Kombucha – a delicious, lightly carbonated fermented tea drink – is no longer just an obscure health drink. These days, many brands and flavors can be found on grocery store shelves across the country. If you’ve been enjoying store bought kombucha but have been too intimidated to look into making it yourself, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to experiment with your own exciting recipes at home. Just follow these simple steps used by our own Beverage Factory kombucha masters, and you’ll be wowing your friends and family with your first tasty batch in just a few short weeks.
- Glass jar or wide-mouth carboy
- Hot water
- 1 cup of regular granulated white sugar per gallon of water
- 10-12 grams of tea (about 8 tea bags) per gallon of water. Black tea is the best choice for beginners, although Oolong and Green tea can also be used. White tea, rooibos (red) tea, herbal tea, and decaffeinated tea should only be used in combination with black tea, as the SCOBY needs caffeine in order to work effectively.
- Starter tea (already fermented kombucha from the store or from a previous homemade batch), approximately 10% of the batch size.
- SCOBY (“Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” – also known as “mother” or “mushroom”). This can be purchased online, acquired from a kombucha-making friend, or grown from scratch by combining tea, sugar, and some pre-made kombucha.
- Breathable covering like tightly woven cloth (you can use a clean t-shirt, towel, or napkin), paper towels, or coffee filters and a rubber band or twine to secure the covering to the jar
- Juice or other flavor add-ins (optional)
- Growlers, glass bottles, kegs, or other storage containers
10 easy steps
- Dissolve sugar in hot water (around 170 degrees).
- Steep tea in the hot water until it comes down to room temperature.
- Once the tea has cooled, add the starter tea and SCOBY and cover with a breathable top
- Store your fermenting tea out of direct sunlight and in an environment that is not excessively hot or cold.
- Tea should be fermented into kombucha in about 1-2 weeks.
- Fermenting at warmer temperatures helps speed up the process (we find around 80 degrees works great), so it may help to use Kegco’s RTC-2 digital temperature control unit and a heating pad to warm up the batch if needed.
- Fermenting for longer lengths of time can result in a kombucha that is less sweet and more vinegary, so you can experiment to find the flavor that tastes best to you.
- Remove the SCOBY. You can use the SCOBY and some of the fermented kombucha to immediately begin a new batch or to store the SCOBY in the fridge until your next batch (change out the tea every 4-6 weeks to keep the SCOBY fresh).
- Add juice or other add-ins like fruit or herbs to flavor the finished kombucha, and then transfer to a keg or to glass bottles. If bottling your kombucha, leave a half inch of head room and store at room temperature for another 1-3 days to carbonate. Refrigerate bottled kombucha when you are done with the secondary fermentation.
We make 5 gallon batches to keg and serve from our office kegerator. We start by putting the tea and all the sugar for the entire batch in a gallon jar to steep, which gives us a very concentrated sweet tea. When the tea has cooled, we transfer it to a 7 gallon wide mouth carboy and add the rest of the water and the SCOBY. We set the carboy on a heating pad and put it under a cardboard box to trap heat inside. A temperature control unit ensures that the right temperature is maintained throughout the fermentation process. When the kombucha is ready, we transfer it to a 5 gallon ball lock homebrew keg.
Add some flavor!
You can alter the flavor of your kombucha by using flavored tea (avoid tea like Earl Grey that is flavored with oils), experimenting with the length of fermentation, and using flavor add-ins like juice, fresh fruit, and herbs. We use about 10% juice to 90% kombucha (pineapple juice is a favorite Beverage Factory kombucha flavoring).
Fun flavor combinations to try
- Cran-Orange – Cranberry juice and orange juice
- Cherry Vanilla – Cherries and vanilla extract or powder
- Mixed Berry – Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.
- Spiced Apple – Apple juice and chai spice
- Strawberry Lemonade – Strawberries and lemon juice
- Lemon Ginger – Lemon juice and ginger
- Pina Colada: Pineapple juice and coconut water
Storing and serving your kombucha like a pro
At the Beverage Factory office, we use stainless steel kegs and a Kombucharator to store and dispense our kombucha, but for a more portable (and shareable!) storage solution, growlers and glass bottles are also a great choice.