Keep Calm and Kombucha On!: Make Your Own From Scratch

Updated on December 15, 2017
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I'm a global nomad who likes learning how I can make the tasty things I love, no matter where I am in the world!

Home-brewing This Delicious, Healthy Drink

Kombucha is a tasty beverage made from tea. I won’t go over all the basics of what it is because kombucha has increased so much in popularity over the past few years, and there are plenty of awesome places online to learn more.

I like this beverage because it’s a fun alternative when I don’t want to just drink water, but it’s healthier than a lot of other options like soda or traditional sweet tea. Buying it at the grocery store, however, can be so expensive! I was talking with a friend about brewing my own, and she immediately said, “I need to start doing that. Kombucha costs me a fortune every month.”

Here you can see several bottles of our kombucha after we brewed it and stored it in our fridge.
Here you can see several bottles of our kombucha after we brewed it and stored it in our fridge.

Taking the leap

If you want to brew your own, it’s a pretty simple system: kombucha is made by fermenting tea with a SCOBY. That stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. The SCOBY is a strange, light-colored growth. You can order them online, grow them from a store-bought bottle, or take the route I did: I got one from another kombucha-brewing friend!

Brewing and fermenting kombucha at home is not difficult or complicated, but it also is not for the faint of heart. If you are not a person who enjoys the idea of a blobby growth floating in a liquid you will later consume, you should head to the natural foods aisle and pick up your bottles there.

Brewing and fermenting kombucha at home is not difficult or complicated, but it also is not for the faint of heart.

Squishy, icky, wonderful SCOBYs.
Squishy, icky, wonderful SCOBYs.

The basic essentials

To begin our process we received a small, newly formed SCOBY from my friend. While we made the trip home we stored it in a little jam jar with one cup of liquid from her kombucha. This is important for two reasons: first, you don’t want the SCOBY to dry out. Second, you will need that starter liquid for your own kombucha.

All we needed after that was a one-gallon jar, black tea, white sugar, hot water, and a clean dish towel. In a lot of these pictures you'll see two batches of kombucha, but we started with just one, and you can too.

Ingredients and supplies

  • Kombucha SCOBY
  • 1 cup starter liquid
  • one-gallon jar
  • 2 tablespoons black tea
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • hot water
  • a clean dish towel

Prep Time

Prep time: 30 min
Ready in: 30 min
Yields: 12 cups of kombucha

Here is my quick recipe:

  1. Brew 2 tablespoons of tea in 4 cups of hot water.
  2. Add 1 cup of sugar.
  3. Add 8 cups of cold water.
  4. Place SCOBY in tea along with 1 cup of starter liquid.
  5. Cover with dish towel and set aside for a week or more.
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Here it is after I mixed in the sugar.
Here it is after I mixed in the sugar.

Be Zen

I have a tendency to stress about things, so this applied to my kombucha too. In over a month of brewing, I have learned one big lesson: don’t worry! A SCOBY is more resilient than one would think, and the tea will ferment under a variety of conditions. Here are a few of the things I was terrified about that turned out just fine:

Is it too cold?

The ideal temperature for fermenting this wonderful probiotic drink is around 80 degrees. There’s no way I’m paying to keep my apartment that warm all winter, and you know what? Ours has been just fine. It will take a little while longer for it to ferment at a colder temperature, but we have found that we like the taste at just less than two weeks, even when the brew has been in a room that’s 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Our SCOBY developed even with lower temperatures.
Our SCOBY developed even with lower temperatures.

Where should I store it?

No direct sunlight! Good ventilation! Warm! No Vibrations!

These are just a few of the qualifiers I read for where we needed to store our brew. I live in a small, one-bedroom apartment with limited counter space. After worrying about the perfect location for our kombucha (and moving it several times in the course of a week) I decided to calm down and put it on top of the fridge. It gets shook up every now and then, but it’s out of the way and the towel on top keeps direct light off of the SCOBY.

Our two-headed kombucha monster, chilling on top of the fridge.
Our two-headed kombucha monster, chilling on top of the fridge.

Could it be mold?

We took a trip during the first fermentation. I walked in the door, anxious to see our SOCBY’s progress. I was horrified when I discovered it was covered in little spots! If a SCOBY develops mold, you have to throw it away. After thoroughly researching on the Internet, I realized they were air bubbles, a perfectly normal part of SCOBY development. We also get a lot of stringy brown bits on our SCOBY from the yeast that helps transform the tea.

In the process of making kombucha, it’s normal to see a lot of strange looking things. I don’t have to worry that it’s mold every time.

Here you can see some nice air bubbles in our SCOBY. They won't hurt it.
Here you can see some nice air bubbles in our SCOBY. They won't hurt it.

Is it floating correctly?

A lot of pictures I saw online had perfect, thick, SCOBYS floating right on top of the brew. I was filled with concern when mine floated diagonally through the middle of the jar. The kombucha still developed, and a new SCOBY formed at the top of the jar. We were even able to transplant that SCOBY to start another batch the next time around.

Here is our kombucha after we started a second jar.
Here is our kombucha after we started a second jar.

On the road to expertise

I’m sure that the longer I brew kombucha, the more I will discover about all the nuances that affect it. For now I have been happy to learn that it’s a pretty difficult thing to mess up. If you’re in the early stages of brewing kombucha, or you think you want to try, don’t worry too much about the details. Nature has left us a lot of room for trial and error. Happy brewing!

What would be your greatest concern about brewing kombucha?

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    • BethanyHalbert profile image
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      Bethany Halbert 6 weeks ago from West Virginia, USA

      Renee, I can imagine that would be tough, though I've discovered it doesn't take me that long to do! I think it would be tough to find a spot for it in a dorm room though.

    • BethanyHalbert profile image
      Author

      Bethany Halbert 6 weeks ago from West Virginia, USA

      You're welcome Carolyn! I will say I'm discovering a lot of the trial and error of kombucha, and it probably won't taste exactly like store-bought kombucha. Getting the flavor and the fizziness right might take a while, but there is so much advice online to guide those tweaks.

    • renee21 profile image

      renee21 6 weeks ago

      Great hub! My mom makes kombucha. I would make it too, except I don't have time for it while in college.

    • renegadetory profile image

      Carolyn Dahl 6 weeks ago from Ottawa, Ontario

      My husband drinks store bought kombucha and though I have always been wary of it, it tasted pretty good. I agree about it being expensive, wow! I have been watching some Youtube videos on how to make it and it doesn't seem that complicated. Brew black tea, add sugar, let it sit covered for a while... I think to myself, "I can do that."

      Thank you for pointing out that SCOBY is pretty resilient, and since i am a perfectionist and worry about many things, I can worry a little less should I actually try to make this stuff!