A Beginner’s Guide to Brewing Kombucha
Kombucha is an effervescent tea elixir that boasts a dynamic probiotic profile, which explains why grocery store refrigerators are lined up with endless varieties of colorful bottles.
Here’s a comprehensive beginner’s guide to making your very own batch at home.
SCOBY: The kombucha inoculant is called a SCOBY, which is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast.
The Mother: A SCOBY culture is also sometimes referred to as “the mother.”
Starter Liquid: Starter liquid is reserved, unflavored kombucha which can be purchased or sourced from a previous batch. Adding 1/2-1 cup to each new batch of brew helps the pH drop and aids in kickstarting the fermentation process. It’s essential to add starter liquid when brewing your own kombucha.
SCOBY Hotel: It’s possible to purchase your SCOBY with starter liquid online or search for local groups that might be giving one away. The SCOBY culture replicates with every batch, soon leaving you with several. Enthusiasts call this a SCOBY hotel.
Second Ferment: A second ferment is when you remove your SCOBY culture and add juice or even fresh fruit to the brewed, unflavored kombucha. The sugars in the juice (or fruit) provide a fresh food source for the cultures. This ferment is faster and generally only takes a few days.
Related Read: Inside ICE's Fermentation Lab
- Brew strong, unflavored black tea.
- Sweeten with unbleached cane sugar.
- Add SCOBY culture and starter liquid.
- Securely cover the top with cheesecloth or a dish towel.
- Leave to brew at room temperature for approximately one week.
- Strain out SCOBY, and store with 1 cup starter liquid for future batches.
- Add desired flavorings, secure lid and ferment for 3 to 7 more days.
Good To Know:
Make sure to use unflavored, black tea and cane sugar. These are the two food items that the SCOBY has evolved to thrive on, and deviating from these recommendations will negatively influence fermentation conditions.
If you're in between batches, store any extra liquid and SCOBY cultures in the refrigerator for a few months. The cool temperature will render the cultures semi-dormant until you are ready to brew again.
If you have extra SCOBY cultures, it’s okay to use more than one when brewing a batch of kombucha. This may even speed up the process a bit and help keep the SCOBY in good shape as they feed on the sugar. SCOBYs can get discolored and limp if they sit unfed in the fridge for too long.
Place 3/4 cup of extra starter liquid in a small jar, cover with a dish towel or cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Within a few weeks, the liquid will transform into a brand-new SCOBY.
Sealing your ready-made kombucha and refrigerating it for extended periods of time will trap carbonation and make it more bubbly. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can also add some seltzer and sweeten it with an easily dissolvable liquid like agave nectar.
Adding clear juices to create a second ferment will create a great deal of microbial activity, resulting in a good amount of carbonation. The flavored kombucha should also retain some sweetness, which helps make it more palatable. Try starting with pomegranate juice or apple cider.
Kombucha: The First Ferment
Yields 6 cups
- 6 cups filtered water
- 1/2 cup unbleached cane sugar
- 6 unflavored black tea bags
- 1 cup kombucha starter (can be from the previous batch)
- 1 kombucha SCOBY culture
- Bring 3 cups of the water to a boil. Add the sugar and tea and steep for 5 minutes. Strain the tea leaves, and add the remainder of the water to help cool the mixture.
- Transfer tea to a sterilized glass container with a wide opening, and gently stir in the kombucha starter and SCOBY culture.
- Cover with cheesecloth or a clean dish towel and secure with a rubber band.
- Allow mixture to brew for 5-10 days at room temperature, or until desired strength is reached.
- Once the kombucha is ready, remove SCOBY and store with 1 cup of just-brewed kombucha for your next batch. It keeps best in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator.
Sparkling Pomegranate Kombucha with Fresh Raspberries
Yield: 8 cups
- 4 cups brewed unflavored kombucha
- 4 cups pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup raspberries, for garnish
- 1 cup seltzer (optional)
- Edible gold luster (optional)
- Add kombucha and pomegranate juice to a clean jar.
- Cover with cheesecloth or a clean dish towel. Secure with a rubber band.
- Allow mixture to ferment for 3 to 7 days, tasting occasionally for desired strength. Note: If it ferments for too long, it will taste more like vinegar.
- Pour in a glass and top with fresh raspberries. Add a splash of seltzer, if extra carbonation is desired.
- Dust in a small amount of gold luster for extra sparkle.