Brewing Kombucha at Home
I like drinking Kombucha. I love the tangy, tingly, bubbliness of it. I also love the health benefits, mainly, the probiotics. What I don’t like is the price of buying it at the grocery store of Whole Foods. So, I started brewing Kombucha at home a few years ago.
Brewing Kombucha at home can be intimidating, but with a little practice, it is very easy. Just follow the directions, do your homework, and, learn from my mistakes so that hopefully you can avoid the ones I made.
So, are you ready to start brewing Kombucha at home?
Before you get started, you will need to plan ahead, order some supplies, and gather all the items you’ll need. You can get everything you need from Hannah Crum, The Kombucha Mamma, and my kombucha guru. The only place I would ever purchase a SCOBY is from Hannah.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- SCOBY Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.
This is your live, active culture of bacteria and yeast that you need to ferment your Kombucha, similar to the live cultures needed for yogurt.
A Kombucha Brewing Vessel
Pure cane, raw sugar. Not honey, not stevia. You MUST use sugar. This is what the cultures eat as they ferment. The sugar actually gets all eaten up.
A brew vessel or crock
Fine weave towel or flour sack towel
- CLEAN work space
Order your SCOBY and ceramic brewing vessel from Kombucha Kamp first. I purchased my brewing vessel at my local natural foods co-op, but you can get the same vessel I have from Kombucha Kamp for the same amount of money. I highly recommend the wooden stand for your brewing vessel, as well.
While you’re waiting for your SCOBY and brewing vessel to arrive, get your tea, raw sugar, and a gallon of distilled water. Use distilled water so that you don’t have to worry about any heavy metals, flouride, or bacteria that might come from your tap water.
You can experiment with different blends of teas, but stick with natural teas. I don’t get anything fancy, just what strikes my fancy at the time when I’m shopping at Trader Joes or my Co-op. Kombucha Mamma also sells some tea blends. Right now I’m brewing a straight up plain black tea batch. 6 tea bags is what you’ll need, or 6 teaspoons of loose leaf tea.
When your vessel arrives, you need to clean and sanitize it. Wash it out with a little soap and hot water. Make sure to let the soapy water run through the spigot. Then RINSE RINSE RINSE RINSE RINSE. Then, I pour boiling water into the vessel and let it run through the spigot as well. When done cleaning out your vessel, cover it with a freshly laundered towel. You don’t want anything airborne landing in your vessel.
Boil about 4-6 cups of your distilled water. Pour into a clean bowl with your 6 tea bags. Let steep for at least 10 minutes. Remove tea bags, squeeze them well to get all the essence of the tea. Add 1 cup of raw sugar and stir until the sugar completely dissolves. Let cool or pour in the rest of your gallon jug of distilled water. When your tea is room temperature, pour into your Kombucha brewing vessel. Now open your SCOBY pouch and pour entire contents, including liquid, into the vessel.
Cover vessel with a tight weave towel and secure with rubber band, strap, etc to keep it tight. The purpose for this towel is to keep bugs out, but allow air circulation. Don’t use cheese cloth, the weave is too loose and fruit flies will get in. Fruit flies LOVE kombucha. Do not leave your kombucha uncovered even for a minute. Just today, I uncovered my vessel, and within seconds, there were fruit flies coming to check it out.
The grossest thing I’ve ever seen in my Kombucha was fruit fly larvae crawling around in my SCOBY. I had a batch brewing, and I periodically remove the towel to look inside to inspect for anything undesirable, mainly mold or bugs. One day, I found fruit fly babies. GROSS! Therei s nothing that can be done once you get fruit flies. I had to throw the entire thing out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a spare SCOBY, so I had to order a new one. Once you’ve brewed a few batches, you’re going to have new SCOBYs growing, and you’ll be able to have a SCOBY Hotel, with your extras to keep for emergencies such as what I had, or you can give them away to friends.
The only other catastrophe I’ve had was mold. It takes practice to recognize mold from regular brown culture growth. Mold is black or green, and fuzzy. Your culture will never be fuzzy, but will be browish and dull or shiny. Hannah Crum has pictures on her website that are helpful to train your eye to the difference between mold and regular growth. I don’t know why I got mold, but ever since, I’ve been scrupulously clean when making Kombucha.
You will have to clean your brewing vessel, and handle your SCOBY occasionally. Pour it out into a bowl, scrub your vessel, and put everything back. I use food service gloves for my hands, and paper towels when cleaning. Don’t worry. Just a little extra precaution with cleanliness is all you need.
When your freshly brewed tea in your brewing vessel and you’ve introduced your new SCOBY and liquid, your vessel is tightly covered in linen, you’ve written a note with the date and taped it on your vessel (Yes–you will forget the date you brewed if you don’t write it down. Trust me.), all you can do is wait. For your first brew, it will likely take at least 7 days, but usually more than that. I start tasting mine after 7 days. This will be all about your taste and what you like. One factor hat speeds up or slows down the fermentation process is the air temperature. If it’s cool, it will take longer. If it’s hot, it will brew in a shorter time. In the cooler months, you may need to move your vessel to a warmer area, or invest in a Kombucha warmer from Kombucha Kamp.
Once your brew is to your liking, you simply bottle it up and put it in the fridge. It will continue to slowly ferment, even in the cooler, so keep that in mind. I usually pull off about 3/4 of my gallon of brew and bottle it. On the same day that I bottle my brew, I make a refill batch of 3/4-1 gallon of black tea and sugar and add to the vessel. After 3-4 batches, you can peel off a layer of the SCOBY, put it in a glass jar covered with Kombucha, keep it in a dark place,and keep it for future use. Inevitably, you’ll need it at one time or another. Also, it’s good to have on hand if you ever want to take a break from brewing. Just put your SCOBY in a jar, take your vacation, or what have you, and revisit Kombucha brewing at a later time.
There is a wealth of more information on the Kombucha Kamp website, including recipes, tips, FAQ, troubleshooting, and the store, so make sure you check that out.
My purpose for this post was to give a quick lesson on how to brew your first batch, what you’ll need, and a few tips to avoid a catastrophe. In no way is this meant to be a comprehensive tutorial on Kombucha Brewing. The most important thing, in my opinion, is getting a good SCOBY. Hannah Crum’s are the best. There are a lot of other companies selling SCOBYs, but many of them are dead, and you need LIVE cultures! Have fun brewing, and let me know how it goes!