I have been making kombucha tea for my family for several years now, and they’re still always excited to find a new batch in the fridge. It is cheap, healthy, and tasty, so making this drink a win-win-win. I even find it’s a creative endeavour—with my vast variety of teas I can play with flavours.
Some of the instructions you’ll find on making kombucha tea are full of complicated directions. Organic tea, filtered water, correct temperatures… If you put off starting until you have everything in place then you’re likely to miss out on lots of delicious probiotics. So I decided to write this kombucha making guide as a way to share my simple process with all of you.
If you’re just getting started, and you’re just a little lazy, let me break it down for you. I will also be writing a kombucha making guide for fruit kombuchas sometimes soon (don’t worry. It will also be for lazy beginners). You can sign up for my email newsletter in the sidebar or popup to make sure you receive it (scroll to the bottom on your phone). Some of the links in the article are affiliates for products that I recommend. This helps support GWR at no cost to you.
What you’ll need
- A SCOBY. This stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It is the living “mushroom” (but not really) of the kombucha. The best source is to have a friend who makes kombucha tea. The culture grows with every batch, so you can get one from her. If you don’t know anyone you can order one online (I hear this one is good) and start a whole new strain of SCOBY-sharing love.
- A glass jar. The steps below are for one gallon. You can easily do a half batch. I like to have two of these to simplify the brewing process, or to have more than one batch on the go.
- A wooden spoon. For stirring and stuff.
- A mesh strainer.
- Sugar and black tea.
- A tea towel, or paper towel, or paper coffee filters.
Kombucha Making Guide
This is the process I use to make kombucha tea. I have never had any problems with quality, spoilage, or losing my SCOBYs, but all SCOBYs are a bit different. I personally find it is more of an art then a science, but both of these aspects really come together for a good kombucha tea. This kombucha making guide will include some notes on the technical bits and on experimenting with flavour, but use your best discretion.
Also, I recommend only doing the safest and most basic recipe until you have an extra SCOBY or two safely stored away. If something goes wrong and your SCOBY bites the dust you’ll still have one ready to use and grow.
Put 5 tea bags and 1 1/3 – 2 cups of sugar in your glass jar. Add a kettle full of boiled water and stir. Allow to steep for a minimum of five minutes. Sometimes I leave mine until it has cooled to room temperature.
A quick note on tea: For regular ol’ kombucha you will use black tea. I buy large bags of cheap tea, but a higher quality organic tea will, of course, result in a higher quality kombucha (and will be more ethical to boot). Often I will substitute some of the black tea for herbal or green. I’ve found that as long as I keep two black tea bags in the recipe I can switch it up with reckless abandon. You can also add extra bags for stronger flavour.
A quick note on sugar: Most sources suggest 1 1/3 cup of sugar for a gallon of tea. I use close to 2 cups, in part because I like to let mine ferment for longer than is typical. I know this seems like a lot, but the SCOBY feeds on the sugar, so a finished kombucha has a low sugar content. You can see what you like, but don’t try drastically cutting the sugar or eliminating it. Your SCOBY has a sweet tooth and needs it to do it’s job.
Traditional knowledge has dictated that kombucha tea should be made with regular white sugar. Organic cane sugar also works well, and some may choose it because it is non-GMO. However, if you’re interested in trying other sugar sources then read the very interesting article Does Kombucha Really Need White Sugar?
You will remove your tea bags and compost them, then fill the jar with cold water to about three quarters. Test it with your finger as the goal is to have the liquid come to room temperature. You will then pour starter liquid into the jar from the top your finished kombucha (or your SCOBY liquid, if this is your first go). Make sure to leave room for your SCOBY, then add it to the jar. It may float or it may sink; it doesn’t matter. If, for some reason, you don’t have starter liquid then you can still make kombucha without it; you will just need to let it ferment longer.
Place a clean dishtowel, a coffee filter, or paper towel over the mouth of your jar and secure it with an elastic. Place the jar in a dry, dark, warmish place. We always keep ours on a shelf in the pantry, which works great.
You will now need a little patience as you wait for the SCOBY to work it’s magic. You will begin to see bubbles around the SCOBY and a cream-coloured baby SCOBY will form on the top of the liquid. How long you leave it will depend on your conditions, SCOBY, sugar levels, but most of all on your preferences. If this is your first time making kombucha you will want to do a taste test after two or three days. As you develop a true appreciation for kombucha tea you will likely find that you like a longer ferment. I frequently leave mine for six days, or even longer (if I’m extra lazy).
Remove your jar of kombucha from it’s hiding place. The first thing you will do is to remove the SCOBY and some starter liquid from the jar. I like to have steps 1, 2, and 3 completed for my next batch so I can start it right away. If you’re not ready to start a new batch of kombucha then you can just store the SCOBY in the glass jar with kombucha liquid. It will be ready to go next time you need it.
The remaining kombucha tea will have brownish strands of yeast and possibly some bits of SCOBY left behind. Simply pour the kombucha through your mesh strainer and directly into a jug that you will place in the fridge. If you leave the kombucha out it will continue to ferment, but cooling it in the fridge means it stays at it’s finished quality until it’s all gone (which doesn’t take very long around here).
Some really easy rules
- Always wash and rinse your hands well before working with kombucha or your SCOBY.
- Don’t use metal on your SCOBY, particularly for long. It’s important that you don’t use a metal or plastic container for brewing.
- Don’t allow pieces of SCOBY to go down the drain. I don’t think it’s very likely, but you don’t want it to start multiplying in your plumbing. It is perfectly fine to compost SCOBY.
- Don’t allow your SCOBY to get too hot or too cold. This is why it is optimal to keep it in room-temperature liquid.
- Don’t stress! SCOBY is actually a little more resilient than you might think. Once you have some backup SCOBYs stashed away you can play a little more with the process.
If you desire you can also add plain herbal tea, lemonade, or fruit juice to the finished kombucha to mellow out the tang, build on the flavour, and add a little excitement. We are particularly fond of adding a small amount of this homemade ginger syrup to our glass before drinking. Either way, kombucha makes a refreshing drink on a hot day. I hope you’ve enjoyed this kombucha making guide and will get lots of use from your new-found skill!