Home Brewed Kombucha

Eleven Years of Home Brewing Kombucha

This weekend has been mostly focused on getting my two final papers completed for the two classes I am taking. I did however have a chance to experiment with some more kombucha varieties.

I have been making my own kombucha since 2011. This is the recipe I was given during a kombucha making “class” (it was just me and the “teacher” at her house in Uptown Minneapolis, at one point I had to go meet her daughter as she got off the bus because the lady was getting ready for a dinner party, whole experience was a bit of a trip – anyway, on to the recipe).

Home Brewed Kombucha

You will need:

  • A kombucha scoby/mother/colony (hence forth called the scoby). You can get a scoby from anyone making their own kombucha because the scoby keeps on growing, or you can order one online, or you can buy PLAIN kombucha from the store and let it sit a while in your fridge and a baby scoby will form and you can make mini-batches that slowly increase in size as your scoby grows.
  • 2.5 gallon glass container (these used to be easy to find, but I broke one a few years ago and really struggled to find a replacement anywhere other than Amazon and I hate giving Jeff Bezos my money).
  • 2 gallons of high-quality water (I am not a fan of our well water and if you have treated city water you cannot use that; I have two 1-gallon refillable water containers and I get good water from the grocery store).
  • 1/3 cup of loose tea leaves (black, white, or green tea – must have caffeine because the scoby consumes the caffeine during the fermentation process – no herb teas, they can mess up your scoby). The final kombucha may have some caffeine in it but it depends heavily on what kind of tea you use and how long you let the kombucha ferment. I let my kombucha ferment much longer than most recipes so there is very little caffeine left in my final kombucha.
  • 2 ¾ cup of cane sugar also sometimes called turbinado, demerara, or muscovado sugar.  The scoby will consume most of the sugar as it produces the kombucha, there should be very, very little sugar left in what you drink, if it tastes sweet you bottled it too soon. The longer you let it ferment the less sugar will be in the final batch and as stated above I tend to ferment mine much longer than most. You can also cut down on the sugar a bit in the beginning, possibly as low as 1 ¾ cups but that will impact the final product and you may need to adjust the amount of tea you are using accordingly. I prefer to go with the longer ferment route.

To make the kombucha:

  • Brew the tea using 1 gallon of your good water following whatever the directions are for your specific tea (I always steep mine about double the time the directions of the particular tea I’m using tells me to).
  • Combine the tea with the sugar in your large glass jar and stir to dissolve; then add the other gallon of water.
  • When the tea mixture has cooled to room temperature (or close to it) add the scoby and one cup of already made PLAIN kombucha (your own from a previous batch or store bought, though finding plain kombucha at a grocery store is getting hard).
  • Cover with a flour sack dishcloth (something thin) and a rubber band so that air can move in and out but dust and debris cannot, then let sit for anywhere from three to six weeks. Mine has never been ready in less than four weeks, usually it takes five or six weeks. I start tasting it for doneness around week four or when I walk in to the kitchen and think, hmmm.. smells like kombucha. When it no longer tastes like tea or sugar it is ready to be bottled for the second ferment. 
  • Remove the scoby and set it aside along with 1 cup of the finished kombucha for the next batch in a glass container of some sort.
  • Bottle your remaining kombucha and let sit on your counter in the closed bottles for 1 to 3 days (this is the second ferment). Once or twice a day during this second ferment phase you must open all the caps to let out any built-up pressure (they can literally explode during this phase if you don’t “burp” them, which happened to my nephew and his friend).
  • Once the second ferment is done (whenever you want it to be, sometimes mine gets fizzy and sometimes it doesn’t but I don’t worry about it) put the finished bottles in the refrigerator.
  • You have made kombucha!

That is the basic recipe I was given, though I have seen lots of variations online. Mine seems to have more sugar and tea than most, but I also let it ferment much longer than most recipes. Generally I like to drink my kombucha plain, no extra bells and whistles, however I have recently started playing around with some additional flavoring agents and have been really happy with some of the results.

Kombucha Flavoring Options

Some of these I do glass by glass as I drink it, some I add to the kombucha during the second ferment and either strain whatever it is out before putting in the fridge or more often just keep in the jars and strain it out as I drink it.

  • Ginger (I keep a chunk of ginger in the freezer and use a microplane to grate some in glass by glass if I want an extra zip)
  • Lime (I’ll add about ¼ to ½ a lime to a glass as I drink it – very tasty)
  • Ginger + Lime – (historically my favorite option if I wanted something special)
  • Ginger + raw honey + water + REALLY strong kombucha that I accidentally waited too long to bottle so it turned into vinegar – oops
  • Cranberry (add a few frozen cranberries to your jars during the second ferment, you can strain them out before putting the bottles in the fridge or be lazy and leave them in there. You can also mush up the cranberries or just leave them whole.)
  • Elderberry (sometimes I’ll make actual elderberry syrup and add that to my kombucha as I drink it glass-by-glass and sometimes I just put the dried elderberries in during the second ferment. Strain out or leave in once you put the kombucha in the fridge.)
  • Hibiscus (this is now in the running for possible favorite – while searching the bulk herb area at the co-op for kefir lime leaves (which I didn’t find) I saw dried hibiscus blossoms and remembered reading an article about how hibiscus was a traditional ingredient in Red Drink or Sorrel and I wondered if I could add it to kombucha, the answer was YES. Just put in a few blossoms during the second ferment and then strain or again be lazy and leave them in there. Super tasty!)
  • Rosehips (when getting more hibiscus blossoms because it was so good, I noticed the co-op also had dried rosehips and I decided to try that too. Same thing, add the dried rosehips to the kombucha during the second ferment; strain out or leave them in. Rosehip kombucha is good, but I like the hibiscus better.)
  • Hibiscus + Lime is also really good combination .
  • Hibiscus + Lime + Ginger haven’t actually tried this yet but I’m guessing it will be my favorite flavor – other than plain, because I really do like my plain kombucha.

rosehips on the left, hibiscus in the middle, elderberries on the right.

If you live near me and want to try making your own kombucha I’m happy to give you a scoby to start with. If you choose to experiment with the sugar and tea amounts I would also like to hear how that goes.

Now for another glass of kombucha while I finish these stupid papers.