nothing more than that” she’d say (and I think the late Queen Mother, bless her soul, would have agreed with Grandma. So I may stop soon, and simply pour on boiling water and then allow to infuse (ie just sit and get cold ……). I can’t see how boiling the water would get rid of contaminants – unless you were maybe camping and using stream water? In Britain, all our tap water is of drinking quality and therefore has no contaminants (London water is an exception, a horrible horrible exception). But I still let it sit for 24 hours to allow the chlorine to dissipate.
    I’ll be checking out this site often now I’ve found it. Thanks.

  3. Hello,

    Based on my own experience, one does not have to have a scoby to start brewing kombucha. Just buy a bottle of already brewed kombucha and use it as a starter. It will take a little longer, e.g. 2 weeks instead of 1, to brew your first batch, but by the end you will have kombucha AND your own scoby that you grew yourself and that you can use going forward. I did this twice and it work both times.

    Hope this helps.

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