Let’s see, where do I begin?
I’ve been brewing a colony of bacteria and yeast, fed by pure white sugar, which looks like a placenta, on my kitchen counter for weeks. All for the purpose of drinking the resulting liquid.
There it is. The simple truth.
If you are a little turned off by the whole idea, you’re not alone! In fact, my entire family thought I’d completely lost it. That is until they tried this amazing drink and learned of its amazing health benefits. So, don’t stop, continue to read. I promise, it gets better.
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a naturally carbonated sweet, fermented tea which contains probiotic benefits. Kombucha is produced by using tea, water, sugar (plain ol’ white organic sugar), and a giant “mushroom” (I think it looks more like a placenta) called a “SCOBY.” The sugar feeds the SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) which ferments into a delicious, nourishing tea.
I know that sounds even scarier. A giant mushroom placenta that eats sugar. Just keep reading.
After the SCOBY has done its job, a simple mixture of tea and sugar is turned into a naturally carbonated drink filled with naturally occurring health benefits.
As a result of the fermentation, almost all of the sugar is converted by the SCOBY and when fermenting is finished, there will be about 2-3 grams per 8 ounce glass. By contrast, an 8 ounce glass of orange juice has about 24g of sugar. Natural carrot juices have 13g per 8 ounces. Source
Kombucha is a traditional drink enjoyed first by the Chinese and later spread to Russia, Japan, and Korea.
Kombucha is enjoyed for its unique taste (a wonderful way to replace sodas and juice) as well as its many health benefits. One of its greatest health benefits is detoxing the body. It’s also rich in glucaric acid and amino-acids which can help prevent (and possibly) treat cancers. Kombucha boosts the immune system as is anti-oxidant rich. This wonder drink is also a mom’s best friend as it gives energy.
What mom couldn’t use an energy boost? Sleep deprivation is a real thing, folks. Come over for a night.
Remember, that colony of bacteria and yeast? All that goodness is part of the amazing health benefits of Kombucha. We need good bacteria to maintain a healthy gut. The good bacteria makes Kombucha the perfect probiotic which helps restore good gut flora in your system and fight off the bad yeast (candida). You can read more about the health benefits of Kombucha here.
Now that you’re just longing for Kombucha, you have a couple of options:
- Pay $3-5 for a small bottle of store-bought Kombucha
- Make your own for just pennies
How to Make Homemade Kombucha
- 1 scoby you may be surprised to find a fellow Kombucha-brewer willing to share the love or check out Culture for Health
- 3 quarts water filtered
- 1 cup organic cane sugar
- 3 black tea bags
- 2 green tea bags
- 1/2 cup kombucha you will need at least 1/2 cup of already fermented Kombucha
- fresh fruit frozen fruit, herbs, spices, even juice (optional)
- Bring 12 cups, 3 quarts, of water to a boil. Add in 1 cup of sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add in 5 tea bags. Allow the tea to steep for about 5 minutes and remove the bags. Allow the tea to completely cool.
- Once cooled, pour the sweet tea mixture in a gallon-size jar. Place your SCOBY inside the jar with 1/2- 1 cup Kombucha. Cover the jar with a cheesecloth and rubber-band. Store in a warm, dark place for at least 6 days up to 28-30 days. The longer your SCOBY and tea ferment the less sweet and more sour the tea will taste. I like to go about 12 days.
- Remove the SCOBY and any babies from the Kombucha and reserve 1 cup of Kombucha liquid with the SCOBY in a bowl. Strain the Kombucha through a mess strainer to remove any loose pieces. This is optional. If you don’t mind drinking the pieces, you’re welcome to skip this part of the process. I skip the straining.
- Now, it’s time to add flavor and add fizz. Use about 1/4-1/3 cup of fruit per 1/2 gallon of kombucha. You can also add fruit juice of choice (about 1/2 cup). When adding fruit (or something like fresh ginger), I also like to add 1 teaspoon of honey to give the kombucha bacteria something to feast on. I find the honey makes it even fizzier!
- Pour the Kombucha into bottles (I use 1/2 gallon beer growlers--like this). A funnel is a handy tool for pouring. You don’t want to waste any of that precious Kombucha. Seal your bottles and leave the Kombucha on the counter for 2-7 days, until fizzy. This is called the second ferment. During this time the tea and flavor will infuse together creating a delicious, fizzy beverage. Once the kombucha is to your liking, you can refrigerate your tea and start drinking.
Tools needed to make kombucha:
- 1 gallon jar-not metal as it will kill the SCOBY-- Cultures for Health is a great resource for getting a SCOBY
- 1 large stock pot (for making tea)
- cheesecloth or dish towel (where to buy)
- mesh strainer (where to buy)
- funnel (where to buy)
- bottles for fizzy Kombucha (where to buy) or mason jars (where to buy) or beer growers (where to buy)
I ferment my tea for seven days.
