WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha - it's that effervescent, tangy fermented drink that seems to be ever-growing in popularity.
But keeping up with the latest fermented foods trends and probiotic benefits can come at a hefty price.
Why shell out $3 to $4 a bottle when you can learn how to make kombucha fermented tea from the comfort of your home from a humble kombucha scoby? We'll show you how to make up to a gallon of kombucha (that's 8 bottles) for a fraction of the cost of commercial brands with easy homemade kombucha instructions.
Whether you’re new to making kombucha or a seasoned fermenting expert, now you can brew delicious kombucha tea at home with our easy-to-follow kombucha recipe and How-To Video.
Before You Begin Brewing Kombucha
To get started brewing at home, you will need a Kombucha Tea Starter Culture (also known as a SCOBY, mother, or mushroom) plus some ingredients and equipment.
If you are just doing some research, browse this page along with our expert advice on making homemade kombucha tea.
WHAT IS A SCOBY?
If you're familiar with kombucha, you're probably also familiar with that leathery, pancake-like blob called a SCOBY. The acronym stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Due to its appearance, it is sometimes referred to as a "mushroom," although it is not technically a mushroom. Rather, it is the mother culture required to make kombucha tea.
Not all kombucha mother scobys contain the exact same strains of bacteria and yeasts, but they all generally do the same work.
How to Obtain a Kombucha SCOBY
1.) PURCHASE A SCOBY
We may be biased, but buying a kombucha scoby is a good place to get started. When you purchase a scoby you can know that you're getting a healthy, well-balanced scoby grown in an environment optimized for its health.
Cultures for Health sells kombucha tea starter cultures (SCOBYs) on their own or as part of their Kombucha Tea Starter Kit. These starter cultures can be shipped in a dehydrated state or as a fresh, ready-to-go kombucha scoby and you have the benefit of knowing that they have been pathogen-tested for your safety.
We grow our scobys in-house using our own fermentation team with years of experience to make sure that each scoby we send out is perfectly balanced and ready to perform.
If you have purchased a dehydrated Kombucha Tea Starter Culture, please visit our video on Activating a Dehydrated Kombucha SCOBY to get started. After activating our dehydrated SCOBY, please follow the enclosed homemade kombucha instructions for making your first batch of kombucha. The instructions in this video and article are for making kombucha regularly, using a fully activated kombucha SCOBY.
2.) GET A KOMBUCHA SCOBY FROM AN ACQUAINTANCE
Anyone who is regularly making kombucha tea usually has one to share. Ask around, or check for fermenting groups in your area. When you find a good source, ask for a SCOBY and at least 1/2 cup starter tea, enough to make your first-quart batch.
Just do your best to make sure that the kombucha that this acquaintance is producing is well balanced and healthy, with a pleasant, tart smell and good flavor. While you can recover imbalanced scobys, it's not a pleasant start to kombucha making.
When you are ready, let us help you make your first batch of delicious kombucha, with our complete instructions and helpful how-to video.
3.) GROW A SCOBY FROM KOMBUCHA TEA
Many grocery stores now carry bottled kombucha tea. If you are up for a little experimenting and have a lot of patience, growing your own SCOBY from a bottle of raw kombucha is another option. It takes a little trial and error and it will be a little longer before you're producing your own kombucha, but if you're up for it just follow the instructions below.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR GROWING A KOMBUCHA SCOBY
- Purchase a bottle of raw, unflavored kombucha.
NOTE: Make 1 cup of black or green tea. While the water is hot, add 1-2 tablespoons white sugar. Mix until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved, then cool completely to room temperature. While this step is not critical to the process, adding a cup of sweet tea to the bottle of ready-made kombucha gives the yeast and bacteria additional food to consume during the process of growing a new culture. Learn more about choosing the best ingredients for making kombucha tea.
- Pour the raw kombucha and the cooled tea into a glass jar.
- Cover the jar with a tight-weave dish towel or a paper coffee filter. Secure the covering with a tight rubber band.
- Ferment the tea in a warm spot, 68-85ºF, out of direct sunlight, for about 7 days.
- After a week, it is common to see a baby SCOBY developing across the surface of the liquid. A new SCOBY starts off as a clear film or blob and then slowly become less translucent, more white, and thicker as time goes on. If no signs of SCOBY development appear after 3 weeks, discard the batch and start over. We recommend waiting until the SCOBY is at least ¼-inch thick before using it to brew the first batch of kombucha tea. Reaching that thickness may take up to 30 days.
