How to Make Kombucha At Home
* This article contains affiliate links. For more information, please read my Affiliate Disclosure.
I’m not gonna lie: when I first decided to learn how to make kombucha at home, I was feeling pretty intimidated.
I had never done any fermenting before and, just like with learning any new skill, I feared I would mess it up or make my family sick.
But as it turns out, making kombucha at home is actually one of the quickest and easiest things that I now DIY on a regular basis. It takes very little hands-on time to brew a batch and virtually no special skills or equipment to get started. All you need is some water, sugar, tea, a SCOBY (which we’ll talk more about in just a minute), a glass jar and some bottles.
Oh, and it’s nearly impossible to mess it up or make anybody sick with homemade kombucha. In fact, quite the opposite: kombucha is one of the healthiest drinks you can consume besides water!
Cool. But what is kombucha, exactly?
Kombucha is a bubbly fermented drink made from black or green sweet tea.
To make it, all you need to do is brew some tea, mix it with sugar, let it cool and then add your SCOBY and some starter liquid and then let it sit on your counter and ferment at room temperature for a few days. Once it’s fermented, your kombucha will be ready to flavour and bottle, and then a few days later it will be bubbly and delicious and ready to drink!
Health benefits of kombucha
Kombucha is a fizzy, carbonated drink that can be flavoured in a myriad of ways using fruits, herbs and spices. But unlike soda and other carbonated beverages that are loaded with sugar and flavoured with artificial flavours, kombucha is all natural and is actually very low in sugar. This is because, even though kombucha is made with sugar, the SCOBY actually feeds on the sugar during the fermentation process. (See “What is a SCOBY?” below for more info.)
The longer kombucha is left to ferment, the less sugar remains, and by the time it’s ready to consume, there is typically very little sugar left. It also feeds on the caffeine in the tea, leaving very little caffeine too:) Since it is fermented, “living” food, (err, drink), kombucha is also very beneficial for gut health and for supporting a healthy microbiome.
As we are becoming more and more aware, our overall health and immunity is intrinsically tied to our gut health, and fermented foods and the probiotics they contain are one of the best possible things to consume to support a healthy gut!
How much does it cost to make kombucha at home?
Making your own kombucha is WAAAY cheaper than buying it from the store. Like, insanely cheaper.
Like anything, there will likely be a few start-up costs at the beginning (although they are very minimal), but overall making your own homemade kombucha is extremely economical.
Case in point: I can make about a gallon of kombucha at home for literal pennies. Okay, maybe it might cost me up to a buck or two for a gallon depending on the exact ingredients I use to flavour it. But that’s even a bit of a stretch.
Compare this to store-bought kombucha, which can cost anywhere from about $5 to $10 for a 16oz bottle. I’ve priced it out before, and for roughly the same amount as I make at home in a gallon batch, it would cost me roughly $40 to $60 to buy it ready-made from the store!
But financial savings aren’t the only reason to make your own kombucha at home…
Other reasons to make kombucha at home
By making your own homemade kombucha, you also have total control over the flavour, as well as the sugar content.
When it comes to flavouring kombucha, you can get as creative as you like! I’ll talk more about some of my favourite ways to flavour kombucha and favourite flavour combinations further on in this blog post, but for now just know that there really are no rules when it comes to flavouring your homemade kombucha.
Finally, while you do need to use sugar to start a fresh batch of kombucha, the fermentation process essentially consumes the sugar for you so that there’s much less sugar in the finished product by the time you’re ready to drink it.
The longer you allow your kombucha to ferment, the less sugar there will be in the end. In fact, if you ferment kombucha long enough, there will be almost no sugar left at all, and in this case kombucha is even allowed on reduced sugar or keto diets!
However when you’re purchasing it from the store, the sugar levels vary depending on the brand and the batch, so you definitely have much more control over how much sugar is in your kombucha when you brew your own at home.
What is a SCOBY??
The acronym SCOBY stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.
You use an existing SCOBY to start each new batch of kombucha and then a new SCOBY forms as a thin layer on the surface of the batch when it’s fermenting. It eventually grows into a thick, gelatinous disc that looks a bit like a large mushroom or an alien sea creature of some kind. I’m not gonna lie, it can definitely be a little confronting the first time you lay eyes on one! (Just ask my friends who gasp and ask “dear God what is that thing?!” When they see it floating in a gallon of kombucha on my counter!)
