We all know the benefits of fermented foods and drinks for our gut microbiome and overall health but these foods are often pretty easy to make yourself at home. Of the different projects I’ve tried, making my own Kombucha has been the most fun experience and one I’ve enjoyed for almost a year so far!
Kombucha – what is it? Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. It’s made by mixing tea with sugar and allowing it to sit with a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) in it which eats the sugar fermenting it. The resulting drink contains probiotic cultures and, more importantly, tastes yummy!
There are many reasons I choose to make my own Kombucha rather than buy it, the main ones are:
- It’s cheaper
- I can make it the way I like it
- It’s a fun project
- I get through a lot of it!
SCOBY – Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast
Some notes to be aware of:
SCOBY and Starter Tea – you can buy these online or maybe you know someone who will be able to give you a SCOBY and some starter tea!
Teabags – I use black, you can use green tea which will give it a different flavour. Do not use fruit or herbal teas, these will not work.
Sugar – plain granulated sugar works best. You can use other sugars but I’ve never tried. I’d avoid liquid sugars like maple sugar. It seems like a lot of sugar but the sugar doesn’t remain in the tea once it has fermented. If you reduce the amount of sugar it will not ferment properly.
Flavourings – you can use anything, the more sugar the flavouring has the more carbonated the Kombucha will be. I like to use lemon juice or puree fresh fruits and add these. You can put in chunks of fruit but purees work better as the bacteria can ‘eat’ the fruit sugars better!
Quick disclaimer: because you are dealing with a live culture you need to make sure you work cleanly and do not contaminate equipment or your SCOBY or the Kombucha could go bad and upset your stomach. You’ll know because the SCOBY will have weird growths on it and the tea will have turned to vinegar!
Don’t use metal when dealing with the SCOBY, the metal will kill the bacteria so use glass (you may need to use plastic for some equipment but avoid using a plastic fermenting vessel). Also, always clean your hands before handling your SCOBY.
I have added links to the items I got in case this helps. These are affiliate links so I get a small amount of commission if you use the links to buy the items but it costs you no extra. If you already have these items you do not need to buy these ones!
Here’s my guide to making your own Kombucha
This guide makes 4 litres of Kombucha, if you want less just halve or quarter the recipe!
Things you’ll need:
- A glass container (5 litres if you want to make a full batch)
- Cloth and band to cover the container
- SCOBY and starter tea (1-2 cups/250-500ml)
- 1 cup of sugar (200g)
- 8 tea bags
- 4 litres of filtered water
To make your Kombucha, boil 1-2 litres of water and allow 8 tea bags to brew in it for 10-20 minutes. Remove the tea bags and mix in the sugar until dissolved. Add the remaining water to bring the total up to 4 litres. Once the tea has cooled down enough to comfortably touch it you can add in your SCOBY and starter tea. Cover the container with a cloth, using a rubber band/hairband to secure. Leave the tea to ferment for 7-14 days. The rate of fermentation will depend on temperature and environment and your own individual taste. The longer you leave it the more bitter it will become. For me 8/9 days seems good. Make sure you don’t play around with the container for the first 5-7 days, this allows the SCOBY to eat the sugar and grow another SCOBY. This new SCOBY may join to the old SCOBY or be separate it doesn’t matter either way! I’d recommend trying the tea each day from the 7th day to see if it’s to taste (this may take a little trial and error).
Once your tea has fermented you’re ready to bottle. At this stage you can also add flavourings and give it a second ferment.
If you want to have the Kombucha as it is all you need to do is remove the SCOBY(s) and 1-2 cups (250-500ml) of tea from the container and pour the remaining Kombucha into bottles (I recommend using a funnel) and place it in the fridge. It’ll be a nice fermented, still tea drink. Put the bottles in the fridge and drink within a month. You can then start the cycle of making more Kombucha again by going back to the beginning of this guide! You will now have 2 SCOBYs. If they are stuck together you can leave them together and just remove a layer or two every few ferments. Don’t keep the oldest layer for too long it will make your Kombucha go vinegary. If you’ve made 2 separate SCOBYs you can either throw away the old SCOBY or pass it onto a friend with some more starter tea for them to make their own Kombucha.
If you want to flavour and carbonate your Kombucha move onto the second ferment. In these pictures you’ll notice this was a 2 litre batch made with half the above recipe.
Things you’ll need:
- A bowl to put your SCOBY and 1-2 cups of tea in
- Some containers/bottles
- A funnel
Once your tea is to your liking. Wash your hands and remove your SCOBY(s) into a bowl, and add 1-2 cups of your fermented tea in with the SCOBY(s) (this becomes your starter tea for the next batch). Add any flavourings you want into the bottles/containers. My favourites are ginger, lemon juice and fruit purees. I’d recommend about ¼ cup (60ml) of flavouring for every 500ml of Kombucha. Use your funnel to add your flavourings and then Kombucha. Seal the containers and leave out to ferment for 1-3 days. The longer you leave it the fizzier it will get. The more fruit you use the more sugar there will be for the bacteria to continue to eat so the fizzier it will get. I usually leave mine for 2 days, sometimes 3 if I forget! Then these can be refrigerated and should be consumed within 1 month. When you do open these carbonated Kombucha take care as they may be fizzier than expected – until you get used to how long to do the second ferment for you may be open bottles over a bowl in the sink to catch any overflowing Kombucha! After the second ferment a new little SCOBY or layer of fruit puree may have formed – this is perfectly fine to drink. If you don’t want to you can strain this out.
You can then start the cycle of making more Kombucha again by going back to the beginning of this guide! You will now have 2 SCOBYs. If they are stuck together you can leave them together and just remove a layer or two every few ferments. Don’t keep the oldest layer for too long it will make your Kombucha go vinegary. If you’ve made 2 separate SCOBYs you can either throw away the old SCOBY or pass it onto a friend with some more starter tea for them to make their own Kombucha.
If you have any questions or there’s anything I haven’t covered please comment below or check out You Brew Kombucha on YouTube – some many useful videos I wish I had known about when I first started making my own Kombucha!