- Retain the kombucha tea and the new SCOBY for making your first batch of kombucha and then follow our instructions on kombucha tea at home.
HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA
Equipment you Need for Making Kombucha Tea
Making kombucha tea at home is easy, and it only requires a few pieces of equipment to get started. You can learn more about choosing the best equipment for making kombucha in this article, but in short, you will need:
- Quart-Size Glass Jar
- Tight-Weave Cloth or Paper Coffee Filter
- Something to secure the cover to the jar (rubber band or canning jar rings work well)
- Plastic Mesh Strainer
- Measuring Cups
Most of the supplies you need can also be found in one of our DIY Kombucha Kits. These kits make getting started easy. All you supply is a glass jar and a few kitchen staples. Everything else from a SCOBY and tea to bottles, and flavorings are included.
Ingredients for Making Kombucha
Below is a list of ingredients needed for making kombucha, most of which can be found in the Kombucha Tea Starter Kit. To explore more options for each, check out our tutorial: Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha.
- 3 cups Water free of chlorine and fluoride (bottled spring water works well)
- ¼ cup white or plain organic cane sugar
- 2 Tea Bags or 1 ½ teaspoon Loose Tea
- ½ cup Starter Tea or Distilled White Vinegar
- Active Kombucha SCOBY
These amounts will yield one quart of kombucha. If you’d like to make larger batches, refer to the ratio chart below. If you have just started making kombucha, we also recommend slowly working up to larger batch sizes to help maintain proper ingredients ratios and to avoid stressing the SCOBY.
While it may be tempting to experiment with different types of vinegar, it's very important to always use distilled white vinegar to ensure an appropriately acidic environment. Apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar are not appropriate for making kombucha tea.
EASY KOMBUCHA TEA RECIPE
- Combine hot water and sugar in a glass jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. The water should be hot enough to steep the tea but does not have to be boiling.
- Place the tea or tea bags in the sugar water to steep.
NOTE: Using a metal tea ball to contain loose tea for making kombucha is acceptable. The tea ball should be removed before adding the SCOBY and starter tea, so the tea ball will not come into contact with the SCOBY.
- Cool the mixture to 68-85ºF. The tea may be left in the liquid as it cools or removed after the first 10-15 minutes. The longer the tea is left in the liquid, the stronger the tea will be.
- Remove the tea bags or completely strain the loose tea leaves from the liquid.
- Add starter tea from a previous batch to the liquid. If you do not have starter tea, distilled white vinegar may be substituted.
- Add an active kombucha SCOBY.
- Cover the jar with a tight-weave towel or coffee filter and secure it with a rubber band.
- Allow the mixture to sit undisturbed at 68-85°F, out of direct sunlight, for 7-30 days, or to taste. The longer the kombucha ferments, the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste.
- Pour kombucha off the top of the jar for consumption. Retain the SCOBY and enough liquid from the bottom of the jar to use as starter tea for the next batch.
- The finished kombucha can be flavored and bottled if desired or enjoyed plain.
- 1½ teaspoon loose tea OR 2 tea bags
- ¼ cup sugar
- 2-3 cups water
- ½ cup starter tea or vinegar
- 1 tablespoon loose tea OR 4 tea bags
- ½ cup sugar
- 6-7 cups water
- 1 cup starter tea or vinegar
- 2 tablespoons loose tea OR 8 tea bags
- 1 cup sugar
- 13-14 cups water
- 2 cups starter tea or vinegar
Flavor and Bottle to Make Your Kombucha Fizzy!
Once the kombucha has finished culturing, remove the SCOBY and enjoy it plain or add flavoring. There is no limit to the flavoring possibilities. For a fizzy fermented tea, try bottling it in a Grolsch-style bottle or another tightly-sealed container.
KOMBUCHA SCOBY TROUBLESHOOTING?
Starting a new project can be tricky at times, but with our tips and resources, we are confident that you'll be successful.
Whatever the case, browse our troubleshooting FAQ and you'll be in good shape to make the best homemade kombucha possible!
WE MAKE IT EASY
At Cultures for Health we believe that anyone--on any diet and at any skill level--can make and enjoy the benefits of traditional fermented foods. Through our product offering, recipes, tutorials, and how-to videos, we'll give you the tools you need to nourish your family and live healthily.
You Can Do This.
Find everything you need to get started with one of our DIY Kits.
Once you've been brewing kombucha for a while, you may find it more convenient to set up a kombucha continuous brewing system.
