Today I decided to write a post on how to brew kombucha, the safe and easy way for beginners. I’m sure you’ve heard about Kombucha – it’s all the rage. Every health and organic store is selling it at exorbitant prices, and people drink it thinking it’ll turn them healthy overnight. Lame. With that said, I will admit, unlike most fads, Kombucha really is very healthy for you. Made from sweetened tea that is left to ferment with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), it sits in a dark area for days upon days, slowly fermenting and eventually turning into an effervescent beverage, similar to soda, but without all the junk in it.
Now, if you are thinking about brewing kombucha at home (simply because it is so much cheaper, and so easily customizable), you HAVE to make sure you read up as much as you can because if you do it wrongly or handle it in an unsanitary way, you could very possible end up getting seriously ill. I won’t mention the dying part because that’s going to scare you off…..oops.
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When it comes to brewing Kombucha, I too am a beginner. So cut me some slack 😀 It all started when my neighbor handed me what resembled a ****ing disgusting FETUS in a glass jar. I almost gagged at the sight of it. I had, in the past, bought Kombucha from Health Stores, but honestly, I didn’t continue buying it because it was pretty damn expensive for a terribly measly quantity of….tea. Anyway, after my neighbor convinced me that the alien-looking son of Satan in his jar was actually a SCOBY, I decided to research quite a bit on how to safely brew Kombucha at home – without dying of course. After a little trial and error, I think I can say that I’ve mastered the basics of it. In this post I’ll be sharing kombucha brewing tips with you – but remember I’m no expert. I’m just here to help fellow beginners who may be interested in making some Kombucha at home!
PS: SCOBY is also sometimes referred to as Mother. Makes sense, because most Mother In Laws resemble monsters too!
Let’s start with the Kombucha Brewing supplies:
A large Mason Jar : Seriously, I mean LARGE – enough to hold 8 cups of liquid with some room left.
3 Tablespoons Organic Loose Leaf Black Tea : You can use tea bags – but don’t use herbal tea. Use any flavored tea that mainly consists of black tea – that’s what the SCOBY survives best on. No spices or herbs please, SCOBY doesn’t like them.
3/4 cup Organic Cane Sugar : SCOBY does not thrive well in other sweeteners such as Agave or Maple syrup. Trust me on this. Just use processed sugar, because SCOBY will eat most of it up anyway.
7 cups Filtered Water : Please guys, get that filtered stuff. No tap water.
A healthy Scoby, preferably a hand-me-down : Most hand-me-downs will come stored in a small amount of previously brewed Kombucha – do not discard this, it’s a very crucial component of the brewing process.
Clean Tea Towel
Glass bottles with lids for secondary fermentation of Kombucha
Kombucha Brewing Process:
Okay, first of all, take note: don’t wash any of these supplies with soap. Soap is full of nasties and SCOBY doesn’t like nasties.
The entire process of kombucha brewing is extremely simple: First up, you’ll heat your water in a LARGE pot, and then add your tea leaves in. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes to infuse, and then remove your tea leaves/bag from the pot. After this, you’ll add your sugar in and stir it to dissolve. Easy? Yup! Let’s continue. You need to leave this sweetened tea to cool to room temperature. Seriously, be patient. On my first attempt, I almost killed my SCOBY by adding luke-warm tea to it. Patience is a virtue. Once your tea has cooled, you can pour it into your amazingly large Mason Jar.
Using GODDAMN AMAZINGLY CLEAN hands, pick your SCOBY up and place it on top of the surface of your sweetened tea. Add whatever liquid it came in into the jar as well. Make sure you leave about an inch or two of space at the top of the jar. Cover your jar with your clean tea towel and secure it with a rubber band. Store your jar in a dark cupboard, preferably somewhere warm in your house. It is very important that it is left to sit, undisturbed…that means no shaking it about!
Now comes the waiting…….dot dot dot dot dot.
I usually leave my Kombucha to brew for between 7-10 days. You will need to test it periodically if this is your first time making Kombucha. Taste your Kombucha every 2 or 3 days.
If it is too sweet: You need to leave it to ferment for longer. Note that during Autumn/Winter, your Kombucha may take an even LONGER time to ferment. Conversely, in Summer it may take a shorter time.
If it is too sour: You probably have left it for too long. Don’t fret – you can just brew a new pot of tea and repeat the process again, this time leaving it to ferment for a shorter period of time. Kombucha brewing takes practice, practice, practice!
