DIY Kombucha (Recipe)

$3.99 per bottle of kombucha at Whole Foods Market gets expensive after awhile… I’ve been drinking kombucha for a really long Time now but only seriously for the past couple of years. I’ve had many brands but my favorite one is Health Ade and some of the original GTS flavors. But ultimately, buying kombucha was another expense that was getting to a point where I could do something about it. Just like my coffee drinking habits, I went from buying coffee beans and brewing coffee in a machine at home to cold brewing in a Mason jar.

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 will eat the sugar and develop; grow a baby or babies of more SCOBY. You’ll see this by seeing more discs of white stuff! After the tea ferments during this first fermentation, 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 containers and add whatever flavors you want to develop bubbles!

For DIY kombucha, you need these:

  • A glass wide mouth jar
  • Kombucha tea culture aka SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)
  • Cheesecloth or other breathable cloth
  • pH strips (which I found completely useless but some websites/blogs said it was helpful)
  • Air tight glass bottles for second fermentation (only if you’re going to flavor your kombucha, which I’m assuming everyone is because then what is the point?)
  • Tea bags – I used jasmine tea
  • Sugar
  • Filtered water
  • Strainer
  • Funnel

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 cold filtered water
  • 2 cups starter tea (or distilled vinegar) with active SCOBY

The how-to-do:

  1. Bring the 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.
  2. I wrote “cold filtered water” so that it cools the hot tea instantly. In the wide mouth jar, add your (hot) tea and the 2.5 quarts of cold filtered water. Just make sure the tea 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 add enough distilled vinegar to make 2 cups worth of liquid. Carefully place your SCOBY (and the starter tea/distilled vinegar) into the tea and just let that settle.
  4. 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 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 number of bubbles, 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 blood orange kombucha. I love the color. This was the very first one that I made so it wasn’t as fizzy as I wanted it to but the taste was A+!

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

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