Making homemade kombucha is actually WAY easier than I thought it would be. It seems like an intimidating process at first but trust me, you can do this and it's actually a lot of fun.
Let's talk about making homemade kombucha. I've been mixing up my own delicious kombucha for three months now using super simple ingredients and very little time/effort; less than 30 minutes a month. The result? Five+ gallons of tasty kombucha in three batches and a REALLY happy Meagan.
After writing this, I'm amazed yet again - I got it down to 10 or less steps each time you have to do something. You're welcome! 🙂 I'm about to mix up my fourth 2-gallon batch and I feel like it's time to share what I've learned with YOU. Here we go!
You probably know I'm a numbers/budget-conscious person by now, so let's take a look at the cost of homemade vs. buying bottled kombucha at the store. The ingredients list below is enough to create (at minimum) 12.5 gallons of kombucha.
Let's compare the costs:
STORE BOUGHT kombucha averages $3.49/16oz. SO, cost per gallon = $27.92
HOMEMADE kombucha has a start up cost of $90 - tea and sugar are the only recurring expenses, and are minimal. It also gives you the skills to make something new yourself! After that first gathering of supplies, your cost per gallon for homemade kombucha = $2.33
PRETTY AWESOME, if you ask me.
So, what the heck is kombucha?!
Kombucha is a fermented black (or green sometimes) tea. It has a light effervescence to it and a slight acidic flavor. It is made with sugar but once fermented, it does not taste sweet.
The final sugar content in kombucha is actually quite low, about 2-6 grams in 8oz., compared to around 39g in a 12oz. a regular soda.
Kombucha has a handful of supposed health benefits including being a digestive aid, immune booster, detoxification benefits, arthritis prevention, cholesterol reduction, as well as energy and mood boosting benefits. Again, supposed.
In my personal experience... it tastes great and makes me happy. It's such a treat, a healthy one that I sincerely look forward to each time. I do so many other things to help out my overall health nutritionally I can't say for sure if kombucha is responsible for certain things. Try it out for yourself!
Kombucha naturally has a small alcohol content, around .5% (yes half of one percent). Just so you know!
Kombucha satisfies that craving for something tasty, just a tad sweet and fizzy. It's like soda or a wine cooler without all of the terrible things. This is why I love it so much!
What's this SCOBY thing all about?
The kombucha making magic happens via this slippery slimy SCOBY (stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). Sometimes it's referred to as "the mushroom". It's not a mushroom, it just looks like one.
The culture basically converts the sugar in the tea and the resulting kombucha contains great things like enzymes and amino acids, polyphenols, and more.
So what do I need to start making kombucha at home?
It's a pretty simple checklist and everything can be found on Amazon or you might already have it. Isn't that the best?! Check it out:
- SCOBY Starter - This is good for a ONE GALLON batch (instructions below). It comes with the slippery mushroomy magic thing and a cup of starter tea. You can up it to two gallons for batch two because you'll grow a new awesome SCOBY and can reserve more of your own starter tea.
- 2 gallon glass jar with spigot - Seriously just spring for this. I'm the cheapest girl around but trust me, your kombucha-making life will be SO MUCH EASIER than if you just use a basic ball jar (like I almost did). Having a spigot is so handy when taste testing and bottling. A DREAM, even.
- A metal spigot - To replace the lame plastic one all these jars come with for some dumb reason.
- Cheesecloth - to cover the top of your jar during fermentation.
- Rubber bands
- Measuring cups
- A bowl (anything but metal, to hold your SCOBY while prepping your tea mix)
- Water (cold)
- Flavorings (fruit juice, herbs, etc. - keep it natural!)
Do you flavor it?
Totally optional. After the kombucha ferments for about 21 days and you're ready to bottle it, you can add flavors (herbs, fruit juice, etc.) to your bottle before filling. Plain kombucha when bottled at the right time is absolutely DELICIOUS and one of my favorites, but I also love ginger and lemon.
What is the basic homemade kombucha recipe/process?
I'll keep this really simple because that's how I like it/am actually able to remember things.
The basic tea ratio is 8:2:1 per gallon -- EIGHT tea bags to TWO cups of water to ONE cup of sugar.
