How to Make Kombucha: Brewing Your 1st Batch

April 25, 2012

in Drinks, Kombucha

Blueberry Kombucha

The last time I posted about making your own kombucha, I included a rather unsightly photo of a SCOBY. Sorry about that.

Appearances aside, I thought it was important for you to see what the kombucha “mother” should look like. It isn’t pretty (and the SCOBY gets thicker and more unattractive over time, trust me).

Homemade Kombucha

The finished product, however, is worth your time and a lot easier on the eyes.

Here are a few of the reported health benefits of kombucha (according to the Kombucha Kamp website):

  • Kombucha contains probiotics (healthy bacteria) that can help improve digestion
  • It alkalizes the body to help balance ph (one of the goals of the Crazy Sexy Diet style of eating)
  • Kombucha can help increase energy
  • It’s high in antioxidants that can help destroy cancer-causing free-radicals

Please note that  this information is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended to replace the advice or attention of health-care professionals. 

Homemade Kombucha with Blueberries & Mint

Health benefits aside, I also happen to like the slightly acidic, apple-cider-vinegar-like flavor. There’s something addictive about it.

Kombucha with Blueberries & Mint

And in addition to saving nearly $4 every time a kombucha craving strikes, one of the great parts of brewing your own is that you can play around with the sweetness (a longer fermentation period will yield a less sweet, more acidic kombucha) and also the flavors. I went with a blueberry kombucha this time, adding in just a couple of tablespoons of frozen berries before I bottled it. I also really like strawberry and mango, and I’m looking forward to making a ginger version soon.

Kombucha with Blueberries

The fruit creates this awesome natural carbonation, making the kombucha extra fizzy and fun to sip. And if you’re worried about the strands of yeast (you’ll often see them at the bottom of the liquid), it’s really easy to strain those out, rinse them down the drain, and pretend they never existed. I also like to pretend the SCOBY never existed.

Homemade Kombucha with Berries

Garnish your kombucha with a few mint leaves for a pretty, non-alcoholic, and good-for-you beverage. Or add a shot of tequila, vodka, whatever. Sometimes, that can be good for your soul.

Homemade Kombucha
Author: 
Recipe type: Drink
Serves: 12 C. Kombucha
 
Ingredients
  • 1 Kombucha Scoby (the "mother")
  • 2 C. Kombucha Liquid from Previous Batch, taken from the top of the jar
  • 12 C. Water
  • 5 Bags of Organic Green or Black Tea (or 5 Tbs. looseleaf tea)
  • 1 C. Sugar (I used Raw Turbinado)
  • 1 Gallon Glass Jar
  • Clean Cloth or Paper Towels
  • Rubber Band
  • Glass Jars with Plastic Lids for Bottling
  • Fruit for Flavoring the Kombucha (optional)
Instructions
  1. In a large pot, bring 12 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add 1 C. of sugar to the boiling water and stir to dissolve.
  3. Turn off the stove and add 5 bags of organic green or black tea (or 5 tablespoons of loose leaf tea). I used green tea.
  4. Cover the pot to prevent the mixture from evaporating and allow it to come to room temperature. This will take some time, but it’s important that the mixture has cooled before moving on to the next step or you’ll kill all that good bacteria in the kombucha liquid.
  5. Once the water/sugar/tea mixture has cooled to room temperature, remove the tea bags and pour the mixture into a large glass jar (I used a 1 gallon biscotti jar from Williams Sonoma).
  6. Using clean hands, add the kombucha scoby to the tea mixture, followed by 2 cups of the reserved kombucha. It's okay if the scoby sinks to the bottom of the jar.
  7. Cover the top of the jar with a clean dish towel or 2 layers of paper towels and secure it with a rubber band. This will keep fruit flies and other bugs out, while still allowing air to circulate.
  8. Place the jar in a warm, dark spot (I chose the top, back shelf in my pantry) where it won’t be disturbed, and allow it to to sit for about 7 days before taking a peek. You should see a thin, cloudy-looking film growing over the top of the mixture – this is a new baby scoby!
  9. Insert a straw below the baby scoby and taste the kombucha. You'll know it's ready to bottle when it has an apple cider vinegar taste and isn't overly sweet.
  10. If the kombucha still tastes sugary, allow the mixture to ferment for 3-7 more days, tasting every so often until it meets your taste preferences.
  11. Once the kombucha is ready, prepare your glass jars. You can add a small amount of fresh or frozen fruit (for example, a tablespoon or two of blueberries, strawberries, ginger, whatever you like) to the empty jars.
  12. Pour the kombucha into the jars, straining out the yeast strands if you like.
  13. Fill the jars to the very top and make sure to use plastic lids (metal can erode). The less air in the jar, the more natural carbonation will take place and the more fizzy your finished product will taste. Fruit will also create carbonation.
  14. Allow the bottled kombucha to ferment for 1-3 more days in a warm, dark spot, making sure to "burp" the jars every so often to release any pressure. This is important, as the jars can explode if carbonation builds up!
  15. After the 2nd fermentation, move the bottled kombucha to the fridge to prevent further fermentation.
  16. Enjoy (and repeat this process for your next batch)!
Notes
If at any point during the process you notice green mold forming in the mixture, toss it and start over. This can happen when the liquid isn’t acidic enough, which is why it’s so important to add that full 2 cups of the bottled kombucha. The time it takes for the kombucha to ferment is very much dependent on environmental factors and it’s not an exact science. If you find, for example, that the kombucha tastes acidic enough at 6 days instead of 7, for example, go ahead and move on to the bottling process. I personally find that 10 days is about how long it takes to get the right flavor. Each time you brew kombucha, a new scoby will grow on top. It's a good idea to save a few as back-ups in case something happens to your original scoby. To do this, simply add your leftover scoby to a glass jar, cover with finished kombucha liquid, and close the jar using a lid (not a towel) to prevent the kombucha liquid from evaporating (a metal lid is okay as long as the liquid isn't touching it). Store the jar in a warm, dark place.

