I learned how to make Kombucha this past summer, and since then a number of people have expressed interest in learning as well. This post is for you! I consider myself still somewhat of a novice, so additional sources may be helpful to check out too. Here’s what I’ve learned.
What you’ll need:
- large glass container for brewing (1 gallon or 2 gallon size)
- lint-free cloth to cover and a rubber band to secure it
- glass jars for bottling (these need to be thick; cheap glass that is thin could rupture from pressure, according to some YouTube videos I have watched) I gradually collected bottles from purchasing kombucha at the store.
- green tea bags (I buy organic at Sprouts Market –about $4-$5 for 100. Loose leaf green tea is I’m sure good too, but I’ve never tried it.)
- sugar (I use organic from Costco)
- flavors! I typically use flavored herbal tea (I love Celestial Seasonings Country Peach, Blueberry, and Raspberry Zinger). You can also use pure fruit juices.
- a “mother”start (also known as other names such as a “daughter” or a “scoby” ->acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)
- either 2 cups of previously brewed kombucha (per gallon you are making) or 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (other vinegars may also work)
Here’s the jar I use to brew; it holds two gallons. I bought it at either Walmart or Target (I have seen them at both stores).
Bring water to a boil. I boil 2 gallons at a time.
Turn off the heat and add 8 green tea bags per gallon of water.
Let steep for three minutes. (I’m told that if they steep much longer than that, it can take on a bitter flavor). Remove bags; I gently squeeze them between two wooden spoons before removing them.
If using flavored herbal tea add those bags now, also 8 per gallon. Let steep five or more minutes, then remove (I don’t time this as closely as I do the green tea bags).
Add sugar (this can happen anytime in the steeping process), 1 1/2 cups per gallon. Stir to dissolve, then bring the entire batch to room temperature.
If the “mother” is in the refrigerator, bring it out to come to room temperature as well.
When the tea and the “mother” are both at room temperature, combine them in a large glass jar. Add either 2 cups of previous brewed kombucha (per gallon) or 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (per gallon).
I usually use 2 cups of previously brewed kombucha, but sometimes for flavor-mixing purposes, I’ll opt to use vinegar. Both seem to work the same for me.
Cover with a lint-free cloth and secure with a rubber band.
I always label mine with the flavor, the date, and whether I used kombucha or vinegar in that batch (otherwise I tend to forget what I did). I also write on the label what day I should check it.
I recommend placing it in a cabinet that doesn’t need to be accessed often, as it will release some vinegary-scent that might not be very pleasant. I have a small lower cabinet dedicated to kombucha.
Let sit for 5ish days (you can start tasting it at 4 days to see if it’s ready to bottle). Mine is typically ready at 5 or 6 days. I dip a plastic straw in, plug the top with my finger, then let it go in my mouth. You’re looking for the flavor to be not too sweet and not too vinegary. You want the scoby to have time to eat through all the caffeine and sugar, and make the entire jar chock-full of probiotics. But if you wait too long, it will turn to vinegar.
When ready to bottle, remove the mother from the jar and set aside. She will have grown a new “daughter” layer on top. You can either keep them together for the next batch, or remove the daughter for other purposes (the mother will get too thick if you always leave the daughters attached). The daughter can be given to a friend, or it can be discarded, or I have heard of other uses such as composting and using in gardens or given to chickens.
Reserve two cups of kombucha for your next batch (I always put this in with the mother to keep it wet). If you are ready to start another batch, simply combine the mother and two cups with your brewed, room-temperature tea. If you aren’t starting another batch right away, cover the mother/kombucha and place it in the refrigerator. This will slow down it’s activity and prevent the reserved kombucha from turning to 2 cups of vinegar.
If flavoring with fruit juice, now is the time to add juice. Using a funnel, pour juice into each jar about 10% of the way (just to the bottom of the label), then fill the remainder of the jar with unflavored kombucha. If your kombucha is already flavored, just fill the bottles and secure the lids.
Keep at room temperature for another three days, then refrigerate. This is when the majority of the fizziness is created, now that there isn’t a way for gases to escape. The bottles can sit at room temperature for more than three days, but they need at least three days to be “done.”