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How to Brew Kombucha at Home

I have written about kombucha multiple times in the past: what is it?, why it’s so good for you, and results from my experiment. See all the posts here.

You know you want to try this. It’s not that much work, you can customize whatever flavors you want, and it costs waaaaay less than buying factory-style kombucha at Whole Foods. How much less? Check it out:

How to Brew Kombucha at Home
Photo Credit: dvanzuijlekom via Compfight cc

A 16-ounce (500 ml) bottle of GT’s kombucha is $3.49 USD, while a 16-ounce glass of home-brewed kombucha is approximately 29 cents. Wow! I told you it was waaaaaay cheaper!

Those numbers are an average based on prices at the Whole Foods in Nashville, where I do most of my shopping. Your list of ingredients and local prices may vary, but there’s no doubt this stuff will cost you less and bring you more joy by doing it yourself.

How to Brew Kombucha at Home

By the way, if you’re new to kombucha, learn more about what it is and how insanely beneficial it is for your body.

The Joy of Kombucha

I have been brewing kombucha on a consistent basis for more than 6 months. I drink about 16 ounces every day. It’s FANTASTIC!

Yes, most people think it’s weird, but they are missing out. Kombucha is where it’s at.

In order to have a glass every day I brew three different batches in alternating periods of time in order to always have something fresh and ready to drink.

Considering it takes 14-21 days for one batch to complete a brew cycle, you could start a batch today, another one in a 7 days, and another one 7 days later.

Recipes

There are about a billion different methods to make kombucha. Experiment. Try out a few different recipes for yourself and customize what works for you.

My recipe and methodology is listed below. I highly recommend it.

If you follow these instructions fairly closely, you should end up with some really stellar kombucha. If you don’t, let me know. I’m all ears.

Collect Your Supplies
  1. 1-Gallon Glass Jar
  2. 1 Cheese Cloth, Tea Towel, or Large Coffee Filter
  3. 1 Rubber band
  4. 1 Wooden or Stainless Steel Spoon
  5. 1 Large Stainless Steel Pot
  6. 6-8 Leak-Proof Glass Jars ::: you could use mason jars, glass soda bottles with resealable lids, or another glass container that seals
Prepare Your Ingredients
  1. 1 SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), also known as a mushroom, mother, mother ship, or mother culture ::: see instructions below on how to get your first SCOBY
  2. 6 ounces of kombucha from a previous batch or store-bought brew
  3. 1 Gallon of Distilled Water
  4. 1 Cup of Organic Cane Sugar
  5. 6 Bags of Organic Green or Black Tea Bags (must contain caffeine)
  6. OPTIONAL ::: 1/2 pint of fresh, raw, and ripe fruit ::: your choice of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc.
How to Get Your First SCOBY
  1. Get one from a friend who has an extra SCOBY for you to use
  2. Order one online
  3. Create your own SCOBY using a store-bought kombucha
    1. Buy a 16-ounce or similar-sized kombucha from a local store
    2. Drink 2/3 of the kombucha and leave the remaining 1/3 in the jar
    3. Remove the lid of the jar and place cloth and rubber band on the top of the jar
    4. Place jar in an undisturbed spot for 10 days
    5. Inside the jar you should now find a small SCOBY and a little kombucha that you can use for your first batch
Brew!
  1. Heat up distilled water in large pot to nearly boiling
  2. Mix in sugar and tea bags
  3. Remove from heat and let stand for 6-8 hours or until tea is room temperature (you can cover the pot with a lid during this time if you desire)
  4. Pour the tea, SCOBY, and kombucha from previous batch into the 1-gallon glass jar
  5. Cover the jar with the cheese cloth, tea towel, or coffee filter
  6. Seal the cloth onto the jar with the rubber band
  7. Place jar in an undisturbed spot for 10-14 days
  8. Remove SCOBY and 8 ounces of kombucha from jar, placing in a separate container for use in the next batch
  9. Pour remaining tea into smaller glass jars and seal closed so no air escapes (The goal here is to create a carbonated beverage, but don’t be surprised if you end up with little or no carbonation. That process takes skill).
  10. Place small jars in an undisturbed place for 3-4 days
  11. Place small jars in the refrigerator until cool (OPTIONAL: add fresh fruit to jars before placing in the refrigerator)
  12. Drink 1-2 jars of kombucha per day

CAUTION: if kombucha is new to you, start slow and drink more over time. The probiotics could cause you to experience some crazy intestinal issues. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Extra Credit
  1. Brew multiple batches in alternating time periods so you and your friends and family can all enjoy kombucha every day. I personally have three different batches at any given time.
  2. Try many variations of tea. The only requirement is that the tea is caffeinated so the SCOBY can grow.
  3. Add fresh fruit, chia seeds, or green vegetable juice to the mix.
  4. Create a stellar brew and persuade your friends and family to try it out. They will think you’re crazy. That’s okay. Make them try it anyway.
  5. Share your first kombucha experience in the comments below. I definitely want to hear about your first brew.
Disclaimer
  1. Kombucha is full of nature’s wonder. There are many probiotics and other goodies in the brew that may cause you to experience side effects. Drink a small amount at first and then slowly drink more over time. Do your research if you have any concerns. Kombucha is a health food and you could experience detox symptoms similar to drinking large quantities of vegetable juice.
  2. Kombucha is potentially alcoholic, depending on how you brew it. If you have concerns about children consuming alcoholic beverages, do your homework BEFORE you brew anything. The average brew will not contain significant amounts of alcohol, but your results may vary.

