How to make Kombucha

These days you can find kombucha not only at specialty stores but also at discounted retailers like No Frills. Don’t let that fool you because kombucha is still an expensive drink. $3.99 for a 16 ounce bottle of GT’s Gingerade – that’s more than most tall cans of beer! In hopes of making more of the things we consume at home (and also saving some coin in the process), we decided to take a shot at making our own Kombucha from scratch. There are countless blogs that go through this but I thought I would share the techniques and recipes that worked for us in the simplest way possible:

There are 3 steps when you are starting from scratch: (took around 6 weeks start to finish) 
1) Making your SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, i.e. the thing that ferments the tea)
2) First Fermentation
3) Second Fermentation.

Once you have your own SCOBY, you simply need to go through First and Second Fermentation.
How long it takes will depend on how you like your kombucha to taste but it will take anywhere from 10 to 20 days.

Here is what you need:

  • Large glass jar (we used this Ball Canning Mason Jar 3.78L)
  • Starter Kombucha Tea (we used Original GTs Kombucha)
  • SCOBY – you can buy these or make your own
  • Black Tea Bags
  • Cane Sugar
  • Glass jars for the final product (we reused the GTs Kombucha bottles for this, you will need around 6 or 7 for each batch using this recipe)

steps to making kombucha:

Making a SCOBY

We followed liveeatlearn.com recipe for making the SCOBY:

  • Boil 7 cups of clean water
  • Dissolve 1 cup cane sugar and stir until dissolved
  • Add 4 black tea bags and let steep until the liquid is cooled to room temperature
  • Add 1/2 bottle (or 8 ounces) of GT’s Original Kombucha and transfer into a clean glass jar
  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel, coffee filters or cheese cloth, secure with a rubber band and let it sit in a dark location until the SCOBY about 1/4 inch thick. This took around 4 weeks

Once you have a nice, thick SCOBY you are ready for the first fermentation!

TIPS:

This liquid can be used to start your SCOBY hotel* as well (see below)

I kept my SCOBY liquid in my kitchen cabinet above my fridge that I do not open very often. Keeping it in a closed cabinet can help keep pesky fruit flies at bay.

Try not to move the container or disturb it in any way. You won’t see anything happen in the first few days and that is completely ok!

First Fermentation

Watch youbrewkombucha.com‘s YouTube videos to learn about this part. She has such informative videos for beginners! I combined liveeatlearn.com and youbrewkombucha.com’s methods for first and second fermentation:

  1. Boil 14 cups of clean water
  2. Dissolve 1 cup cane sugar and stir until dissolved
  3. Add 8 black tea bags and let cool to room temperature (70 to 90°F)
  4. Add 1 bottle (or 16 ounces) of GT’s Original Kombucha (or 2 cups of your own Kombucha tea from previous batches) and transfer into a clean glass jar
  5. Add 1 SCOBY and cover with a clean kitchen towel, coffee filters or cheese cloth, secure with a rubber band and store it in a dark yet ventilated location.
  6. Keep the brew undisturbed for at least a week. Depending on the temperature, it make take  2 weeks or more to ferment the tea.
TIPS:

Everyone’s taste is different so this step will depend on how sour or tangy you like your Kombucha. The longer you  ferment it, the more sour it will get. Taste your brew about 1 week in and see how you like it. If it is not sour enough, cover it back up and let it ferment longer.

Kombucha is ready to drink after the first fermentation! However if you like some flavour and fizz in your kombucha, you will need to go through second fermentation.

Second Fermentation

This is the step where you flavour and carbonate your Kombucha! We have experimented with frozen (and defrosted) berries, fresh mango puree and store-bought pineapple juice, but the varieties and combinations are endless!

  1. Get your clean, glass jars ready. We made around 7 GT’s bottles (16 ounce bottles) for each batch. Funnel in 1/4 cup of fruit puree or juice for each 16 ounce bottle.
  2. Using very clean hands, remove the SCOBY and store this either in your SCOBY hotel* or keep it on a clean dish if you want to start your next batch right away!
  3. Stir the brew very well and then set aside 2 cups of the Kombucha tea – this can either go directly to start another batch of Kombucha or store this in a bottle for future use. (This will essentially replace the bottle of GT’s Original Kombucha for your first fermentation going forward.)
  4. Funnel in the remaining tea in each of your glass bottles, leaving about an inch or two of room on top.
  5. Seal the caps TIGHT and keep in a dark cabinet for around 3 to 5 days, depending on your desired level of fizz. After 3 days, I put them in the fridge to cool then taste it. If it is fizzy enough, you’re done! If not, let it sit back at room temperature for an extra day and try again.
TIPS:

The longer it sits in second fermentation, the more carbonated it will be. Be VERY careful when opening the lids. The ones with fruit puree got extremely fizzy so open very slowly!

You can filter the kombucha if you don’t like bits of fruit or gulping down mini-SCOBY in your drink. To be honest, I think that is the most beneficial parts of the drink!

* what is a “Scoby Hotel”?

With every batch of kombucha you make, you will notice a white layer that begins to form on top. That is a new SCOBY! As you can imagine, you will accumulate quite of few of these with each batch. In fact, I find mini-SCOBYs in each of my finished kombucha bottles as well. A SCOBY hotel is good to have when you want to take a break from making kombucha or just to keep extras on hand in case your kombucha gets ruined by mold.

I keep my SCOBY in some kombucha tea (either purchased or from your previous batches) and some sweet fresh tea.  I use a large Pyrex glass container along with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band. You just need to add a bit of both every few weeks to maintain it. 

(P.S. I only started my SCOBY hotel in between batch 1 and batch 2 which is why I had kombucha tea and fresh sweet tea at the same time. Every time I make a new batch, I add some of both to the hotel to keep it happy and healthy.)

And that’s basically it!

So far, we have made 3 batches and you learn a little bit each time you make a batch (for example, not freaking out about mold in my brew and just letting things be!). Once you get the hang of it, you will realize how easy and inexpensive it is to brew your own kombucha at home!

TL/dr – making your own kombucha at home takes time but it is easier than you think. Also much more inexpensive compared to store-bought!

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