How to make homemade kombucha

So, I’ve had some requests from people about how to make your own kombucha.  Drinking kombucha is becoming quite popular in certain circles because of all the probiotics it contains.  But the benefits of kombucha is for another blog post.  Right now, I want to show you how I make it.

First of all, you need a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) and about 2 cups of starter tea.  I got my SCOBY from my sisterfriend here in Colorado – the same sisterfriend who taught me what I’m about to share.  I owe all my kombucha prowess to Amber!  If you do not have a local friend who makes kombucha with a SCOBY to share, you can order one from Amazon here.  If you need starter tea, you can purchase raw, unflavored kombucha from the grocery store.  Besides your starter tea and SCOBY, you also need a large glass container to hold your kombucha while it ferments. I bought a 2 gallon beverage dispenser like this one.  Each batch of kombucha will need:

  • a gallon of distilled water…

  • 15-20 bags of tea.  I like using Yerba Mate green tea, but I’ve also been a fan of the green tea from Trader Joe’s.  Just make sure it’s organic.

My tea bags, ready to go!

  •  1 cup evaporated cane sugar.  This 10lb bag cost about $7 from Costco!

And that’s it!  Now, lets brew!!

First, you are going to brew some tea.  Measure out 6 cups of the distilled water (about half a gallon) and heat up to 170 degrees. *tip: I like to store the other half gallon in the freezer versus on the counter at this stage.  You’ll find out soon*

Once the water reaches 170 degrees, remove it from the heat and dump in the tea bags.  Very technical here!

Set timer for 4 minutes for the tea to steep.  Give it a stir at the halfway point.

After 4 minutes, remove the tea bags.

Add the 1 cup of evaporated cane sugar and stir until dissolved.   Now you have Southern-style sweet tea!

Remember that half jug of water you put in the freezer?  Well, time to dump that sucker into your glass container.  Why do I put it in the freezer, you ask?  Because you want the sweet tea to be between 75-90 degrees when you add the starter tea and SCOBY.  I find that putting the other half in the freezer for even 20 minutes helps to save time on cooling the hot tea down.  And who doesn’t want to save time?  Especially if you have to brew with this:

Anyways, after the sugar has dissolved in the tea, add the last 6 cups of distilled water to the kombucha jar.

Pour the sweet tea in the kombucha jar.  Now you have a gallon of sweet tea!

Make sure the SCOBY environment (aka the sweet tea) is not too hot.  My friend says between 80-90 degrees.  The surest way to make sure it’s not too hot or cold is to take a temperature before immersing the SCOBY.  I have learned to do the touch test – if the outside of the jar is cool to the touch, it’s safe.

Once the tea is the right temperature, add the starter tea and give it a stir.

Why do you need starter tea?  Why not just throw the SCOBY in the tea and let it do it’s magic?  Because the starter tea already has some of the yeast and bacteria in it.  Remember, SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  Each batch of kombucha grows a new SCOBY on top of the old one.  That’s why you want a friend that will give you some of his/hers.  Starter tea provides a welcome environment for the new SCOBY to grow.

See that brown stuff at the bottom of my starter tea?  It’s not nasties – it’s yeast strands.  I like to try to get as much of that into my starter tea for my next batch versus putting it in my bottled kombucha.

Last, but not least, add your SCOBY.  Yes, you will have to touch it.  Make sure you have clean hands before messing with it.

Ta-da!  Kombucha, ready to ferment!

Sometimes my SCOBY will “sweat” kombucha while it’s been resting.  I like to pour any residue in my kombucha jar.

Now, a SCOBY is a living organism, which means it needs to breathe.  My jar came with a metal screw-top lid.  Don’t bother to use it.  You can purchase a top for your jar… or, you can take 2 coffee filters and a rubber band and cover the top.  It can be tricky, so maybe grab an extra pair of hands to help.  Preferably adult-sized hands…

… not these little hands, while cute, aren’t exactly terribly helpful in the kombucha-coffee-filter-top department.

Kombucha, like most bacterial and yeasty things, likes to grow out of direct sunlight and really cold places.  If you have a closet, perfect!  But be forewarned – it can cause the closet to smell a little vinegary.  *personal experience speaking here*  I am now storing mine in an unused corner on my kitchen countertop.

Yes, it is wrapped in a towel.  I just wanted to make sure it’s extra cozy!

“But how long does it sit there?” You ask.  It depends on where you live.  I’m currently residing in Colorado, which is possibly the least humid place on the planet.  My kombucha takes roughly 12-14 days to ferment.  My brother, who just started making kombucha in Virginia this summer, said his took 5-7 days to ferment.

“How do I know when it’s done?”  Excellent question!  And this is the awesome part of making your own kombucha – it’s up to you!  So like yogurt, wine, and beer, the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY will “eat” the sugar in your tea.  As that happens, the sweetness will decrease and the tartness will increase.  “Great!  But how do you know?”  After 7 days of fermentation, taste it!  If your jar has a spout, use that to put a little in your cup.  If you don’t have a spout, you can uncover the top of the jar and stick a straw down the side to draw up some kombucha.  You just don’t want to disturb the SCOBY too much.  If it’s still a little too sweet for you, let it sit and ferment for a few more days and try again.  If it’s too tart for you, don’t let it ferment for as long the next time.

“But once it’s done, what do I do with it??”

Ahh, that is a question for the next post! 😊


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