Kombucha is a tangy and sweet fermented tea that has a laundry list of health benefits. It has gained popularity over the last few years because it is reported to support the immune system, boost energy, increase liver function and aide digestion. It also has been shown to help balance blood sugar spikes, reduce toxins and protect against free radicals.
There are SO MANY resources out there for people just learning how to make homemade kombucha. Just my two cents, many of them are excessively technical and overwhelming. I put off learning how to make kombucha for a long time because I was so intimidated by science of it. The good news is that it is actually very easy to make kombucha at home!
Once I started fermenting kombucha, I realized that it's really not that hard! You don't need an in depth understanding of the science of fermentation or fancy techniques to make delicious ‘booch at home.
BELOW YOU WILL FIND A STEP BY STEP GUIDE ABOUT HOW TO:
- Make your own kombucha at home
- Maintain your kombucha SCOBY for continuous brewing
- Make a delicious bottle of flavored kombucha in your own kitchen
I've also included all my tips, tricks, and favorite tools that I use!
A FEW TIPS BEFORE WE DIVE IN
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Before I started brewing kombucha, I never used to measure the amount of sugar I added to my sweet tea. Even when I first started brewing kombucha, I didn't fully understand the hype of careful measurements (opposed to me just scooping and eyeballing the sugar). After my first few batches turned out horribly, I decided to start following more strict recipes and it solved my all of my issues!
If you don't have a set of good measuring cups, I highly recommend getting one! They have tons of super affordable ones on Amazon that work great! It's a very worthwhile investment if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen.
I also love my big two quart glass bowl with a spout for brewing tea. It helps me to pour the tea into my big jar without spilling everywhere. I actually have my great grandma’s vintage one PLUS this one from amazon. The newer one has a non-slip silicon ring on the bottom that keeps it from slipping off of my countertop.
Let’s talk fermentation vessels. AKA, the place where the SCOBY and sweet tea live while it is making that tangy ‘booch.
I actually have two. My 2 gallon beverage dispenser is perfect for brewing enough kombucha for my family. I also have a massive five gallon fermenter originally used for brewing beer that makes it possible for me to brew 15+ liters at a time. This is the one I use when I am making extra kombucha to sell or give away.
WHAT IS KOMBUCHA?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that is made through a process of double fermentation. The sugar and tea are transformed into a tart but sweet carbonated drink that has been consumed since 220 B.C.
During the first, or primary, fermentation process, sweet tea is added to kombucha starter liquid and a SYMBIOTIC COLONY OF BACTERIA AND YEAST. The bacteria and yeast consume the sugar in the tea and create a reaction resulting in acetic acid and gluconic acid. This is a beneficial reaction, which lowers the pH of the liquid and prevents harmful bacteria from growing. The byproduct of this reaction are good probiotics, enzyme and antioxidants.
During the primary fermentation, the liquid is fermenting in a glass vessel with a breathable lid. This could look like a rubber band and a coffee filter or a snug fitting cotton towel. The breathable lid prevents fruit flies and dust from contaminating the batch. Once the brew has reached the desired tanginess, it is technically ready to be consumed!
WHAT IS A SECOND FERMENTATION IN KOMBUCHA?
This is an optional step that will create the flavored ‘pop’ tasting kombucha that is much like what can be bought at the grocery store. The finished kombucha is added to bottles, like these, and fed a little more sugar either in the form of fruit juice or purées.
After the juice is added, the bottle is sealed and left at room temperature for 1-3 days. The sealed bottle traps the carbon dioxide and creates those lovely little carbonation bubbles!
WHAT ABOUT THE SUGAR AND ALCOHOL IN KOMBUCHA?
Think of your SCOBY your little BFF with a Starbucks addiction. It needs to be consuming high sugar and caffeine to keep it functioning! The SCOBY is able to take in all of these not-so-great things and turn it into a really nutritious byproduct!
Most of the sugar from the sweet tea is consumed during fermentation and becomes healthy acids. The acids that are formed, primarily gluconic and acetic, are actually blood sugar stabilizers!
Now let’s talk about alcohol. Short answer, yes, there could be roughly 0.5% alcohol in store-bought kombucha. A teeny tiny bit. It is also worth noting that homemade kombucha can have an alcohol content of possibly 2-3%.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE IS IN KOMBUCHA?
When I first started brewing kombucha, I wanted to use caffeine-free green tea. Once I began researching my options, I learned that kombucha really needs caffeine to ‘feed’ the SCOBY. As a SCOBY is deprived of caffeine, the cultures will weaken and die over time.
Much like the sugar, the SCOBY is a ravenously hungry little culture and it consumes quite a bit of the caffeine during the fermentation process. There is still caffeine remaining (about one third of the original amount), but the little boost of energy or clarity that many people experience from drinking kombucha is likely due to the antioxidants and beneficial acids.
HOW TO MAKE KOMBUCHA AT HOME
- Gather up those supplies! You will need a glass vessels such as a beverage dispenser or large jar, a SCOBY, starter liquid, tea, sugar and water. Clean your supplies using plain white vinegar. Residues from soaps or bleach can cause the kombucha to brew improperly. I also wash my hands with vinegar prior to handling my SCOBY.
- Make the sweet tea. For a one gallon batch of kombucha, you will need about six personal sized teabags of black tea (OR 2 family-sized teabags OR 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea). My favorite tea for kombucha is Earl Gray because it has a citrusy taste from the bergamot peel it is infused with. Bring a quart of water to a boil and add the tea bags and one cup of sugar, keep stirring until the sugar dissolves! I use a glass bowl with a pour spout for mine, but a large pot on the oven would work great, too! Let it cool to room temperature before continuing on with the next step.
- Once the sweet tea has settled to room temperature, remove the tea bags and transfer the tea to the vessel with one to two cups of starter liquid and a healthy SCOBY. Fill the vessel the rest of the way with room temperature water. Cover the top of the vessel with a tight-knit tea towel or a coffee filter to prevent fruit flies or dust from contaminating the brew.
- Store the vessel of kombucha somewhere warm, but not too hot. The kombucha will be fine on the countertop, but keep it out of direct light, such as a sunny window. It does not need to be kept in the dark. Let it sit for about seven days before taste testing the brew. Depending on the temperature of the room and the activity of the culture, it could be ready anywhere between seven to twenty one days. In my kitchen, I prefer the taste of kombucha that has fermented for about twelve days. It’s all about personal preference! A warm room will ferment faster than a cool room and a larger SCOBY will also cause the kombucha to ferment faster. The proper pH of finished kombucha is between 2.5-3.5.
- When the brew tastes really good, it’s ready to bottle! I like to add a secondary fermentation during this step which adds juice and flavors the kombucha, causing it to carbonate even more. I leave at least 1-2 cups of starter liquid to get the next batch going, and the process begins again!
If you make this recipe, please leave a comment below! This provides helpful feedback to both me and other readers. For more delicious recipes from scratch and homesteading tips, follow me on instagram @NinnescahHomestead
If you like kombucha, you will absolutely love my kombucha mocktails! These can be customized to any taste or alcohol preference.