Have you ever wondered how to make kombucha – the gut loving healthy fermented tea? It is so easy, cheap and fun to make. You won't need any fancy ingredients or equipment to get started. I am breaking down the basics of everything you need to know below. Let's Brew!
Making homemade kombucha has three steps:
- Make SCOBY (1 to 4 weeks) – to make the “mother”
- First Fermentation (7 to 10 days) – make the actual kombucha tea
- Second Fermentation (3 to 10 days) – to carbonate (make fizzy) the kombucha tea
The SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) pictured above is a pellicle that forms on top of the tea brew. The SCOBY is the “mother” that jumpstarts each batch while simultaneously protecting the kombucha from contaminants like dust. You can buy a ready-made SCOBY online, but it’s easy to make it yourself so why not?
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE A SCOBY
- 7 cups water
- 4 bags organic black tea
- ½ cup white sugar
- 1 cup unflavored, unpasteurized store bought kombucha
SUPPLIES NEEDED TO MAKE A SCOBY
- A large 1 gallon glass container (pickle jars work great!)
- Tightly woven cloth (coffee filter, cheesecloth, papertowels)
- Large pot for boiling water
HOW TO MAKE A SCOBY
1. Make Sweet Tea: Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add the sugar into it, stir until dissolved. Add the tea bags and allow them to steep for at least 20 minutes (or until tea has cooled).
2. Cool to Room Temp: Allow hot tea to cool to room temperature. This is a very important step that you don't want to skip. If you add the store bought kombucha into the warm or hot tea it will pasteurize (aka kill) the starter.
3. Add Starter: Pour the room temp sweetened tea into your jar, then pour store-bought kombucha in, making sure to include any floaties that may be at the bottom of the kombucha bottle. These are perfect for kickstarting the fermentation!
4. Cover: Cover with a few layers of the tightly woven cloth to keep out dust but still allowing your tea to "breathe", securing with a rubber band.
5. Ferment: Set somewhere room temperature (70-75 degrees F) for at least 1 week and up to 4 weeks, until a ¼ inch SCOBY has formed.
6. Go to 1st Fermentation: You have yourself a SCOBY! The SCOBY should be alive and do well for years if treated well. Keep the SCOBY in this liquid until you are ready to use the SCOBY for the next step, which is the 1st fermentation.
- Only black tea: The SCOBY won't grow well with herbal or green teas, it needs some caffeine to thrive in the beginning. Once your SCOBY is larger you can use herbal or green tea (which is what I do), but for creating the scoby stick with black tea.
- No honey: Honey can contain botulism bacteria that, when grown exponentially as bacteria and yeast tend to do in kombucha, can be dangerous. You can use honey in the second fermentation, once there are a higher number of good bacteria to fight off the bad, but for now, stick to sugar.
Here is a picture of a really healthy SCOBY:
Now that you have a SCOBY let's get the fermentation rolling! The first fermentation is where you actually create the kombucha that you’ll be drinking!
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FIRST FERMENTATION
- 14 cups water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 8 bags black or green tea
- 2 cups unflavored kombucha (either from a previous batch or unpasteurized, unflavored store bought kombucha)
- 1 SCOBY
SUPPLIES FOR THE FIRST FERMENTATION
- A large 1 gallon glass container like an old pickle jar
- Tightly woven cloth (cheese cloth, coffee filters, paper towels, etc...)
- Large pot for boiling water
FIRST FERMENTATION INSTRUCTIONS
1. Make Tea: Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it. Add the tea bags and allow them to steep until the tea has cooled to room temperature.
2. Cool to Room Temp: Again, Don’t be impatient here – hot water will murder your SCOBY
3. Empty the Jar: With very clean hands, transfer SCOBY to an equally clean plate. If this is your first round of kombucha, reserve 2 cups of the liquid the SCOBY was growing in (that can be your starter kombucha), discarding the rest of the liquid (it is very acidic and not nice for drinking).
