Homebrewing Kombucha

Left: Brewing Kombucha; Right: Close-up of a SCOBY

Left: Brewing Kombucha; Right: Close-up of a SCOBY

Being from California, I’ve fully embraced the kombucha movement and was that person who would pay $5 for a bottle of GT’s Enlightened Kombucha. I liked how it was carbonated without being too sweet AND you had the extra benefits of plenty of probiotics.

However, being abroad has separated me from my beloved kombucha. Imagine my complete and utter excitement when I met a fellow American, Clifford, who brewed his own kombucha. My first reaction was: “Can you teach me!?”

What exactly is kombucha? I didn’t realize it was so easy to make. It starts out as sugary tea and then you ferment it with the help of a SCOBY or “mother” mushroom. SCOBY stands for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” To me, it’s almost like homebrewing your own beer, but with tea instead. During the fermentation process, the SCOBY eats up all the sugar in the tea, which causes it to grow and also release probiotics. While it may not look like the most appealing thing in the world, the end result tastes good.

Getting my Kombucha starter kit.

Getting my Kombucha Starter Kit

Clifford was kind enough to teach me and give me a starter kit to brew my own kombucha, which consisted of a SCOBY and a cup of fermented tea. If you don’t have a friend who can give you a SCOBY (because let’s face it, who does?), you can go online and buy a starter kit. I’m not going to link to a site because I can’t personally vouch for its quality.

 Kombucha Base Recipe

Makes roughly 2 liters of kombucha

Ingredients

  • A 2.3 liter glass jar
  • Approximately 2 liters of bottled, distilled water (0.5 gallons)
  • 2 tablespoons of green or black loose leaf tea
  • 0.5 cups of sugar
  • 1 SCOBY
  • 1 cup of “starter tea” or store-bought (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored) kombucha

Directions

  • Thoroughly clean and dry your glass jar and make sure there is no soap residue left
  • Prepare the tea by bringing the 2 liters of bottled water almost to a boil
  • Turn off heat, steep tea for 15 minutes
  • Using a pair of chopsticks, remove all the tea leaves (or as much as possible)
  • Bring the water back to a close boil and slowly add in the sugar, stirring with your chopsticks
  • Cover the pot and let cool overnight
  • The next morning, add the SCOBY, starter tea and 2 liters of tea into the jar (make sure there is enough room in the jar that the liquid has exposure to air)
  • Cover with a thin towel with a rubber band around the neck
  • Store in a dark, dry place and let ferment for 2-4 weeks (depending on how cold it is, as warmer temperatures lead to faster fermentation)
  • A new SCOBY should start to form at the top of the liquid. You can taste test to see if it’s the desired sweetness you want and then your kombucha is ready!
Kombucha 2nd Fermentation

Top Left: Separating Kombucha for 2nd Fermentation; Top Right: Fermenting with Peach Nectar and Mint; Bottom Left: Brewing a New Batch of Tea; Bottom Right: Fermenting with Longan Fruit and Strawberry and Apple

2nd Fermentation Recipe

While your kombucha is ready to drink now, I like to do a 2nd fermentation process and add fruit/juice, which provides more flavor.

Ingredients

  • Additional glass jars with sealable tops (it’s OK if the top is plastic/metal)
  • Desired fruit/juice/nectar/herbs

Directions

At this point, you probably have one of two different situations. Either your original SCOBY grew and formed a giant SCOBY or a completely new SCOBY formed and you have two in your jar. At this point, I take the newer SCOBY for my next batch of kombucha or I split the big SCOBY in two and take the top layer. I personally throw away the old SCOBY, but I’ve read that you can eat it and it’s supposedly full of nutrients. It’s kind of slimy and weird so not exactly the most pleasant-looking thing to eat.

  • With clean hands, remove the SCOBY(s) and drain the kombucha tea, if desired. You may find baby SCOBY’s, which look like gelatinous strands.
  • Set aside SCOBY and roughly 1 cup of starter tea in a glass container for your next batch of kombucha
  • Add in desired fruit/juice/herb mixture into glass jars with the kombucha
  • Seal all the container and ferment for another 5-7 days
  • Refrigerate (this will stop the fermentation process)
  • Drain/remove fruit and herbs from kombucha. Enjoy!

I’ve personally had a lot of fun trying different combinations of flavors. I’ve done peach nectar and fresh mint; guava nectar; fresh strawberry and apple; fresh strawberry and ginger; fresh longan fruit; and now I’m experimenting with fresh strawberry and guava. If you’re into sweeter kombucha, then I would definitely recommend doing your 2nd fermentation with juice/nectar. It seems to cut the acidity. Of the ones I’ve made, I really like the guava juice and fresh strawberry with ginger combinations. I don’t have exact measurements of how much fruit/juice you should add. I literally just go with my gut instinct and experiment.

Does this taste as good at GT’s Enlightened Kombucha? It’s not quite the same (mine isn’t as sweet), but I’ve been pleased with the results and happy to have access to kombucha again.

Notes
-It is extremely important that you use a glass jar. The SCOBY is acidic and will eat through plastic and you definitely do not want to be drinking plastic. Also, avoid prolonged exposure to metal too.

-Make sure your hands are clean and that you’ve washed away all of the soap. With the anti-bacterial soap, this could kill your SCOBY.

-Make sure your tea is at room temperature before you add it to the SCOBY and starter tea mix. The hot/warm liquid could kill your SCOBY.

-You want to keep your kombucha away from sunlight because the sun can also kill the SCOBY.

-In order to avoid cross contamination or mold, be sure to store your kombucha in a clean, dry place and not next to items that may have bacteria.

-DO NOT DRINK YOUR KOMBUCHA IF YOU SEE MOLD. How will you know if it’s mold? Imagine the same mold that you see growing on bread. If it’s a blue/green tint or something fuzzy, immediately throw away everything.

-If your SCOBY has turned black, it’s “dead” and will no longer ferment your tea. It’s time to get a new one.

Disclosure
I am not a health or medical expert. While I hope you have a positive kombucha brewing experience, please use your best judgment when home brewing. If the kombucha is tasting weird/too sour or you’re not sure if it’s growing mold, it’s better to err on the side of caution and not drink it.

Additional Links
I found these links to be really helpful when I was reading up on homebrewing:

How to Make Kombucha Tea at Home
How to Make Kombucha by Katie of Wellness Mama
How to Brew Kombucha — Double Fermentation Method

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5 thoughts on “Homebrewing Kombucha

  1. Wow Jackie this looks awesome. I’m a bit intimidated to make it but it does look easy. So glad you are finding ways to get your kombucha fix ;)

  2. Hi Jackie,

    Is there any way I can get a scobi from you? I used to brew it at home but ever since I moved to Shanghai half a year ago, I haven’t been able to find someone selling it, let alone kombucha being sold!

  3. Hi Jackie, thank you for this very helpful post! I live in Shanghai and just started looking into making Kombucha because I heard it’s good for your joints (my grandmother has severe arthritis). I was wondering if I could get some scoby from you as I don’t trust the taobao sellers. Thanks and looking forward to your reply!

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