Kombucha is a delicious and probiotic alternative to soda pop. Here is everything you need to know about how to make kombucha and keep your SCOBY healthy and happy!
Kombucha… all of a sudden it’s everywhere. It’s sold alongside other drinks in your local convenience store, on tap at trendy restaurants, and you probably know someone who’s making it at home.
But just in case you’ve never heard of it, kombucha is a sweet, fizzy, and probiotic beverage that is touted as:
- a healthy alternative to pop
- a go-to cure for everything from cancer to sunburns
- dose of probiotic goodness
Due to the caffeine, acidity, and sugar content, I’m not sure that I’d recommend it as a healthy alternative to water. Regardless, all things are good in moderation!
Here is everything you need to know about how to make kombucha.
What is a SCOBY?
Culturing kombucha is very easy, all you need is a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeasts).
Most people think the thick and rubbery culture that grows across the top of a culturing kombucha tea is a SCOBY. However, it’s the brewed kombucha that is actually the SCOBY. It contains all the culture necessary to make more kombucha!
That’s why alive bottled kombucha will sometimes grow a little pellicle across the top!
What is a kombucha pellicle?
The thick disc that grows on kombucha is called a pellicle. The pellicle contains some culture, but it’s mostly cellulose. So while it is usually added to brewing kombucha, you MUST also include some brewed kombucha from a previous batch.
The pellicle starts out as a thin layer that forms on top of the ferment but over time it builds up to be quite thick.
People can get really excited by storing their pellicles in a “hotel” for future batches. But really… the pellicles are a side effect of fermentation, not the cause of fermentation. So feel free to use your extra kombucha pellicles for something else!
- Try making SCOBY snacks (I couldn’t resist the name for these jerky-flavored bites).
- The pellicles are mostly cellulose, which means that they are nearly 100% fiber. Blend them into a smoothie.
- Use them as a probiotic face mask.
- They’re a great addition to the compost.
How to care for Kombucha SCOBY
Remember, the kombucha SCOBY is the brewed kombucha tea. In that way, it is like vinegar mother or ginger bug. Both are brewed with the liquid from a previous batch.
Like all ferments, the kombucha SCOBY needs some TLC to be healthy and vigorous.
- Happy SCOBYs like to be fed a diet of sucrose and black tea. It doesn’t matter whether you use beet, cane, or coconut palm sugar… it just needs the sucrose. (So no honey or alternative sweeteners.)
- Though SCOBYs prefer a warm room (22C / 72F) they can handle colder temperatures. It will just take longer to brew.
- Like all cultures, you should keep kombucha in a different location from other cultures (especially kefir, sourdough, and other yeast-based ferments).
- If you’re going away on holiday, or just want to take a break then simply make a fresh batch of sweet tea and stick the kombucha in a jar in the fridge. A healthy SCOBY should be fine for a few weeks in the fridge. (Cold temperatures favor the bacterial culture, but it won’t kill the yeast.)
Where can you get a SCOBY?
The top three ways to get a SCOBY are:
- Find someone who brews kombucha, and get some from them. I generally find kombucha brewers are very good at sharing.
- Use ALIVE store-bought kombucha. This is actually trickier than you expect. For kombucha to be truly alive, it probably needs to be a local brand with a very short shelf-life. Kombucha never stops fermenting… so if the bottle has a date that lasts for more than a few weeks, then it’s either not live, or it doesn’t contain yeast.
- There are many online retailers selling SCOBYs. I quite like this brand.
How to Make Kombucha
Kombucha is very easy to make at home. All you need is a SCOBY (see section above for more information) to make this delicious and probiotic beverage.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 1 quart 1x
- Category: Beverages
- Method: Kombucha
- Cuisine: Probiotic
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 green or black tea bag or 1 tsp loose leaf tea (it can be decaffeinated)
- 1/4 cup of sugar (white, coconut palm, or raw sugar)
- 3 cups of filtered water
- 1 piece of kombucha pellicle (see above for details)
- 1/2 cup of leftover kombucha
- Boil 1 cup of water. In a quart-sized jar, make a sweet tea with boiling water, tea, and sugar. Steep the tea and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
- Stir in the remaining 2 cups of water to the jar to cool the tea down to room temperature.
- Add the kombucha pellicle and leftover kombucha.
- Cover the jar with a piece of cloth, paper towel, or coffee filter. Use a rubber band or a jar ring to keep the cover in place.
- Leave the jar to ferment in a warm location for 3-7 days. The exact timing will depend on the room temperature.
- To determine if the kombucha is finished, pour off a little of the liquid to taste it. It is finished when it has reached the desired level of sourness. It starts sweet and becomes sour over time.
- When you like the flavor, strain the liquid into a plastic pop bottle or a swing-top beer bottle for the second ferment. Reserve a 1/2 cup of brewed kombucha for the next batch.
- Add any additional flavors that you want to the bottle. At this point, the kombucha can be flavored by adding some fresh fruit, vanilla bean, or 1/2 cup of juice. Here’s a whole post on how to flavor kombucha.
- Keep the bottled kombucha caped and allow it to ferment for a further 1-5 days until it has carbonated.
- Refrigerate to stop the fermentation and enjoy within 2-3 weeks.
- Kombucha is good at carbonating, so be sure to use a bottle that can handle the build-up of pressure. No one wants an explosion!
- If you really get into homemade pop, I recommend using single-serving-sized bottles so that the kombucha doesn’t lose all its carbonation from being popped open multiple times.
- It is possible to brew kombucha with honey or herbal tea but it does require some extra care.
Keywords: summer, spring, sparkling beverage, simple, homemade, fermented, soda pop, easy
I didn’t know a SCOBY could last up to three weeks in the fridge! That’s great to know! Thank you for sharing all of your tips on kombucha, I think i’m ready to give it a go myself and stop buying from the store!
Glad you found this helpful!
I have read that the cold temp of a fridge will kill a scone and that it needs to be kept in a ‘Scoby hotel’ a jar with something to feed off??
The cold temp will slow it down, but you should definitely still store it in sweet tea. A scoby hotel is great too, but you may find that you quickly end up with a lot of scobys! If you want to take a long break, find a friend to care for your scoby, then you can get a new scoby from them when you’re ready to start brewing again.
Hi, I have large SCOBYs (.?) from my apple cider vinegar. I’m thinking of using this to brew some kombucha. What do you think?
The apple cider SCOBY isn’t exactly the same as a Kombucha SCOBY… however, that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Give it a go! It may take a few batches to get a healthy SCOBY, but it could naturally make the transition. Either way, it will probably ferment the sugars… so you’ll have some sort of probiotic beverage. Let me know what happens!
Just wondering if you can use store bought ready made flavoured ice teas to make kombucha.
I wouldn’t use them for the first ferment as they probably have preservatives. Unfortunately preservatives aren’t required to be labeled on the ingredient list (because they are only in small quantities) however, they will prevent the kombucha from fermenting properly. However, it’s fine for the second ferment (flavouring).