But I assure you, there’s nothing threatening or alien about SCOBYs. They’re a perfectly natural part of the sweet tea fermentation process, and they’re an essential ingredient when it comes to brewing your own kombucha at home.
Where do I get a SCOBY from?
If you’re ready to get started making your own kombucha, you’ll need a SCOBY to get started. You can either ask around locally and see if you can get one through a friend or through Facebook marketplace, etc., or you can buy one online.
I got my first SCOBY for free from a friend and have never had to get another one because they multiply every time you brew a fresh batch!
* If you happen to live in the Comox Valley send me a message and I will happily give you one of my SCOBYs free of charge:)
But even if it costs you a few bucks for your first SCOBY, so long as you keep brewing kombucha somewhat regularly and store your SCOBYs correctly (see below), you’ll never have to buy one again, and you could even potentially sell extra SCOBYs to other people in your area!
Where to order a SCOBY online
If you’re opting to order a SCOBY online, there are a couple places you can get one from. One of my favourite places to get all sorts of fermented starter cultures (including SCOBYS, yogurt starter cultures, sourdough starters, kefir, etc.) is from Cultures For Health.
Cultures For Health also sells some pretty delicious kombucha flavour kits, including flavours like White Tea and Ginger, Lavender Lemonade, Black Chai Spice and more.
You can also order a SCOBY from Amazon.
Can I make my own SCOBY?
Technically, you can grow your own SCOBY simply by mixing brewed tea, sugar and some starter liquid (kombucha). Eventually a new SCOBY will form, but it typically takes a lot longer to create a SCOBY from scratch this way and your kombucha will be susceptible to being taken over by bad bacteria while you wait as part of the SCOBY’s job is to populate your kombucha with enough good bacteria that bad bacteria can’t thrive.
I’ve never personally made my own SCOBY from scratch and don’t really recommend it, but technically it’s possible if you wanna get really scrappy.
What else do I need to make kombucha at home?
Aside from a SCOBY, you’ll need a few other basic ingredients and tools to get started making kombucha at home.
- A SCOBY (see above)
- Tea (you can use any black, green or white tea, bagged or looseleaf. But make sure it’s organic! I like Farmhouse Teas (affiliate link) and highly recommend their superior organic teas!
- Sugar (I prefer organic cane sugar. I’ve also used coconut sugar with success).
- Water (tap water is fine, just make sure it’s filtered or non-chlorinated. If it’s chlorinated, make sure to boil it first to remove the chlorine).
- A glass vessel (glass gallon jars are my favourite, but you can use half gallons or even quart jars for small batches)
- Bottles (I like using swing-top bottles like this, but I also use old (clean) growlers and howlers that I’ve picked up at local breweries, etc.)
- Flavouring (this is optional, but recommended. You can use fruit, juice, herbs, spices or herbal tea blends to flavour your kombucha)
Alternatively, you can get everything you need to get started making kombucha at home –minus the glass vessel– with this starter kit from my friend and affiliate partner, CeAnne at Farmhouse Teas.
The Homestead Kombucha Bundle is only available for a limited time, and has everything you need to get started brewing kombucha at home, including Farmhouse Teas’ Three Sisters black kombucha tea blend, a starter SCOBY, a bag of organic cane sugar and three of my favourite flavour packs, including Farmhouse Teas’ Strawberry Mojito, Rose Berry and Rosemary Citrus herbal tea blends. Plus you’l get a stainless steel strainer, a 30+ page kombucha brewing eBook and more, including a bonus kombucha brewing video course (among other sweet bonuses).
AND, until June 30th, you can save a massive $100+ off this limited edition bundle. Check it out right here.
How to make homemade kombucha
Once you’ve got your SCOBY, tea, sugar and fermenting vessel, you’re ready to get started making your own kombucha at home!
First you’ll need to know how much of each ingredient to use. This will depend on the size of your fermenting vessel.
