How to Make Kombucha

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Kombucha wasn’t something I instantly fell in love with but when I did fall, I fell hard.

Initially, I wasn’t crazy about the slightly sour and fizzy taste. Maybe I just tried the wrong brands or wrong flavors? But I kept trying different ones and then something snapped for me.

I became hooked on GT’s Synergy – specifically Trilogy, Cosmic Cranberry and Gingerberry. One of the reasons I love those three so much is that they are super low in sugar – either 2 grams or 4 grams per serving (2 servings per bottle).

Now, while I clearly love the GT’s, they are really pricey. Where I live one bottle is somewhere between $3.29 and $3.59 each and it was quickly becoming an expensive habit.

This is where Hannah from Blue Kale Road comes in. One day while we were having coffee, she casually mentioned that she home brews her own Kombucha. I nearly fell over from excitement because I was really interested in learning but it just seemed so overwhelming to me and I had no idea where to get a SCOBY. Hannah told me you can usually get them at Farmer’s Markets (at least here in Seattle), some health food stores and I’ve since found out you can even get them online!

The way I remember it I practically begged her to give me a hands-on lesson and lucky for me, Hannah agreed! Fast forward a couple weeks and Hannah came over my house (after sending me a list of what I needed) and taught me how to home brew Kombucha. And you know what? It wasn’t hard AT ALL. 

I really psyched myself out for no reason and I am thinking a lot of you might be doing the same so today I am sharing a tutorial for how to get started to make your own Kombucha!

Oh, and it’s important to note that I was in Canada a couple of weeks ago and tried a GT’s Synergy called Divine Grape that was by far and away my absolute favorite Kombucha I’ve ever tasted. It reminded me of a lightly flavored fizzy grape soda. I think I had at least one a day while in B.C. but I haven’t seen it anywhere in Seattle so when I put this last batch of Kombucha in to its second fermentation, I naturally made it Concord Grape. It’s delicious!

NOTES:

  • I snapped all the in-process pictures at my house but the two main photos are from my friend Pamela of BOLIG PHOTOGRAPHY. I brought some of my precious Concord Grape Kombucha to Pam’s last week for our photo lessons and it wound up in front of the camera. Not an easy subject but Pam made it look beautiful (of course!) and I learned a lot about photographing beverages!
  • I used Organic Sencha tea per Hannah’s suggestion and really love the light, delicate flavor of the finished Kombucha. My next experiment is going to be Yerba Mate but I know others who use different varieties of green tea and of course, black teas.

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons organic loose leaf tea (I used Sencha)
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 12 cups filtered water, divided
  • SCOBY mother (What is a SCOBY?)
  • 1 1/2 cups plain kombucha

Equipment:

How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com

First Fermentation:

  1. In a saucepan, combine 4 cups of the water with the sugar. Place candy thermometer in the pot and bring to a low (170F) boil. Stir to completely dissolve the sugar, turn off the light and add the loose tea. Stir and allow to steep for 15 minutes.How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com
  2. While the tea is steeping, pour the remaining 8 cups of water into your large glass jar. Once the tea is done steeping, place mesh strainer over mouth of jar and pour tea through.How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com
  3. Discard tea leaves and place candy thermometer in glass jar. When tea temperature is below 85F (room temp), pour in SCOBY and 1 1/2 cups plain kombucha.How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com
  4. Place cheesecloth over top of jar and secure with a rubber band. Date the jar and set in a warm area (75 to 80F) of your kitchen (or somewhere else in the house). You need to let the tea ferment anywhere from 10 to 14 days depending on how warm the environment is that the tea is left in. The best way to gauge is to test with a straw (least disruptive to the SCOBY) every other day starting at day 9 or 10. If the tea still tastes sweet, let it sit. When it begins to taste slightly tart or sour, you can move it to the second fermentation. My tea was perfect (for me) at day 12 and our kitchen has been very warm (upper 70’s, low 80’s due to warm Seattle summer and no air-conditioning).How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com

Second Fermentation (adding flavors and fizz):

