How to Make Kombucha at Home

This is a guest post written by fellow dietitian Maria Zamarripa. She is an expert in all things gut health so today she'll be sharing some information about fermented foods and health along with a tutorial for making kombucha at home. I can't wait to give this a try!

Hey everyone! I’m Maria, registered dietitian and blogger over at Food Farmacist RD! I’m here to share with you my latest obsession which has everyone raving about gut health (one of my favorite topics). Kombucha!

There seems to be two types of people in this world: people who love kombucha, and people who have yet to discover kombucha. I hope to convert the latter ;).

What is kombucha?

Simply put, kombucha is a fermented probiotic tea. The unflavored variety tastes similar to a sparkling apple cider. Kombucha tea is made by putting a bacteria culture (also known as a SCOBY) into a mixture of black tea, sugar, and water. The bacteria “eat” the sugar and release gasses as a byproduct – this is what is known as fermentation! The fermentation creates the bubbly effect, as well as the good bacteria and yeasts.

Kombucha is barely the new kid on the block, though. Kombucha originated in China over 2,000 years ago, and was praised for its “detoxifying and energizing” effects (1).  The tea really gained popularity in the early centuries as it was reportedly used to cure the digestive problems of Emperor Inkyo!

What are the benefits of kombucha?

Move over yogurt, kombucha is moving in as the “new” fermented food. Kombucha sales have skyrocketed nearly 40% in 2017 (2). And for good reason. Kombucha is an excellent source of probiotics, which is the good type of bacteria that live in our gut. A lot of research show some benefits of certain probiotic strains for specific gut conditions. But, there are also studies showing these gut bugs may benefit things like your weight, metabolism, and even anxiety (3, 4).

Specific research on kombucha, though, is still developing with most studies done on rats so far. Nonetheless, a few studies do argue that kombucha may help inflammatory diseases, blood pressure, and even asthma (1). While kombucha isn’t a magical cure, a frequent dose of probiotics via fermented foods can definitely promote better health in many ways.

Kombucha supplies

Kombucha is surprisingly easy to make at home, plus it’s way more affordable. Here are the kombucha supplies you will need:

  • 2 black tea bags  
  • ¼ cup cane sugar
  • 3 ½ cups distilled water  
  • SCOBY with starter liquid (see below)
  • 1 quart glass jar (large mason jars work well)
  • Paper coffee filter
  • Something to secure the jar (rubber bands, hair ties, or mason jar rings work well).
  • Desired fruit/flavorings (optional)
 kombucha making supplies

Where to buy a SCOBY?

One of the kombucha supplies you need is a SCOBY - which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. This is a collection of good bacteria, and kind of resembles a floppy, slippery hockey puck. The SCOBY starts the fermentation process to produce more probiotics in your kombucha tea.

I got my first SCOBY from a friend. You see, after the first few batches of kombucha, your original SCOBY will likely produce a SCOBY baby. Don’t be alarmed! This means you can either have two batches of kombucha brewing at one time, or gift one to a friend to share the (gut) wealth.

 SCOBY for making kombucha at home

Where do you buy a SCOBY if you can’t get one from a friend? Well, like everything else in this world… you can order one from Amazon! Make sure the SCOBY is given or sold in starter liquid, as it needs this to survive. If you live in a larger city, you can also buy a SCOBY at a local kombucha brewery or shop.

Kombucha brewing steps

Once you have all of your kombucha supplies, follow this step-by-step guide to make your own kombucha at home!

STEP 1

Bring 1 ½ cup of water to a light boil.  

STEP 2

Place 2 black tea bags into your mason jar, and add the hot water. Steep tea for 15 minutes.

STEP 3

Remove tea bags and add ¼ cup sugar, stirring until completely dissolved.

STEP 4

Add additional 2 cups distilled water. Make sure mixture is around room temperature. Then add the SCOBY and starter liquid.

STEP 5

Place a coffee filter over the top of the jar, and secure with a rubber band.  Store in a dark, cool place, like your pantry or a cabinet.

 kombucha brewing 

STEP 6

Allow the mixture to sit in a dark, cool place for 7-10 days. The brewing time varies with each batch/SCOBY.  Your SCOBY should float to the top of the jar around this time, and the tea will be a lighter color than at the beginning.

How to Test Your Kombucha

This sometimes grosses people out, but it gets better with the more batches you have under your belt! To make sure your kombucha is finished brewing, you’ll need to grab a straw and place it under the SCOBY. Take a sip of the kombucha! If it has a nice “carbonated” taste, then it’s done.

STEP 7

When finished brewing, scoop out the SCOBY with 1/4 cup of starter liquid and store in a covered jar back in the pantry until your next batch! If there are any loose pieces, strain the rest of your finished kombucha with a fine mesh strainer.  

OPTIONAL: Add FLAVORING

Some people prefer to drink plain kombucha. It’s also fun to experiment with flavors, too! After taking out the SCOBY and starter liquid, add a handful of desired fruit/spices/herbs to the kombucha mixture. Place the coffee filter back onto the jar, secure with a band, and let sit for 2 more days in the pantry. Strain out the fruit after 2 days, and store the kombucha, covered with a lid, in the refrigerator. Different sources say it can last in the refrigerator anywhere from 1-3 months, but I usually drink it up within 1-2 weeks.

My Favorite Flavor Combinations:

  • Peach Mint
  • Strawberry Basil
  • Apple Cinnamon (great for the fall!)
  • Ginger Lemon
  • Cranberry Orange
  • Watermelon Lime

Note: While kombucha is safe for most people, doctors recommend against kombucha during pregnancy. Ask your doctor before drinking kombucha if you are on any type of immune suppressing drugs, too.

That’s it! You’re all set to start brewing your own kombucha at home. I’d love to follow along with your kombucha adventures! Tag me @foodfarmacistrd on Instagram or Food Farmacist RD on Facebook to share pictures of your favorite flavors or your first couple of kombucha brews!

 Maria Zamarripa the Food Farmacist RD