We started making kombucha at home several years ago after reading about the health benefits it can offer. It is pretty expensive to purchase it at the store so we figured we could make it ourselves for much cheaper. Kombucha is a fermented tea that offers probiotic benefits. The fermentation is done by a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). The SCOBY will grow to whatever size container you decide to make your kombucha in. Each time you make a batch it will grow another layer. As you accumulate layers you can pull them apart and either give the extra layers away, compost it or make something out of it. We typically compost our excess or cut it into small pieces and give it to our chickens as a treat. You can find all sorts of different uses for it if you do a Google search or look on Pinterest.
Kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol (not enough to need an ID to buy it at most grocery stores). It also contains live cultures from the SCOBY which is what gives you the health benefits. You can find lots of different flavors of kombucha at the store. If making it yourself you can experiment with all sorts of flavors to find what you like best. It is a pretty easy process so we will outline the steps here and offer some tips that we have for flavoring.
What you will need:
- A SCOBY – we will outline options for where/how to get a SCOBY later in this post
- A large glass container to do your fermentation in (metal can harm your SCOBY so no metal containers)
- A kitchen towel or other cloth to cover the top of your fermentation container
- Sugar- we use sugar in the raw for the fermentation but refined white sugar is fine
- Black tea or green tea- you cannot use other types of tea without risking your SCOBY dying
- Ball jars (wide mouth are easier to fill)
- Whatever fruit or flavoring you want to add
- Distilled water
How to make Kombucha:
- You need to get a SCOBY in order to start this process. We have read online that you can grow your own from scratch but that can be a lengthy process. To do this you need an unflavored kombucha from the store so you can use the small amount of live culture that is in the bottle to start growing your SCOBY. We cannot offer tips on this since we haven’t done this but know that it is an option. A faster way to get up and running is to buy a starter SCOBY if there is a store locally that offers this. Or ask around, if you know anyone who does make kombucha already they will likely be more than willing to give you a layer or piece of their SCOBY. Don’t be shy we shed a layer each time we bottle and would be happy to give one away!
- Once you have your SCOBY you need to brew some tea to get the fermentation started. We recommend using distilled water because tap water can contain chlorine and other chemicals which over time could kill your SCOBY. We do about a gallon at a time. For that we bring a gallon of water to a boil with one cup of sugar. Then steep 5 tea bags to make the tea. Once the tea is cooled to room temperature transfer the tea to your kombucha fermentation container and add your SCOBY. Your SCOBY was likely given to you in a small amount of liquid to keep it alive (that is already fermented kombucha). Transfer all of that liquid with your SCOBY to help get fermentation started. Place a cloth with a rubber band around it over the fermentation container to allow air to pass in and out during the fermentation process. Store this at room temperature out of direct sunlight. We let ours ferment for about two weeks. The longer you let it ferment the less sweet, more vinegary your kombucha will taste. Also longer fermentation will offer increased probiotic benefits when your drinking your kombucha.
- After fermentation is complete you have kombucha! If you want to drink this without adding additional flavor you can. We tend to add flavoring and let it sit another week in a secondary fermentation before drinking. To do this transfer your SCOBY along with one cup of the kombucha out of the container and set that aside for now (metal can harm your SCOBY so if you wear rings do remove them before picking up your SCOBY). We transfer the kombucha from our large fermentation container into smaller ball jars to flavor. This is also convenient because then you have your kombucha in serving sized jars so you can grab one and go when it’s ready to drink. We use a measuring cup to scoop the kombucha into the jars. You do need to make sure everything is clean during this process.
- Once you have the kombucha in ball jars you can add your flavoring. After adding your flavoring make sure the tops are securely on so that your kombucha stays fizzy. We let the jars sit about a week at room temperature before placing in the refrigerator and then drinking.
- The same day you bottle and flavor you will also want to brew another gallon of tea to start your next batch. Once it comes to room temperature transfer the tea and your SCOBY with the cup of kombucha you had set aside into your fermentation container and begin the process all over again. If you don’t want to start a batch right away you can keep your SCOBY stored in a few cups of your finished kombucha for a few weeks until you are ready. This will require you to reserve more than one cup with your SCOBY before you scoop the kombucha into the ball jars.
Tips for Flavoring:
We used to slice fruit and add it right in. That does work but what we have found works better for us is to use a small food processor or blender to combine your flavors into something you can scoop into your ball jars. We do about one full scoop/spoon full per jar. We do find that our fruit flavors tend to form a mini SCOBY on the top of each jar so when you open it to drink your kombucha we typically just toss that out before drinking. Don’t be alarmed if you see this in your kombucha! You are still getting the live culture and benefits from drinking it even if you have to pull out a mini SCOBY before drinking.
We really enjoy ginger so we tend to use that a lot. We combine ginger with either strawberries, raspberries, blackberries or cherries. If you end up with more fruit then needed for flavoring it does freeze well and then you can thaw it out to use for your next kombucha batch. We also really like mint as a flavoring, again combine that with whatever type of berry or fruit you like.
Citrus flavors are also a good option. We tend to squeeze fresh juice right into our ball jars if going this route. We would recommend adding a pinch or two of sugar to help the kombucha continue to ferment and keep its fizziness. This isn’t necessary with berries or other sweeter fruits.
Another thing we have used is dried lavender. We enjoy this flavor on its own and combined with citrus juice or another type of fruit. We have tried using lavender essential oil but that gave too much of an overpowering flavor. A small scoop of dried lavender added to your kombucha gives it just enough flavor.
One last tip is that you can flavor your kombucha with another type of tea/flavored tea. Again you cannot use flavored tea as the base as it can kill the scoby. We really enjoy rooibos tea for example. To do this method you need to brew a cup of rooibos or whatever tea you’d like (add some sugar again to make sure fermentation can continue). Once the tea comes to room temperature you can add a small amount to each ball jar to flavor your kombucha.
These are our favorites but really the flavor possibilities are endless. You can use any type of fruit and/or herbs you want in whatever combination you want. If you have a great flavor idea we would love to hear it! We always enjoy experimenting with new things! One last note, if you do ferment other things (like we make wine at home) you don’t want to have your kombucha fermenting in the same room to avoid cross contamination. Happy fermenting!