Want to learn how to make kombucha? This tutorial will walk you through each step, plus check out our tips on equipment, carbonating, continuous brew, and more!
Heads Up! This is PART 2 in my Kombucha series! If you need a SCOBY, start here: How to Make a SCOBY.
Have you ever bought something at the grocery store totally by accident?
Did you misread a label, or just not understand, even a little bit, what you were buying?
I have– and that, my friends, is how my love affair with kombucha began.
Maybe I was in a hurry, maybe I was faint from hunger, or maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me, but I thought I was buying a sparkling juice, or sparkling tea, or SOMETHING ELSE.
One sip, however, clued me in that I was not drinking what I expected to be drinking.
I was drinking kombucha.
Kombucha can be an acquired taste, but by the time I finished my first bottle, I was sold!
Now I love it. I even make kombucha popsicles.
Have you also fallen in love with this tasty drink?
Are you tired of paying $3+ a bottle, when you clearly MUST drink this every day?/
Here’s what to do about it.
What is kombucha? What does it taste like?
It’s a fermented black tea.
It tastes like… tea, and yet… not tea.
It does, admittedly, have a faint vinegar-ish taste, but in a delicious way.
Think of it as a cross between a sparkling alcoholic cider and a nice, big glass of iced tea.
Is This a Health Drink? Why Drink it?
For one thing, it’s delicious!
Some people claim kombucha is a “miracle cure” for a whole range of health problems.
I have no idea.
It has, however, been shown to be a natural source of probiotics.
Where Can I Buy Pre-Made Kombucha?
If you’re not sure whether or not you’ll like it, pick up a bottle or two at the store and try it out!
You can find flavored and unflavored kombucha. Try both!
Not sure where to look?
I’ve found it at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, and my local health food store. I’ve even seen it show up at Aldi.
It’ll be refrigerated and is usually near the produce.
Next, once you’ve fallen in love, come back here and ferment tea with me!
Is Kombucha Alcoholic?
It DOES contain trace amounts of alcohol, because alcohol is a natural result of yeast consuming sugar and being left to ferment.
So no– your kombucha should not make you tipsy.
How Do I Make Kombucha?
Start by making a batch of black tea, and adding sugar.
Let the tea cool to room temperature.
If you try to use the tea too soon (when it’s too hot), you’ll kill the bacteria in the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). The SCOBY is the good bacteria that will ferment your tea.
Next, pour the sweet tea into a large glass jar. I use a one-gallon glass jar.
Add a little unflavored kombucha to your sweet tea, along with a SCOBY.
Cover the jar with a paper towel or tea towel, and secure the cover with a rubber band.
Next, let the let the SCOBY and tea sit covered at room temperature for about a week.
Once your tea is fermented, remove the SCOBY along with a little of the fermented tea.
Set the SCOBY and reserved kombucha aside, and use it for your next batch. If you’re not brewing another batch right away, store the SCOBY and kombucha in a small sealed jar in the fridge.
How to Make Flavored Kombucha
Once your tea is fermented, if you want to make flavored kombucha, do that now. If you want unflavored kombucha, skip this step!
There’s two different techniques to make flavored kombucha.
Flavor Option 1: Second Fermentation
The first option is to do a second fermentation with added fruit, spices, herbs, or other flavoring additives. This is a fabulous way to use up fruit that’s past its prime, or to add whole ingredients like cinnamon or cloves.
Here are some of my favorite flavoring ideas:
- Spring: lavender pedals + lemon slices
- Summer: berries or cherries + mint
- Fall: apple, orange, ginger, cinnamon, + clove
- Winter: fresh ginger slices + clove
Ferment the kombucha (SCOBY removed) with the your fruit, spices, and whatnot, for another 1-3 days. Finally, strain out any solids, and then bottle the kombucha.
Flavor Option 2: Add Juice
The second technique is to add juice to your fermented, unflavored kombucha. Simply pour the juice into the kombucha and bottle it.
This technique is a little easier and faster, but will definitely make a sweeter, more sugary drink.
How do I carbonate kombucha?
After you brew the kombucha, you can pour the drink into a bottle and seal it.
It will continue to ferment, pressure will build inside the bottle, and your drink will carbonate itself.
Keep in mind that this step is totally optional.
Does It Matter What Bottles I Use to Carbonate?
You can use plastic soda bottles, reuse store-bought kombucha or water kefir bottles, or use pressure-resistant, swing-top bottles or growlers intended for brewing beer or other carbonated drinks.
I use pressure-resistant swing-top bottles that I bought on Amazon.
Avoid using decorative bottles to carbonate kombucha– they might explode.
Don’t want to find the right bottles? You can also skip the carbonation step.
Don’t want to keep starting new batches? If you try continuous brew kombucha, you don’t have to start over!
Instead of removing the SCOBY, setting aside a starter for your next batch, and bottling the current batch, ferment the tea in a large, glass beverage dispenser with a pour spout.
Dispense as desired, and continue to add more sweet tea as the liquid level goes down.
Do not add fruit, juice, or other flavor additives to the continuous brew, because it could make the SCOBY unstable (or kill it).
Keep in mind that it can be difficult to control the alcohol level in continuous brew.
Have you tried making kombucha? Do you still have questions? Feel free to ask questions in the comment section!
