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How to Make Kombucha Tea

by Tiffany in Healthy Eating

I guess I have been doing a series on fermentation here! Check out my recent articles on Yogurt, Sourdough, and Kefir. Today it is Kombucha…

You have likely seen pricey bottles of Kombucha tea in health stores. What is Kombucha exactly and why is it such a hot health food item right now?

Kombucha is actually a fermented tea that has been held in high esteem for its healthy and medicinal properties for a long time. It is antimicrobial, hepatoprotective (protects your liver), antioxidative, full of B vitamins, and it contains both live yeast and live bacteria that is beneficial to our bodies. All of these properties make it a wonderful drink for those who are experiencing illness and immunity problems, especially those who need to heal and normalize a gut imbalance. It has been used medicinally for centuries in many different cultures and is still going strong in this regard today.

Since Kombucha can be pricey to buy in stores many people are opting to make it themselves at home. Instead of $5 for a small bottle you can make your own for less than $1.50 a gallon. The process and the guidelines can seem daunting at first but once you churn out your first few batches of this delicious tea you you will be an old pro.

What you Need to Make the Kombucha Tea

The first thing you need is a Kombucha culture. They are often called a mushroom, mother culture, or SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Just as you add kefir grains to milk to ferment it and make kefir drinks you need a culture for this fermented tea as well. The Kombucha mother/culture looks like a flat grayish white pancake that floats on top of the tea and you need one of these to get started making your own. You can grow one but most people choose to either get one from a friend who makes Kombucha or from an online source who sells live cultures. When you get them from an online source they come dehydrated and you have to rehydrate them before use. You can then use the same culture over and over.

In addition to the mother culture you will need 2-3 black or green tea bags, a quart size glass jar, organic unbleached cane sugar (white), and a towel or paper coffee filter to cover the jar. Using other teas or sweeteners can throw off the pH level of your tea and make it unsafe to drink.

How to Make Your Own Kombucha Tea

Add a ¼ cup of the sugar to your jar and a cup of very hot or boiling water. Swirl the jar around for a few seconds to dissolve the sugar and then pour in more hot water until the jar is ¾ full. Put your tea bags in the jar and let it steep for 10 to 20 minutes. Let it cool completely. For your very first batch add ½ cup of vinegar. On subsequent batches forgo the vinegar and instead add a ½ cup of tea from a previous batch of Kombucha. Now add your mother culture to the jar and cover with your coffee filter. A rubber band around the rim to seal it closed is helpful because a sugar tea on the counter can attract bugs.

Let it sit in a warm spot (at least 70 degrees) for at least six days and on up to thirty. As long as you have a new culture that has formed at the top it is ready to drink. The culture will form over time via a white/gray haze that forms on the top of the jar. If you spot any green, black or orange, coloring then that is most likely mold and you will need to toss it and start over.

How long you let it sit depends on the flavor you like. At around six days of fermentation it will be fairly sweet. Thirty days will result in a sour tea with more health benefits. Choose the fermentation time that best suits you. You can also add concentrated juices to add flavor. We personally add concentrated cherry juice to make Cherry Kombucha and we add chia seeds to ours as well. We love all the variety!

For more info on making Kombucha check out Kombucha Phenomenon: The Miracle Health Tea: How to Safely Make and Use Kombucha.


Top Photo Credit: dontodd

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

14 Comments on How to Make Kombucha Tea

  • Hannah

    Hey Tiffany,

    Thanks for spreading the love about Kombucha. And I’m loving the blog too. Lots of useful recipes, etc.

    Just one small note: when you get cultures from Kombucha Kamp, they are NOT dehydrated. They are fully alive and ready to use right away.

    I don’t trust dehydrated SCOBYs. Too many people have had bad experiences with them. Cara at Primrose & Paleo got mold when trying to use one, and it seems to take 1-2 months to fully “wake up” a dried out SCOBY. They do make good dog chews though. LOL

    In short, find a fresh, wet culture from a friend or order online from a reputable source (of which I think I am one! ;))

    Thanks again Tiffany!

    Hannah Crum
    The Kombucha Mamma

  • Cecilia

    i am trying to find out if you can make kombucha with herbal tea instead of green or black. any thoughts?

    • You can, it is just harder to get “right”. It is much easier with green or black.

  • Courtney

    Tiffany, how long does the tea last? Do you recommend any particular bottles to store it in once the brew is finished? Also, how do you store the cultures until your next brew?

    I’m excited to try this. I’m very curious about the flavor!

    Thank you!

    • See the little bowl in the picture? You can keep a culture in a bowl like that with some tea in the fridge for up to 4-5 months. The kombucha can stay in the jar fermenting for up to 30 days but will be really vinegary at that point. After bottling I would say the same as any tea… 1-2 weeks in the fridge. I like these bottles for the fridge:

      Bormioli Rocco Gelo 2-Piece Glass Pitcher Set with Lids, Red and Green

      • Courtney

        Thank you! I am going to have to give this a try. Each time you brew you make a new culture, correct? I’ve heard you’re able to use the same culture over and over again, without having to purchase new…is this how? You don’t need to cover the cultures once you put them in the fridge, do you? Thanks again – sorry for all the questions :)

      • Yes you grown a new one each time and you can reuse over and over. This is why you can donate to friends. You can also compost extras.

        Put a loose lid on the bowl so that CO2 has a place to go.

  • Hey, how great of you to post this! I had just gotten a rough instruction on making kombucha from a health food store worker before the holidays, and how here it is in writing! I find it interesting that he said the more nasty/unhealthy the original tea and sugar are, the better the kombucha will work, because you are essentially training it to battle that stuff, and will thereby flush those things from your body! I will enjoy attempting a first batch soon.
    Thanks again!

  • Gabe

    I hope to take the cultured course, but haven’t decided which kit to get. Did you decide on one? I’ve never made any of this before.

    • I am not planning on buying the kit. I will just buy anything as needed as I go since I may not opt to make everything they do.

  • Pretty Pauline

    I had a scoby but no stainless steel pot~I see you didn’t list that? It’s the only reason I didn’t start producing my own tea. :( I have a neat sheet I wrote up on growing your own from a bottled health food store kombucha tea, but someone shared that they are no longer carrying it due to something I can’t remember…

  • Hi Tiffany!

    Thank you so much for this great post. We drink a ton of kumbucha at our house and it does add up when you buy it! I tried making my own last summer from a dried scoby but failed abysmally. Your post has given me new confidence to try again! Thank you so much.


  • melodie

    Love it… i got my momma from a friend and am on my second batch… it has been such a treat, and it is saving this veg a whole lot of money…..

  • Krystal

    What kind of vinegar do you use for the first batch?