December 9, 2014

Adventures in Homemade: Kombucha

Confession: I had never actually tried kombucha before I decided to make it. It had been on my list of new 'superfoods' to try but at $4-6 a bottle, it wasn't a habit I wanted to get into. When my favorite salad spot, Sweetgreen, offered a yoga detox/kombucha workshop, I jumped at the chance to go.

Kombucha Facts

  • Kombucha is jam packed with probiotics, which makes it awesome for digestive health.
  • It does contain alcohol, but typically less than 2%.
  • It's important to keep your kombucha away from any metal, as it can alter the taste and weaken your scoby over time.

If you're making kombucha for the first time, you'll need a few things:
  • A bottle of unflavored store-bought kombucha or a scoby*
  • Cheesecloth
  • Heavy duty rubber bands
  • A one gallon glass jar like this one 
  • Black tea (either in bags or an infuser)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • A one gallon growler
  • A funnel
Once you've gathered
all of your supplies, it's time to start. Make sure that you're gallon glass jar is clean and sanitized. I use equal parts water and apple cider vinegar to do this. 

Now, if you can get your hands on a scoby from someone who makes their own kombucha, I suggest doing so, but if not, it's super easy to grow your own! A scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) feeds on the sugar which causes fermentation. It's super scientific and kind of weird,  but at the same time, kind of awesome. 

At the workshop, I was given a scoby but didn't actually start brewing my kombucha for of starter almost a week. I had left the scoby in about 1 cup of store-bought kombucha on my counter to keep it alive and when I finally started to brew my kombucha, I had my own homegrown scoby.

Here, you can see two SCOBYs: the one I was given (bottom) and the homegrown one (top)
I threw both of them into the kombucha (pictured below), but ended up throwing away the one I had been given as it didn't grow, but the other one grew nice and healthy and I'm now on my third batch!
The round scoby is the one I grew. 
It took my scoby about a week to grow and then it was time to brew my tea.

It's best to use black tea and filtered water. I used English Breakfast for my first batch and Black Currant for my second batch. You should use 4-6 bags, or if using an infuser, fill up a large one. (When using loose tea, you typically want about 1 tsp per cup.)

Brew your tea for about 20 minutes and then remove the tea bags. I was terrified of my glass gallon shattering, so I let it cool for another 20 minutes or so before pouring it into my gallon jar.

Once your tea is in the jar, add the full cup of sugar and mix well. Then, let your kombucha sit overnight or until room temperature. Since the scoby is live bacteria, you don't want to "shock" it with extreme temperatures. 

Add the scoby to the tea, cover with cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band. Store in a cool, dry place. 

Now, the brewing begins. The process can take anywhere from 10-21 days, depending on how sweet or tart you want your kombucha. The longer it brews, the more tart it becomes. 

As your kombucha brews, your scoby will grow. It might sink to the bottom, or stay floating at the top. It might turn on its side, it might stay centered. All of this is normal.

This is my scoby in my brewing kombucha, after about 7 days.
Once you've brewed your kombucha to the desired taste (you can taste test it as it brews from around Day 5 on), you can either bottle it in your growler (clean and sanitized!) or add a few days to the process to make it nice and fizzy.

Remove the scoby and about 1 cup of your kombucha and set it aside. Then, using your funnel, pour the kombucha into a growler. (You can strain it first if you want.) Cover the kombucha and store in a cool, dry place. With your scoby and premade kombucha, you can start another batch and let the whole process begin all over again! 

Carbonating your kombucha typically takes 3-5 days. I let mine sit for 3 days. Once it's to your liking, store in the refrigerator and enjoy!

**It's important that everything is clean and sanitized when you're brewing bacteria. You don't want any bad bacteria mixing with your good bacteria. The best way to do this is to use filtered water and vinegar for cleaning, filtered water for your tea (just to be safe), and allow everything to air dry.

Have you ever made kombcuha? Ever tried it?
Questions? Leave them in the comments!


  1. Ive never had kombucha (have heard mixed things about it) but go you for taking on making it yourself!! It seems like quite the process so I know patience is definitely one of your virtues haha.

  2. I learned about kombucha a few years ago, but I'm still scared to try it, store bought or at home.

  3. Not feeling I need to try this yet! Thanks for the kind words about my brother.


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