Kombucha is something that has become incredibly popular and trendy recently (at least in the hippy-ish state of Colorado). I became interested based on the proposed health benefits and its probiotic qualities. Meanwhile, my husband loves the slight vinegary taste mixed with the fruity carbonation goodness and, well, before we knew it, we were on the kombucha wagon!
As I was researching more about Kombucha on the internet, I looked into the idea of making my own and discovered that it wasn’t actually that difficult. Not to mention, because of its high sticker price, this allowed me to save on cost, have fun experimenting with new flavors, and (being the crunchy mama I am) I was able to know exactly what is going into my kombucha and into my body.
There are sooo many variations, and you can have fun trying, experimenting, and mixing new flavor profiles and discovering what you and your family like best.
Here, I breakdown how to start making kombucha at home, in 5 easy steps, so you can start enjoying your own concoctions for a fraction of the price!
What you’ll need:
• Scoby (what the heck is a scoby you might be wondering? I’ll get to that.)
• One-gallon glass or ceramic jar, lid not required
• 15 cups of filtered or distilled water (no tap water!)
• 5-10 bags of plain and organic black, white, or green tea (flavored tea contains oils that can harm your culture)
• 1 cup organic white sugar
• 1 cup of plain kombucha or 2 tbsp cider vinegar
• Muslin, coffee filter, clean kitchen towel, or paper towel; rubber band large enough for opening of jar
• 8-12 glass bottles, preferably flip top bottles
• Fruit, for flavoring (fresh or frozen both work fine)
Step 1: Find a scoby.
Find a scoby (I know, you’re probably still wondering what a scoby is. Stay with me). Not something you can really just “find”, but rather something you buy. I found mine at my go-to place, Amazon, for under $10.
Step 2: Make the tea.
In a large pot, bring 15 cups of distilled water to a boil.
Add water to your glass container, along with 5-10 bags of black, white, or green tea (up to your preference). You can also use the same amount of loose tea, but I find it cleaner and easier with kids running around to drop in 8 tea bags. I’ve used a couple different brands of tea, with my absolute favorite being Teatulia organic black tea. I haven’t had a bad batch yet!
Steep or let sit for about 10 minutes, then remove the tea bags.
Add 1 cup of white sugar and stir to dissolve completely.
Let cool to room temperature, which will take a few hours.
Add the scoby, and then add 1 cup of PLAIN kombucha, or 2 tbsp of cider vinegar.
Cover with muslin, coffee filter, clean kitchen towel, or, what I use is a paper towel. Secure with a large rubber band to keep the brewing kombucha clean and free of airborne impurities!
Place the tea in a warm and dark area, but one that also has airflow (i.e. not inside a cabinet unless open).
Step 3: W A I T.
Anywhere from about 1 week to 1 month, depending upon the temperature and your taste preference. The scoby is hard at work doing its thing and turning the tea into kombucha! You may smell a slightly sour odor, this is normal, and feel free to try a sample using a straw to see how you’re concoction is coming along.
You may also notice a new scoby forming at the top of the jar – it almost looks like mold and the first time I made kombucha I actually threw it down the drain!! It may be slightly yellow and bubbly, and this is normal. Unless you see actual mold growing, let it be.
Step 4: Bottle it up.
Once you decide that your kombucha is perfectly perfect, it’s time to transfer it into smaller, air-tight sealed bottles.
Save your scoby (now hopefully 2 scobies!) in a glass container with enough kombucha to keep it completely covered. Cover with plastic or cloth lid and keep in a safe place where it won’t be disturbed.
I prefer to chop up fresh or frozen fruit first and add to the bottles, then funnel in enough kombucha to fill the bottles. Also try juice, ginger, spices like cinnamon, or whatever your heart desires. Leave 1-2 inches from the top for carbonation, and don’t forget to pop the tops 2-3 times a day to prevent exploding bottles!!
Step 5: Wait, again.
Let the kombucha ferment a little more with the added flavors, anywhere from a few days to a week or more. Once you’ve decided the flavored kombucha is at just the right stage for you, filter out the chunks of fruit and herbs using a strainer. Be sure to store in the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process. We generally drink it up in a week or two, but use your judgement on how long to safely keep your ‘bucha.
Now, what is a scoby?
No, it’s not related to Scooby doo (haha). Scoby is actually an acronym that stands for: Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s a yellowy magic blob that transforms your tea into precious kombucha. Scoby is a combination of bacteria and yeast, which metabolizes the sugar and caffeine (from tea) and fills your cup with the good stuff, like probiotics, amino acids, and vitamins.
What are the benefits?
There are plenty of articles outlining the various benefits of kombucha. While I could reprint them here, I found that the Wellness Mama summarized and explained it pretty well here.
Tips & Tricks
Play around with the length of time for the 1st and 2nd fermentation process.
The flavor combinations are endless. Try finding ideas online or take a look in the refrigerated section of the grocery store for more inspiration. Some of our family favorites include blueberry or strawberry “lemonade”, with either fresh lemon juice or organic lemonade, strawberry mint, and ginger peach.
Sanitize! Make sure to run the glass jars through the dishwasher, sanitize the kitchen and utensils beforehand, and wash your hands with filtered water or vinegar. No soap!
Be nice, and share with your friends and family. Get feedback on which flavor combos were the real crowd pleasers, bounce ideas off of each other for future batches, or buy smaller bottles and use as gifts!
Kombucha can also be used as the base for other homemade foods, like sauces or marinades; in gardening, laundry, cleaners, or just to brew more kombucha!
Share your success stories in the comments below!