What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a starter culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast), sometimes also known as a mother. This ancient drink is tangy, sweet, and tart, with a touch of effervescence. Once the microorganisms in the SCOBY act on the sweetened tea, there really is nothing tea-like about this drink. It leaves a delicious and magical potion for you to enjoy.
To ensure a daily supply in my house, I have a 2 gallon black tea continuous brew that gives me a litre of kombucha per day. I also have a 2 gallon container of green tea kombucha, which I bottle every 2 weeks.
First things first. If you have never tried it before, I suggest you start by hitting up your local health food store, and getting yourself a bottle. Try a few different brands and flavours to see the breadth of what’s possible. The next thing I recommend doing is checking out my online program Fearless Fermentation. It’s designed to get beginners making kombucha and other ferments quickly and confidently.
Tools of the trade
- SCOBY (Learn how to grow your own here or purchase this one)
- Glass jar, I love this 1 gallon and this 2 gallon container
- Tightly woven fabric to cover the top of the glass jar
- Rubber band to hold the fabric in place.
- Mason jars, like these ones
- Funnel for bottling, I have this one
- Canning funnel, I have this one
- A wooden spoon or spatula like this one, reserved for your kombucha
- Large stainless steel pot, like this one
Getting a SCOBY
- People who make kombucha are typically overrun with SCOBYs, so put the word out that you are looking for one. Please note that I don’t sell SCOBYs (I get asked a LOT!).
- Buy one online, but check reviews to determine quality. Students in my online Fearless Fermentation classes have had success with this one.
- Grow your own. Check out my instructions on how to do this easy little project.
- 1 gallon water, preferably spring or filtered
- 1 cup white sugar, preferably organic
- 6 tsp of loose, or 6 tea bags of caffeinated organic black or green tea
- 1 cup kombucha
- 1 SCOBY
Download the free guide “5 Massive Mistakes to Avoid When Making Kombucha”
These are the very basics of making kombucha. The more I have learned about fermentation, the more I realize you can’t learn how to ferment something based on a single recipe. Beginners and experts alike need to understand what’s going on inside that glass jar, know when it’s ready and safe to drink, and know how to avoid mold and pathogenic yeasts.
There’s more to kombucha than a SCOBY, sugar, water, and tea. There’s SO much to it, the fully illustrated kombucha guide in Fearless Fermentation is 24 pages long! Not to mention the troubleshooting guide, kombucha journal to help you perfect your brew, and the community of Fearless Fermenters to help you along the way.
So these are my very basic instructions for making kombucha. To ferment kombucha, sauerkraut, water kefir, and brined veggies with confidence, and to harness the power of both wild fermentation and culturing (a SCOBY is an example of a “culture”) sign up for the online Fearless Fermentation program. You can check it out here.
- Bring water to the boil in a large pot and add sugar, stirring to make sure it dissolves quickly.
- Add the tea and steep for about 20 minutes.
- Strain the tea, and once cool, gently add your SCOBY and cover with the cloth. Secure it with the elastic band.
- At a typical room temperature the fermentation will take about 2 weeks. The warmer your home the quicker it will ferment, although faster is not better.
- Check it using a straw, sliding down the side of the jar, past the SCOBY to test the liquid. Take your sample from as deep in the container the length of the straw will allow. I talk about the safety side of knowing when your kombucha is done in Fearless Fermentation.
- The longer it ferments the less sugary and the more vinegary it will get. Too sweet, and it needs more time. Just tart enough, and you bottle!
- To bottle the kombucha, gently lift the SCOBY out or the jar and place on a plate, add a little kombucha to keep it happy, and cover.
- Pour the kombucha into glass bottles or mason jars. I like these ones.
- Start the brewing process again.
There are a variety of ways you can manipulate the flavour of your kombucha. One of them is through a second fermentation process that will also add more effervescence. In my Fearless Fermentation program I teach you how to do this, as well as several other ways you can have fun playing with the flavour of kombucha you produce.
Continuous brew kombucha
I recommend mastering basic kombucha before you move onto continuous brew. My online Fearless Fermentation program for beginners will get you there much faster. I get 1L of kombucha from mine on a daily basis, and of course top it up daily. Be prepared for a continuous cycle of making, and storing sweetened tea!
PAID ENDORSEMENT DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my recommendation and/or link to any products or services from this website. Sarah Ramsden is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.