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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!
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?
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.
Want to try more fermented foods? Try making fruit vinegar, milk kefir, water kefir, fermented garlic and homemade yogurt.
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.
However, in general it should have less than 0.5% ABV– a low enough amount that it can legally be sold as a non-alcoholic drink.
So no– your kombucha should not make you tipsy.
I also make higher-alcohol, hard kombucha.
Do I Need a SCOBY?
Yes, you do.
The SCOBY is similar to a vinegar mother. It’s what helps keep the fermentation safe (and tasty!).
The SCOBY is the good bacteria that will ferment your tea.
You can either make your own Kombucha SCOBY or order a SCOBY online.
What Kind of Tea Should I Use?
Kombucha needs black tea. I recommend using organic tea if possible, because it will keep the SCOBY happier.
I’ve been using Anthony’s loose leaf black tea. If you prefer tea bags, I like Lipton organic black tea bags.
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 ruin the bacteria in the SCOBY.
Next, pour the sweet tea into a large glass jar. I use a one-gallon glass jar.
Add a little starter 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 burst.
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 even finish it off).
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
- large pot to boil water / steep tea
- 1 gallon glass jar (or multiple smaller jars)
- paper towels or napkins (avoid using cheesecloth if you have a problem with fruit-flies)
- rubber bands
- 6 pressure-resistant glass bottles
Basic Kombucha Recipe:
- 14 cups water
- 1 cup granulated white sugar Do not substitute raw sugar
- 2 tablespoons organic black loose leaf tea Or use 8 tea bags
- 2 cups starter kombucha Use plain kombucha from last batch OR store-bought raw kombucha (unflavored, unpasteurized)
- 1 scoby per fermentation jar
Optional Flavoring Add-Ins:
- fruit, spices
- Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat 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 hurting 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 vinegar 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.
Make 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Remove the SCOBY before adding juice/fruit etc to the tea. 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.
- 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 SCOBY is black. The tea has mold or smells rotten. Throw away your SCOBY and tea and start over.
Silvia @ Garden in the Kitchen
Had to pin this fantastic recipe to try soon!! I also love kombucha but don’t exactly love the store prices or having to get to it in order to drink one. I really love your tutorial and the way you explain what everything is, including the gel-like live thing that is so weird but necessary ha?? Thanks so much, love this kombucha recipe!!
Oh thanks!!! It is so weird right? Lol. Let me know if you try it out!!!
Whoa, I am a little bit scared by the appearance of the scoby to be honest lol! Freaky is right! But the final colour of the tea looks amazing. I’ve never had kombucha so I think I should buy a bottle to get a n idea of the taste before giving this a go at home myself. I do love making homemade versions of things which are usually just commercially produced so I may well have to give your recipe a go!
It is a little freaky looking!! It’s pretty cool though ???? Let me know if you try it!!!
Julia @ HappyFoods Tube
I’ve been reading about kombucha quite a lot but haven’t seen it here in Spain. I am glad I know now what it actually is and how to make it yourself. Great post!
Natalie Tamara | TheTofuDiaries
I do like kombucha and would love to try making my own so thank you for sharing such a detailed tutorial. It feels a bit daunting trying fermentation for the first time!
Let me know if you give it a try! If it helps, the scoby stages takes a few weeks so you’ve got time to get the kombucha stuff together ????
I didn’t realize how easy it was to make kombucha at home! I am going to have to try this and see how it compares to what I buy. Thanks for sharing!
I’ve never tried kombucha but I love this in depth tutorial. Learning about the scoby was so interesting…thanks for sharing!
sara | belly rumbles
That was an interesting read and I am now up with what kombucha actually is. I’ve never tried it before, never had the desire to. But I did’t realise it was tea based! That does change things a little as I thought it was vegetable based, why, I have no idea, LOL!
Aw well yay! Maybe you saw one that was mixed with greens- for the record, I didn’t like that flavor. Lol
Michelle @ Vitamin Sunshine
What a great overview– this is such a wildly popular trend right now. They got really trendy after I had already moved to Asia, and it’s just starting to pop up around here, but when I am in the States visiting, ITS EVERYWHERE! Brewing your own would be a great way to save money– I know its so healthy.
Thanks! And yessss it’s so pricey to buy the pre-made kind! Plus it tastes delicious from home 😀
Meg @ Adventures in Verdance
Aaaaaand using this. Thanks for posting, lovey!
Michelle - Giraffes Can Bake
I really want to try this so bad!!! I’ve never even tried store bought kombucha but I hear such good things about it!
I need to get my butt into gear and just give this a go!
Yes try it!!! But I’d definitely taste some store-bought before you go through all the effort, just to make sure you like it 😀
Lisa | Garlic & Zest
Ok, the scoby looks like something I make by accident when I leave leftovers in the fridge too long… but if you say it’s good… Maybe. Maybe.
This is definitely a project I want to undertake! It’s been on my “list” to make for a while, and I just have been a little leery of doing it! Your tips are fantastic, and now I am not as worried about it! Thanks for this fantastic post and inspiration!
Aw thanks Leah!!! Let me know how it goes!!!
I was “gifted” a scoby from a friend and was totally intimidated (and kinda grossed out by it ????????). This post helped sooo much in understanding what the scoby is (and why not to be scared of it!) and made me feel so much more confident to give it a try. So glad I did! It’s way easier than it seems at first and delicious! Thanks Sarah!
Haha.. I’m glad I could help with the freaky little scoby 😀 You’re totally welcome!!!
I was intrigued and intimidated by starting down the Kombucha path, however it was well worth it! It is way easier than I ever imagined thanks to the excellent instructions. It is by far the best Kombucha I’ve ever tasted, and I’m experimenting with different flavors now that I feel more confident in what I’m doing. Thanks Champagne Tastes! I would have never tried this without your help!
I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed it!!! Happy to help!
After I got my first SCOBY I followed these instructions religiously, and, Success! My Kombucha tasted exactly like it should. I added some peaches and blueberries to flavor it, just because they were what I had at the time. The peach flavor came through quite well.
My kombucha took very little time to carbonate in the plastic bottles I used. Maybe just a day? I can’t remember, but it was really quick. And then when I went to open a bottle, it fizzed A LOT, so maybe be prepared for that.
This was a fun experiment, and not nearly as hard as a beginner might think.
I’m glad you loved!!! 😀 Thanks!