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!


Bring 1 ½ cup of water to a light boil.  


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


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


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


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 


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.


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.  


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

Practical Tips for Cultivating a Healthy Gut

Practical Tips for Cultivating a Healthy Gut

Update on the Microbiome

Along with the return of football, your favorite cable TV shows and a new school year, Fall is also an exciting time because the Denver Dietetic Association (DDA) membership meetings start back up. DDA is the local chapter of the AND (a professional membership organization for dietitians) and they host monthly meetings that serve as both a networking and educational opportunity, which makes them really fun to attend. I served on the board of directors for the DDA for five years when I was fresh out of my internship until just last year when I decided to take some time off. It's fun to attend as a "guest" after having previously been so involved with the planning process. 

Last night they hosted an epic kick-off meeting at Johnson and Wales University with more than 100 people in attendance. There were so many people there that they ran out of food! I have never seen this happen before. Good thing I had a snack in my purse to hold me over until I got home later, plus the speaker had such an interesting presentation I didn't even think about how hungry I was.

The presenter was Tiffany Weir, PhD (researcher at Colorado State University) and her presentation was titled, "Update on the Microbiome: Impacts of Current Research on Nutrition and Health". As a major hot topic, specifically in recent years, here are a few takeaways that I thought you might find interesting:

The average person has about 100 different microbial species in their gut.

In addition to their more well-known function of breaking down food, they are also protective against harmful species (the ones that cause infectious diseases), interact with the immune system for added protection, and aid in digestion.

When it comes to dietary intake, plant-heavy diets rule (per usual) for cultivating a healthy microbiome.

In studies that compare a variety of common dietary patterns including high-fat, gluten-free, Western, and Mediterranean, the Mediterranean style pattern increases beneficial bacteria and decreases the not-so-good ones all while decreasing inflammation. The other eating patterns tend to have the opposite effect.

Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy

Fiber is also really important in maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the microbes for optimal gut health. This is why a low-carbohydrate diet has been shown to result in a negative impact on microbiome health. Fiber also ferments in the gut which stimulates the production of short-chain fatty acids, then regulating satiety peptides (another reason why fiber aids in fullness). #eatmoreplants

There is some really cool technology in the works

Some are already in practice! Examples include the use of fecal transplant (exactly what it sounds like) to treat a certain recurring bacterial infection that is prevalent in the clinical setting; genetically engineered probiotics that have beneficial properties; and functional medicine reports that can give you valuable information on the state of your microbiome along with personalized recommendations for how you might remedy potential issues (love this one).

Yogurt Rules

Of all of the probiotic "buzz foods" on the market, yogurt is the one that really stands out in terms of probiotic power since certain strains of beneficial bacteria are added in after processing that destroys live cultures. Other fermented foods that have been pasteurized without this extra step, do not contain those same live cultures.

note: please don't take this to mean that pasteurization is bad! It’s extremely important for food safety purposes.

What about probiotics?

During the Q&A, Tiffany shared that she doesn't personally take a probiotic supplement and many that are available over-the-counter are simply not effective. However, there is one that has undergone rigorous research and is classified as a 'medical food' versus a supplement which can be purchased anywhere. It's called VSL#3 and requires a prescription and supervision of a medical professional. I’m always interested to learn about the personal habits of researchers who specialize in a specific nutrition topic because they are so in tuned with the literature. 


In her closing, Tiffany referenced Michael Pollen's famous quote: "Eat Food. Not too Much. Mostly Plants." as a practical take-away regarding nutrition and microbiome health. Who would have thought this one simple tidbit applies to so many areas of nutrition? Overall this was a solid first meeting and I'm looking forward to more interesting presentations throughout the year. Thanks to the DDA for organizing such fun events!

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