Kombucha tea has a history going back thousands of years. Calling it a tea doesn’t really give it the credit it deserves. The Kombucha culture may use tea and sugar solution as food, but the resulting beverage is far from simple tea. In fact, historically, Kombucha has been referred to as the Elixir of Life or The Remedy for Immortality in the first recorded use of the tea during the Tsin Dynasty, 221 B.C. This article is not about the history of Kombucha or the benefits of Kombucha, but rather about how to make Kombucha tea. I hope that the instructions with pictures are helpful.
In preparation to make Kombucha tea, one must have ready a few simple items and to keep in mind to use only glass and plastic, not metal.
- White sugar
- Glass container
- Cloth material
- Rubber bands
- Kombucha SCOBY
- Kombucha starter mixture
How to Make Kombucha tea, an Overview
Clean pure water will be heated to boiling on a stove, at which time a specific amount of sugar will be added. Heat is turned off and sugar mixture stirred to ensure it’s completely dissolved. Tea bags are added and allowed to steep until water has cooled naturally. Once at room temperature, the sugary tea mixture is transferred from heating pot to a glass container where it will remain undisturbed for an entire week. Kombucha starter mixture is added into the liquid and stirred gently. Kombucha culture (SCOBY) is placed in the mixture, cloth material is placed over the opening and fastened in place with a rubber band.
Place glass container in a spot that can remain undisturbed during its transformation time and leave sit for at least 7 days.
How to Make Kombucha tea, Detailed Instructions
1. Heat your desired amount of pure clean water to boiling – I personally use and recommend distilled water, but reverse osmosis (ro) water would be fine too. I use distilled water because it’s just H2O and nothing else. Once boiled, remove from heat. No picture of this, because it would be pretty boring. Imagine a pot of hot water.
2. Add Sugar – Use 1 to 1.5 cups of white sugar for every gallon of water. A gallon is 4 litres more or less (it’s not really, but it’s close enough). In metric, the numbers are thus: 2 to 3 ounces for each litre, or 8 to 12 ounces per gallon.
Stir the sugar until it’s completely dissolved. Then stir a little more.
Sugar is the food source for the Kombucha culture and is consumed during fermentation.
3. Add the tea bags – For best results, use only black tea. 2 tea bags per litre, or 8 per gallon. Tea adds nitrogen for the culture, allowing it a happy environment to produce the beverage. Steep the tea until the mixture cools, so basically put them in and walk away. Once cooled to room temperature, wring the bags out into the mixture and discard.
4. Pour sugar tea solution into clean glass container – Pour nearly to top, leaving room for a little Kombucha starter solution to be added.
5. Test the temperature – make sure that the sugary tea solution has cooled to room temperature.
6. Add the Kombucha starter – You should already have starter Kombucha from a previous batch or from a friend who’s provided it. It’s possible to begin Kombucha from scratch using some starter, but it takes a little longer and requires more care.
How much Kombucha starter to begin with depends on how much Kombucha you’re making. Ideally, you should use 10 to 25% of the final amount desired. 1 cup per litre for example.
Kombucha loves a sugary, nitrogen filled, low pH environment. The starter should be on the lower end of the pH scale (more like vinegar) when added to your new batch. See my article on Best Way to Make Kombucha for more info on pristine conditions.
7. Add the live Kombucha culture (SCOBY) to the mixture – take careful consideration of the temperature you’re putting the SCOBY into before making this move. The bacteria yeast culture is very temperature sensitive. Your mixture should be at room temperature, or slightly above. Best fermenting temperatures are between 21 and 29 degrees Celsius.
This was the first time I used this 2 gallon glass container so I added 3 scoby’s from my previous smaller batches.
In the background, you can see my starter Kombucha tea with a few scoby’s in it.
8. Cover the container – The container must be allowed to breathe, but not allow anything into it. Fruit flies love Kombucha tea, so cover it with a cloth material that allows air to move back and forth, but nothing in. I used cheese cloth originally, but was told that fruit flies could still get through it. Consider cutting up an old shirt, measuring before you cut so that the piece fits over the top. A wider mouth opening allows for better air exposure and a better fermentation.