Kombucha Bottling Process:
Now this is the part you’ve been waiting for – bottling your amazing homemade Kombucha. Once you’re satisfied with how your brew tastes, remove your SCOBY from the jar and store it in a smaller glass container, with about 1 cup of liquid from the brew. You can now use this for your next batch of Kombucha. If you’re not going to re-use it immediately, cover with a tea towel secured with a rubberband and leave in a dark place until you use it again. You will notice that your SCOBY will seem to have reproduced or split into two – that’s it’s baby! For your first few batches, I recommend just leaving the “Baby Scoby” on and using it together with “Mother Scoby” for a stronger brew. After a few batches, you can just start keeping the “Baby Scobys” and you can give “Mother” away to friends or family. You can even compost it. I wouldn’t recommend eating it, but erm, that’s your personal choice. Yuck.
Anyway…..if you want just plain Kombucha, pour your tea directly into empty bottles. Alternatively, if you want flavored Kombucha, you can fill your bottle with some berries, ginger, fruit juice, lemon juice….blah blah blah. Pour your brewed tea into your juice or fruit filled bottles, and leave about an inch of space at the top before sealing tightly with the lid.
Now comes the secondary fermentation – this is where your Kombucha further develops its flavor and started to magically carbonate. The more sugar in your fruit or juice, the more fizz you’ll end up with. If you’re making plain Kombucha, I suggest adding about 2 teaspoons of sugar to the bottom of the bottle before filling it up…otherwise you may end up with sad, NOT FIZZY (and not FUN) tea. Bummer.
You will leave your bottles in the same dark cupboard (or DUNGEON IF YOU’RE WEIRD) for between 3-5 days, until it becomes all bubbly and cheerful like a little girl. Once it’s done, transfer the bottles to the fridge to stop the fermentation process. Your Kombucha will last for about a month in your icebox.
– If you notice MOLD growing on your SCOBY (little fuzzy green dots, similar to the type that grows on bread) – PLEASE throw it away. That stuff is lethal and you don’t want to drink anything it’s been in….I mean, would you eat moldy bread? I think not.
– Kombucha brewing can seem pretty damn daunting if you’re completely new to it – trust me, I empathize. But once you get one batch going, you’ll realize that it becomes such a simple task. Once you’re done with one batch, transfer SCOBY into a new Mason Jar filled with cooled sweetened tea and there you have it, a new batch of Kombucha, ready to rumble in a few weeks time!!!!!
– If you take good care of your SCOBY, it can last you for years and years….I’ll keep you updated on mine in a few years time 😛
– If your SCOBY has turned black, stops reproducing or has lost its ability to ferment your tea, it is most probably dead. You’ll have to source another fresh one from someone or buy a new dehydrated one online/in a health store.
– Occasionally, your SCOBY may sink to the bottom of your brewing vessel, or even stick to the side of the jar. Fret not, this is all normal. Mine sank to the bottom on the first few days, and then eventually floated to the top towards the end of the fermentation process.
– Finally, Kombucha is VERY FORGIVING – from what I’ve noticed anyway. I’ve made tons of mistakes, and my SCOBY is still alive. Don’t freak out if you don’t get it right the first time…practice makes perfect!
And there you have it, guys – How to Brew Kombucha for Beginners. Not that hard, right? Let me know if you have any more tips, or if you have experience brewing Kombucha yourself. I’m always interested in learning different methods and of course, coming up with new flavor combinations. Before I go, let me show you a photo of my newest BABY SCOBY, happily living in its pool of Strawberry Tea.
Doesn’t she look happy? ….Well that’s all for today, folks. I do hope you try your hand out at making Kombucha at home – it’s good for you and it’s quite fun to make once you get the hang of it and it sure beats the stuff you get at the store. But always remember,
Additional Kombucha Reads:
Looking for more excellent Kombucha recipes to brew at home? I’ve read quite a few recipe books on the topic and found Stephen Lee’s Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Fixers, Elixirs, and Mixers to be the absolute best value-for-money book out there. The reviews speak for themselves. Alternatively, if you only want to spend a couple of bucks, you may wish to nab an affordable copy of Christopher Martin’s The Best Kombucha Recipes In History which I found to be a really recipe-rich purchase! Many of the kombucha brewing recipes contained in both books are instant classics; I’ve tried at least a dozen of them and love them all, but any kombucha brew with strawberry in it is an instant win for me. 🙂
Please note that the above links are Amazon affiliate links, which means we earn a tiny commission if you purchase anything through them, at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products we have purchased and tested ourselves – none of the crappy stuff!