5 things to know before brewing kombucha

Brewing your own kombucha is much simpler than you might think. Once you start brewing, everything you’ve read that seems over-complicated starts to kind of fall into place. While it is simple, I have outlined a few things to consider before you begin brewing that will help you to have the most success.

1. How much time is required to brew and maintain your kombucha?

I’ve heard so many times, “I would LOVE to brew my own kombucha, but I just don’t have the time.”

In reality, kombucha doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and can be easily brewed and bottled in under an hour per week.

For the first few brews, there will be a little learning curve, but once you’ve got the basics down, you will have freshly brewed kombucha regularly without much time input or effort.

From start to finish, brewing a new batch will take no more than 15-20 minutes. This includes boiling (a small amount) water for tea, steeping the tea, stirring in sugar, and then adding cool water to dilute the concentrated tea solution and cool it to room temperature before adding your SCOBY, covering it, and putting it away to ferment.

A batch of kombucha can take 7-21 days to ferment depending on the temperature and how you like your kombucha.

After your batch is done fermenting, you’ll want to bottle and flavor it. Depending on how you plan to flavor, the time required could vary. If you’re in a hurry, adding fruit juice is an easy, quick way to add lots of flavor.

2. What is the ideal environment for your SCOBY?

When choosing a spot for your brewing vessel, you want to consider temperature, airflow, sunlight, and smell.

Every microbe has a temperature in which they are most active, as well as a range that they can tolerate. Kombucha is special in that it is a community of different microbes that work together and can tolerate different temperatures. The ideal temperature range for kombucha is where the most microbes will be the most active, which is 75-85F. While this might seem high, it is again the “ideal” temperature and can be flexible to suit the environment of your home to a certain degree (pun intended). If your house tends to be on the colder side, see this post, which goes over ways to keep your kombucha warm during the fermentation.

Being that kombucha is an aerobic ferment, placing your vessel in an open space helps promote the flow of oxygen and makes for a healthier ferment. Lots of people suggest keeping it in a cabinet, and I did that for a few years when I was starting out (so it will work just fine if that’s what you prefer or is your only option, but it is not necessarily ideal). I found that a bonus of keeping it out of the cabinet was just that I could see it! This allowed me to take better care of it (mostly by just remembering it was there) and helped prevent over-fermentation.

It is best to keep your vessel out of direct sunlight if you’re using a clear glass container. Indirect sunlight is okay, but less is best as the sunlight can disrupt the microbial processes.

The last consideration is that kombucha can give off a potent vinegar smell, especially if you prefer a longer ferment time. You will probably get used to it pretty quickly, but if you care what your guest thinks, you might want to consider this when choosing a location for your brew.

For most people, the place that fits each of these qualifications will be on top of the fridge. The heat radiating from the fridge helps warm the brew up, it is open-air, usually out of direct sunlight, and the smell rises so no one will really notice!

3. How much kombucha should you brew?

This depends on if you’re just brewing for yourself or if your family will drink kombucha with you.

Your kombucha will be ready every 7-21 days, depending on various factors, mostly temperature and how tart you like it. For me, I like to start tasting around day seven but will usually bottle on day ten or so.

A gallon batch is pretty typical for a homebrewer and is a really good place to start. Every gallon will produce about seven, 16oz bottles of kombucha every time you ferment a new batch. If you start getting overrun with kombucha, you can always take a break from brewing (view post on how to take a break from brewing), or you can make smaller batches and keep brewing. If you’ve run out of kombucha way too early, then you can increase your ratios and brew more!

4. What equipment do you need to brew kombucha?

The main piece of equipment you may need to buy is a brewing vessel. The classic choice is a gallon glass jar (or whatever size brew you’ve decided on). You can use an old pickle jar or whatever you might have, too. Glass is an excellent choice because you can watch what is going on in your brew and doesn’t leach chemicals. For more information, see our post on choosing a kombucha brewing container.

You will also want some bottles to store, flavor, and carbonate your brew. For every gallon, you’ll end up with 7, 16oz bottles full of kombucha. I prefer glass swing-top bottles as they’re easy to use and are pressure-resistant (to a certain degree!). Our kombucha bottling kit is perfect for one-gallon batches. It comes with seven, 16 oz bottles, a funnel, and a bottle brush. You can also save and re-use store-bought kombucha bottles, these lids work great as store bought kombucha bottle replacement caps.

You’ll want to cover your jar with a breathable cover. This could be a coffee filter, paper towel, thin kitchen towel, or our unbleached muslin covers, secured with a rubber band. The idea is to keep bugs out (which is why I don’t recommend cheesecloth) while letting the ferment breathe.

Optional but helpful equipment that provides peace of mind and precision in your brewing includes an adhesive thermometer and pH stripsWhy pH is important for kombucha? Other than those things, you only need a small pot and something to stir your sugar.

5. Is it easy to kill your SCOBY?

Luckily for new and old brewers alike, it is actually pretty tough to wipe out your entire culture. SCOBYs are way more resilient than they typically get credit for and can survive pretty large swings in temperature as long as they are not sustained.

There are billions if not trillions of microbes in your starter liquid, so if you do screw something up, odds are a good majority of them survived.

Probably the most common reason to have to toss out an entire brew is because of mold, though this is rare in itself. Here’s an article that talks more about mold and how to avoid it: Avoid Moldy Kombucha With These 3 Steps

Taking on brewing kombucha can seem daunting at first, but I would advise all new brewers to relax, trust the SCOBY, and learn from your mistakes because your SCOBY can handle most of what you will throw at it. Brewing recipes are flexible, and most of the work will be done for you by the microbes. If you can brew sweet tea, you can make kombucha!

Ready to get started? Check out our SCOBYs and Kombucha kits! If you have questions about the brewing process or any of our products, we’re here to help! Either ask in the comments or use the contact form. Cheers!

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