Today I bring you my first how-to video to explain step-by-step how to make your own kombucha at home that tastes even better than what you get at the store! For a written description of the process, check out the post below.
I have been trying to perfect home-brewed kombucha for about a year now, never being able to get it to taste like the stuff I buy at the store… until now! After years of trial and error, research, and taste-testing, I bring you my fool-proof guide to making delicious, fizzy, healthy kombucha in the comfort of your own home.
First Thing’s First… What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea that has a fizzy, tart yet sweet flavour and is filled with a plethora of health benefits. In fact, those in China have called it the “immortal health elixir” for years given that it:
Helps detoxify the liver
Aids with arthritis given the glucosamine content
Provides antioxidants that are helpful for the immune system
Contains probiotics, which are said to help:
Increase number of healthy bacteria in the gut
Catalyze the production of vitamins like vitamin K and B12, while increasing the bioavailability of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron
Stimulate the release of anti-inflammatory proteins that support the immune system
Decrease gut permeability
The Odd but Amazing SCOBY*
Kombucha gets all of its fizz and health benefits from something called a SCOBY, which is an acronym for a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It contains the yeast and bacteria necessary for the fermentation process to occur. I’ll warn you now: it’s SUPER odd and gross looking with a very strange texture!
The SCOBY is a live organism that eats and grows, and it’s actually quite picky about what it eats! Specifically, it needs brewed caffeinated tea and white sugar (preferably organic). When it has the food that it needs, it will actually multiply and a “daughter” SCOBY will form, which you can gently peel apart so you have two separate SCOBYs (which can be thrown into the trash or given to a friend who’s interested in home-brewing!).
First Fermentation vs. Second Fermentation
There are two key phases when you’re making kombucha at home:
You'll brew a batch of plain kombucha, which will also provide you with the ½ cup of kombucha that’s needed for you to make another batch. This ½ cup of kombucha is also known as your "starter fluid."
You'll use the kombucha from your first batch and add flavouring to make it tasty and more fizzy!
The First Fermentation Process
Ingredients & Tools
½cup of starter fluid, AKA plain kombucha from your first fermentation
NOTE: When making kombucha for the first time ever, you’ll need to either get ½ cup of starter fluid from a friend who’s brewing kombucha already or you can purchase kits that come with a SCOBY and starter fluid from different health stores or online.
1 gallon-sized glass jar
About 1/3 cup of caffeinated loose-leaf black or green tea of any flavour you’d like
NOTE: Your tea must be caffeinated as the SCOBY needs caffeine to grow and ferment. Using decaffeinated tea will NOT work.
A good budget-saver here is to get your tea from Bulk Barn! They have a little tea section filled with a variety of caffeinated black and green teas that are super cheap!
Tea filters for your loose leaf tea (I get mine from David’s Tea)
1 cup of white sugar (preferably organic)
NOTE: You must use white sugar; alternatives like coconut sugar, honey, or other sweeteners will not work. Remember, SCOBYs are picky about what they eat and will not ferment if you don’t give them what they want!
Thin cloth and elastic bland (you will use this to cover your jar instead of a lid)
The tools you use during the first and second fermentation process make a HUGE DIFFERENCE. Do not try deviating away from these tools and ingredients or your kombucha will likely not work.
Pour 1 cup of white sugar into your quart-sized glass jar.
Add boiling water to about the halfway mark of the jar. Using a wooden spoon, stir water and sugar vigorously until the water is well-dissolved.
Add more boiling water until it’s close to the brim, but so there is also enough space for your starter fluid and SCOBY, which will take up some volume.
Place your loose leaf caffeinated tea into tea filters and drop into hot water. Stir gently.
I typically allow my tea to steep for 2 - 4 hours at the minimum, and sometimes I’ll leave it overnight. You need your tea to steep for a long time to get flavourful kombucha. Your water should be almost opaque if you're using black tea because it has steeped for so long.
When your tea has reached room temperature, remove your tea bags from the jar and add your ½ cup of starter fluid. If you add the starter fluid and SCOBY when your water is too hot, you’ll kill the yeast and good bacteria. Goodbye to all of those amazing health benefits!
Give your SCOBY a very gentle rinse under lukewarm water with clean hands before placing it into your jar. Place your thin cloth and elastic band over top and place in a warm-ish, dark place. I like putting mine into a cupboard.
Your kombucha will ferment for 7 - 14 days depending on how sweet or tart you want it to be, which is all about personal preference. The shorter you let it ferment, the sweeter it will be. If you let it ferment for too long, however, it will essentially turn into vinegar and taste extremely tart. Note that if you plan on flavouring your kombucha through the second fermentation process, you’ll want your first fermentation to end when the kombucha is still a little sweet. For me, I’ll usually stop the initial ferment at 7 days and do the second ferment at that time.
The Second Fermentation
Ingredients & Tools
Air-tight glass jars with a very tight seal
NOTE: You MUST use air-tight jars that do not allow for ANY air to get into or out of the jar. Do NOT buy cheap jars from Dollarama as these typically don’t have seals that are tight enough. Invest in some really great jars!
Smaller glass jars for individual servings (optional)
I like to collect glass jars when I buy kombucha so I can use them for this purpose!
Natural fruit juice, raw fruit, or tea sweetened with white sugar for flavouring
NOTE: If you are using sweetened tea to flavour your kombucha, it does NOT need to be caffeinated for the second fermentation process; you can use any flavour of tea you’d like as long as you sweeten it with white sugar (1½ teaspoons of sugar per cup of tea to sweeten it)
After 7 - 14 days of your initial fermentation, use tongs to gently remove the SCOBY from the kombucha and place it into a small bowl. Separate ½ cup of kombucha into a small bowl or cup as well, as this will be needed for your next batch. If you're going to continue with the second fermentation process, your kombucha from the first batch must be slightly sweet. Otherwise, it won't taste as good and won't get as fizzy by the end of this ferment.
Once you’ve separated ½ cup of kombucha and your SCOBY, pour the rest of the kombucha from your first ferment into a large bowl.
Take your first air-tight glass jar and pour some natural fruit juice, sweetened tea, or raw fruit into the jar so it’s about one-third to one-fifth of the way full. The more juice you add, the sweeter and likely fizzier it will be.
Pour kombucha from your first batch into the jar for the rest of the way, leaving about 1” of space from the lid to the kombucha mixture. You do NOT want to fill the jar the entire way as there needs to be a little bit of space for the second fermentation process to occur.
Seal jar tightly and leave on counter for three days maximum.
NOTE: If you leave your jars out for longer than three days, your glass jars could explode! This has happened to me before and the entire glass jar shattered… scary and not fun! My tip is to set reminders in your phone about when you need to move on to your second ferment and when you need to taste-test your kombucha.
6. After these three days, you can place the entire jar into the fridge or pour into smaller, individual jars for easy transport. Putting your kombucha into the fridge slows the fermentation process greatly, which is needed at this time.
From there, you’ll immediately go on to creating another batch to undergo its first fermentation process.
*Photo credit: Emma Christensen from Kitchn
The Bottom Line
Kombucha is not only delicious, but filled with health benefits. The key things to remember when making your own kombucha are:
- Always use caffeinated tea and white sugar only - Your jars MUST be air-tight - Your first batch of kombucha must still be a bit sweet if you're going to do a second ferment.
- After the second fermentation process is complete and it tastes the way you want it to, put it immediately into the fridge so the fermentation process does not continue.
You Tell Me!
What are your own tips for making your own kombucha at home? Let me know in the comments below!