 

Have you tried kombucha before? Did you like it, or were you not a fan? What’s your favorite flavor?

As far as the Kombucha SCOBY is concerned, I recommend purchasing a Brew Now Kit from Hannah at Kombucha Kamp, rather than growing your own from scratch (which I tried previously). The kit is also great for beginners because it takes out a lot of the guesswork.

 

Disclosure: I’m a big fan of Hannah and her Kombucha Kamp website, which is why I chose to feature her and sign on as an affiliate.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma April 25, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for the brilliant recipe! Am becoming slightly addicted to delicious kombucha but it’s not cheap! What do you do if you’re making it for the first time and you don’t have a scoby or liquid from the previous batch? Where did you obtain your first ones? Thanks again – great article!

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Amanda April 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Hey Emma, thanks for your comment! I wrote a post the other week about growing your own scoby:

http://www.picklesnhoney.com/2012/04/09/how-to-make-kombucha-growing-a-scoby/

All you need is a bottle of plain, raw kombucha and you can use that to grow the scoby and start brewing at home!

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Hannah Crum April 26, 2012 at 6:20 pm

Hi Amanda, just an fyi that growing your own SCOBY is more difficult than it used to be – follow these rules and it may still be a success: http://www.kombuchakamp.com/2011/10/growing-a-kombucha-culture-pitfalls-and-problems-since-the-reformulation.html

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Amanda April 26, 2012 at 6:36 pm

That’s good to know. I’d be really interested to do a comparison of the SCOBY I grew from the Raw, Plain GT Kombucha and one of yours. Is it just the taste that you’ve found to be different, or perhaps the nutritional value as well?

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Hannah Crum April 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Taste difference for sure. It varies from batch to batch. There is a probiotic supplement in some of the store bought Kombucha (I’m not a fan of that concept) to help boost the “benefits”. As the article says, the process has been altered so the resultant SCOBYs, at least according to readers on my facebook page, produced a weaker flavored Kombucha.

The real issue is that most people have no idea they are even drinking a reformulated Kombucha with less power than before. It’s still way better than soda or any “diet” drink, but it’s like starting with inferior ingredients to make a cake: it’ll still taste like cake but it won’t be quite as good to the discerning palate.

Emma April 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm

Aha! Just read your previous article – very helpful! Although still wondering if you would use the liquid from growing the first scoby as the “liquid from the previous batch” ingredient. Very keen to have a go – your berry kombucha looks incredible!