The SCOBY will grow a baby (I told you this was like a placenta.) A new SCOBY (a thick film) will also grow over the top of your Kombucha and the original SCOBY, “the mother”.
Real Food RN has great suggestions for flavoring your Kombucha. You can also check out Cultures for Health’s suggestions. You can find my recipe for Berry Lemonade Kombucha here.
Yes, a tad bit unusual, but once you start drinking Kombucha you’ll forget you ever handled a placenta-looking “mushroom”.
The final result is a tea that’s delicious and full of health-giving benefits.
Just made my second lot in a continuous brew, took two bottles out they did not go very fizzy. Left out for two days any ideas about this
Hey Lorianne, What kind of bottles are being used? <--Maybe that's the issue?
I just ordered my first SCOBY. I read through your instructions saying that the mother SCOBY will never expire. My questions: Do I need to keep the mother and babies fed with sugar whilst in the hotel? What would I need the babies for if the mother never expires? Can I give them away or is it better to keep for future use? What will cause mold? I’m a little nervous to make kombucha but tired of paying for ready-made; I drink a bottle every day.
Someone mentioned alcohol and kids. I’m from Europe and children drink fermented drinks, just like eating fermented pickles, etc. all the time. My kids drink store bought kombucha – there is no warning on the bottle and no more alcohol than in homemade pickles, kraut etc. And if parents really are concerned about the minute amount of alcohol they can further dilute the final product with water, juice etc.
Finally, I was told to use white sugar before bc it easier for the SCOBY to digest. Do you use organic unbleached sugar? I prefer that bc I already have that in hand but will use whichever is better.
Thanks so much for all the info, and your great blog!
Hey Liz, Great questions. I’m so excited for you! I’ll try to answer the ones I can, and direct you to the best resources out there for the others:
1. I’m not the best at keeping a SCOBY hotel, I just reuse my baby and mother over and over, until they get too thick, or pass my babies onto a friend. This is a great resource for building and keeping a SCOBY hotel: https://www.kombuchakamp.com/scoby-hotel-maintenance.
2. Technically, you don’t need the babies, they are just a natural by-product from fermenting the kombucha. You can toss them, compost them, pass them along to a friend, or use a SCOBY hotel to keep them alive if you don’t want to part ways. I think it’s nice to have a back-up just incase anything ever happens to the mother.
3. This is a great, detailed resource about mold and kombucha: http://www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/blog/kombucha-mold-need-know/.
You’re going to do great! I can’t wait to hear about your kombucha-making. Also, thank you for sharing about the fermented foods and kids–very well said!
Hey Kristin! I’ve made your Kombucha recipe several times and love it! However, I made a mistake last batch by forgetting to add Kombucha to the tea/scoby or the first ferment ???? My question is, since the scoby has been sitting in the next batch and it wasn’t fermented (it was so flat) is the SCOBY ruined?? I hope I explained that well enough….
Thanks so much!
Hey Leanne, I’m not sure. As long as there isn’t any mold growth, I think your SCOBY should be okay.
Hi Kristin, I would like to know where to keep the jar containing the Scoby with one cup of Kombucha? In the fridge or on the counter at room temperature? And for how long can I keep it if I don’t want to make a new batch right a way? Thank you.
Hey Moca, Generally it’s recommended that SCOBYs and the kombucha are stored at room temperature in a “hotel” (I personally store mine in the fridge due to issues in Florida with bugs/fruit flies). Here’s more information about this subject: https://www.kombuchakamp.com/scoby-hotel-maintenance.
I’m about 3 years late to this post, but I am a big lover of kombucha and wanted to start making my own to save money. Until my school semester is over, I think I’ll be stuck buying. I saw on one of your videos you said you were buying local kombucha on tap, I am also in Florida and was wondering if you could share which brewery you are buying from? There’s a company I buy from in west palm beach that is my absolute favorite called Tealixir from Olivia’s Special Teas. She uses all types of teas from her shops to brew medicinally inspired kombucha. They also ship from Amazon if you’re not in south Florida! Sorry to rant and rave, just wanted to connect with a fellow kombucha lover
Thank you for sharing, Jamie! I’ll look for Olivia’s Special Teas–sounds amazing!! The local company in St. Pete is called Mother Kombucha. I purchase a growler every week from our local health food store full of Mother Kombucha’s latest flavor creation.
I’m making my own scopy. My question is can I use the liquid I’m making my scopy in as the 1/2-1 cup of kombochi for the actual real batch of kombochi?
Hey Vivian, Yes, I believe you can do that :).
Hi! Thanks for this post. I found a local scoby and have made a couple of batches now, each one better than the last.
I’ve been leaving my baby scobys in. Any harm in that?
My mama scoby looks…. brown? Much darker than the growth on the top. Does this one get old/need to be replaced with a baby from time to time?