Rather than changing brewing containers for every batch, this method allows you to make larger batches, one after the other in the same container.
Not only does this create a nice little fermentation ecosystem, but a kombucha continuous brew system also is low maintenance and provides a healthy environment for your SCOBY.
MORE WAYS TO USE KOMBUCHA
Don't forget, kombucha is good for more than just drinking! Because a new culture is created with nearly every new batch of kombucha, it is easy to quickly become overrun with SCOBYs. Some people use new SCOBYs for making extra batches of kombucha. However, at some point, most people find they are overrun with extra SCOBYs. If the SCOBY hotel fills up, try these ideas for using up the extras.
- Share! The best way to use extra kombucha SCOBYs is to help others start their own kombucha brew.
- Experiment. Try making a batch with a different sweetener, tea, or juice. Since the SCOBY is extra, it can be discarded once the batch is finished culturing.
- Add to a Smoothie. Add a piece of SCOBY to a smoothie or other blended food.
- Make Jerky. Marinate the SCOBY in your favorite sauce for 24 hours before drying, if desired, for extra flavor. Lay SCOBYs flat on a piece of unbleached parchment paper and dry at 80°-90°F until they reach the consistency of jerky. Cover with a cloth to keep pests away. Consume as a treat or cut up and add to a salad, trail mix, etc.
- Make Candy. There are a few ways to make kombucha SCOBY candy. Choose one that works for you, using your sweetener of choice.
- Substitute for Raw Fish in Sushi. With a texture similar to squid, kombucha SCOBYs can be cut up and eaten along with the nori, rice, vegetables, etc.
- Use as a Face Mask. Kombucha SCOBYs can be used as a face mask, either whole or ground up.
- Use As a Bandage. SCOBYs can be used as a live bandage, or under a bandage. It will sting a little. The acidity is believed to help support healing.
- Feed to Pets. Kombucha SCOBYs can be fed to pets either fresh or using the same process for making kombucha jerky to make a dried pet treat.
- Add to Chicken Feed. Many chicken owners find their chickens really appreciate a fresh SCOBY as a treat.
- Compost. SCOBYs can be added whole to the compost pile or ground up and added directly to the soil of plants.
- Make Crafts. Kombucha SCOBYs can be dried until they are stiff but flexible. Use as a replacement for leather in toy drums, shoes, or other craft items.
- Make Jun Tea. Jun Tea is another ancient fermented drink. You can make it at home by slowly converting a kombucha SCOBY to feed on green tea and honey. This experimentation works best with backup SCOBYs so trying out this delightful drink is another way to use up extra SCOBYs.
STORING YOUR KOMBUCHA SCOBY
Working with live cultures like a SCOBY means they need the proper care and attention. While SCOBYs can give you an endless supply of kombucha tea, there may be times when you need to take a break from brewing kombucha. Learn more about how to do this in our tutorial: How to Take a Break from Making Kombucha.
JUST THE GIST: MAKING HOMEMADE KOMBUCHA
- What You’ll Need: Active SCOBY, water, sugar, tea, distilled white vinegar or starter tea, glass jar, cover, and warm spot out of direct sunlight.
- Instructions: Dissolve sugar in water, steep tea, let it cool, remove tea bags, add vinegar or starter tea, and SCOBY, cover, and culture for 7-30 days at room temperature (68-85°F) out of direct sunlight. Retain tea and SCOBY for the next batch. Repeat.
- Fermentation Temperature & Time: 70-80º F is the ideal culturing temperature. Warmer temperatures speed up fermentation, cooler temperatures slow it down. The longer you let your kombucha culture the less sweet and more vinegary it will become.
- Signs of Fermentation: Flavor becomes less sweet more vinegary, SCOBY thickens, stringy brown yeast particle present, haze or new baby SCOBY at top of the liquid, tea has lightened in color.
- Bottling & Flavoring: Flavor finished kombucha or bottle it to give is extra carbonation. HOW-TO VIDEO: Flavoring & Bottling Kombucha Tea.
- Continuous Brew Kombucha: A more advanced brewing method for making larger batches - learn more!
- Troubleshooting: Try our Kombucha Troubleshooting FAQ for answers to most common issues.
- Storing Kombucha: Learn how to make SCOBY Hotel to store kombucha or take brewing breaks.
Find everything you need to get started at the Cultures for Health shop!
Now that you know exactly how to make kombucha, it's time to gather everything you need and the best place to do that is here with Cultures for Health!
This kit has everything you need to brew kombucha at home all in a convenient all-in-one package.