My first experience with kombucha tea was a lot like my experience with dairy kefir: unpleasant.
It was too tart, too fizzy and too expensive.
But I’ve been tinkering with brewing a kombucha recipe at home and now I look forward to drinking a glass of kombucha every day!
For those who have never heard of kombucha before, here’s a quick lesson.
Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. It’s packed with healthy bacteria that promote good gut health, and it’s full of vitamins and healthy acids too.
I’m sure you’ve heard of yogurt, right? And how you’ve heard that yogurt is good for digestion because of the probiotics?
Kombucha is kind of the same, except it’s made from tea instead of milk. You also drink kombucha, as opposed to eating it with a spoon (like yogurt).
Although there haven’t been many formal studies done on the benefits of kombucha, fans will tout all sorts of benefits of kombucha, from increased energy to immune support and even help with keeping your joints healthy
I personally have experienced better sleep, bowel regularity and a lot less anxiety as a whole.
My husband has been drinking it too and the biggest benefit for him has been digestion. He no longer experiences acid reflux.
We know these benefits are from kombucha because we’ve been drinking it daily now for over 3 months. The one week we went out of town on vacation and didn’t drink kombucha, our entire digestive systems were off.
A few days after coming home and resuming our daily kombucha? Everything was back to normal!
It wasn’t that long ago that kombucha wasn’t available commercially. You had to either know someone who brewed it, or be willing to schmooze it up with a farmers market vendor in hopes they knew someone who did.
Today though, you can walk into almost any supermarket and buy a bottle of kombucha. Most stores even have organic and raw varieties too. I just have one big problem with that.
One 16 ounce bottle of kombucha costs anywhere from $3 to $5, depending on where you live and where you buy it from. Even on sale at $2.50, the price is pretty steep.
But if you learn how to make it on your own, you can get your cost down to dirt cheap – just a few pennies per 16 ounces!
This kombucha recipe tutorial is for the person who wants to brew kombucha while making the bare minimum investment. We’re all working within a budget, and I want you to see that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make kombucha, nor make healthy changes in general.
With that said, there are plenty of shortcuts you can make along the way if you’re short on time OR don’t have the patience or resources to collect the supplies needed. I’ll note the shortcuts along the way.
How to Make Kombucha: Recipe
Supplies Needed to Make Kombucha
water (filtered if possible)
1 gallon glass jar, absolutely clean
tea (I use this blend of loose leaf tea)
tea balls or re-usable tea bags (if using loose leaf tea)
1 cup kombucha from a previous batch (raw and organic)
cheesecloth or nut milk bag
pH strips (optional, but very handy to have)
** See my notes below for finding the best deals on these kombucha supplies.
Method for Making Kombucha
Fill a medium pot with water and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a tea ball or re-usable tea bag with 1 Tablespoon of loose leaf tea.
If you start to research the best tea for kombucha, you’ll quickly find yourself in a rabbit hole of information that will leave you more confused than when you first started. To keep it simple, I recommend using either oolong tea or this delicious tea blend from Get Kombucha.
If you choose to use pre-filled tea bags, you’ll need 6-7 per batch of kombucha. Note that in the long run, using loose leaf tea is more cost effective and I think brews better tasting kombucha.
Place the filled tea balls in the glass gallon jar. When the water is boiling, carefully pour the water into the gallon jar and let the tea steep. Personally, I let it steep for at least two hours and haven’t found any bitter taste in my tea. I attribute this largely though to using quality tea in the first place.
If you’re not sure if your tea will be bitter after a long brew, you can either make a test cup of tea beforehand, or let the tea steep for a shorter time frame.
When the tea is cool enough to touch, remove the tea balls from the glass gallon jar. I have a pair of tongs with silicone tips that I really like to use, but a pair of regular tongs will work too.
Measure 1 cup of sugar and pour into the tea. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and let the tea cool completely.
When the tea is completely cool, add the SCOBY and 1 cup of kombucha from a previous batch. The SCOBY might sink to the bottom, and that’s fine.
Add water to the glass gallon jar until it’s full, leaving about 3-4″ of space from the top.
Place the cheesecloth or nut milk bag over the opening of the glass gallon jar and secure tightly with a rubber band.
Place the jar in a warm place in the kitchen, out of direct sunlight. I place my jars on top of the fridge. If your fridge is in direct sunlight, you can cover the jars with a towel.
Let the kombucha sit undisturbed for 4 days, then start tasting.
How to Know When Your Kombucha is Done
Your kombucha is done when it has passed three tests.
- The pH test. Kombucha is safe to drink when the pH level reads 4.6 or lower.
