How to Home Brew Your Own Kombucha

Get ready to get acquainted with a SCOBY.
Publish date:
December 28, 2015
kombucha, fermentation, home brewing, probiotics

Kombucha is gaining popularity every day, but I have been obsessed with it for a long time now. If you don’t already know what it is, it’s a fermented probiotic beverage. It can help kill candida, detoxify your body, strengthen your immune system, boost energy, fight cancer, ease joint pain, relieve stress, boost metabolism, lose weight, and it helps digestion. It’s one of those things that really can aid in most of your health.

While drinking kombucha every day can get expensive, the great thing about it is that it's incredibly simple to make on your own! In my opinion, it’s fun to be able to create your own probiotic, and decide exactly how sweet/bitter, or carbonated you want it to taste.

What You'll Need

It’s completely up to you when you make it on your own. Here is what you will need to get started:

  • A gallon glass jar/container
  • Organic black or green tea
  • Organic sugar
  • White vinegar
  • Wooden spoon
  • Thermometer
  • Filtered water
  • Tea cloth
  • Rubber band
  • pH test strips

Wondering what in the world a SCOBY is? SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. Yeah, that sounds pretty disgusting. It looks pretty odd, too. But I assure you, it’s a really awesome thing once you learn about it!

SCOBY’s are often referred to as “the mother.” You may have read on your apple cider vinegar (if you use this in your home) that is contains “the mother.” Well, that’s the vinegar's yeast culture. It looks different in vinegar, though. It’s stringy, and cloudy.

The SCOBY used to make kombucha looks more like a cream-colored disk. I bought my first SCOBY fresh from The Kombucha Shop online. They send you one in the starter tea that is fresh and ready to go! It's so much better than buying one that is dehydrated which can sometimes harm the culture.

SCOBY’s are really fascinating and you grow a new one each time you make a batch of kombucha, so each batch you get another SCOBY to use or share!

There are a few rules you need to know in order to take care of your SCOBY properly. First, do not use any anti-bacterial soap on the dishes used to store your SCOBY or brew your kombucha. Rinse everything, including your hands with warm water and white vinegar instead. Anti-bacterial soap can kill your SCOBY.

Second, do not allow your SCOBY to be in direct sunlight, or get too hot. It’s important that your SCOBY remain within room temperatures between 68 and 88 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now that we have covered the basics of SCOBY care, we can dive into actually making kombucha! It’s super fun and easy.

Step-by-Step Directions

First, boil four cups of water. Once boiling, remove from the heat and steep your organic tea in it for five minutes. After the tea is done, add in one cup of raw sugar. How much sugar you want depends on your personal preference.

The SCOBY needs the sugar to feed off, and the less sugar you use, the more vinegar-tasting your kombucha will turn out. Typically, kombucha takes around 2 weeks to brew, and by that time the culture has processed almost all of the sugar. The amount of sugar you want to use is something you may need to alter over time to find what you like the best. I personally use the recommended one cup in mine. It’s never too sweet, but not too sour either, and I'm always pleased with the outcome.

At this point, you can pour the hot tea into the glass jar you intend to use to brew your kombucha. You’ll need to add cool, filtered water into the jar until there is only three inches left at the top of the jar. This should bring your kombucha to a perfect temperature ranging between 68 and 88 degrees.

Now, you gently add the SCOBY to your kombucha brew. Be sure you have rinsed your hands with warm water and white vinegar before toughing the culture. Give the whole thing a gentle stir with your spoon. Slip in a pH test strip, it should read at 4.5 or below. If it is not, add a tablespoon of vinegar, stir, and check again.

Now, cover the top of the jar with the tea cloth, securing it down with the rubber band. It can take anywhere between seven and 20 days on the first fermentation. Yes, this is only the first one! But don’t worry, the second is only for flavoring!

You can check the pH and taste your brew as early as seven days. At this point, you will notice a cream colored layer growing on the top of your brew. This is the new SCOBY! If it’s more vinegary than you would like, next time you may want to add more sugar to sweeten it up.

If it’s too sweet for your taste, or you want it more carbonated, let it go another day or two and just continue checking up on it. Be sure you do check your brew temperature daily.

To make this easier, I recommend and love to use a sticker thermometer. It just sticks on to the outside of my brewing jar, so it’s crazy easy for me to keep up on the temperature! It needs to remain within the desired temperatures listed above. During the winter, some people use a heated blanket to keep it warm enough.

Once your kombucha is at a good taste and carbonation for your preferences, test the pH. It should be between 2.5 and 3.5 for safe drinking. Fermentation is an old method of preservation, so it’s quite safe. Testing the pH isn’t completely necessary because it is so safe. However, it is never a bad thing to do, and if you are new to fermenting kombucha, it’s best (in my opinion) if you test it just to be certain. I have been brewing a long time and I always still test mine, just for peace of mind.

It’s now time to flavor your kombucha! This is where you can get creative. My favorite is blackberry, which is super simple and easy. You can create any flavor combination you want using herbs and fruit. Just keep in mind that if you choose to do any citrus fruits, you will need to burp the bottles every day to prevent them from exploding. It’s a little intimidating, so I don’t recommend doing it the first time!

All you need to do to flavor your kombucha (after choosing your flavor) is to gently remove your cultures from their jar. Move them into a new glass jar with at least one cup of the kombucha. This will be used as your starter tea for the next batch! What I like to do is pour the rest of my kombucha into swing back jars, or smaller mason jars that are easier to pour into a cup or small enough to be used for daily drinking. Add your fruit and/or herbs and close tight. You can store your kombucha in the fridge which slows the fermentation process.

Kombucha is a great probiotic, low sugar, and yummy beverage! I hope that you take the time to test out home brewing some yourself!