How to Make Kombucha (batch brewing)

 reading time: 8 min




So, first off: What exactly is kombucha? I've recently published a looong blog post all about the health benefits, general tips and troubleshooting instructions for  making and utilizing kombucha, so make sure to check that out first!

But in a nutshell, kombucha is a refreshing and delicious fizzy fermented tea with numerous health benefits that is served cold. It is made through a double-fermentation process (don't let that intimidate you!) with the aid of a SCOBY, a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.

The good news is, once you've got the hang of it, kombucha is extremely easy to make at home and only costs a fraction of the price compared to store-bought kombucha! It kind of makes you feel like a little (al)chemist or a kitchen witch with all that brewing and fermenting :)

The method I use for making my own kombucha is batch brewing, meaning I always make one batch at a time versus continuous brewing. This method is straight-forward and perfect for beginners! (And for people who don't want to make kombucha all the time for the rest of their life, lol.)


Scroll down for my recipe + step-by-step guide with pictures to learn how to prepare your own kombucha (batch brewing) at home!

What You Will Need: 

for making kombucha / 1st fermentation:
- a SCOBY
(Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast; homemade from previous batch of kombucha, given by friend, or purchased online from a reliable source)
- starter liquid (either
unpasteurized, unflavoured store-bought kombucha or leftovers from a previous batch)
- tea (black tea is best for starters, but green tea, rooibos tea and even fruity teas work as well with a larger SCOBY; only use tea without aromatic oils, so no Earl Grey etc.!)
- granulated sugar (e.g. white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar)
- filtered tap water
a wide mouth glass or ceramic container (should hold between 1 liter and 1 gallon/3.7 liters; preferably with a spigot, either made of plastic or stainless steel!)
- a tightly woven cloth (e. g. gauze, coffee filter, napkin or a dish towel;
apparently cheese cloth is not effective at keeping fruit flies out!)
- a rubber band
- a large pot for brewing tea
- about 1 hour of time every week or two

for bottling + 2nd fermentation:
- a sieve
- a funnel
- several airtight bottles, ideally with flip flop lids *
- (optional) fruits, herbs and/or spices of your choice


* I used a bunch of recycled bottles from store-bought cider and other fruit wines which I sterilized with boiling water, some natural dish soap and vinegar; another way to sterilize your bottles is to put them in an oven on low heat of 110 °C / 230 °F for around ten minutes – if it is too hot, they'll crack!


The Recipe:

HOMEMADE KOMBUCHA
 


Preparation time: 70 mins + 7 days fermenting
Main ingredients: SCOBY, black or green tea, sugar
difficulty level: easy-moderate
makes: 4.5 litres kombucha
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, low-fat

Ingredients

general guidelines:
1 SCOBY

10 to 20 % (of the total amount of water using) starter liquid
8 g organic tea per liter (of water using), either loose or tea bags
50 to 100 g granulated sugar per liter (of water using)
filtered water

my specific recipe:
1 SCOBY (mine is about 600 g by now)
800 ml (
~ 3 1/2 cups) starter liquid (from the previous brew)
40 g (~ 8 tbsp or 16 bags) organic loose black or green tea (in my case it's a Darjeeling first flush)
300 g (~ 1 1/2 cups) cane sugar
3 liters (12 cups) of boiling filtered water
2 liters (8 cups) of cold filtered water

this recipe makes about 4.25 liters (~ 1.1 gallons) of kombucha!  Scale up or down to make as much as you need.


Instructions

Part 1: First Fermentation

Gather your supplies: a large glass container (the size depends on how much you want to make – in my case it's a 2 gallon container with a stainless steel spigot, but I usually fill it with only 1.3 gallons of tea), a SCOBY, starter liquid, sugar, and tea. Make sure your supplies are clean (just use hot water and a splash of white vinegar to "sterilize" them).

If your SCOBY and mature liquid / starter tea are still in their fermentation container from the previous batch, gently take it out with very clean hands, and transfer to an equally clean glass or bowl, along with the liquid. Cover with a clean plate or cloth.

Prepare the sweet tea. Bring filtered water to a boil. Steep organic loose tea or tea bags in hot water for 10-12 minutes.

Strain tea. Discard OR – much better – place the tea leaves on a baking tray to dry and save for the next round of making kombucha (I just blend them with "fresh" tea, or just steep the tea a little longer). Alternatively, black tea leaves make for a great natural fertilizer, so just mix it into the soil in your backyard or give it to your indoor plants!