Let's start with the steps to brew your first one gallon batch:
1.) Brew & cool your tea.
Boil two cups of water, steep eight tea bags for five minutes.
Remove & squeeze tea bags while trying not to burn your hands off. I'm sure normal people have a safe means by which to do this.
Stir in one cup of organic cane sugar while the tea is still pretty hot. Whisk 'er up until all the sugar is dissolved.
Let the tea cool for a few hours.
2.) Clean & prep your vessel. Wash well with a mild soap and warm water. Swap out that plastic spigot for your way better metal one.
3.) Fold your cheesecloth a few times into a square of +several layers. This will go on top of your jar, held on with rubber bands. You want the kombucha to breathe but also to keep any bugs out.
4.)Add the cooled tea to your clean jar.
5.) Add 14 cups of cold water to your jar (this brings the total volume to around a gallon).
6.) Stir in the contents of your SCOBY starter. Carefully! If you have a kombucha-maker friend you'll need one SCOBY + 1 cup (8 oz.) of starter tea from their last batch.
7.) Secure your prepped cheesecloth with rubber band(s).
8.) Let it rest for a few weeks! I suggest keeping your kombucha in a cabinet or closet if you can. It will do better than if you just leave it out on the counter and cover it with a towel/cloths. It needs a calm, dark, consistent temperature kind of place to ferment and thrive.
9.) Avoid overfermentation. Taste a sip of your kombucha daily after about 14-16 days of fermentation. You want the sweetness to back off, the effervescence to be present, BUT you don't want to let it go so long that it tastes like pure vinegar. I've found about 21 days to be the sweet spot, personally.
The Bottling Process & Second Batch Prep...
The bottling & second batch process will flow like this:
1.) The night before you're ready to bottle batch #1 - BREW & COOL YOUR NEW TEA for batch #2. Remember the ratio from above, 8:2:1. If you're upping it to two gallons, double the amounts.
2.) Choose your flavors! Flavoring your kombucha is entirely optional. You can add an ounce or two of fruit juice (lemon, pineapple, strawberry, etc.), fresh ginger, herbs (basil, lavender, thyme, etc.) Add your flavors to the bottom of the empty bottles prior to bottling.
3.) Bottle right from your jar spigot! When you're satisfied with the taste of your kombucha, after about 14-21 days, you're ready to bottle! Leave the SCOBY in while bottling.
No need to buy any fancy bottles. I reuse GT's glass kombucha bottles, these cool green jars a friend gave us, ball jars, etc. - the bottles just need to be CLEAN and have an airtight cap/lid.
4.) Screw/secure the caps on tightly after filling. Fill up to ½ inch below the top of the bottle.
VERY IMPORTANT! Reserve enough starter tea for batch #2. I STOP bottling when my liquid level reaches half way down the metal spigot.
5.) WASH YOUR HANDS again and carefully remove your SCOBY from the jar and put it in a bowl while you mix up batch #2. Leave just the starter tea in the bottom.
6.) Add your NEW, cooled tea to the starter tea in the jar.
7.) Fill the rest of the jar up with cool water, leaving a couple of inches of room at the top. You want to stop filling before the jar tapers in.
8.) STIR, STIR, STIR. Once you combine your starter tea (leftover from last batch) + new tea/sugar + water in your vessel, make sure you stir it very well before adding your SCOBY back into the mix.
9.) Carefully add your SCOBY back into the jar.
10.) Cover again with your cheesecloth and secure with rubber band(s) & store in it's nice safe, dark place.
Store the bottled kombucha in a cabinet/out of direct sunlight for a couple of days for a second fermentation. They'll get a bit more fizzy during this time. Check them daily & burp if needed (unscrew cap and tighten again).
After 2-3 days you can put them in the fridge and start enjoying them!!
SCOBY Maintenance. A new SCOBY will form at the top of your vessel with each batch. How cool is that?! It takes a bit of time, and it will grow stronger and thicker with time/with each batch.
You may find the need to peel off a layer after 3-4 batches (that's where I'm at now!) you can give it to a friend with some starter tea.
Watch for moldy-looking dark spots, holes, etc. - these could be signs of issues. This website shows more information with mold/not mold photos for your reference.