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Amanda April 25, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Yes, you would use 2 cups of the liquid from growing the scoby as the starter kombucha liquid in your first batch. Good question!

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Lynn April 25, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I was just given a scooby dooby from a friend and I really have to put it to work. Thanks for reminding me!

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Amanda April 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm

haha I love that you call it a “scooby dooby”!

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Ashlae April 26, 2012 at 1:12 am

Haha, I also like to pretend the SCOBY (or mothership, as my boyfriend calls it) never existed. I made kombuch a couple of months ago and it was great. I need to try it again, soon! Next time, with fruit :)

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Amanda April 26, 2012 at 1:31 am

I love your boyfriend’s name for the scoby! Somehow, giving it a funny name makes it seem less gross. :)

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Hannah Crum April 26, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Hey Amanda, nice article and thanks for the shoutout! Love the color of that Kombucha, looks delicious.

I thought your readers might be interested in a few flavoring ideas. We put together this post to help inspire new flavor combinations. http://www.kombuchakamp.com/2011/09/10-easy-recipes-for-flavoring-kombucha.html

Enjoy and thanks again for spreading that Kombucha love! :)

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Amanda April 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Thanks, Hannah! Your flavoring ideas are great – I wouldn’t have thought to add herbs/spices – I’ll have to give that a try!

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Dave May 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm

Kombucha is great, especially with different fruit flavors like strawberry or plum. Love it!
Thanks for the detailed recipe. Keep up the great work.

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Amanda May 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Strawberry is my current favorite, but I’ll have to try plum next – sounds great!

P.S. Nice job with the video. Very entertaining! :)

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Glennda September 20, 2012 at 9:25 pm

I was wondering if you could use a bottled classic non-flavored kombucha instead of the vinegar?

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Amanda September 21, 2012 at 9:06 am

Hi Glennda, I’m not sure I understand your question…I didn’t use vinegar in my recipe. I’m currently using a kombucha SCOBY from KombuchaKamp.com, and it came with the starter liquid. I recommend this method over using bottled kombucha for a few different reasons. Here’s a post explaining why if you’re interested: http://www.picklesnhoney.com/2012/06/15/homemade-kombucha-giveaway/

Hope this helps! :)

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mark January 2, 2013 at 1:08 pm

I am going to try adding fresh fruit. I have never tried this. We add dried fruit to our water kefir and this produces an amazing beverage. It’s explosive when you open the bottle sometimes resulting in half the bottle bubbling out. This is part of the fun of making fermented beverages!

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Amanda January 2, 2013 at 1:11 pm

I totally agree! It’s like opening a bottle of champagne!

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katelyn March 2, 2013 at 11:34 am

Thanks for the info about making kombucha tea. I made it for the first time last week and I came out wonderful.

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Amanda March 2, 2013 at 12:48 pm

That’s awesome, Katelyn! I remember I was so nervous about messing it up when I first started making kombucha, but it’s actually pretty easy. If you drink it as often as I do, you’ll save a ton of money too! :)

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katelyn March 2, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Amanda the thing that made me nervous was not knowing exactly what everything was suppose to look like. I never had kombucha tea till I made it myself, now I cant stop drinking it!

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Carol June 6, 2013 at 7:25 am

How do you “burp” the bottled kombucha?

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Amanda June 6, 2013 at 8:12 am

Once it’s bottled, just remove the bottle cap for a brief moment once a day to release the pressure. I use glass bottles with stoppers and sometimes they even pop off like champagne because there’s so much carbonation. It’s kind of fun!

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Ruth August 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm

Hi Everyone,

Just tried this wonderful drink courtesy of a friend who is often in San Francisco.
So rapt, I immediately started on my first bug. Was over patient and left it longer than the week (should have gone back to the instructions sooner instead of trusting them to memory…doh!!) Anyway, I have fed the bug, but noticed the scoby is a pretty solid circle in the bigger container. Does “solid” ie keeping its shape from first jar, really matter?