From my experience, the additional SCOBY babies won’t hurt the kombucha, so you can leave them in there. The mama SCOBY will begin to look very brown and almost like it has veins after multiple uses–that’s 100% normal and usually attributed to the tea. You can continue to use the mama SCOBY as long as you’d like, she doesn’t expire.
Happy New Year! Can I keep my fermenting kombucha in actual “real” Tupperware with the cheesecloth instead of seal on top or does it have to be in glass? I also heard you shouldn’t refrigerate your kombucha scoby. True? Thank you!
I have been using just Lipton black tea but can I switch that to organic black/Green tea or will that affect my scoby? I had also been using sugar in the raw. Is that ok or does it need a more refined sugar?
Hey Christine, From my experience, switching from a “regular” black tea to an organic black/green tea should be just fine. Also, the sugar in the raw is perfect.
Hello, I love this article and I am looking to try this but I ha e a few questions. I know someone else had mentioned storing the SCOBY in between batches, but do they need to be covered? I saw on Amazon when you buy it they come in a sealed plastic bag. Can you just put som Kombucha in a zip lock back with the SCOBY and store it in the refrigerator? Or a Tupperware container? And for the “hotel” for the babies, you said to cover them with cheesecloth or a light towel, but if you store it for a period of time wouldn’t the liquid evaporate? Do you need to add more?
I am eager to experience the benefits of Kombucha, but I don’t want to drink tea. I have heard one could use Rooibos herbal tea to brew it (supposedly the only herbal that would work) but to brew it with Black or green tea now and then to make sure the SCOBY is well fed. Do you have any suggestions please?
Hey Bethany, I’m not sure about Rooibos. I’ve always stuck to green or black tea. I found this blog where the author shared her experience: https://nourishingmylife.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/rooibos-kombucha/. Here’s another article: http://www.kombuchabrooklyn.com/blog/caffeine_and_kombucha_1/.
Thanks so much Kristin! I am brewing my first batch of Rooibos Kombucha now with my GTs home grown SCOBY. Maybe it’s just me but that white slimy wafer seems to put off a happy vibe. 🙂 Its an awesome feeling.
Lol, I agree! I can’t wait to hear about your finished kombucha. Awesome job!!
Hi Kristin, Thank you so much for the information. Would using organic Cain suger be ok? Awesome Q & A on here also.
Hey Brian, You’re welcome. Yes, organic cane sugar will work great!
When you flavor with frozen fruit do you thaw it first?
Hey Charlene, I just toss the frozen fruit in the bottle directly from the freezer :).
Hey! Awesome article, thanks a bunch. The glass jar featured in the photographs, the one with the spigot––where did you purchase that? I’ve been experimenting with making kombucha for a bit now, and I’ve decided I want to get into a continuous brew method, but I’m having a tough time finding a good spigot-ed container!
Hey Sierra, You’re welcome :). I purchased my container from Target.
I just visited a neighbor who’s going to give me a SCOBY to get started. Your site is very helpful, too. One question: does it matter if the tea is caffeinated or not?
Hey Abby, That’s awesome! You can use decaf or caffeinated, just not an herbal tea.
I have never made Kombucha but want to so I have been reading up on it. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned or maybe I missed it is whether or not you must feed the stored babies and do you store them separately. Also do you store them sealed or with a cheese cloth covering.
Thank you so very much!
Hey Marjorie, You’ll need to keep the babies in a “hotel” environment. Basically, a container with kombucha, so they can stay hydrated for future use–enough kombucha to fully cover the SCOBYs. You can set up a hotel with as little as one SCOBY or multiple. I usually seal my baby SCOBY because I turn right back around a few days later and use it to make more kombucha, but if you’re storing multiple SCOBYs long-term, place a cheesecloth or coffee filter with a rubberband over the top of the jar.
I recently received a scoby from a friend and have attempted to make kombucha for the first time. It has been sitting on my counter for 9 days now but is still not fizzy. Am I doing something wrong or could the scoby be bad?
Hey Kim, The real fizz will come from the second ferment. As long as the SCOBY isn’t moldy, your SCOBY and kombucha should be great.
The instructions say “(you will need at least 1/2 cup of already fermented Kombucha)”. Should I use store bought kombucha?
Hey Vina, Yes, you can use the plain kombucha from the store for the 1/2 cup of kombucha starter.
While cutting and pasting this recipe to a word document I can print, I noticed step 4 is missing. It looks like all the recipe is there, so maybe it’s just a numbering error?
Thank you, Lori. We recently went through some technical changes, so this is very helpful! I’ll take a look and change it.
You recipe seems to be the easiest I’ve found. A friend of my husband gave me a Scoby and a starter batch. Can’t wait to try my hand at making my own. I wish this recipe had an easy “print recipe” button like some of you other posts.
Hey Lori, We are currently working on switching over our recipe “cards” (the little recipe sections with a printer-friendly option) because the former company service we used went out of business in December. So, I’ll add this post to the list. Thank you for the great suggestion! Enjoy the kombucha!