DIY booch: how to brew your own kombucha at home

kombucha home brew 8

Hey everyone! This is my first post of an ongoing DIY series I’m doing. I’m kickin’ it off with an easy DIY on home brewing kombucha since it is one of my favorite hobbies as of late.

If you follow me on twitter, you may know that I’m a giant kombucha fanatic. I always seem to have a bottle nearby, and oftentimes, I tweet about it.

But, if you’ve ever purchased the stuff pre-bottled at your favorite health food/convenience store, then you’ll also know that drinking a daily 1 or 2 kombuchas can quickly become an expensive habit. My dear husband used to gripe about how my brew of choice, at around $5.00 per bottle, cost significantly more than his. He was right; it was getting rather rediculous.

And then I figured out how incredibly easy and fun brewing your own can be! So, I thought I’d share the good news. It has seriously saved me a ton of money, and now I feel like a kombucha snob, as the bottled stuff just doesn’t taste as good to me anymore. But, I’ll still absolutely drink it in a pinch.

Just to set things straight, I’m not claiming or trying to sell any health benefits of the stuff, I simply enjoy drinking it–every single day. I’m what you would call a kombuchaholic. So, purely for convenience, cost, and most importantly–superior flavor and control of additives compared to the storebought stuff–I am writing this post.

Many of you may be intimidated by the thought of homebrewing kombucha. You may ask:

What if it gets moldy?

How do I know if it’s gone bad?

What exactly does sterilizing equipment mean?

How long does a mother SCOBY last?

Good news is that Kombucha Brooklyn (who did not compensate me to write this post, or give me anything in return for mentioing them) sells really great SCOBYs, and has an entire forum and FAQ dedicated to SCOBY and Kombucha 101. You will feel vast relief (and inspiration!) just poking through this site if you are new to homebrewing kombucha. I purchased my first SCOBY from their site and have been brewing bubbly, delicious, no fail kombucha for over 3 months now, and I can count on a perfect batch every single week. Did I mention that it’s incredibly easy?

Assuming you have read through the basics and understand the process and have every single thing you are using to make the kombucha sterilized, we can begin. Oh, and make sure you wash your hands a lot!

First, gather your materials. You’ll need:

  • 1 gallon glass jar
  • 1 sterilized tight knit cotton lightweight cloth, about 8 x 8 inches
  • 1 rubberband that will stretch to diameter of jar
  • 7 black tea bags
  • 4 cups boiling filtered water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 SCOBY (purchase here, or ask a friend! They may at least know someone who knows someone…)
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh brewed kombucha
  • 9 cups cold filtered water
  • funnel

Next, prepare your workspace making sure to have all ingredients ready to go.

In a very clean 2 quart pot, bring the 4 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and gently stir in the black tea bags. Cover and steep for 20 minutes. Stir in sugar and allow to dissolve completely.

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Add sugary tea to a gallon sized glass jar and stir in the 9 cups cold filtered water.

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 Check that temperature of the tea is less than 90°F (or else you will kill the SCOBY) and then add the starter liquid and mother SCOBY. The SCOBY will sink to the bottom at first, but will eventually make its way back up to seal off the surface and trap the air from fermentation. Give it a swirl every day or so to prevent mold from growing on top of the SCOBY while in the jar.

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Cap with a very clean piece of tightly woven cotton fabric and seal with a rubberband. Place in a warm area and allow to brew until bubbly and to your flavor preference.  To test taste, simply slip a clean straw underneath the SCOBY and cap with your finger to remove a small sample of the kombucha. If it tastes remarkably like sweet tea, then it is not yet ready.

I live in a somewhat drafty rowhome in Philadelphia and I store my kombucha in my kitchen, where I bake and use the oven daily. So, it’s fairly warm in there at any given time during the day. My brew takes 7 days to get the taste and bubbliness to my liking.

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I then do a second fermentation by adding about 2 tablespoons Orange Juice* to sterilized bottles (use non-metal caps and sterilize those too) and topping off with kombucha. Seal tightly.

You can store the second ferment bottles  in a dark cabinet at room temperature until you are ready to enjoy. I’ve enjoyed mine after 24 hours (and the amount of extra bubbly is significant), and I’ve left them in the cabinet up to 2 weeks with successul results.

If storing for more than one day, be sure to vent the caps daily to let any excess pressure out so your bottles won’t explode and make a mess. I let the air out of mine once per day first thing in the morning with not one single accident to date.


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*You can use any type of 100% juice or fruit you’d like. I’ve tried many and find that my favorite is Orange Juice. Another great choice is fresh ginger and vanilla bean. Strawberries really get fizzy too…

I’d love it if any other kombucha brewers would want to share your own brewing tips/tricks/recipes in the comments section below. Happy brewing!

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22 Responses to DIY booch: how to brew your own kombucha at home

  1. Liz says:

    Is the size of the opening of the jar important to get the scoby in and out? I was going to use a growler to ferment but am worried that I might not be able to retrieve the scoby :). I am so new to this;) what a great article, thank you!

