DIY Kombucha (Recipe)

$2.99 per bottle of kombucha at Whole Foods gets expensive after awhile… I’ve been drinking kombucha since college but only seriously for the past few years. I’ve had many brands and my favorite one is Health Ade and some of the original GTS flavors. But ultimately, my decision to start brewing my own kombucha was to lower expenses. Just like my coffee drinking habits, I went from making iced coffee to cold-brewing in a Mason jar. I love cold brew!

I’ve always wanted to make my own kombucha because the possibility of flavors is endless. And with making your own, you can control how sweet/acidic/fizzy your tea gets. Some brands out there really hurt my stomach because of how acidic they are. For the longest time, I thought brewing kombucha at home was daunting but it really isn’t. It’s super simple, all you need is A LOT of patience.

A helpful mini lesson: the first fermentation is developing the kombucha tea, your SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) will eat the sugar and develop more babies of SCOBY. You’ll know by seeing more discs of white stuff! After the tea ferments during this first fermentation period, you can drink it immediately afterward, but filter out the SCOBY before you do. The second fermentation is when you bottle it up in air-tight glass bottles and add whatever flavors you want to develop bubbles!

For DIY kombucha, you need these:

Here is my ratio for a gallon batch and you can adjust accordingly if you want to make a smaller batch but I don’t see the point!

  • 8 tea bags
  • 1 quart filtered water (for boiling)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2.5 quarts filtered water
  • 2 cups starter tea with active SCOBY

The how-to-do:

  1. Bring 1 quart of filtered water to a boil with the 1 cup of sugar, making sure the sugar has dissolved completely. This is the food for the SCOBY. Steep 8 tea bags for at least 15 minutes. I just leave the tea bags in and walk away until the tea gets to room temperature. Dispose of tea bags after steeping. *Tip: I now make the tea one day in advance so that I don’t have to wait for the temperature to go down to room temperature.
  2. In the wide mouth jar, add your cooled tea and the 2.5 quarts of cold filtered water. Just make sure the tea mixture isn’t hot before you put your SCOBY in.
  3. Your active SCOBY should have arrived with starter tea, if not, don’t worry, just buy 1 bottle of unflavored kombucha from the store and use that along with however much starter tea came with your order.
  4. Carefully place your SCOBY and the starter tea into the tea and mix around then let it settle.
  5. Using a rubber band, wrap cheesecloth around the top of the jar and place in a dark, undisturbed place. Check back within 7-30 days.

My first batch of kombucha took three weeks to get ready to drink. Then an additional 2-3 days to ferment the second time and then drink! I started this endeavor exactly four weeks ago, to be precise! Since it’s still winter in NYC, my apartment isn’t that warm compared to the summer time so that’s why it took awhile for it to be ready! Also, I was starting from scratch so it takes time for the mother SCOBY to develop more babies. I now have 2 more SCOBY, attached to the original one that I had bought.

How do you know when it’s done? That’s why I bought the pH paper to test the acidity. But then you could just use your mouth so I don’t understand why I wasted my money on those pieces of paper. Depending on your levels of kombucha, the tea is ready whenever it tastes good to you! Personally, I think the tea should taste acidic, not too much, but when you taste it, it shouldn’t be sweet. There’s plenty of time and opportunity to add sweetness to your kombucha when flavoring them in the glass bottles!

A helpful guide, when you’re bottling up for second fermentation, fill up kombucha to the second lip of the bottle. I’ve been adding 10%-20% fruit juices to 80%-90% of kombucha tea. I let them ferment a second time for at least two days at room temperature. Don’t forget to BURP your bottles! And be careful when burping them because, speaking from personal experience, some can shoot out and explode and splatter kombucha crap ALL OVER YOUR KITCHEN WALLS AND CEILING!!! They stain too!!! After you’re satisfied with the taste and the level of bubbliness, put bottles in your fridge to stop the fermentation process.

I found that my own kombucha tastes a gazillion times better than what is sold in stores! I immediately got addicted to my own because the taste is just so much fresher, more depth of flavor, and just so, so, so, so, so easy to drink. I love it! In the photo above, it’s one of my favorite flavors: gingerberry (ginger blueberry). I love the color too! The YouTube video is almost identical to the photo except it as additional dried hibiscus petals in each bottle.

Enjoy making your own kombucha! I’m already close to finishing my second gallon batch!

**After more than a year of making kombucha at home, depending on the temperature of your home, on average, in the winter/fall/spring months, it takes two weeks for the first fermentation. Then a straight 48 hours for the second fermentation, I burp it once, then another 24 hours in the glass bottles before putting them into the fridge. In the hot summer months, it takes no more than a week and a half for the first fermentation. Second fermentation is two 24-hour ones, burping once in between.

**Starting from January 2020, I started making a double gallon batch of kombucha. I have them staggered a week apart so that brewing isn’t too overwhelming.

**I started my third gallon jar of kombucha in July 2020.

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