In the meantime, clean your glass container if it isn't already clean. I use hot water and white vinegar (mature kombucha works as well) to "sterilize" mine. If yours has a spigot like mine, be very careful not to break it!

Fully dissolve sugar in hot tea. I use a stainless steel spoon for this.

Assemble the brew. Transfer cold filtered tap water in the glass container. Then transfer sweet tea mixture into the glass container, on top of the cold water.

Set aside to cool until the mixture to about room temperature. During that time, cover the container with a clean kitchen towel to prevent anything from contaminating your tea mixture.
Don't be impatient here – hot water will kill your SCOBY! Like all yeasts, it must not be heated above 30 ° C, otherwise it will die.

Once the tea mixture has cooled down, gently slide your SCOBY into the glass container with very clean hands. (I usually remove a few layers every other batch of so as to not let the SCOBY get too thick.) The SCOBY will eventually float to the top of the jar – don't worry if it doesn't.

Also add your starter liquid to the glass container.

Ferment. Hooray, the hard part is over! Your brew is now ready to ferment! :)

Cover the "mouth" of the glass container with a tightly woven clean cloth or kitchen towel and secure with a rubber band. The kombucha needs to breathe, but we don't want any contamination like dust, mold spores, or fruit flies inside.

Set the container somewhere warm (ideal room temperature: 70-75 °F / 21-24 °C), dark and undisturbed for 7 to 14 days. A brand new kombucha might even take up to 21 days to ferment. Ambient room light is fine, but avoid direct sun rays.

The warmer the room temperature, the faster the kombucha will ferment. The longer the tea ferments, the more sugar will be eaten up by the SCOBY (this lil' sugar monster!), and the less sweet the kombucha will be.

It's best to begin tasting at about day 6 – this is where a spigot comes in handy. Otherwise, use a stainless steel spoon or a ladle to taste your kombucha (obviously, clean it before dipping it in again!). The taste you're looking for is a slightly sweet, slightly fruity, slightly tart with a mild vinegary hint, but far less than in apple cider vinegar for example. You'll definitely notice a "sweet spot" during the process.

TIP: Write down the date you started the fermentation process because you will forget!

Part 2
: Bottling / Second Fermentation
 
Once your kombucha has fermented to your ideal tartness, it is time to get it bottled!

BTW: You will probably notice that a thin layer has formed on top of the original SCOBY. Don't freak out – that is a new baby SCOBY that can either stay where it is (that way your SCOBY will get bigger and more potent), or you can use it to make a different batch of kombucha in a separate container, for example with green tea. Or give it to a friend to start their own kombucha brewing station!

Bottle your kombucha. Fill the finished beverage into clean, sterilized bottles using a funnel. For plain, unflavoured kombucha
I usually also use a fine mesh sieve to filter out any stringy bits of yeast – don't strain them yet when continuing with second fermentation, as those will help with carbonation and fizz. Leave about a half inch or 1.5 cm of head room in each bottle. (If you want to add any flavours, leave about 1.5 inches or 4 cm at the top!)

Make sure to reserve about 10 % or at least 2 cups of your mature kombucha from this batch to use as a starter liquid for your next for your next round.

Store bottled kombucha in the fridge to prevent any further fermentation and carbonation. (Or, go to the optional 2nd Fermentation, first!)

Begin the brewing cycle again to make your next batch of homemade kombucha, starting at Step 1.

Optional: Add flavour to your "booch"! This is one of the most fun parts of making your own kombucha – coming up with various flavour combinations! This "second
(and final) fermentation" is where you add fruits, herbs and/or spices to your "first fermentation", aka your freshly bottled kombucha. Just throw in a handful of your favourite fruit, chopped and slightly crushed, to let out the juices.

I will do a separate blog post on delicious flavours soon, but some of my current favourites include ginger, lemon & ginger, strawberries, lavender, and sage.

This is a great way to utilize overripe or damaged fruit instead of composting it!

Store kombucha in a dark place at room temperature for 3 to 7 days for 2nd fermentation – you can tell it's ready when there is a noticeable fizzing noise when undoing the lid! To prevent your bottles from exploding from the pressure of carbonation, definitely "blurp" your bottles by opening them to release some pressure.

Once the 2nd fermentation is done, strain out any fruit or herbs (to prevent moulding). Place strained flavoured kombucha in the fridge to stop any further fermentation.

Drink chilled or at room temperature.



