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How to Make Kombucha at Home

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Photo: kipgodi / Getty Images

Sometimes described as a cross between apple cider and champagne, the fermented tea beverage known as kombucha has become popular for its sweet-yet-tangy taste and probiotic benefits. (Here's a full explainer of what kombucha is and all of its benefits.) But at $3–4 a bottle, kombucha can wind up being a pricey habit if you drink it often.

Luckily, making your own kombucha at home isn't a super-complicated process. Once you have the necessary tools and ingredients, you can brew batch after batch with ease. Here's how to make your own kombucha—including the necessary equipment, ingredients, and how to make your own kombucha flavors.

What You Need to Make Your Own Kombucha

Makes: 1 gallon

Equipment

  • 1-gallon glass jar to use as a brewing vessel
  • Cloth cover (a clean kitchen towel or a coffee filter + a rubber band)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Kombucha pH testing strips (Buy It, $8)
  • Individual airtight containers, such as mason jars, glass growlers, or recycled kombucha bottles, for bottling

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon filtered water

  • 1 cup cane sugar

  • 10 bags green or black tea (equal to 10 tablespoons of loose tea)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups premade plain kombucha (also known as kombucha starter tea)

  • 1 fresh SCOBY (Short for "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast," the SCOBY has a jellyfish-like look and feel to it. It's the magical ingredient that transforms sweet black tea into good-for-your-gut kombucha.)

You can easily find all of these items bundled together for purchase online in a kombucha starter kit. (Ex: this $45 starter kit from The Kombucha Shop.) You can also grow your own SCOBY from a bottle of store-bought kombucha tea. This recipe uses an organic, commercial-grade SCOBY. (Related: Can Kombucha Help with Anxiety?)

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Photo: Nicole Crane

How to Make Your Own Kombucha

  1. Prepare the tea: Boil the gallon of water. Steep the green or black tea in the hot water for 20 minutes. Add the cane sugar to the tea and stir until it's fully dissolved. Let the tea cool to room temperature. Pour the tea into your brewing vessel, leaving a bit of room at the top.
  2. Transfer the SCOBY to the brewing vessel. Pour the kombucha starter tea into the sweet tea.
  3. Cover the brewing vessel with the sealed lid, or secure tightly with the cloth cover and rubber band. Place the brewing vessel in a warm place away from direct sunlight to ferment. Optimal brewing temperature is 75–85°F. At colder temperatures, the tea may not brew properly, or it may just take a little longer to ferment. (Tip: If you're brewing kombucha in colder months when your home will likely not be as warm as 75–85°F, place the brewing vessel right near a vent so that it'll constantly be close to heated air.)
  4. Allow the tea to ferment for 7 to 10 days, making sure to not jostle the brewing vessel around during the fermentation period. A couple of things to note: After a couple of days, you will see a new baby SCOBY forming at the top of the brew that will form a seal of sorts. You may also notice brown strands under the SCOBY and filaments floating around the tea. Not to worry—these are natural, normal indications of the tea fermenting.
  5. After a week, check your tea for taste and pH levels. Use the pH testing strips to gauge the tea's pH. The optimal pH level of kombucha is between 2 and 4. Taste the tea using a straw or spoon. If the brew tastes too sweet, allow it to ferment longer.
  6. Once the tea has the amount of sweetness and tanginess that you're after and is in the desired pH range, it's time for bottling. (If you want to add flavor, now's the time!) Remove the SCOBY, and save it along with some of your unflavored kombucha to use as starter tea for your next batch. Pour the kombucha into your glass airtight containers, leaving at least an inch of headroom at the top.
  7. Store in the fridge to chill until you're ready to drink. The kombucha will keep in the fridge for several weeks.

Optional Steps for Your Kombucha Recipe

  • Want the bubbles? If you'd like to do a second fermentation to make your kombucha carbonated, simply store your bottled kombucha in a dark, warm place for another two to three days, then place in the fridge to chill before you begin enjoying. (Did you know a thing called probiotic coffee exists too?)
  • Want to flavor your kombucha recipe? The possibilities are endless! Here are a few flavoring ideas to add to the mix in step 7:
    • Ginger: Finely grate a 2- to 3-inch piece of ginger root (which has tons of health benefits on its own) and add to your mix.
    • Grape: Add 100 percent grape juice. Add fruit juice equal to one-fifth the amount of kombucha in your jar. 
    • Spicy Pineapple: Make your kombucha sweet and spicy by mixing in some 100 percent pineapple juice and about 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper. 

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