4. Add Starter: Pour the sweetened tea into your jar, then pour in unflavored starter kombucha. With clean hands, place SCOBY into jar.
5. Cover: Cover with a few layers of the tightly woven cloth and secure with a rubber band.
6. Ferment: Set the jar somewhere at room temperature (70-75 degrees) for 6 to 10 days. Begin tasting at about 6 days by gently drawing out some of the tea with a clean spoon. It should be slightly sweet and mildly vinegary. The warmer the air temperature, the faster the kombucha will ferment. The longer the tea ferments, the more sugar molecules will be eaten up, the less sweet it will be.
7. Go to 2nd Fermentation: Reserve 2 cups from this batch to use as starter kombucha for your next batch (just leave it in the jar with SCOBY). The rest can move into the second and final fermentation.
TIPS ABOUT THE FIRST FERMENTATION
- Other teas can be used in this step! You are free to experiment with green, white, oolong, or herbal tea. I personally love using our allergy tea blend! In the beginning herbal teas should be mixed with a few black tea bags to ensure the SCOBY gets what it needs to thrive. Once I have an established scoby after a couple of uses I only use herbal tea since I don't prefer to consume caffeine.
- Large SCOBY? When the SCOBY gets to be around an inch thick, you can peel off a few layers to create a second SCOBY (use it to create another batch or gift it to a friend!). You can also get a SCOBY hotel going as pictured below! I have an awesome SCOBY hotel.
In my opinoin this is the most fun step in the kombucha making process! The second fermentation is where the real magic happens, flavoring and carbonating your kombucha into bubbly goodness.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SECOND FERMENTATION
- Homemade kombucha from the first fermentation
- Sweetener (fruit, honey, or sugar). There are SO many flavor combinations but as general rule work with a ratio of 1 cup kombucha to:
- 1 to 2 Tbsp fruit or fruit juice (although I have been known to use up to 1/2 cup of blueberries)
- 1 to 2 tsp honey or sugar
SUPPLIES FOR THE SECOND FERMENTATION
You just need some flip top fermentation bottles as pictured above for the second fermentation. These bottles are meant for fermentation and have an airtight seal, which will prevent carbonation from escaping. If you don’t have these, canning jars will do an decent job but won't get it near as carbonated since they aren't fully airtight, but I use them in a pinch.
SECOND FERMENTATION INSTRUCTIONS
1. Bottle: Funnel kombucha into bottles, leaving about 1 1/2 inches at the top (3.8 cm).
2. Sweeten: Add your chosen sweetener (fruit or sweetner) and seal tightly.
3. Ferment: Let ferment somewhere dark and at room temp for 3 to 10 days.
4. Serve: If desired, strain out fruit before serving (I often freeze the fruit to eat later). Place in fridge to slow the carbonation process.
THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT THE SECOND FERMENTATION
- Blast Off: Your jars can explode if the pressure becomes too high! For your first few batches while you’re still getting the hang of how kombucha reacts to your environment, bottle a portion of it in a plastic bottle. This will act as a gauge for the others; when the plastic bottle is rock solid, the rest are probably done. “Burp” them by opening each to release some pressure, then place them in the refrigerator to slow fermentation.
- Faster Fermentation: Be aware that the kombucha will ferment more quickly when it is warmer and when there is more sweetner. It will ferment slower in the opposite conditions!
MY FAVE FRUIT FLAVOR COMBINATIONS
- Fresh or Frozen Bluberries with fresh mint
- 2 tbsp- 1/4 cup of our elderberry and honey tonic
- Fresh or Frozen Strawberries with fresh mint
- Blood orange and fresh rosemary
- Frozen dragonfruit and cucumbers
- For a spicy mix I do 2-3 inch fresh raw turmeric, dash of ground cayenne pepper, 1 inch fresh raw ginger and a little bit of molasses for the sugar
- 1/2 an apple cubed, 2 ceylon cinnamon sticks
You can eat the fruit after it's fermented as well, I usually freeze it for later!