For a quart-size jar, use
- ½ Tablespoon loose leaf tea or 2 tea bags
- ¼ cup sugar
- ½ cup starter tea
For a half gallon, use
- 1 Tablespoon loose leaf tea or 4 tea bags
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 cup starter tea
For a gallon, use
- 2 Tablespoons loose leaf tea or 8 tea bags
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 cups starter tea
Step 1 – First Ferment
The first part of the kombucha-making process is called the First Ferment. This is the part where you actually get your batch going and get it started fermenting.
Here’s what you do:
1. Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place your tea into a tea pot or other similar vessel to steep in (you could also use a pot or a glass jar or bowl). Make sure that loose leaf tea is contained in a tea bag or strainer.
2. Once your water has boiled, pour it over your tea and allow tea to steep for about 5 minutes.
3. Strain tea or remove tea bags and then transfer tea to your fermenting vessel (make sure to leave space for your starter tea!). Add sugar and stir until dissolved.
4. If there’s lots of extra room in your fermenting vessel (ie. in a large, gallon jar), top with cool water until your vessel is about ⅔ of the way full.
5. Allow tea to cool to at least 85 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler (room temperature to tepid, lukewarm water is ideal) before adding your starter tea and your SCOBY.
* DO NOT add your SCOBY to hot tea! If the liquid is too hot, -it will kill your SCOBY! Liquid should also be at least room temperature and not refrigerated when doing your first ferment as refrigeration slows the fermentation process.
6. Once your tea has cooled down, add you starter tea and your SCOBY. Then place a coffee filter over the jar opening and secure with an elastic band. Set kombucha aside on your counter at room temperature but out of direct sunlight, and leave it to ferment for at least 5 to 7 days and up to about 2 weeks.
* The time it takes for your kombucha to ferment depends on the temperature (warmer temps = faster fermentation and cooler temps = slower fermentation), as well as your personal preferences (if you prefer it sweeter, bottle it sooner. If you prefer less sugar, wait a little longer to bottle it).
Step 2 – Second Ferment
The second ferment is when the real fun begins! This is when you get to add your flavourings and bottle your kombucha!
- Bottles (use glass bottles with airtight lids to bottle your kombucha and allow it to build up carbonation. I like to use swing-top bottles or glass growlers for mine).
- Flavourings (fresh, frozen or dried fruits, fruit juices, herbs and spices work great for flavouring kombucha! I especially like using the herbal tea blends from Farmhouse Teas to flavour my kombucha. My favourite flavours are Rose Berry, Strawberry Mojito, Apple Pie and Turmeric Ginger Peach… Okay, who am I kidding. I like them all!)
Add your flavouring(s)
Start by adding your flavourings to your bottle. If using fruit, you can either pop it in the bottle whole, chopped up, or blend it up first with a tablespoon or two of kombucha and then add it to the bottle. If adding herbal tea, herbs or spices, just add them in loose. You can strain them out later.
As for how much to add, I sort of eyeball it, but on average I’ll add about one tablespoon of herbal tea to a 34 oz. swing-top bottle, or about ¼ cup of fresh or frozen fruit. If adding spices (cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, etc.) I add about ½ teaspoon dried, ground spices or 1 teaspoon fresh (ie. ginger, turmeric, etc.).
This is where you get to play around with the different flavours and amounts and find what works for you. There are no hard and fast rules about flavouring kombucha like there are when you’re doing your initial ferment, so have fun! I’ve personally never made a bottle of kombucha I didn’t like, but if you do happen to make a bottle too strong or you don’t like the flavour combination, it won’t hurt you. Just chalk it up to experience and adjust your flavouring next time:)
The sky’s pretty much the limit when it comes to flavouring kombucha. I love using the herbal flavouring packs from Farmhouse Teas because they’re delicious, 100% organic and already blended for me, but here are some of my other favourite flavours and combinations…
Kombucha flavour combo ideas
- Strawberry Mint
- Strawberry Basil
- Strawberry Rhubarb
- Blueberry Lemon/Lime
- Lemon Ginger
- Pineapple Ginger
- Mango Pineapple
- Blackberry Ginger
- Apple Cinnamon
- Raspberry Cherry
- Raspberry Lemon
- Watermelon Mint
- Cherry Lime
- Cranberry Orange
- Lemon Rosemary
- Blackberry Cherry
- Blackberry Mint
- Pear Ginger
- Tripleberry (Blackberry Blueberry & Raspberry or Strawberry)
Bottle your kombucha
Once you’ve added your flavourings to the bottle, use a funnel to pour in your kombucha (remove the SCOBYs first!). Fill the bottles up to the top, leaving about an inch to ½ inch headspace. Seal the bottles with the lid and set it aside on the counter out of direct sunlight once more.
