Kombu-what?? Kombucha is a fermented/cultured beverage that boasts some pretty wonderful health benefits. It starts out as sweetened black tea and with the help of a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) and a little time, it turns into a deliciously tangy, fizzy drink you can feel good about enjoying. Like so many other fermented foods, kombucha is full of good bacteria and yeasts that are very beneficial to digestion and gut health. If you want to learn a more about the health benefits of kombucha, you can have a read here or here.
If you want to start making your own kombucha but are intimidated by the process, don’t be! It’s much easier to make kombucha than you might think.
A gallon sized glass jar. Any big glass container would work and you could totally re-purpose one you have lying around… Just as long as it’s really clean with a narrow(ish) neck to help prevent spills and so you can cover it during the fermentation process. I managed to nab one somewhere randomly a long time ago so when I decided to start making my own kombucha, I was in luck. But if you’re on the hunt for one (and you love Amazon as much as I do) you can get one here.
A clean piece of cloth or a basket style coffee filter that’s big enough to cover your jar’s opening and an elastic band to secure it.
A large mixing spoon.
Container(s) to store or second ferment your finished kombucha in (see storing & bottling section below).
3 to 4 liters of water. Most kombucha brewing guides will say you need to use distilled water for your’s and your SCOBY’s health (which you can read more about here). I have a very healthy, well established SCOBY and high quality tap water where I live and have never had any problems using it. So use your own discretion about what kind of water you’d like to use.
8 black tea bags or the equivalent worth of loose tea and something to strain it with. You can use green or oolong tea to have a different flavour but I’ve always preferred black tea.
1 cup white sugar. Lots of recipes call for organic cane sugar instead. Feel free to use whichever you prefer.
And last but certainly not least, a SCOBY and 2 cups of starter liquid (aka kombucha from a previous batch). If you know someone who brews their own kombucha and can give you a SCOBY and starter liquid or have somewhere you can buy one locally, great! If not, you can order one here.
One thing is should mention is it’s important not to use any reactive metal equipment when making kombucha due to it’s acidic compostion. So make sure to use stainless steel, wood, glass or plastic.
Start with clean and dry equipment and clean hands. No need to get fancy, regular dish soap will do just fine.
Boil 1.5(ish) liters of water and pour it in your gallon jar. Add the sugar and tea bags and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let it steep for 20 minutes or so then remove the tea bags. Add 2(ish) liters of cold water to your sweetened tea. It is very important that your tea is room temperature before adding the SCOBY. If it’s too hot, it will damage or kill her. Test your temperature and then add your SCOBY and starter liquid. Don’t be afraid to handle the SCOBY with your hands. Top off the jar with more cold water, leaving a couple inches of head-space.
Cover with your jar with the clean cloth/coffee filter and elastic band. Now tuck it away somewhere to ferment. Somewhere that’s warm, out of direct sunlight and where it can’t be bumped or spilled. I put mine above my fridge but somewhere like a closet would be a good place too.
Now the not-so-fun part, waiting. How long you have to wait depends on how warm your house is, how active your SCOBY is, how strong you like your kombucha, etc.. Like I mentioned before, the SCOBY I have is well established so she is very active and cultures quickly. I usually can only go a week or so in between brewing batches before it starts to get vinegar-y. The SCOBY feeds off the sugar in the tea so the longer she’s in there, the more she’ll eat which lowers the sugar content.
After you brew a batch or two, you’ll be able to tell just by looking at her when it’s ready. The tea starts out a dark brown, almost black colour, and once it’s cultured will change to a light amber. Plus you’ll see that new baby SCOBY formed like I mentioned in the photo caption earlier.
Once you think your kombucha is done fermenting, you can store it in the fridge and drink as is OR you can flavour and carbonate it with a second fermentation.
If you are not going to do a second fermentation, remove your SCOBYs and 2 cups of the liquid out of your gallon jar and set them aside for your next batch in a clean container (a mixing bowl or quart sized jar will work fine). You only need to use one SCOBY per batch so feel free to gift the new baby ones to friends so they can start making some kombucha of their own! Pour your kombucha into a container with a lid – a big juice jug, a bunch of water bottles, anything that you want to use. Then clean your brewing jar and repeat the whole process. Now you can enjoy your kombucha that’s in the fridge while your new batch cultures!
If you are going to do a second fermentation, you will need some flip top glass bottles with tight fitting lids (these are the ones I have), a funnel, a glass measuring cup or jug to make pouring into the bottles a lot easier and your flavouring of choice. There are SO many flavouring options out there so feel free to experiment. You can use fruit, fruit juice, syrups, spices, herbs, anything you can think of! My favourites so far are strawberry, raspberry, ginger or maple and cinnamon.
Follow the same directions I’ve listed above by removing your SCOBYs and starter. Place your fruit or flavouring of choice into the clean bottles. A little goes a long way with flavours and usually a tablespoon or two is plenty to flavour a 500 ml bottle. If you’re looking for some flavour inspiration, I have a Pinterest board about it you can check out here. Fill the bottles with your kombucha, leaving an inch of head-space. Seal the bottles and tuck them away again in a warm, dark place for 2-5 days. You can pop the tops or “burp” the bottles once a day to check if they’re ready and to release any excess carbonation. Check them over the kitchen sink or wrap a towel around them when you do because sometimes it can fizz over and get messy. Once they’re flavoured and carbonated to your liking, put them in the fridge.
So there you have it, two ways to enjoy kombucha. I hope you love making it and drinking it as much as we do!
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