Ruth

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Amanda August 9, 2013 at 8:34 am

Hi Ruth! It’s hard to say for sure, but it sounds like the scoby you’re describing is fine – just more mature and therefore more “solid”. You can expect the scoby to take on the size/shape of whatever jar you grow it in, and then when you transfer it to a new jar, it will maintain that shape from the first jar and a new baby scoby should grow directly on top, or at the top of the new jar if the original scoby sinks to the middle/bottom of the liquid. I wouldn’t worry too much about letting it ferment for longer than instructed. There are so many variables that impact the time it should take to make kombucha (temperature, strength of starter liquid, scoby, etc). Longer fermentation just means a more vinegar-like, less sweet kombucha. :)

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Julie September 26, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Hi Amanda thank you for walking me through this process. I purchased my first Kombucha beverage at a farmers market from an Amish vender just a few months ago. It was amazing. I was soon hooked and purchased 7 bottles every week. I had one a day. So, then I wanted to learn how to make it myself. I found your Blog. I was so excited. I started making my scoby a few weeks ago and am about ready to make my first batch of Kombucha. I am somewhat confused about what to do with the Scoby once I bottle the Kombucha. How do I keep it alive?????

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Amanda September 27, 2013 at 8:44 am

Hi Julie! That’s great! Once you’re ready to bottle the kombucha, you’re going to want to set aside the SCOBY plus two cups of the kombucha liquid from the top of the jar, so you can repeat the process all over again! Let me know if you have any other questions. :)

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Julie September 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm

Thank you Amanada. I appreciate the quick responce. I watched a few video’s on YouTube yesturday which also, really helped clarify that step in the process. I am getting so excited to brew my fist batch. I am going tomorrow to get a few gallon glass jars. I saved all the glass bottles from the Kombucha that I purchased from the Amish vender so I have tons of bottles. I am nearly there. Yippy!!!!:)

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Sherry November 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I love the suggestion of adding the fruit! You say to use a plastic lid for the second step. Is there a glass jar that uses a metal lid or what style do you use? Where did you get it? Thanks :)

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Amanda November 4, 2013 at 9:44 am

The fruit makes the kombucha, in my opinion! Occasionally, I drink it plain, but I love the extra fizz from the fruit. I use glass bottles with stoppers that I found on Amazon (I think these are the bottles I have). They’re great because they really seal in the carbonation. I have four, but usually only need to fill three for every batch.

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Sherry November 4, 2013 at 4:06 pm

Cool! Thanks for responding! I’m making my first batch!

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amanda shelton June 7, 2014 at 11:56 pm

Thank you so much Amanda this was the most amazing experience. I originally tried Kombucha because of one of the ads in a grocery store that is meant to make you buy more after the sale is over, however I decided to make it on my own. That is when I found you and I am so glad I did. Again, thank you so much for this very awesome post.i am now the hippy of my friend group.

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Amanda June 10, 2014 at 8:35 am

That’s great, Amanda! I am the hippie of my friend group too! ;)

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maddie July 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm

How big or how many layers of Scobys do you need before making a bigger batch? Example: I was making 1/2 gallon batches and now want to make 2 gallon should I just use all he Scobys from my precious batches or would only 1 work as well?

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Amanda July 13, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Hi Maddie! I think that will depend on the maturity and thickness of the scoby you are using, whether you would want to use more than one. There’s no real “right” way to do this – if you use a smaller, thinner scoby, it will take a bit longer for the kombucha to reach the desired taste. You will just want to make sure you use ample starter liquid from the previous batch when you move to a 2 gallon container. I brew with a 1 gallon jar and use 2 cups of starter liquid every time I make a new batch, so I would double that to make sure the brew is acidic enough to keep mold from growing, for instance. I also let my scoby build up in layers each time I make a new batch and only toss the original when it gets overly thick or discolored. Periodically, I save a baby scoby for back up should I need one.

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Vicki July 22, 2014 at 12:11 am

Hi Amanda! Thanks for all the info! I can’t wait to make my first homemade batch of kombucha. Do you add the fruit to the bottles when you bottle the komucha (before the 2nd ferment) or when you are ready to drink it? Thanks!

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Amanda July 22, 2014 at 8:27 am

Hi Vicki! Add the fruit to the bottles, then add the kombucha, and allow it to do a 2nd fermentation for 1-3 days (depending on preferred taste). Just make sure to briefly uncork the bottles once a day to release air pressure build up and avoid exploding bottles. :) That hasn’t ever happened to me, but some fruits, like strawberries, create a lot of carbonation!

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