Jeff Flowers on October 5, 2016 4 Comments You’ve tried kombucha tea and love it, but buying it at the store can get pretty expensive. Did you know you can make your own kombucha at home for pennies a serving, without any fancy equipment, and it can taste exactly the same, or even better, as your favorite store-bought varieties? Making your own kombucha tea is a relatively simple process. Below we’ll show you how! My Favorite Kombucha Recipe When it comes to making kombucha, you only need a handful of basic supplies. Unlike brewing beer, you don’t need a bunch of equipment or special ingredients. In fact, you likely have many of the needed supplies around your house right now. Below, we have listed out all the supplies and ingredients you will need to make a one gallon batch. Supplies & Ingredients Needed: 1 SCOBY 1 gallon jar/brewing vessel (glass; do not use metal or plastic) Vinegar, boiling water or brewing sanitizer 1 tight-weave dishcloth (do not use cheese cloth) 1 cup white sugar Rubber band Gallon of filtered or spring water (chlorine from city water can interfere with process) 6-8 tea bags or the equivalent of loose leaf tea ½-1 cup previously-brewed kombucha (can be commercial kombucha) Bottles or keg for finished kombucha Funnel for bottling Procedure For Making Kombucha: Boil approximately one quart of water. Add tea and allow to steep for 10 minutes or longer, and remove. Add sugar to gallon jar and carefully pour in the hot tea. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Fill jar ¾ full with room-temperature filtered water. Tea mixture should be warm, but not hot, to the touch. Add SCOBY to jar along with kombucha from a previous batch. Cover jar tightly with towel. This will prevent fruit flies, dust and other debris from getting into your kombucha while allowing it to breath. Do not cover with an air-tight lid. Set aside on a warm counter or closet to ferment. Fermentation period will vary depending on temperature. Taste it after a few days. It’s ready when it no longer tastes like sweet tea and has a slight acidic bite. This can take between 5-10 days. Or longer, depending on your taste and the conditions in which you store it. Bottle or keg once you believe fermentation has completed. At this stage you can add juice or fruit for flavor and extra fizz. Tips to Kegging or Bottling Your Kombucha Once your batch is ready and is at the level of tartness you desire, you will need to immediately keg or bottle your kombucha to slow down fermentation and build up carbonation. Remove your SCOBY and about a cup of the finished kombucha. Set this aside for your next batch. Strain the fermented tea and pour into sterilized bottles or keg. Sterilization is the key! If you’d like, you can add fruit or juice at this point to flavor your batch. If you’re kegging and do not wish to add pieces of fruit, you can add juice instead. Allow your bottled kombucha to stand at room temperature for a couple of days to carbonate. Then chill to your preferred temperatures. Enjoy! If you are using bottles, keep in mind that kombucha tea can build up quite a bit of pressure. It is recommended that you use swing top/Grolsch-style bottles, which can be reused several times and are typically stronger than beer bottles. You should also store them in cupboards, boxes or other closed containers in case of breakage. Where To Get A SCOBY If you’re just starting out with making kombucha, it may be somewhat difficult to find a SCOBY. The best way to get a SCOBY is from a friend. Ask on Facebook or check with your neighbors. As people brew regularly, the SCOBY will grow in size and most people are more than happy to share their extras. There are also fermentation groups online with plenty of members who are willing to meet up with or perhaps send you one. Growing Your Own SCOBY If you’re lucky enough to live in a city where commercial kombucha is easy to purchase, you can also grow your own SCOBY. Buy a couple bottles of an unflavored (or mildly flavored), unpasteurized variety of kombucha tea and use those bottles as the starter for your first batch. Simply follow the recipe above using these bottles as part of the mix. You may not get a usable batch of kombucha at the end of the fermentation process (it may not fully ferment, and may still taste like weak sweet tea), but the solids that collect in the jar will be a baby SCOBY. Strain the mixture and repeat this process once or twice more with those solids, and you will see that baby SCOBY start to grow larger and larger. After a times, you should have a usable SCOBY. Buying Online If all else fails or you don’t have the patience to grow your own, you can always order a SCOBY by mail. There are numerous companies that sell them online, including many offered via Amazon Prime. Keep in mind that some companies will send a dehydrated SCOBY that may not be as healthy as a fresh one, and they are temperature-sensitive, so if they sit in a cold or hot mailbox, that can kill the cultures. What Kinds of Tea Can Be Used? Most kombucha brewers believe the SCOBY organisms need certain nutrients found only in Camellia sinensis, the plant from which traditional black tea comes from. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what’s in the tea plant that is essential for kombucha production. To help ensure your kombucha recipe is successful, therefore, it would be wise to include at least some black, green or white tea in each brew (or a combination of any or all of the three). Some people add herbal teas, yerba mate, rooibos or twig tea to the mix. Like any recipe, making your own kombucha will likely require a bit of experimentation to find what type of tea or combination works best for your taste buds. I would recommend that if you wish to experiment with any flavored or herbal teas that you do so with a spare SCOBY, just in case something goes wrong. Note: Earl Grey is not recommended, as the bergamot oil can interfere with the SCOBY. What Kinds of Sugar Can Be Used? Again, the consensus among many brewers is that white table sugar is the optimal choice for making kombucha, but people have successfully made kombucha with other kinds of sugar. Trying out different types of sugar is another area you should experiment with. Evaporated Cane Juice, turbinado sugar and brown sugar can be substituted for white sugar, but all will be more difficult for the SCOBY to process than white sugar. Furthermore, due to the molasses content in turbinado and brown sugar, the final product will likely taste different. Most people discourage the use of honey (especially raw honey, which is antimicrobial and will kill your brewing bacteria), corn syrup or agave syrup. The SCOBY may not be able to fully utilize the sugars in these sweeteners. In this instance, kombucha tea may not brew properly and you may not have the right balance of acid and helpful bacterials to prevent mold or harmful bacteria. Note: You cannot use stevia, xylitol, maltitol, or artificial sweeteners while making kombucha, as none of these will feed the SCOBY yeasts. Flavor Variations To change up the flavors of your final product, you have two options. 1. Use Different Teas: Try different teas at the brewing stage, using a spare SCOBY. Mix black tea with mint, hibiscus, rose, lavender or other teas or herbs for unique flavors. 2. Add Fruits, Juices & Herbs: You should experiment with adding different types of fruit and herbs to the mix. Do this at the bottling stage. Suggestions include whole raspberries, blackberries, blueberries or strawberries, pineapple, mango, or citrus fruit. Also try sprigs of mint, roses, fresh ginger, rosehips, basil, dandelion flowers, and more. Experiment! Take notes, then experiment again. Before you know it, you’ll have a recipe you love and you’ll be making it every week.