- The SCOBY test. Every time you make kombucha, a new SCOBY will automatically form at the top of the kombucha. The SCOBY should be clear(ish) and thick(ish) and have a gel-like texture. See the picture below for an example.
- The taste test. Taste your kombucha to see if the desired amount of sugar has been converted to acid. I prefer my kombucha to be tart with practically zero hint of sweet. You may prefer it to be just slightly sweet. You’ll be able to better judge whether kombucha is ready using the taste test after 2-3 batches. Meanwhile though, it’s safe to drink so keep on brewing!
What to do After You’ve Made Kombucha
When your kombucha is done, it’s time to make another batch! Here’s how:
- Put your SCOBY and 1 cup of kombucha in a glass or large measuring cup. Cover with the cheesecloth or nut milk bag.
- Pour the rest of the kombucha into clean jars. Any jars will work – brand new quart mason jars or re-used spaghetti sauce jars. I like to use a set of swing top jars similar to these that I found at ALDI. I also use a stainless steel mesh strainer to catch any fermentation strings that might have formed during brewing.
- Rinse out the gallon glass jar and repeat the process for making kombucha!
Want to Flavor Your kombucha?
There are few different ways to flavor kombucha, and you don’t even have to do a second ferment (which is a slightly advanced step anyway).
You can follow my flavored kombucha tutorials:
Rose Hip and Hibiscus Kombucha // Strawberry Lemonade Kombucha
Finding the Best Deals for Kombucha Supplies
I mentioned earlier that this tutorial requires a minimum investment – it’s like the bootleg of kombucha tutorials! With that said, you will have to acquire a few materials to get started. Whether you do this all at once or over a few weeks is up to you (and if you don’t want to bootleg it, scroll down for an affordable all-in-one option).
Gallon Glass Jars
I bought gallon pickle jars from Walmart for about $3.50 and my family ate the pickles (which took about 3-4 weeks). When the jar was empty, I filled it with warm soapy water and turned it upside down. After 3 days, I rinsed it out, washed it again and let it dry.
If you don’t want to go through this hassle, you can buy a gallon glass jar from Amazon for about $9. You can also look at garage sales and thrift shops, but I found that thrift stores especially cost more, and they didn’t come with a lid AND I wasn’t confident about the cleanliness of the jar.
There really is a ton of information and opinions when it comes to the best tea for brewing kombucha, but the short answer to all of it is to brew a tea that you enjoy drinking. Oolong tea is a very mild tea, and this delicious tea blend from Get Kombucha is a special blend of green and black tea that’s designed to help you get the maximum health benefits from kombucha.
If you try a tea and aren’t sure if you like the flavor, consider brewing it stronger or weaker. I actually prefer to make kombucha using two balls of tea (using 2 Tablespoons in 2 tea balls) as opposed to just one.
You can get your tea here.
Tea Balls or Re-usable Tea Bags
I happened to find a tea ball at a garage sale not too long after I bought the pickles, but if you don’t have such luck, you can get stainless steel tea balls on Amazon. They likely come with a chain, but I found the chain got in the way so I took it off.
The SCOBY is the likely the most difficult supply to acquire. You want to be sure you’re starting with a high-quality SCOBY, since the health of your kombucha essentially depends on it. You also want to make sure the SCOBY is healthy from the get go, because if you take care of it, a SCOBY will last practically forever!
Getting a SCOBY from a friend or neighbor or family member who brews kombucha will be the most cost effective. However, you can order one too. I recommend this one.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Dave a couple of weeks ago and to say that he is passionate about kombucha is an understatement. He lives, eats and breathes kombucha and I’ve seen first-hand the quality of the items in his shop.
You can get your SCOBY here.
Kombucha From a Previous Batch
This is also tricky to obtain, unless you’re okay going to the store and buying a bottle of organic, raw kombucha just to make your own. Which you can do, but it’s another expense.
One of the plus sides to buying a SCOBY is that it comes with the starter liquid, so you don’t have to go out and buy a special bottle of kombucha just to get started – you already have it!
Like tea, the best sugar for brewing kombucha is filled with tons of opinions as well. The purpose of the sugar is to feed the bacteria, and there’s very little IF ANY sugar left at the end of the brewing process, so in my personal opinion it’s best to go with the more affordable option, plain white sugar.
If you are concerned about plain white sugar being processed at all, you can go one step up with organic sugar. There is no need to get any less processed or more expensive than organic sugar though, because kombucha doesn’t brew as well with brown sugar, raw sugar, honey, maple syrup or any other more natural sweetener.