Allow the bottles to sit and do their second ferment for about two or three days. Then transfer to the fridge to chill before serving!
Allowing your bottled kombucha to sit on the counter for a few days allows it to continue fermenting and helps build carbonation. Putting it in the fridge helps slow the carbonation so it doesn’t get too bubbly.
I recommend chilling it before opening it up, both because cold kombucha (like cold beer) just tastes better, and because I once opened a warm bottle of blackberry kombucha in my friend’s kitchen and it EXPLODED all over their ceiling, walls, clothes… Not my finest hour.
To be fair, we had been travelling and I had it jumbling around in my backpack, and I’ve never had a problem with chilled kombucha! Still, you might want to open it over the sink (or outside) just in case;)
How to store homemade kombucha
Store kombucha in the fridge. If you store bottled kombucha at room temperature for a long time it will build up a lot of carbonation and could start to leak or even explode all over. Storing it in the fridge will slow the carbonation and keep it longer.
Kombucha is fermented, so it won’t technically go bad. But once opened, it can lose carbonation within about a week or so.
If left to ferment for too long, it will also start to taste more like vinegar than a refreshing drink. If this happens, simply use it as a base for homemade salad dressing!
Is Kombucha safe for kids?
Due to the fermentation process, there is sometimes trace amounts of alcohol in kombucha, but nowhere near enough to cause any sort or effects. Still, this is something you might want to consider when giving kombucha to young children.
I definitely wouldn’t give it to babies under one year old as they are still developing their digestive systems. But our almost five-year-old LOVES kombucha and drinks it regularly (and has been drinking it since she was three). She doesn’t even know to ask for soda, but she asks for kombucha on almost a daily basis!
Storing your SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel
Every time you brew a new batch of kombucha, a new SCOBY will form. Before long, you’ll no doubt end up with quite a few of them! And they all need a safe place to live when you’re not actively using them to make a fresh batch of kombucha.
Enter the SCOBY hotel…
SCOBY hotels are essentially just glass jars where you store your SCOBYs along with some of the fermented tea from previous batches of kombucha. I store my SCOBYs in a gallon-sized glass jar and I always add about two cups of starter liquid back to it along with my SCOBYs after I’m finished with my first ferment (before bottling and flavouring). This will keep your SCOBYs alive and healthy until the next time you go to use them.
Store your SCOBY hotel in a dark, room temperature place. I store mine in our pantry. I’ve stored SCOBYs without using them for up to about two months or so before and they’ve always been fine, but to keep them strong and healthy, you should brew a fresh batch at least once a month or so and then add some of the starter liquid from your fresh batch back into your SCOBY hotel so they have more sugar and caffeine to feed on.
If you go too long without “feeding” them some fresh starter liquid, they could starve to death. Although from my own experience, they’re pretty hardy little creatures and seem to survive just fine for quite a long time!
What to do with extra SCOBYs
At some point, you’ll find yourself with more SCOBYs than you need or than you have room for in your SCOBY hotel. Not to mention, SCOBYs do get old and very thick as they continue to grow. Here are some ideas for what to do with extra SCOBYs you no longer need…
- Sell them (or give them away!)
- Feed them to your chickens (our chickens LOVE when I chop up a SCOBY or two, and it’s just as healthy for them as it is for us humans!)
- Compost them
- Blend them up and add them to your smoothie (ok, I haven’t personally done this, but I know of people who have, and it’s extra probiotics for you! Yum! ??)
Download your FREE Kombucha eBook!
Once you make homemade kombucha a few times, it’ll likely become second nature. But you’ll probably want to refer back to the instructions a few times when you’re first getting started. To help with this I created a free Kombucha-making eBook that you can download from my Free Resource Library.
> Sign up here to get access to all of the resources in my (growing) library, and find my How to Make Kombucha At Home step-by-step printable guide under the Kitchen & Pantry Resources section of the library.