I’ve been making kombucha at home only for about a year, but have been getting consistently good batches. The methodology below, with a focus on US centric measurements and easy to follow photos, evolved from the many recipes on the web. I get all the ingredients from the 4th Street Food Co-op.
- measuring cup(s)
- tea ball (if using loose tea)
- approx 4 quart pot or sauce pan
- fine strainer
- 1 gallon glass jar or container
- several glass bottles with clamp or screw-on tops
- Kombucha culture or SCOBY (ask around–people often have them at co-ops and health food stores)
- 1 cup prepared kombucha tea (should come with your SCOBY, also known as a baby, but you can use commercially prepared kombucha tea also)
A few notes, all equipment should be clean. Use glass where possible and minimize contact with metal (I don’t worry about this for brewing the tea). Store kombucha in a well ventilated place that is not too near smoke, dust, cooking, etc.
Boil 3 quarts water (I use filtered).
Measure one cup of sugar (I use evaporated cane juice that we carry in bulk at our co-op), and prepare a tea ball with 5 teaspoons of loose black tea or use 5 tea bags (I use black assam tea that we carry in bulk at our co-op). Some people use green tea but I haven’t tried that yet.
Dissolve the sugar into the boiling water, make a pretty pattern.
Turn off the heat and steep the tea for about 12 minutes (yes I set a timer otherwise I’d forget about it).
When the tea is ready, cool it to room temperature. I have a very small refrigerator so I cool it gradually on the counter or near a window. If you can’t place yours in the refrigerator either, I recommend giving yourself several hours to let it cool. Don’t place the SCOBY in tea that is too hot, apparently that is bad for it. I have never done this so I can’t say what might happen.
The next step will be to combine the recently brewed tea with one cup of already prepared kombucha tea that either came with the baby or came from commercially bottled tea. I have heard people use cider vinegar (with the mother) also. Place the culture or SCOBY, on top.
These go in a gallon container, such as a pickle jar or even a fish bowl like I use. Mine doesn’t pour easily though. Cover with a mesh cloth and secure with a rubber band, and place somewhere out of
the way of too much heat, dust, or smells. This photo shows it in the window only so I could get better light for the photo. I actually keep it in a cabinet that has a bit of ventilation.
Mine usually takes around 10-11 days to get to the taste I like. You can start testing after 8-9 days, just dip a little spoon or straw (not metal) under the SCOBY. You might leave it 12 days or longer. Warmer weather or indoor temperatures speed things up. Longer sit time means more sour, shorter time is sweeter.
When you are ready to bottle, I find it’s easiest to make a new batch of kombucha the same day. I pour off a cup (8 oz.) of the new kombucha tea into my 4 cup pyrex measuring cup, using the strainer to keep out loose culture strands. With clean hands, I then take out the culture and put it into the measuring cup with the tea.
Strain the remaining kombucha tea into bottles, taking care to leave a little air room at the top. At this point I often place a slice of fresh ginger right in the bottle. I haven’t experimented much with other flavors yet. Close lids as tightly as possible. I leave mine for 2 additional days before refrigerating to increase fizziness. In the refrigerator, fermentation will be stalled dramatically, but I find it does get a bit stronger when left a while, say over a week.
Now, back to your SCOBY. If you haven’t noticed already, it should have formed a totally new SCOBY, or baby, right on top of the mother. You can carefully separate them. One, the original usually, will go into your new batch of tea along with the cup of tea you saved. The other can be given away to a friend or composted. Wash & rinse your gallon container thoroughly before making the next batch (hot soapy water has been fine for me, I don’t sterilize anything).
I have a system whereby I keep an additional SCOBY in a small jar in the refrigerator with a cup of kombucha. When it’s time to make a new batch, if no one has asked for that SCOBY, I throw it out and replace it with the new one just created. I’ll use the starter tea that has been in the refrigerator for my new batch, and set aside a new cup of starter tea along with the new SCOBY in case someone wants it. It can live in the refrigerator a pretty long time, several months at least, in case you are traveling and can’t keep making tea.
I would like to end by saying that all told, making kombucha has been easy and satisfying. Some of the web instructions might be a bit intimidating, but really there’s not much to lose. Once you find a source for the SCOBY, the ingredients and supplies are pretty inexpensive. If something happens to your culture, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find another and keep trying. My 2nd batch got mold on it (this was obvious from looking at it), and I stopped for a while. Eventually a friend gave me another culture and I’ve been going strong since then–making dozens of new babies to share. Enjoy and experiment, and use comments below to report on your own methodology.