Updated: Sep 6, 2020
Welcome! If this is your first time fermenting, you're in the right place. I will have all your beginner fermenting tips, but of course, I will be focusing on Kombucha.
Making your own kombucha is so rewarding. I was never a fan of the store bought stuff because they were never really flavors I liked. Plus, they were extremely wasteful. Homebrewed kombucha is a delicious and low waste way to enjoy a sweet treat (that is great for gut health)!
In this post, I will highlight some tips as well as my personal recipe. So, let's just jump right in with the recipe first. If you are familiar with making kombucha/fermenting, go for it! But, if this is your first time, I also highly encourage you to check out the tips, commonly asked questions (with answers), and some of my favorite flavor combos below!
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 cup starter liquid
- 14-16 cups brewed black tea (I use about 5 tea bags)
- 1 cup sugar
- Optional: 2-3 cups of juice, chopped fruit, fruit puree, or whatever flavorings you'd like to use
- 1 gallon sized glass jar
- 1 coffee filter, cheese cloth, or other thin material (only a small square or circle is fine)
- 1 rubber band
- A wooden or plastic spoon
- A pot to brew the tea
- Jars or bottles (I used air-tight flip top bottles)
- Funnel to add liquids to jar (not necessary but certainly helps!)
- A giant bowl (again, not necessary, but, like you see below, certainly helps when transferring all the liquids)
1. Make the tea:
- bring 12 cups of water to a soft boil
- add the sugar and stir well
- add the tea bags and let steep for about 10 minutes, you'll want it to be strong
- add the remaining 2-4 cups of water (I only ever do 14 cups because that is how much fits in my jar)
- let cool to room temperature
2. Pour tea into your gallon-sized glass jar
3. Add the SCOBY and starter liquid:
- Place in a well ventilated area out of direct sunlight and let ferment for 7-21 days (this depends on how strong you want it.
- 7 days is weakest and sweetest while 21 days would be the most bitter and strongest.
After this, it is good to drink as is, but be sure to save 1 cup of liquid for your SCOBY/next batch!
But, if you want it to be flavored, read on!
5. Choose and/or make your flavoring:
- It can be chopped fruit, pureed fruit, fruit juice, whatever you please
- I use store bought juice because it is the most convenient for me right now. I used to simmer frozen fruit and puree it.
6. Add 1/4-1/3 cup of flavoring to each bottle:
- I use 8, roughly 16 oz flip-top air-tight bottles.
7. Add brewed kombucha to each jar:
- DO NOT fill all the way up as carbonation will occur and might spew
- I fill my bottles to the base of the neck.
8. Ferment again for 2-7 days:
- The same applies, the longer you ferment, the stronger it gets. I store mine in the same area as the big batch of booch.
At this point, your flavored kombucha is done! On the days I add flavoring is when I start my next batch.
Still have some questions? I got you ;) Here are some commonly asked questions and their answers:
What do I do with my SCOBY after each batch?
You can do a few things. You can start your new batch (immediately or a few days after) by simply saving 1 cup of the unflavored kombucha with your SCOBY in a glass bowl with a towel on top. Don't leave this sit for more than a week or all the liquid will be gone!
You can "rest" the SCOBY simply by storing it in a smaller jar with plenty of liquid and a coffee filter or towel on top. This will keep for a long time, actually, you just won't want to drink this as it will become vinegary.
Or, if you think you are done forever, you can give away your SCOBY or throw it out.
What do I do once my SCOBY gets too big?
You peel off the layers gently. You can give these to other people for a starter (with 1 cup of liquid, of course) or you can throw them out. SCOBYs will still do their job, but once they get to about 1 inch thickness, you should begin to peel them so they can function as normal.
Don't forget to store each individual SCOBY with 1 cup of liquid!
Where should I place my kombucha when fermenting?
I put mine on top of the fridge because it is out of the way and out of direct sunlight. I have heard people place them in closets (though not the best air flow in here), the corner of their kitchen, in cabinets. Whatever works for you as long as it isn't sitting in a windowsill.
My SCOBY is discolored! What does that mean?
Some discoloration is normal as some areas might dry out. Some white or tan or other shades of brown are normal. Though, if it is black or green or blue, it might be mold. I would suggest throwing that layer away and trying to salvage the bottom layer. Rebrew a new batch and try again. If discoloration continues, get a new SCOBY.
What tea should I use?
You can use almost any plain tea. Avoid flavored teas, especially those with oils in them. I have been using plain black Lipton tea for over a year now and it works great. Though, I have no experience, I have heard of others using green tea or even hibiscus tea! Consult another source before experimenting if you are unsure.
What sugar should I use?
In short, cane sugar. This can be things like table sugar, plain white sugar, raw sugar, or evaporated can sugar. So, you should avoid liquid sweeteners, coconut sugar, powdered sugar, and artificial sweeteners. Other, differently processed cane sugars (like brown sugar, etc) might work but will affect your brew differently.
Can I omit or cut back on the sugar?
You simply cannot omit sugar when fermenting. The good news, is that the SCOBY will live off of that sugar and some of it will be "removed." But, you can cut back to 3/4 cup of sugar if you can't have or don't like the sweetness. The SCOBY needs sugar to survive.
What if I have to leave or let me SCOBY sit for a long time?
Your SCOBY will live for a while. Just make sure it has plenty of liquid to keep it company and start with fresh tea when you want to resume a batch. Of course, keep 1 cup starter liquid!
If you forget about an entire batch, no worries. Just start again!
My SCOBY is sinking, will it rise?
Yes. This is common when you first get a SCOBY, when the seasons change, or even if you move. SCOBYs are sensitive to everything from temperature or altitude, so give it a bit to adjust.
What if I don't have fruit and/or juice, can I still sweeten it and do a second ferment?
Yes! You can simply add 2 tbsp of honey, sugar, maple syrup, or other sweetener for every 8 cups of liquid and then bottle and ferment again.
Still unsure? I have even MORE tips for you!
1. Don't touch any metal to your SCOBY. Use wooden or plastic utensils. Remove rings before handling. And don't use a metal lid on your jar.
2. If you're given your SCOBY in a bag, that is fine, but don't leave it in there long term. Even if you don't plan on brewing for a few days, transfer to a small jar for the time being with cheese cloth, a coffee filter, or something similar on top.
3. Wash your wants and all your tools well with soap and water. You can sanitize with boiling water too, but stay away from harsh chemicals.
4. Your kombucha most likely won't be as fizzy as store bought, and that's normal. If you want the fizz, I have heard of people using a soda stream or something similar to add carbonation. The second ferment will certainly help the fizz!
5. BE CAREFUL when opening bottles. Even though it won't be as fizzy, it still has a chance of spewing. I had a big grape mess a few months ago and it got EVERYWHERE!
6. Be patient! You might not like the flavor at first so experiment with different ferment times and flavor combos!
7. You will learn what you like. I never measure much anymore when it comes to flavor and I loosely keep track of fermentation. I kind of wing it and don't stress too much about it.
And if you are STILL at a loss...
Here are some great resources for you to check out to learn more. I learned everything from reading and experimenting for myself.