  1. Gently remove the SCOBY and 1 1/2 cups of the mature Kombucha to a bowl or measuring cup (or container if not starting a new batch). *NOTE: This is a good time to reuse the SCOBY and start a new batch.*
  2. Decant the Kombucha into glass jars that have tightly seal-able lids. Hannah uses beer growlers and I used mason jars for my first batch. I’ve since been saving all of my GT’s Kombucha jars and removing the labels (I wish I would have thought about that before!)How To Make Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com
  3. I added 1 ounce of Organic 100% Concord Grape Juice (not from concentrate) to every 3 1/2 cups Kombucha. Make sure to top off each glass jar so that you only leave about 1 to 2 ounces of air before sealing. This will help create a nice fizz.Concord Grape Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com
  4. Cap the jars or bottles tightly, date them and leave out in the same spot you fermented the tea the first time. This is the really hard part, waiting around for the Kombucha to get fizzy and flavorful! It took me 6 days and may take you anywhere from 5 to 10 days depending on warmth in the area you are using. Once it is fizzy enough, move the capped bottles to the fridge to slow down fermentation and Enjoy!

Some Additional Notes:

  • As you continue to brew, a new SCOBY baby may form. Over time it will thicken and you may want to remove the older piece and give to a friend to start their own Kombucha or even have multiple batches going at once. You can also compost or discard it.
  • If you want to double the batch (which I have been doing), make sure to double the amount of tea, sugar and amount of mature Kombucha to start with (6 T of tea, 2 Cups Sugar and 3 Cups Mature Kombucha).
  • Some Kombucha brewers have alerted me that mason jars may not be good vessels for 2nd fermentation becuase of the pressure buildup from the carbonation (they can explode apparently). Reusable glass bottles (like the GT’s) with screw-top lids and flip-top cap bottles seem to be very popular and yield good results.
  • As for the Points Plus values, I used a bottle of GT’s Divine Grape to calculate the PP and one 8-ounce serving is 1 Point.
  • I had a lot of questions about the SCOBY. “How do I know it’s healthy?” “Is there mold?” “What is the stringy stuff in there?” etc. Instead of badgering Hannah with a million and one questions, i did a bit of research and found the following sites to be the most helpful.

Kombucha FAQhttp://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha-tea-frequently-asked-questions-faq  AND http://www.kombuchakamp.com/basic-kombucha-faq

Continuous Brewing: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/kombucha-continuous-brewing-system

Kombucha Recipe and Cleaning Tipshttp://www.kombuchakamp.com/kombucha-recipe

Concord Grape Kombucha from www.everydaymaven.com

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Comments

  1. Brigitte R. says

    Great info… love the easy to follow instructions and details. This is what I’m using to make my initial batch of booch. One thing I would like to suggest is to use a coffee filter, lint-free cotton fabric or something other than the cheese cloth. If you live in an area that has fruit flies, they can easily come through the holes in the cheese cloth.

  2. Stephen says

    Hi Alyssa-

    This looks great! Quick question, though…

    Under Fermentation 1, Step 1, you write,

    “Place candy thermometer in the pot and bring to a low (170F) boil. Stir to completely dissolve the sugar, turn off the light and add the loose tea……”

    Do you really mean turn off the light? ;o)

  3. Mary /Beth says

    I plan on making my own Kombucha very soon. I was just wondering, after it is completed and bottled–how long will it keep under refrigeration? Is it about 30 days–like GT’s? Thanks so much for all the info!!