Question: Have a better recipe than mine? Share it with the group in the comments below.

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  • dCôté

    Heard this on the podcast a while back and have been meaning to get to this. Love this drink and agree with the benefits – first hand! Thanks for the data and links. I just listened to the last 6 podcasts (I usually group my fave podcast together to keep with the same theme). Keep up the good work and thanks for the show

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Kombucha is awesome. I just brewed another batch this morning. It’s hard not to love this stuff!

  • Nino Quintana

    How essential are the glass jars? Can “safe” plastic jars and containers be used? Or after initial 1 gallon glass jar fermentation step, can the 3-4 day step be put in a larger container than the small jars to help with space? Does it get refridgerated afterwards? Thank you.

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Hi Nino, yes you can use plastic, but just make sure you check the type being used. Some plastics can be used for storage of food while others are not recommended. I use glass for everything and it works well, but plastic could work too. And yes, I refrigerate the kombucha when I move it into the smaller jars for the 3-4 day waiting period. Great questions!

      • Merrie Beth

        If you leave it out for the waiting period, it gets carbonated. That’s what i understand carbonates it. I just made my first batch and its carbonated after 24 hours of sitting in a warm, relatively dark Area. I tead that you refrigerate it to STOP the carbonation. I added blueberries (15) to one jar and strawberries (3) to the other jar. Love the flavors. I understand it needs sugar during this waiting period to carbonate so I used berries.

        • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

          Berries are awesome in kombucha. They definitely add a lot of flavor. Also, I have found that setting out the kombucha does help with carbonation, and so does using more tea bags with higher levels of caffeine.

          Thanks for the great info Merrie!

  • http://www.barbaratalley.me BST

    Is there anyway to make it without alcohol. My religion forbids drinking alcohol, but I’d like to make and enjoy it.

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Good question. Kombucha is a fermented beverage, so the longer it sits, the more alcoholic it could potentially become. But, if you follow my recipe above it won’t have had enough time to ferment completely. In other words, my recipe is not alcoholic, but it could be if the kombucha stayed in the sealed jars for many months.

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  • Karen

    I am very new to brewing kombucha. This batch has been fermenting for about 5 days, and I realized that I put double the sugar that the recipe called for. Should I throw it all out and start over? And what about the scoby – can I still use it?

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      No problem Karen! The scoby is fine. It would probably be best to remove the scoby and start over, but you don’t have to. Having more sugar than you need will likely make the final brew taste more sweet and there won’t be much, if any, carbonation.

      You could also try removing a little liquid from the brew and replacing it with highly caffeinated tea to balance it out.

      Lot’s of possibilities here!

      • Karen

        Thanks for the info! As long as it won’t ruin the scoby I think I will just let it ride. I have another batch going now too, so if I end up throwing it out later, no big deal. Thanks again!!

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  • Natalie Kronick

    I found a really great 1-gallon glass jar with a spigot at Walmart (cost about $10). Its probably meant for lemonade and such, but this lets me dispense the liquid into my smaller jars much more easily. Also, you don’t have to handle the scoby each time for the next batch!

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Nice! That’s a great tip Natalie.

  • Jennifer

    Ummm … I just opened the container that has been brewing for 2 weeks. There’s a plasticy looking layer on top of the liquid and a little round greenish looking thing too! Is that mold? Am I gonna die if I drink this?? :/ Should I toss it and try again?

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Green spots are NOT normal. If you want, take a picture and attach it here or email it to me and I’ll let you know if it looks bad.

      I wouldn’t drink it if it doesn’t look like a normal SCOBY. Just Google a few pictures of a SCOBY and compare them to what yours look like.

      And no, you won’t die if it’s moldy, but it might make you a little sick.

      • Jennifer

        Thanks for the feedback Jeff. Since I left the mildly frantic message to you, I have checked online. It is indeed mold. I tossed the batch and will try again. One thing I am is persistent. :)
        Here is the picture in case you or another reader is curious.

        • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

          Wow! That does look a little gross. Good call on throwing it out.

  • jason

    Hi Jeff, do you need a certain type of light ? I have a room that is kinda dark would this work or is there a light requirement? Also I love strong black tea, can I use more then 8 tea bags to a gallon or would this not work? Thanks

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Hey Jason! I have found that darkness is better. You don’t need much light at all, so a dark room is good.

      You can use more than 8 tea bags, but you will also get more carbonation. I also like strong tea, so I usually use 8 tea bags. Feel free to experiment and try 10 or more to see what happens. Let me know how it turns out for you!

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  • Laura

    Made my SCOBY. The brewing starts tonight! Wish me luck :)

    • http://jeffsanders.com/ Jeff Sanders

      Awesome Laura! Good luck. :)

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