DIY How to Make Kombucha
Kombucha is simple to make yourself. We recommend you give it a shot because brewing your own unpasteurized kombucha is rewarding when you consider the cost of purchasing store-bought bottles.
To learn more about the health benefits, read here. It's beneficial to drink at least half a cup daily to get the health benefits. This recipe makes about eight cups of kombucha, but you can also double the recipe to make more, and you still only need one SCOBY disk.
Yields: 8 cups
- 1 large glass or metal jar or bowl with a wide opening
Avoid using a plastic jar or bowl because the chemicals in the plastic can leach into the kombucha during the fermentation period. Ceramic pots might cause lead to leach into the kombucha once the acid comes into contact with the ceramic glaze. Look for a big metal or glass jug/jar/bowl and make sure the opening is wide enough to allow a lot of oxygen to reach the kombucha while it ferments.
- 1 large piece of cloth or a dish towel
Secure this material around the opening of the jar with a rubber band. Do not use a cheese cloth, as it allows particles to pass through. You can even try using an old thin cotton t-shirt or some simple cotton fabric from any textile store.
- 1 SCOBY disk
You can find a SCOBY disk in health food stores or online for relatively inexpensive amounts. A SCOBY disk can be vacuum-sealed in a small pouch and shipped directly to your house for only a few dollars, while still preserving all of the active yeast ingredients.
- 8 cups of water
I would use filtered water, if possible.
- ½ cup organic cane sugar or raw honey
Yes, this is one of the few times I’ll tell you to use real sugar! Most of it is actually “eaten” by the yeast bacteria during the fermentation process, so there is very little sugar left in the recipe by the time you consume it. It is important to use only organic cane sugar and not white refined sugar.
- 4 organic tea bags
Traditionally, kombucha is made from black tea, but you can also try green tea to see which you prefer.
- 1 cup of pre-made kombucha
You’ll need to purchase your first batch or get a cup from a friend who has recently made homemade kombucha. For future batches, just keep a cup on hand for the next time. Be sure to purchase only organic, unpasteurized kombucha. Pasteurized varieties do not contain the appropriate live cultures you need.
1. Bring your water to boil in a big pot on the stovetop. Once boiling, remove from heat and add your teabags and sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
2. Allow the pot to sit and the tea to steep for about 15 minutes, then remove and discard tea bags.
3. Let the mixture cool down to room temperature (which usually takes about one hour). Once it’s cooled, add your tea mixture to your big jar/bowl. Drop in your SCOBY disk and 1 cup of pre-made kombucha.
4. Cover your jar/bowl with your cloth or thin kitchen towel and try to keep the cloth in place by using a rubber hand or some sort of tie. You want the cloth to cover the wide opening of the jar and stay in place but be thin enough to allow air to pass through.
5. Allow the kombucha to sit for 7–10 days, depending on the flavor you’re looking for. Less time produces a weaker kombucha that tastes less sour, while a longer sitting time makes the kombucha ferment even longer and develop more taste. Some people have reported fermenting kombucha for up to a month before bottling with great results, so taste test the batch every couple of days to see if its reached the right taste and level of carbonation for you.
Usually, the warmer your home is, the less time the kombucha needs to ferment. Once you’re happy with the taste, put your kombucha into smaller glass bottles and refrigerate the kombucha for at least 24 hours to allow it to cool and finish carbonating. The longer you refrigerate it before opening, the more fizzy it will be.
Note that as the fermentation process happens, you will notice that the SCOBY disk “grows” a second SCOBY disk. Many people call the SCOBY that you purchased and used to make the kombucha the “mother” SCOBY and the second SCOBY that grows the “baby.” The mother SCOBY is located on top of the baby.
You can actually use the newly formed baby SCOBY to create a whole new batch of kombucha, so you don’t want to throw out the baby disk. Store the baby SCOBY in a bit of already-made kombucha in a glass jar while not using it so you have it on hand to start a new batch when you want it. It will be “active” for several weeks when it’s stored in some kombucha at room temperature on a counter top or in a pantry.
While some people prefer to keep the mother SCOBY disk attached to the baby, others prefer to throw away the mother SCOBY once the kombucha is finished fermenting.
Keeping the mother disk hasn’t caused any reported problems or contamination. According to some sources, the mother disk can keep fermenting new kombucha batches for about another month after its first use but will then become inactive and should be thrown away.
Brewing Flavored Kombucha
The recipe above is for a basic, unflavored kombucha. You can try adding unique flavors like fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice, ginger root “juice” made by blending ginger and water, blended berries, fresh-squeezed orange, pomegranate or cranberry juices.
We recommend doing this after the kombucha has fermented and is ready to drink, although some people prefer to add flavor-enhancers to the kombucha a day or two before it’s done so the flavor can intensify. Either way seems to work well.
Once your homemade kombucha is complete you’ll want to store it in a clear glass bottle or jar with a tightly fit lid, preferably not metal, if you have the option. Plastic bottles may swell or harden and color from dyed jars can get into the drink.
When bottling kombucha, leave an inch or less of air at the top of the bottle. This should allow for an appropriate amount of carbonation.
It’s important never to shake a bottle of kombucha and risk exploding its container. Try holding your entire hand over the lid as you open it to prevent it from popping off unexpectedly.
Be sure to refrigerate your completed kombucha to extend its shelf life. If you’ve added flavoring, consider that when storing the kombucha. For example, fresh fruits will go bad in the kombucha long before the drink.
Most people experience great benefits drinking kombucha and have no adverse side effects.
Kombucha side effects seem to be more of a risk when making homemade kombucha because contamination is possible, and the SCOBY disk and finished product aren’t tested for quality like they are when manufactured commercially. If you’re going to brew your own, use sterile equipment, clean working spaces and high-quality ingredients.
A small percentage of people experience bloating, nausea, infections and allergic reactions when drinking kombucha. Because kombucha has a high level of acidity, it’s possible that this can cause problems for people with digestive problems like heartburn or sensitivity to very acidic foods.
If you are concerned about these issues, start drinking a small amount in moderation and gradually work your way up to drinking more in order to see if you have any negative reactions to it. Stick to about eight ounces per day or less, especially in the beginning. To limit your risk, buy pre-made, unpasteurized kombucha that’s been tested for bacterial contamination.
Kombucha is brewed using black tea and sugar, which when fermented, turns into alcohol in very small amounts (only about 1 percent of kombucha is believed to be alcohol). So a warning to those who are avoiding alcohol.
Otherwise enjoy this healthy drink!
Otherwise enjoy this healthy drink!