  4. Zoie Perkins says

    I came across all this by searching for weight watchers stuff. I to love Kombucha and just can’t afford it all the time. and with being a diabetic I can have it. Wanna come or send me some to TN ? thanks

  5. says

    As bizarre as it sounds, the best bottles I’ve used are Budweiser 40 ounce screwtops. I did reuse some GT synergy bottles, but they exploded. When GT had to take their kombucha off the market & reintroduce it after the Lindsey Lohan thing they tweaked the recipe & there’s not as much pressure since what they’re marketing now is as near as kombucha vinegar as you can get. I’d agree with what Leah noted– you must use bottles designed to hold pressure. AND there’s no sense in buying them– unless you check out a homebrew place that sells them for $1 or so & you plan on getting bulk– so keep your screw top wine bottles, screw top or bail top beer bottles, and any bottle that has a bevelled or dimpled bottom– that means it can handle pressure. Champagne bottles are excellent, but sometimes the cork shoots out. I’ve got a 3 part article on my blog Green & Growing that has a mess of details on how to make it fizzier, when you can start drinking, do you need to secondary ferment, etc. I’ve also got lots of recipes & will be updating with some more recipes including Sage & Vanilla, Rhodiola, & one I call Kick Ass because it’s made with lemongrass, ginger, & chilis.
    ~Jessie
    Jessie B recently posted..Mother Earth News: Pro Obama, Pro GMO, Pro DenialMy Profile

    • EverydayMaven says

      Hi Jessie!
      Thank you so much for all the tips and info – it’s great! I have been reading a lot of the 2nd fermentation and wound up going to a home brew store over the weekend and picking up a case of 12 super thick, heavy duty flip-top bottles. I’m going to check out your blog right now :)

    • EverydayMaven says

      Hi Dawn,

      My kombucha was super fizzy at Day 6 but my kitchen is pretty warm so that might have something to do with it?

  6. Leah says

    I’ve been brewing Kombucha for about a year and love it too! The only thing I would say is that it’s probably not safe to use mason jars for your secondary fermentation. You should only just jars/bottles designed for pressure–even with this you can still get explosions. Ikea has swing top bottles that are safe for ~$3, you can also get swing tops of fancy soda at places like TJ Maxx for ~$4. The least expensive and most green is to re-use a plastic bottle (I use liter seltzer bottles)–even when I’m using swing tops I will do at least one plastic bottle so I can tell when the pressure is building up (give it a squeeze daily and when it is had you’ve carbonated plenty).

    • EverydayMaven says

      Hi Leah,
      I am not comfortable using plastic but have been researching different glass bottles and also saving my GT’s screw-tops to reuse!

  7. says

    Great article. I’ve posted on my blog a few Kombucha making articles. I’d make 3 small suggestions for your recipe.

    First, the tea is the most important. Once folks get the basics down, start experimenting with really good quality teas. I love that you recommend using a loose leaf tea. I would have folks weigh the tea in grams if they get really serious about this. For one gallon of kombucha, you need at least 3 grams of actual tea– the rest of the material can be a blend of herbal teas, rooibos, etc. I like playing with the tea and my favorite recipes have a mix of teas and herbal teas.

    Second, you do NOT need to buy a scoby. Stay away from any place that sells expensive scoby kits. Two ways to get scobies, first make friends with a Kombucha brewer– they always have spare scobies. If you don’t know anyone, then get a bottle of good quality kombucha. Pour a little out into a jar, cover with cheese cloth, and let that jar sit at room temp for a few days. You’ll get a scoby as long as that kombucha has live culture in it– you can see strands in the bottom of the bottle when you buy it.

    Third, you don’t need to add the juice to the fermentation. You’ll get the fizz regardless and adding juice can actually cause an explosion. Be careful to use only heavy bottomed bottles. I use recycled screwtop or bailtop beer bottles.

    Great article.
    ~Jessie
    Jessie B recently posted..Mother Earth News: Pro Obama, Pro GMO, Pro DenialMy Profile

  8. says

    I had so much fun with you, Alyssa! I’m delighted you’re enjoying the kombucha and love that you did a second fermentation with added juice. I love the raspberry flavored kombucha and am thinking of adding some puree with my next batch. Beverages are indeed challenging to photograph and your photos are beautiful! Hopefully we can have more coffee and kitchen time together soon! xoxo
    Hannah recently posted..Nectarine and Basil RelishMy Profile

    • EverydayMaven says

      Thank you again 1000x Hannah – I am so grateful you took the time to teach me how to make Kombucha!! I hope to see you soon! xoxoxo

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