Even though we’ve made it a goal to eliminate processed white sugar from our house this year, I still buy it solely for the purpose of making kombucha.
Cheesecloth or Nut Milk Bag
I use a nut milk bag because it’s what I already had on hand, so if you have cheesecloth, go ahead and use that. You can even use a coffee filter too, but I found that using the nut milk bag was a more sustainable and reliable method (the coffee filter kept getting wet when I put the jars on my fridge, and the wet filters attracted fruit flies).
My bags are very similar to these nut milk bags, and I would recommend buying a 2-pack if possible. That way when you start enjoying the benefits of kombucha and want to brew more than one gallon a week, you already have a second bag!
These are optional, but they are very handy to have on hand – especially when you’re first starting out. I have these pH strips designed for wine makers, but they contain the pH range for kombucha that’s safe to drink, so they get the job done.
Don’t want to bootleg it?
This tutorial is my bootleg version of making kombucha. It’s essentially hunting and gathering the supplies you’ll need over time to eventually brew your own kombucha. If you’d prefer to get started ASAP without the hassle of hunting and gathering, I suggest a kombucha starter kit. It includes:
- certified organic black and green whole leaf tea leaves (the tasty blend I mentioned earlier)
- starter liquid
- kombucha culture
- organic fair trade evaporated sugar cane
- accessory bag including: covers, bands, reusable tea filters, pH strips and gloves
It’s everything you need to brew kombucha, except a jar (but that’s easy to find, right?).
You can get your Starter Kit here.
Another way to brew kombucha is through a continuous brew. Find out how I worked that method HERE.
Do you brew kombucha? Do you have any questions about how to make it yourself? Leave your comments below!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Get Kombucha. As always, I would never recommend anything on Crumbs that I wouldn’t recommend to a close friend or neighbor, and all opinions here are my own.
spring has sprung
Your link to the tea is gone now. just FYI.
We’re doing the Whole30…how do I figure out if my SCOBY has eaten all of the sugar, and so would be compliant?
Can i dehydrate KOMBUCHA and use it as a starter at a later date?
Brittany @ Team Crumbs
No, you can’t dehydrate Kombucha. In order to make it go dormant, you must put it in the fridge with a little tea. Store it that way, and then use it at a later date. But we wouldn’t recommend you dry it and try to rehydrate it to use it at a later date. Hope this helps! 🙂
Does kombucha ever go bad? Can it ever make you sick? I have had people tell me not to make my own that if not done right it could kill me.
Hi Tiffany, I have been making Kombucha for some years on and off, but was interested to read your blog and instructions for making it and using fruit to flavour it.
I do not have white sugar in the house (pure, white and deadly!) but instead use pure cane sugar, which is sand coloured and quite cheap here.
When I have made a batch, I put it in used tonic bottles which are quite small, but do have screw tops. I can usually get about 5 out of a litre. I didn´t know one had to fill the gallon jar up with water! This would dilute it somewhat. but I will try it with today´s brew, but will need a lot more bottles. Will try Aldi.
I then return the Scobie to the gallon jar and seal it up, with a little of the kombucha. Sometimes this is left for two or three weeks, in a cool place. The small bottles I keep in the fridge, but might in future keep them out to ferment a second time, as it doesn´t come out really fizzy enough,. Do I put the raw fruit in at this stage, or earlier in the gallon jar? And add a teaspoon of sugar?
Hi Amanda! You add the raw fruit AFTER you’ve made the kombucha… so when you put it into the small bottles. You can add sugar if you want, that may help it become fizzier. So much of the fizz depends on the environment (warmer is better) and flavor (sweeter is better), so feel free to play around with it!
I am making my first batch to day but I have to leave my home for 2 weeks will my tea be okay in my cubbard till I get back or should I just wait till I get back?
If it’s your very first batch, I’d wait until you got back. There’s a lot of learning opportunities with the first batch, and I wouldn’t want you to miss them!
I’m confused. 6-7 tea bags is equivalent to 1 Tbs. of loose leaf tea? Is there really only 1/2 tsp of tea leaves at most in a tea bag? And this is for brewing 1 gallon of tea, correct?
Thanks for the clarification,
what do you mean add kombucha from last batch?? What if it’s your first batch? What do you do?
Hi Chris! You need 1 cup of “starter” kombucha (booch that’s already brewed) to make 1 gallon of kombucha. You can use 1 cup from a previous batch OR borrow from a friend or use store-bought.
You can also add about 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (with the Mother) as your starter
first time. It worked great for me. I add a Tbsp to every batch I brew now, and get a
consistent 3.5 ph. Enjoy.