Why You Might Want to Try (Making Your Own) Kombucha

January 16, 2020

By Anna Varriano

I have been drinking kombucha for years. It’s just one of the many things I do to support a healthy gut … which is key in supporting overall health. I typically have two 4-ounce drinks of kombucha per day – one in the morning, and one late afternoon/early evening. As with most things, more is not always better, with 16 ounces of kombucha (four 4-ounce servings, spread out over the course of the day) often being sited as the  maximum daily amount that should be consumed per day. If you’ve never had kombucha before, start with one 4-ounce drink per day for a week or so, then increase slowly.

I always knew that some folks made their own, but I didn’t think I’d have the time or skill to do it  … that is, until a friend came over with a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast – the necessary starter to brew a batch of ‘booch) a few months ago and made a batch with me. It was pretty darn simple, waaaaaay more economical than buying it, the results were great, and it was fun creating my own flavours!

I’ve made 3 batches now, and they’ve all been slightly different. Results can vary depending on temperature, brewing time, the quality of the SCOBY, and a few other factors; however, every batch has worked out and I’m not afraid to experiment to figure out what leads to a successful brew (if it doesn’t work, its just some tea and sugar that have gone to waste). If you take a crack at making your own and it doesn’t turn out right the first time, I encourage you to keep trying! It helps to know what kombucha should be like, so if you’ve never tried any before, make sure you do before brewing your own!

In this post, I’ll take you through the equipment and ingredients needed to brew your own kombucha (fondly referred to as ‘booch’), as well as a step-by-step ‘recipe’ with lots of photos.  Hope you’ll try it! 

You Will Need:

  • a gallon-sized glass mason jar
  • three 1-litre glass bottles with screw on or flip-top caps
  • an instant-read thermometer
  • a 6 or 8 litre stainless steel pot
  • a slotted wooden spoon
  • a funnel
  • fine mesh strainer
  • a clean cotton cloth or large paper coffee filter or nut bag
  • 1 cup of pure cane sugar
  • 8 tea bags or 17 grams of loose tea (black tea, green tea, or oolong)
  • 2 cups of starter kombucha (for your very first brew, you will have to buy a bottle of unflavoured kombucha … after that, each time you make your own batch, you set aside 2 cups to use as starter for your next batch!)
  • a healthy SCOBY – get it from someone you know, or you can buy one at a health food store, or on-line.

Step 1: Wash All Equipment

It’s important to wash all the equipment that will come in contact with your kombucha in warm soapy water, making sure you rinse everything well to get rid of all soap, then let it all air dry. Use regular dish soap – NOT anti-bacterial soap.

Step 2: Make Sugary Tea

In a stainless steel pot, heat 4 cups of water to almost boiling. I sometimes heat the water in a kettle first, then pour it into the pot to speed this step up a bit. You will be adding tea (tea bags or loose tea) to this water, and the type of tea you use will dictate the temperature that the water should be before you add the tea, as follows:

  • Black tea: 200F to 212F

  • Oolong tea: 190F to 205F

  • Green tea: 170F to 180F

Each tea creates a different/unique kombucha base/unlfavoured kombucha. Black tea is strongest, green tea is mildest, oolong is somewhere in between and is often cited for having the most health-boosting nutrients.

Once the water is the right temperature, add the tea to the pot, stir, cover, then steep for 10 minutes or so. Halfway through, give it another stir and press the tea bags or the loose tea against the sides of the pot to extract more flavour/nutrients.

After 10 minutes of steeping, remove the tea bags/loose tea, then add the 1 cup of pure cane sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. I use loose tea and remove it by pouring the tea through a fine mesh strainer into another pot.

Once the sugar is completely dissolved, pour the 4 cups of sweetened tea into the 1-gallon mason jar, then add 10 cups of room temperature water. I marked my mason jar at the 14 cup mark with a permanent marker the first time I brewed so that I don’t have to measure 10 cups of water every time – I just fill the jar with water to the 14 cup mark AFTER I’ve added the 4 cups of sweetened tea.

Step 3: Add The Magic!

The next step involves adding the 2 cups of starter tea and the SCOBY … but first you must let the sugary tea in the mason jar cool down to below 85F. This is very important because if the temperature of the sugary tea is above 85F the bacteria/yeast balance of the SCOBY and starter tea will be disrupted, which will negatively affect the fermentation. Once you are at the right temperature, add the 2 cups of starter tea to the mason jar. If there is sediment at the bottom of the bottle of starter tea, gently turn the bottle upside down, then right side up again to ensure the sediment gets mixed into the starter tea as you want this sediment to get into the sugary tea in the mason jar.

Next, gently add the SCOBY into the mason jar mixture. Make sure your hands are clean before handling the SCOBY!

Cover the mason jar with a clean cotton cloth or large coffee filter and secure with an elastic. Your work is basically done now!