    • allyson says:

      Hey Liz,

      Excellent question. Yes, so the diameter is more important than the size, but basically, you want a container that has even surface level from top to bottom–so a wide mouth jar is ideal. It can taper a bit, but too much will be problematic. The scoby wil get THICK as you continue to brew, and it’s best to remove the old ones from the bottom of the stack as they collect yeast and darken–so a growler will most likely pose a problem. I do secondary fermentation in the growlers just fine, though, by adding about an inch of juice to the bottom and topping off with fresh brewed kombucha and then letting sit at room temp for a couple of days before transferring to the refrigerator. It works great for when I know I’ll be drinking a lot in a short amount of time. :)


  2. Joan says:

    I love this stuff I just started a new batch because I haven’t Hadith going for a while. I make mine in a crock with a spout so I can just get a glass when I need it and I just replenish it with tea every night or every couple days what ever you drink that day add to it. The longer you leave it the stronger it gets. Try different kinds of tea too. I like it room temp some people like it cold it’s all up to you. Look it up and see the health benefits. Remember the mushroom grows lots of layers and you can give one of them away to a friend to start a batch of there own. The (scobys) mushrooms store nice in a jar with some of the kombucha for ever it seems. If you like it just keep adding to the batch you have and it’s always on hand. I keep mine in a cooler place instead of the kitchen . It’s yummy!

  3. Diana says:

    I add elderflower cordial into mine somehow it tasted like apple cider which we love so much. Tried cranberry juice before and it didn’t work. I might try ginger ale next.

  4. C says:

    I add a splash of ginger ale to my Kombucha after I bottle it. I give it a little more sugar to cut the sour taste. I love Drakes extra ginger ale.

  5. kathie says:

    Thank you for a terrific post! I am wondering what happens to the SCOBY, can it be used to make another batch of kombucha? Thank you!

    • allyson says:

      Hi Kathie! Thank you for bringing up such an important point that I missed; I am so glad you asked. So each time you brew a batch of kombucha, your mother scoby will form a baby–essentially it’s like another layer on the scoby that can easily be separated into a fresh new scoby to use just as you did the mother. AS you can probably guess, if you brew a lot, then you will eventually end up with a ton of scobys! You can give them away, use them for more batches–I’ve had up to three going at once–or store them in a container with some kombucha from your batch at room temperature in a sealed plastic container (with plastic lid), just be sure to vent those every now and again to prevent any messes. I generally have a container with about 5 SCOBYs stored inside… I like to keep them around in case a friend wants one, or in case something happens to one of the SCOBYs I’m using to brew another batch. The SCOBYs each can be used for several batches… they start to age and eventually will “die”, but by that time it’s pretty apparent as they are much darker in color. Mine tend to stick together quite a bit, but my first batch separated effortlessly, so I just replaced the mother with the baby SCOBY, and that’s pretty much bee my rhythm ever since.

  6. I keep hearing so many things about kombucha and have been wanting to brew my own but read a really scary article about the adverse affects that it can have on your body, especially when it’s homemade. Apparently there is a risk of contamination through improper preparation. Is this why you stress the importance of sterilising all equipment first?

    Would be really interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    Thanks Allyson!

    • allyson says:

      Hi Nat,

      Yes, I think the scare is that contamination from bad prepping can end up causing some serious problems–but, that possibility stands with any sort of cooking or food prep. I stress sterilizing only because it guarantees a safe batch, and I sterilize everything I use simply with the dishwasher. Works perfectly. Just make sure you clean your utensils and jars very well before starting and you should be good to go. Check out this link for some more reassurance:

      You will know if it’s contaminated because you’ll either have mold or it won’t smell like a light vinegar… but honestly, this is rare is directions are followed, and ratios of starter:sugar:tea are kept in check. Hope this is helpful!!

  7. Leah says:

    Love brewing my own Kombucha, my friends consistently mention that mine is better than store bought. After the primary fermentation I bottle in swing top glass bottles (from Ikea) and one plastic soda or seltzer bottle. Once the plastic bottle is hard to squeeze I know there is enough fizziness and I transfer everyone to the fridge to make the yeast and bacteria dormant. This way I don’t have to vent and always have nice bubbly K tea. I usually don’t add any other tea or juice for the secondary fermentation but I do like some blueberry pom juice or a spiced tea when I do add things.

  8. Naomi says:

    I found your site searching about Kombucha, since I just recently heard of it and its benefits. Thanks for posting this article, because I don’t think I could afford to add it to my diet otherwise ;) Thanks again!!!

  9. Emily Teel says:

    Started my new batch yesterday with your starter scoby from the swap! Looking forward to having kombucha back in my life!

  10. Laurel says:

    Wow! Beautiful, informative post and answered a question I’d been posing to myself which was pretty obviously “Can I do it”? Now, if you can just tell me how to read a pdf file that got downloaded to my computer, I’d be in heaven. :-)

  11. chris says:

    Can you make it without the sugar…use stevia instead?

  12. Caitlin says:

    i love that you are doing a diy series! what a great way to kick it off- with kombucha! i could go for a bottle right now!

  13. Amy says:

    Looove kombucha! Unfortunately it makes me break out so only drink it as a rare treat :-(

  14. Hey,

    this is really very interesting and the combucha-drink looks very fresh and yummy. Can you tell me how sweet this drink is, when you are drinking and if the scoby “eats” all the sugar. Can you make it with lesse sugar, too. For me it sounds pretty much particularly because i want to give up on industrial/processed sugar this year. I just want to get safe, that I won’t drink a lemonade ;).
    thanks for your suggestions.

    greets, Nini

  15. I’ve never had kombucha, looks like fun to brew your own. I always prefer homemade versions of food & drinks to store bought. Plus, it’s always cheaper too!

  16. dana says:

    seriously craving some boocha now : )

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