Step-by-Step Guide with Pictures


1st FERMENTATION:


Step 1.
Gather your equipment: a large glass container (in my case a 2 gallon container with a stainless steel spigot), a SCOBY, starter liquid, sugar, and tea.

If your SCOBY and (starter) liquid is still in its fermentation container from the previous brew, gently take it out with very clean hands, and transfer to an equally clean bowl. Cover with a clean plate or cloth.



Step 2.
Bring filtered water to a boil. Steep loose tea or tea bags in hot water for 10 minutes.



Step 3.
After 10 minutes of steeping, s
train tea. Discard tea leaves OR - way better - place on a baking tray to dry and save for the next round of kombucha making. Alternatively, dried black tea leaves make for a great natural fertilizer, so just mix it into the soil in your backyard or give it to your indoor plants!

In the meantime, clean and sterilize your glass container if it isn't already clean. I use boiling water and white vinegar (or even kombucha) to sterilize mine. If yours has a spigot like mine, be very careful not to break it!



Step 4.
Dissolve sugar in hot tea. I use a stainless steel spoon for this.



Step 5.
Transfer filtered water into the glass container.




Step 6.

Transfer tea sugar mixture into the glass container, on top of the cold filtered water.



Step 7.

Set aside to cool until the mixture to about room temperature. Cover with a clean kitchen towel to prevent anything from contaminating your tea mixture!

Don't be impatient here – hot water will kill your SCOBY!


Step 8.
Once the tea mixture has cooled down, transfer your SCOBY to the glass container with very clean hands.


Step 9.
Add your starter liquid to the glass container.


Step 10.
Hooray, the hard part is over! Your brew is now ready to ferment! :)

Cover the glass container with a clean cloth and secure with a rubber band. Set the container somewhere warm (ideal room temperature: 70-75 °F / 21-24 °C) and not in direct sunlight for 5 to 14 days, a new kombucha might even take up to 21 days to ferment. The warmer the room temperature, the faster the kombucha will ferment. The longer the tea ferments, the more sugar will be eaten up by the SCOBY, and the less sweet the kombucha will be.

It's best to begin tasting at about day 6 – this is where a spigot comes in handy. The taste you're looking for is slightly sweet, slightly fruity, slightly tart with a mild vinegary hint, but far less than in apple cider vinegar for example. Maybe more like a fizzy ginger-ale.

TIP: Write down the date you started the fermentation process because you will forget! That way it's easy to track the fermentation.


BOTTLING / 2nd FERMENTATION:


After 7 to 21 days your kombucha should be ready!

You will probably notice that a thin layer
has formed on top of the original SCOBY – that is a new baby SCOBY that can either stay where it is (that way your SCOBY will get bigger and more potent), or you can use it to make a different batch of kombucha in a separate container, for example with green tea. Or give it to friends to start their own kombucha brewing station!


Step 11.
Fill kombucha into clean bottles using a funnel. (If you want to add any flavours, make sure to leave about 1 1/2 inches or 4 cm at the top!) Make sure to reserve about 10 % or at least 2 cups of mature kombucha from this batch to use as a starter tea for your next for your next round!

Store bottled kombucha in the fridge to prevent any further fermentation and carbonation. (Or, go to Step 12: 2nd Fermentation, first!)



Using your leftover kombucha as starter liquid, begin the brewing cycle again to make your next batch of homemade kombucha, starting at Step 1.

And then the whole process starts over. And over … (so yeah, maybe we do become slaves / addicted to making kombucha all the time for the rest of our lives after all, lol!)



Optional Step 12:
This "second fermentation" is where you add fruits, herbs and/or spices to your "first fermentation", aka your freshly bottled kombucha. Try things like ginger, lemon & ginger, strawberries, peaches, or even lavender and sage.

This is a great way to utilize overripe or damaged fruit instead of composting it!

Store kombucha in a dark place at room temperature for 3 to 7 days
for 2nd fermentation – you can tell it's ready when there is a noticeable fizzing noise when undoing the lid
 
Strain out fruit after 3 to 7 days of fermenting (to prevent moulding). Place strained flavoured kombucha in the fridge to stop any further fermentation. Drink chilled or at room temperature.


One day later ... As you can see, most of the fruit pieces have sunk to the bottom of the bottles, the berries have stained the tea a pretty pink-red and purple, and the plain kombucha has been tapped already ;)


I hope this blog post inspires you to dabble in booch-brewing yourself. Once you've got the hang of it, it's really not that difficult, and not very time-consuming either.

Happy brewing!



Maisy


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