9. Use a rubber band to seal the material on top.
10. Place in a warm area and allow to ferment – Avoid direct sunlight, but allow for room temperature to above room temperature conditions, and allow for an undisturbed setting for at least a week. Fermentation times vary according to conditions, but a week is typical.
Kombucha loves warmth, and goes dormant in the cold. Ideal conditions are 21 to 29 degrees Celsius. Direct sunlight can harm the culture and reduce its life span, but it does not need to be kept away from light, just direct sunlight.
You’re going to need bottles to store the finished product, so begin collecting them over the week while the Kombucha is fermenting. Glass bottles are preferred and should be able to be capped with a strong fitting. Wine bottles with screw tops work well as are specialty beer bottles with the resealable corking system. Canadian Pellegrino sparkling water bottles come with a screw top, but US versions have single use caps. Rubber corked wine bottles can be re-used but be aware that Kombucha under pressure can push through the cork or even pop them out. This happened one time in our RV and scared the crap out of my cat!
Also, a funnel is considered a good tool to assist in bottling Kombucha, so find and purchase a funnel if you don’t already have one.
When to Bottle the Kombucha tea
Starting with a very sugary tea mixture, the Kombucha culture consumes the sugar over time into the beverage we drink. Over the course of 4 to 14 days (or more), the beverage becomes lower and lower pH (more acidic) and moves from sweet to sour. Knowing when to bottle Kombucha is based both on taste and on desired health benefits. Gunther Frank and I both agree that drinking Kombucha should be based on health benefits first and taste second.
Good Kombucha tea should taste like a cross between apple cider and apple cider vinegar.
Somewhere around the 7 day mark, pour off a few ounces of tea and taste it. See if it’s to your liking. When you do this test with your first batch, it would be hard to discern between sweetness levels, not having experienced how sour it can become. Simply make a judgement call and go with it. If it’s too sweet yet, leave it another day and test again.
It’s that simple.
Bottling for the purpose of this article is very straight forward.
I like bottles that have the resealable corking systems like this beer bottle but any glass bottle will suffice. I’ve found beer bottles like this one in two different sizes. This is the smaller of the two.
Pour the tea into your bottles but save 10 to 25% for your next batch.
Keep the SCOBY culture with this starter tea. If you aren’t able to make more for a few days or longer, cover and put in the fridge. It will become lower pH and more vinegary, perfect for your next batch of tea.
The Kombucha SCOBY may float on the surface of your jar, or it may sink to the bottom. Either way is fine and a new baby SCOBY will form on the top of your working mixture. They may join together producing a thicker and thicker culture. This is normal.
Treat your SCOBY with care. It’s heat sensitive. If you aren’t using it for an extended period of time, keep it with a little starter and put it in the fridge in it’s own container. Preferably glass.
It’s best to start with smaller quantities of Kombucha, no larger than 2 litres (half a gallon) until your SCOBY becomes more robust and able to handle larger amounts.
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I’ll give it a try. I’m always up for trying something new.
One, can you outline all ways of storing the finished product? I failed to see where you say how to store the already-bottled tea. To the best of my knowledge, it can/should be refrigerated.
And two, will store-bought Kombucha suffice for a starter? I used to work at a local health food store when I discovered this tea… and how expensive it is! I would pay upwards of $4 for a small bottle until I decided it was simply too expensive and just stopped consuming it altogether. I might buy a bottle if it will start me off making more bang for my buck! Thanks for this frugal-friendly post on how to make this truly vitalizing drink from homemade!!
Thanks for this information. I’ve tried to make this before and it came out terribly. I have renewed confidence to try again!
@Jessica, I’ll be writing a bunch more articles on everything Kombucha related as I have time (currently traveling) and everything bottling related will be covered. To answer your questions here:
It does not have to be refrigerated once bottled. It can be stored in a cool place anywhere in your home, out of the sun. Move it to the fridge to cool before consuming if you like a cold Kombucha tea as I do.