All that’s left to do is put the brew somewhere where it will be out of direct sunlight and at a temperature of between 72F – 82F … and wait (see next step). I usually wrap my jar in a dark dish towel and put it in the corner of my kitchen counter. I keep a glass of water beside it and use this water to monitor the temperature from time to time.

If the room temperature gets too cold (which can happen in the winter), I put the wrapped jar in my oven, turn the oven light on, and keep the oven door cracked open a bit using a wooden spoon. I have a small thermometer in the oven so I can monitor the temperature. You’ll want to monitor the temperature inside your oven BEFORE you put your kombucha in the oven to make sure the temperature is just right – you’ll likely have to play with how wide you leave the oven door open.

Step 4: The Waiting Game

Within a week, the SCOBY will have grown a second layer on its upper surface (looks like little white spots at first) and will have also spread across the top of the brew. I usually let my kombucha ferment for 7 to 9 days. The longer I leave it, the less sweet it is. You can do a taste test around day six. The best way to do this without disrupting the SCOBY/fermentation process is with the use of a plastic straw. Take the cloth/coffee filter off the jar of brew, take a clean plastic straw (you don’t want kombucha to come in contact with metal!), gently slide the bottom end of the straw down past the side of the SCOBY into the brew. Once you have the straw into the brew, seal the top end of the straw with your pointer finger – this will capture some of the brew in the straw. Keeping your finger on the top end of the straw, pull the straw out of the jar, put the bottom end in your mouth, and take your finger off the top end so that the extracted kombucha sample falls into your mouth. It shouldn’t taste really sweet – if it does, let it ferment for a few more days and repeat the straw taste-testing procedure until you have your desired taste.

Once your booch is how you’d like it, with clean hands, remove the SCOBY from the mason jar and place it in a glass container, covering it with a bit of the kombucha from the mason jar.

How to store your SCOBY will depend on when you plan on making your next batch of kombucha. Here are the instructions that a friend sent to me:

Now that you’ve taken care of your SCOBY, you need to pour off 2 cups of your kombucha into a glass jar or bottle and store this in the fridge. This will be your starter tea for next time around. I put the date the starter tea was poured off on the bottle with masking tape and a permanent marker.

It should be good for about 2 weeks. You can always buy a another bottle of plain kombucha for your next batch if necessary.

If you want unflavoured kombucha, pour the remaining brew in the mason jar into your bottles. To avoid messes as well as avoiding having strands of yeast end up in the finished bottled product, I put a funnel in the bottle, line the funnel with a fine cloth, and then pour the kombucha into the bottles, leaving about an inch from the neck of the bottle. Then seal the bottles, refrigerate, and enjoy. If you want flavoured kombucha, read Step 5.

Step 5: 2nd Ferment/Adding Flavours

If you want a flavoured kombucha, before pouring the unflavoured brew from the mason jar into individual bottles, add some flavours into the bottles. Use your imagination! If I am using fruit, I’ll add about 1/4 cup of the fruit to the bottle. If I am using ginger, I’ll use about 1 thumb-sized piece. If I am using herbs, I’ll add a generous sprig. Here are some of the flavours I’ve tried so far – and loved them all (although ginger is my staple!):

  • blueberry-lemon
  • raspberry-rosemary
  • ginger (my favourite)
  • pineapple-mango (pineapple makes things VERY FIZZY!)
  • cranberry-orange
  • cherry-hibiscus
  • apple-cinnamon (I used dried apples and a cinnamon stick)

For citrus flavouring, I use several pieces of zest. For fruit flavouring, I use fresh or frozen fruits, for hibiscus flavouring, I use hibiscus flower tea, for ginger flavouring, I use fresh ginger root.  Below are some photos to give you an idea of amounts and sizes of flavouring ingredients I have used.


Don’t be shy to experiment with what you add to flavour your kombucha. You’ll figure out what works and what you like best soon enough!

Once you’ve put the fruit/herbs/etc into the individual bottles, pour in the brew from the mason jar, leaving about an inch of space from the neck of the bottle. Put the bottles back in a dark place, between 72F – 82F … like you did with the first fermentation. I usually cover mine up with a dark towel again and leave them for 2 or 3 days …. except … this time … you have to give your booch babies a daily burp by very slowly opening the bottles to let out a bit of gas so they don’t explode on you. I have learned from others’ experiences and cover my bottles with a towel before I burp them … to avoid burp explosions that can lead to kombucha on your ceiling.  You’re welcome for the heads up! 

Once the 2 to 3 days of burping is over, you MUST refrigerate the bottles to stop the fermentation process. If it continues, the bottles could explode!

Next, enjoy … and maybe start your next batch right away!

Cheers to your health!

Cranberry-orange, cherry-hibiscus, and ginger booch all done!

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