In this article, we will go over exactly what you’ll need and how to get started brewing your kombucha at home. Despite common belief, brewing kombucha is easy to do and doesn’t take a lot of time! Before we get started brewing, let’s cover a few basics.
Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. Its fermentation process resembles that of vinegar, where a mixture of yeast and bacteria ferment together in an aerobic environment. The result is a probiotic, tart and slightly sweet beverage enjoyed by many who boast of its proclaimed health benefits.
This fizzy, tangy drink has been brewed for centuries as a health tonic or “elixir of life” but has been recently growing in popularity. This recent spike can be attributed to the newest health craze: a healthy gut. Remarkable research is being done on our microbiome, revealing the importance of our gut health to the basic functioning of our body and our immune systems. Harvard even calls the microbiome “…a supporting organ because it plays so many key roles in promoting the smooth daily operations of the human body” (source).
The number of breweries popping up and a variety of kombucha products available provides a hint as to just how popular kombucha is becoming. The kombucha selection, even at larger grocery chains, has become quite impressive. While there are many great choices on the shelves, regularly drinking kombucha at $4-$5 per bottle adds up quick.
If you enjoy drinking kombucha, you can easily make it at home for a fraction of the cost of store-bought. One gallon of home-brewed kombucha, even with the highest quality ingredients, costs between $1-$2, as opposed to $28-$35 per gallon if you purchase store-bought.
is brewing kombucha at home difficult?
Not at all. If you can brew sweet tea (which I think you can), you can brew kombucha. It’s as simple as that.
What do you need to brew kombucha?
To start brewing kombucha, you’ll need:
- Kombucha Brewing Jar: Glass or lead-free porcelain are popular options for home brewing. Choose anything non-porous and non-reactive. See this post to help determine what is the best container for brewing kombucha.
- A Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast): The SCOBY is the group of living microbes responsible for transforming sweet tea into kombucha. They reside in previously brewed kombucha as well as in the cellulose film that grows on the surface. If you’re looking for a SCOBY, you can purchase an Organic SCOBY from us, here!
- Organic Sugar: Without sugar, there wouldn’t be any fermentation taking place. The yeast eats sugar, breaking it down into carbon dioxide and alcohol, which then gets broken down by the bacteria into healthy organic acids, enzymes, and vitamins. Since you’re saving so much money making your kombucha, I recommend purchasing organic ingredients. Read more about what kind of sugar to use in our post here which will help you determine what is the best sugar for brewing kombucha.
- Organic Tea: Tea provides the SCOBY with nutrients that help facilitate the fermentation. It’s traditional to use black tea, which has high tannin and nutrient count, however, you can experiment with all types of different teas. Check out our hand-blended, organic tea blends specifically formulated for kombucha brewing, here!
- Filtered Water: As the most abundant ingredient in kombucha, you want to make sure that the water you use is high quality. Tap water contains chlorine and chloramines that inhibit microbe growth (not good for fermentation). Most cheap, carbon water filters will remove chlorine and chloramines so those will suffice. The SCOBY gets plenty of nutrients from the tea so feel free to use distilled or DI water if you’d prefer.
HOW TO BREW KOMBUCHA
Kombucha brewing is a two-step process consisting of primary and secondary fermentation. The primary fermentation is when you make kombucha, and the secondary fermentation is when you take the kombucha and bottle, flavor and carbonate.
What you will need:
- 1-gallon glass jar, small pot, breathable cover, and a rubber band
- 3/4 gallon filtered water*
- 1 cup of organic cane sugar
- 2 tablespoons loose leaf black or green tea or 6 tea bags
- SCOBY [1.5 cups starter tea + pellicle]
- pH strips
- Airtight bottles to do a secondary fermentation and store your finished brew.
*Filtered water is important. Chlorine is typically added to city water to inhibit microbe growth. We are trying to encourage microbe growth during fermentation so its best to remove the chlorine. Any sort of carbon filtration system will work. This includes Brita Filters and refrigerator filters, given you have been on top of changing the filter. If not, a gallon jug of spring water from the store will work as well.
Kombucha Brewing Instructions:
- In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil – turn off and remove from heat.
- Place tea in the pot. If you’re using loose-leaf, you can use a tea ball to make removal easier.
- Allow the tea to steep for 5-10 minutes, then remove from pot.
- Add the sugar and stir until it’s fully dissolved.
- Pour the contents of the pot into the gallon brew jar.
- Top the jar off with cool filtered water, making sure to leave room for your culture plus a little breathing room–about 3 inches
- Before you move on to the next step, the temperature of the tea should be below 85F.
- Gently stir in your starter culture (starter tea+pellicle)
- Using a shot glass or a spoon, remove a small amount of liquid from the brew jar to test the pH. If the pH reads 4.5 or below, continue to step 11.
- If the pH reads above 4.5, slowly add distilled white vinegar (never raw vinegar) and test until it reaches that point.
- Secure opening with a breathable cloth or coffee filter over the opening of the jar with a rubber band. This is important to keep bugs out and allow your ferment to breathe.
- Place your brew jar undisturbed in a warm spot, out of direct sunlight for 7-21 days, brewing time depends on temperature.
- After 7 days in the desired temperature range [75-85°F], it’s time to start taste testing. It should only be slightly sweet. If it tastes overly sweet, then it needs more time to ferment. Cover and check back daily until it reaches a balance slightly sweet, slightly tart
When you’ve finished your primary fermentation, it’s time to move to the secondary fermentation. The secondary fermentation is where you flavor and carbonate your kombucha in air tight bottles.
Ready to bottle? Hop over to the How to Bottle Kombucha post to continue reading!