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How to Make Your Own Kombucha

Six mason jars filled with kombucha

Kombucha is an ancient fermented tea drink with a myriad of potential health benefits and a tangy flavor many people love.

What Are the Health Benefits of Kombucha?

There’s still a lot of debate in the scientific community about the health benefits of Kombucha, but people claim it gives them more energy, assists with proper digestion, and kills bad bacteria. We do know that it contains probiotics and antioxidants, both of which help your body digest food and process out chemicals.

It should be noted that kombucha is highly acidic and may worsen some pre-existing conditions such as acid reflux.

Why Make Kombucha at Home?

Kombucha has become popular enough in the past few years that you can buy it in many health stores, but it’s always better to make your own kombucha. Store bought kombucha has generally been pasteurized, which kills all of the healthy bacteria in the drink.

How to Make Kombucha at Home

To make Kombucha at home, you have to start by making a Kombucha SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). This process usually takes about a month. You may also be able to get a SCOBY from someone who already brews Kombucha, or you can simply buy one online.

Once you’ve acquired or grown a SCOBY, there are two methods you can use to make Kombucha, the batch method and the continuous brew method. Generally, it’s safer and easier to use the batch method, so that’s the only one we’ll cover here.

1. Sterilize Everything

Kombucha is a fermented drink, and things can go disastrously wrong if your tools haven’t been properly cleaned. Improperly brewed Kombucha has caused disease outbreaks and lead poisoning.

You should sterilize your work area and all tools that will be used during the brewing process with hot water and vinegar. You should wash your hands with the same solution immediately before brewing.

2. Boil Some Water

Fill your pot with 3 liters of water and put your stove on the highest setting. Let the water boil for a full five minutes to kill any germs lurking in the water.

3. Add Tea Bags

Depending on how strong you want the beverage to be, use 5-7 tea bags. Some people say you can only use black tea for Kombucha, but you can actually use any type of tea you want, as long as it comes in tea bags.

4. Add Sugar

Once the tea is brewed, turn the water off and add one cup of sugar. This sugar provides food for the bacteria and yeast inside the Kombucha. You can use refined white sugar or brown sugar, whatever you prefer.

5. Cover and Let Sit

Put a lid on it and wait for the tea to cool down to room temperature (ideally around 74F/25C). Do not try to speed up the cooling process.

6. Pour

Pour the cooled tea into a clean glass jar, then pour in either starter tea (this usually comes from a previous batch) or a quarter cup of vinegar per gallon of Kombucha. This prevents mold and dangerous bacteria from growing in the Kombucha.

7. Add the SCOBY

The SCOBY is more delicate than it looks, so make sure you’re gentle with it as you add it to the top of your tea. Immediately seal the jar with a dish cloth or another cloth with tightly woven mesh. Use a strong rubber band to keep the seal tight.

8. Let it Ferment

Kombucha should ferment in a dark, warm (between 75ºF and 85ºF) area. The fermentation process takes 4 days. If the temperature dips above or below the recommended range, throw the batch out and start over; different, more dangerous bacteria will grow in these conditions.

9. Remove the SCOBY

On the morning of the fifth day, remove the SCOBY and place it in a sterilized jar. Pour half a cup into this jar to keep the SCOBY moist so you can use it again. The SCOBY should be kept in the refrigerator between uses.

10. Bottle your Kombucha

Pour the rest of your Kombucha into smaller bottles or jars and seal them. If you prefer your Kombucha carbonated, make sure you seal the bottles as tightly as possible.

Optional: Add Fruit Juice

To give your Kombucha some extra flavor, add clear fruit juice (pulp does not settle well in Kombucha) to each bottle before you seal them.

11. Ferment some more!

Let your Kombucha sit at room temperature for another two days. This allows the flavors to fill out and gives the Kombucha time to mix with added juice.

You will notice a small film developing across the top of the Kombucha. Remove this before moving on to the final step.

12. Refrigerate and Enjoy

Kombucha is best enjoyed cold.

Bonus: Sterilize Everything Again

The importance of working with sterile tools in a clean space cannot be overstated when you’re making Kombucha. A single contaminant can transform this drink from a healthy beverage into a poisonous one.

Final Advice

Making Kombucha at home does require a great deal of care but it does not require a great deal of work. It can even be a lot of fun if you experiment with different types of tea and fruit juice.

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