Kombucha is an effervescent fermented sweet tea. It is bubbly and delicious and full of probiotics, healthy enzymes, and detoxifers. Making it at home is a simple process. The biggest challenge I’ve come across when making kombucha is simply how to make enough of it at once. It goes pretty fast! Kombucha is fermented at room temperature (65-75 degrees F) using a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast. Here, I will share my recipe for brewing kombucha at home. The following recipe is measured to make a half gallon of kombucha. You can divide it in half to make a quart or multiply it by two if you are lucky enough to have a glass one gallon container. I don’t recommend brewing kombucha in anything but glass.
Glass Half Gallon Jar
Cheesecloth or cotton kitchen towel
Kombucha SCOBY (This can be purchased at Cultures for Health or made from scratch in 2-3 weeks using my Grow Your Own Kombucha SCOBY tutorial)
6 cups filtered water (plus extra later on)
4 Black Tea Bags OR 1-2 Tbs. Black Tea
1/2 cup organic white sugar (*see note below)
1 cup kombucha reserved from a previous batch OR 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar or apple cider vinegar if this is your first batch (**see note below)
1. Bring the water to a boil and remove from heat. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
2. Add the tea bags to the water or use an infuser if using loose tea.
3. Allow the tea to steep for at least 15 minutes or until cool.
4. Pour the sweet tea into your half gallon container.
5. IMPORTANT: Wait for the tea to cool completely. If it’s too hot the SCOBY will be killed and the live cultures will become dead cultures
6. Add the kombucha you’ve reserved from a previous batch, or the vinegar if using instead.
7. At this point, add cold water to fill the jar, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top.
8. Now it’s time to add your SCOBY with very clean hands.
9. Cover the jar with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a piece of a cotton kitchen towel and secure with a rubber band.
10. Place the jar out of direct sunlight, somewhere relatively warm (I keep it on top of my refrigerator).
11. Wait patiently for 1-3 weeks for the kombucha to ferment and brew! You can start testing it after one week using a plastic spoon or straw (no metal, please).
In my 68° F home, I like to bottle the kombucha after 14 days. If your home is warmer, it may be ready sooner. If your home is colder than 65° F the fermentation process will slow significantly and may not be hearty enough to churn out kombucha. This is one reason why it may be helpful to store your bottles somewhere warm, or high on a shelf.
When you bottle your kombucha, you can decide if you want to drink it immediately or allow it to go through a second fermentation, whereby you would add some fruit juice, fruit pulp, or dried fruit to the bottle (a tablespoon more or less) and allow it to sit unrefrigerated for 1-2 weeks before chilling and drinking. This process jump starts the bacteria again, allowing for further production of carbonation. Since the jars have been sealed, the carbonation gets stuck in the bottles, patiently waiting for your taste buds.
My perfect kombucha: I wait 14 days for the first fermentation to turn the tea into fermented kombucha. Then I bottle it in recycled store-bought kombucha bottles and add 1 Tbs. of chopped, super-ripe fruits (strawberries, mangos, blueberries, ginger, or raisins are some of my favorites). Next, I seal the bottles tightly and allow them sit on the counter for at least three days (72 hours) and up to 6 days. This has been my recipe for perfection!
Some Important Tips:
*Always use white sugar, never sugar substitutes or raw sugar
**It’s best to not use raw vinegar because the live cultures in raw vinegar can conflict with the SCOBY cultures. If you don’t have anything else on hand, add the vinegar when you add the tea
***Never let the SCOBY come in contact with metals – this can cause damage to the SCOBY
****Make sure to always add the SCOBY after the sweetened tea is completely cooled
Cultures for Health has a great video that will run you through the entire process of making kombucha: