how to brew kombucha at home

Kombucha — have you heard of it?  This tangy, fizzy, fermented tea drink is growing in popularity, and you can find it in any given health store and even in most regular grocery stores.  The potential health benefits of kombucha are seemingly endless — improving digestion, strengthening immunity, aiding in weight loss, detoxifying the body, to name a few.  Unfortunately, a bottle of kombucha ranges from $3 – $4!

Or, you can make it at home for just pennies per bottle.

Kombucha is made with two ingredients: sweetened tea and what’s known as a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.  The SCOBY is what turns sweet tea into a super-healthy, probiotic-filled beverage.  A SCOBY looks sort of like a mushroom…

There are two layers of SCOBY in the above photo.  Each time you brew a batch of kombucha, a new layer will form over the initial SCOBY (and they’re referred to as the “mother” and “baby.”)  Weird, I know.  I’m totally turning into a hippie. 😉

You can purchase a SCOBY from a number of online stores for around $15-25.  A SCOBY may also be grown at home using a commercial bottle of kombucha — HERE is a great tutorial for growing your own.  The cheapest way to acquire a SCOBY is to find a friend who brews their own kombucha.  Since the “mother” reproduces with each batch of kombucha, a home-brewer will always have one to spare.  Our kombucha-brewing family members gave us our first SCOBY, which Eric affectionately named “Butch.” 🙂

We’re not big fans of drinking our kombucha as-is, but we love to flavor it with different types of juices (apple, berry, and grape are best — avoid citrus juices!) or honey-sweetened herbal tea.

Here are the basic steps for brewing and bottling a gallon of kombucha:

1.  Boil a quart of water.

2.  Add 8 black tea bags and allow to steep for 10 minutes.

3.  Remove tea bags; stir in one heaping cup of white sugar until completely dissolved.

4.  Add enough cool water to equal one gallon.  (Make sure tea is room temperature or cooler before the next step….)

5.  Add the SCOBY and 3/4 cup of kombucha from the previous batch (or the fluid your SCOBY came in.)

6.  Cover the jar with a muslin cloth or paper towel and secure it with a rubber band.

7.  Place jar in a darkened area and allow to sit at least 5 days and as many as 14 days, depending on how “tart” you’d like it to be.  The longer the kombucha sits, the less sweet it will be.  (We usually let ours sit 7-10 days.)

8.  Carefully remove the entire SCOBY (old and new) from the jar and place on a clean plate or bowl.  Separate the two layers and use the new layer for the next batch.  (Sometimes the new SCOBY will grow separately from the old one, and that’s ok.)  Store the old SCOBY as a backup or pass it on to a friend who’d like to make their own kombucha, too!

9.  Reserve 3/4 cup of kombucha for the next batch.

10.  Pour or ladle kombucha into jars or bottles with tight-fitting lids.  Leave a little room at the top for flavoring if desired.  (We use 12-oz canning jars, and we usually end up with 8 or 9 jars per batch.)

11.  Add whatever flavoring you prefer.  (Our favorite is white grape juice!)

12.  Place lids on jars and set in a darkened area for 4-5 days to allow kombucha to carbonate.  After those 4-5 days, it’s ready to refrigerate and drink!

We usually start a new batch of kombucha right after bottling the current batch.  If you prefer to wait a few days (or even weeks) to start a new batch, you can store your SCOBY in a lidded jar with 3/4 cup of kombucha.

Fortunately, kombucha-brewing at home is a fairly forgiving process, so don’t worry if you, say, add too much sugar at the beginning, or forget about your bottled kombucha for an extra few days!

All of our kiddos LOVE kombucha, and I’m so happy I can let them drink it without breaking the bank!

{Homemade kombucha is typically more potent than what you buy in the store, so it’s possible to experience symptoms of detoxing if you drink large amounts.  We limit our consumption to half a jar per day.}

Questions??  We’re still working on perfecting the process, but if you have any questions about kombucha brewing, I’ll try to answer them!  And if you’re in my area and are interested in making your own kombucha, I have a SCOBY just for you! 🙂



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5 Responses to how to brew kombucha at home

  1. Laura says:

    Okay, if you lived closer (that is loaded, there are a lot of things we would probably do if you lived closer!), I would want to taste this. I am not brave enough to brew it at home before ever trying it. I need to find some local ‘hippy’ friends! 🙂

    • Abby says:

      It really is too bad that we don’t live closer!! You could try some store-bought kombucha to see if you like it, although I know it’s painful to pay $3+ for a bottle of stuff you’re not sure about. 🙂 I’ve heard people say they think it tastes like dry champagne (which I think is gross) when it’s unflavored. I only like it if it’s flavored, so that’s why I add fruit juice when I bottle it.

  2. Laura Day says:

    I just made my first batch of kombacha! The kids love it!! I don’t have any local friends who make this, so I ordered mine from an internet source. Very pleased! But now, what do I do with the extra scoby? If I’m remaking this every 7-10 days. That’s a lot of extra cultures to have.
    Your kids are just adorable!!! I love reading your blog!

    • Abby says:

      Laura, I’m so excited that you tried making kombucha and liked it! My kids have come to expect it now and my 2-yr-old has even tried to order “bucha” at a restaurant. 🙂 If you don’t have anyone to give the extra cultures to, you can just toss them. I always store at least 2 extra (one for backup in case the current one gets contaminated, and one for anyone who might want to use it.) Every month or so, I throw away the oldest cultures.

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