Like many of you, I’m a big fan of kombucha. I like the tart, slightly sour taste (similar to my taste in beers), and I like anything that is good for my gut. I had been buying bottles of it from Mariano’s every now and then, and then I read about how easy it is to brew at home over on Erin’s blog. I like to DIY once in awhile, so I decided to try it myself.
And it really is very easy! Scroll to the bottom for an easier-to-read step by step, or read through for the whole process with photos.
Step One: Get all your supplies.
To brew your own kombucha at home, you’ll need a SCOBY, starter liquid, black tea, organic sugar, a large glass pitcher for brewing (or 2-3 if you want more than one batch brewing at a time), glass bottles (with caps) for bottling (usually 2-3 per batch, depending on how much you brew at a time), and whatever you want to use for flavoring. (More on that later.) Other things that are helpful – a large bowl or another pitcher for brewing the tea at the start, a candy or meat thermometer, a strainer, a funnel.
Step Two: Brew your tea. Add sugar.
Filtered water is best, so I just pour water from my Britta pitcher into my tea kettle. Once the water is boiling, I pour it over three bags of black tea in a large bowl. I’ve been using plain black tea from the grocery store, nothing fancy. I let the tea bags steep for awhile (my goal is like 5-10 minutes, but sometimes I forget about it), and then I remove the tea bags, add 1/4 cup or so of organic sugar, and then let the tea come down to room temperature (65-75 degrees). This is where the thermometer comes in. Sometimes I’ll put the tea in the fridge or freezer if I’m in a rush, or I’ll just pour it into a pitcher, put a lid on it, and leave it overnight.
Step Three: Add SCOBY + starter liquid.
A “SCOBY” is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. It’s … kind of gross looking. I’ll spare you the comparisons. When you get a SCOBY, it should come with starter liquid – basically 1/3 cup of liquid from the last brew batch.
I make sure the tea has cooled to room temp, I give a good whisk to make sure the sugar is dissolved, and then I pour the tea into a glass pitcher. You can either add the SCOBY + starter liquid to the pitcher before or after pouring in the tea. Doesn’t matter. Just make sure the pitcher is glass (apparently plastic or metal isn’t good for the fermenting). This one is similar to what I use.
Don’t put the lid on your pitcher! You want to cover the pitcher with something that will “breathe” but won’t let in fruit flies. I cover the opening with a paper towel folded over itself and secured with a rubber band, like the two pitchers on the left in the photo below. You could also use a coffee filter instead of a paper towel. I’ve read that cheesecloth is pourous, so not a good option for keeping out bugs. I also stick a post-in note on the pitcher with the date that I started that batch because I often have two batches going at once.
Then just leave the pitchers somewhere out of the way. For me, that is on the back of my counter under my cabinets. If we had room in a cabinet, I would probably leave them there. My husband would probably prefer that.
Step Four: After a week(ish), time to bottle.
You can buy fancy glass bottles, or just reuse glass bottles and jars. I like re-using glass bottles from store-bought kombucha, or glass mason jars from spaghetti sauce or glass almond butter jars. Basically, anything that is glass and has a lid or cap. And I’ll even save bottles that were originally booze (like the Sailor Jerry bottle above on the far left).
I usually put the lid that came with my pitcher back on the pitcher, with the strainer side lined up with the spout, and pour through a funnel into the bottle. I fill the bottles maybe halfway to 2/3 or 3/4 full.
Because the bottling step is also the flavoring step! Time to get creative! I’ll usually dig through my fridge and use whatever I have – juice citrus fruit, bottled juice, the juice from canned or jarred fruit, grated fresh ginger and/or turmeric, or pieces of fruit. You could also just add a little bit more sugar or honey. Just keep in mind that kombucha is already pretty tart, so adding a tart juice (like cranberry) might not be the most flavorful. (That’s the only batch I’ve dumped so far.)
Make sure that after you’ve added your kombucha tea + whatever flavoring, you leave room in the bottle! Because during the bottling phase, the kombucha starts to carbonate. Yay for fizziness! Just keep in mind if there is not enough room in the bottle for your carbonation … your bottle with explode. Sometimes at 2am. And wake you up. And leave a sticky mess on your counter. (No photo, sorry, but that did happen.) I typically leave the bottles on the back of the counter (with the pitchers that are brewing for my next batch) for a few days before transferring them to the fridge. I’ve read that being in the fridge slows the carbonation process.
Step Five: Start your next batch.
Bottling a batch means it’s time to start brewing my next batch! You might also find that your SCOBY has grown and you now have another SCOBY! Time to start alternating two batches at a time, or store them in your own SCOBY hotel! Because there will be more SCOBYs. Or package up in a little baggie with some liquid and give to a friend.
Step Six: Enjoy!
After a few days of letting my bottled flavored stuff hang out on the back of my counter, I transfer them into the fridge, and then they are fair game to drink. Because the fridge slows the carbonation process, there should be less risk of exploding bottles. I usually pour the bottled stuff into a glass through a strainer, because a thin SCOBY film has usually grown in the bottle, and if I have grated ginger or fruit in the bottle, I don’t want to drink those.
That all might sound like a lot of steps, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. Here is an easier-to-follow How To.
How To Brew Your Own Kombucha:
- You will need:
- SCOBY + starter liquid (the SCOBY should come to you in the liquid)
- Glass pitcher
- 2-3 bags of black tea
- Organic sugar
- Glass bottles with air-tight lids
- Something sweet for flavoring/sweetening
- Fermentation stage
- Boil 4-6 cups of filtered water
- Place 2-3 teabags into a large mixing bowl (metal or glass)
- Pour boiling water over teabags, let steep for a few minutes
- Remove teabags, add 1/4 cup (or so) of sugar
- Let tea come down to room temp
- Once tea is around 65-75 degrees, pour into pitcher with SCOBY + starter liquid
- Cover opening of pitcher with coffee filter or paper towel, secure with rubber band
- Let sit for about a week (I leave on the back of my counter) then it’s time for bottling and to start brewing the next batch!
- Bottling stage
- Pour fermented kombucha into glass bottles, leaving some room.
- Leave the SCOBY and at least 1/3 cup of liquid behind in your pitcher for the next batch. Repeat steps above to start your next batch.
- Add whatever you want for flavoring. Slice, dice, mash or juice some fruit, grate some ginger or turmeric, or just add some fruit juice or honey or more sugar. Don’t fill to the top – leave some room.
- Screw the lids on tight. leave for 3-7 days, in a cool, dark place. (Can transfer to fridge after 2-3 days.)
- When you’re ready to drink, strain the flavored kombucha into a glass, or be careful if drinking straight from the bottle – a new SCOBY may have formed.
- Pour fermented kombucha into glass bottles, leaving some room.
- Use glass bottles for both stages, not plastic and NOT METAL.
- Every time I start a new batch for fermenting, I write the date on a post-it and put it on the bottle/pitcher.
- After 1-2 batches, you’ll probably have another SCOBY! Store them in a glass mason jar with some kombucha liquid, with a paper towel over the top, secured with a rubber band. Or give to a friend!
If you brew kombucha, any tips?
Bonus! Giveaway! I have a bunch of SCOBYs that need homes! Enter via Rafflecopter if you’d like one. I’ll pick as many winners as I have SCOBYs. (Maybe 7-8 at this point.)