How to Make Kombucha
Basic Kombucha Recipe:
- 14 cups water
- 1 cup granulated white sugar (do not substitute raw sugar)
- 8 bags black tea (or 2 TB loose black tea)
- 2 cups started tea from last batch OR store-bought raw kombucha (unflavored, unpasteurized)
- 1 scoby per fermentation jar
Optional Flavoring Add-Ins:
- fruit, spices
Equipment Needed While Fermenting:
- large pot to boil water / steep tea
- 1 gallon glass jar OR multiple smaller jars (make sure to have 1 SCOBY per jar)
- paper towels or napkins (avoid using cheesecloth if you have a problem with fruit-flies)
- rubber bands
Equipment Needed While Carbonating / Storing:
- Additional gallon jar OR multiple smaller jars
- paper towels or napkins (avoid using cheesecloth if you have a problem with fruit-flies)
- rubber bands
- 2 2-liter soda bottles OR 6 16-oz bottles, PLASTIC or PRESSURE-RESISTANT swing top glass bottles
- mesh sieve or strainer (for flavored kombucha)
- Bring water to a boil, and add tea leaves and sugar. Allow tea to steep until sugar has dissolved and water has cooled to room temperature. Remove the tea bags (or strain out loose tea). Do not proceed to the next step until the tea has completely cooled, or you risk killing the good bacteria in the kombucha.
- Pour into the glass jar (or divide among multiple glass jars). Add store-bought kombucha (or starter kombucha from a previous batch) and the SCOBY and stir. Cover the jar(s) with a napkin or paper towel, and secure with the rubber band.Tip: If using multiple jars, make sure to have 1 SCOBY per jar.
- Set the jar(s) out of direct sunlight (sunlight can keep the tea from fermenting), at room temperature (around 70ºF), and avoid bumping or jostling the jar(s).
- Allow tea to ferment for 7 – 10 days. The longer tea ferments, the stronger the flavor will be, but fermentation is also affected by the temperature where you live. Smell the tea after 7 days, and let it ferment longer if desired.
- Next, pour 2 cups of the fermented tea into a container and set aside. This is your starter for the next batch. Place your SCOBY inside this ‘starter’ kombucha until your next batch of tea is ready.Tip: Don’t forget to set aside the started kombucha and the SCOBY before moving onto the next steps.
Making Flavored Kombucha: (Optional)
- Technique 1 (2nd Fermentation):Add whatever flavoring you want to the jars– such as fruit, hot peppers, herbs– and then recover the jars with napkins and rubber bands. Store jars at room temperature for another 2-3 days. Strain out all of the added flavorings from the tea. Proceed to the bottling or carbonation steps.
- Technique 2 (Flavor Added to Final Bottling):Add desired amount of juice to the kombucha.
- Use a funnel to pour the remaining kombucha into bottles.Refrigerate immediately, or move onto the carbonation steps.
Carbonating Kombucha: (Optional)
- Seal the bottles, and let them sit at room temperature for 1 – 3 days, until fully carbonated. If using plastic bottles, your kombucha is ready when the bottle feels rock-hard. If using glass bottles, “burp” the bottles twice a day to release air. Tip: It is highly recommended to use at least one plastic bottle when you’re learning how to make kombucha, because it’s harder to tell when kombucha in glass bottles has finished carbonating. The kombucha has finished carbonating when the plastic bottle is hard. Store kombucha in the fridge to slow fermentation, and drink within a month.Note: NEVER use glass bottles that are not rated for pressure. Glass bottles not meant for pressure can (and likely will) EXPLODE. If you don’t have bottles that can handle the pressure, stick with plastic bottles.
- Keep it clean! Always wash your hands before handling the scoby, and use clean jars and equipment. Do not, however use antibacterial soap to clean your supplies.
- Label everything! A lot of this process is trial and error, so it’s helpful to know exactly what you did. (Did you add 5 dried chilis to your last batch? Was that too hot, or could you not taste the heat at all? Experiment!)
- DO NOT USE DECORATIVE GLASS BOTTLES- They will EXPLODE! Once you finish fermenting your tea with the scoby, you’ll bottle the tea and allow it to carbonate. Not all bottles can handle carbonation! Skip the decorative bottles– You want a pop-top beer bottle, or a beer growler, or simply a recycled plastic soda bottle. (I’m hesitant to recommend reusing a cheap plastic soda bottle over and over again, but it’s better than having glass explode near you, or all over your pantry or fridge.)
- Remove the scoby BEFORE adding flavoring. When you ferment a batch with the scoby, and before you add any flavoring, place the scoby in the plain kombucha that you’ve set aside for the next batch. The scoby doesn’t like it when the environment changes.
- Going out of town? Simply leave your scoby in a batch of kombucha. That batch might be too vinegary to use, but the scoby will be fine, and you can start over after your trip. If it’s for a longer time-period, either have someone babysit your kombucha, or start over when you get back in town.
- Have fun! Ultimately, this is a learning process from start to finish. Experiment with new flavors, gush about your kombucha fermentation station to your friends, and share your baby scoby with them!
- This is normal: A new, transparent scoby disk appearing on the top of the kombucha batch; stringy pieces of scoby floating in the drink (like with a vinegar mother); the scoby floating on top, on the side, on the bottom– It doesn’t matter where it is, it’s working.
- This is not normal: The tea has mold or smells rotten. Throw away your scoby and tea and start over.