Store bought Kombucha can be used as a starter, but it takes a little longer to develop initially and there are some factors to consider in doing that. I’ll be writing that article as well.
Yes, the store bought bottles are about $4 each, and usually contain 2 servings (they say, but I drink the whole bottle). As for the “price” of Kombucha, once we realize the benefits and the result, it’s quite affordable actually. However, making your own allows you to become part of process of improving your own health and you have direct control over the energy going into the finished product. Treat your Kombucha with Love.
I’ve noticed lately that there are a few bottled kombucha’s that have a big blog of scoby in them. Whether or not it’s active and has both bacteria and yeast is another question all together. My first batch of K-tea using a bottle I bought did not turn out at all. I have since found a possible reason why though and want to try again.
Thank you for the questions. I’ll be writing the answers in detail shortly.
Bob Garon says
Great article Rob! I’m still learning the art of Kombucha making myself, as you know, and pretty much do it the exact same way as yours.
For the packaging, after brewing, I’ve just saved my old GTs Kombucha bottles and keep it in there.
Thanks and I look forward to your future articles. Once I get the knack I’ll toss my process on my blog too.
Hi Rob, Love your website. Great information throughout. You truly are an inspiration for determination!! I did some online research on Kombucha tea. It made me a bit hesitant to try it. Wasn’t sure if you were aware of all the bad press on it. I know there are always naysayers to almost everything, but felt the need to run my findings by you for you to give your opinion on it. American cancer society was one of the sites I visited. Thanks a million.
William Hanson says
Very inspirational site. I think I may just try out this recipe as I’m beginning my weight loss journey (yet again). Hopefully this time it’ll stick. With sites like this to guide me, I’m hoping this is the last time I ‘start’ a weight loss journey.
Dave Bowers says
Hello there, I am very interested in this Tea, when I goto the health food store do I ask for Kombucha SCOBY and Kombucha starter mixture. is there a brand name that I should ask for?
Dave, health food stores wouldn’t be selling the SCOBY, just a bottled brand of Kombucha tea.
to make your own, you’re going to want to search the classifieds in your area for someone who is privately giving away or selling a SCOBY.
check kijiji or craigs list for example.
Ask around of facebook… check the marketplace there, or look for a group in your neck of the woods.
SCOBY can also be sent by mail if it’s packaged correctly. That’s how I got mine. Not sure that it can cross a border though as it’s a living thing (microorganisms etc), so would have to get some from your specific country.
I hope that helps
I’ll be doing an experiment to see if I can start my own batch of Kombucha tea from a store bought bottle of Kombucha very soon and then write about.
thanks for the comment
bloody hell i thought i was mad leaving my tea for 7 mins lol, will be doing this though, thanks again rob another great post 🙂
That was an intersting article on the making and storing of Kombucha tea. I love tea and as at the moment I reside in India ( Tea drinking southeastern state) I have lots of the brew to keep me happy. However could you enlighten me please, as to the name of the SCOBY /starter kit that I may be able to get here, perhaps a brand or a name, that is mostly availble in India / Asia, for I could be well and truly on the path of perfecting yet another way of making tea which would indeed benifit my health greatly! I certainly look forward to a response from you. Thank you Rob.
SCOBY stands for (S)ymbiotic (C)ulture (O)f (B)acteria and (Y)east. Some refer to it as the Kombucha “mushroom” but it is NOT a fungus at all. SCOBY just looks similar to a mushroom ,so they refer to it as one. They are not sold as a brand. You would get one from someone else who has made Kombucha in your area. You can also order it via mail order from somewhere close. It can be transported, but rarely if ever cross a border as it’s a living thing.
I encourage you to search online or in a local “for sale” type paper to find one. Average price would be about $10 for one. You probably have to find someone though, and not through a store.
Bob Garon says
Yeast is actually unicellular fungi. Thus making the SCOBY a “mushroom” afterall, BUT of course it is much, much different than any other run of the mill shroom and that’s a fact.
a “mushroom” also has a “root” and this doesn’t, so again, far removed from your typical mushroom
Dave Bowers says
hey Rob, I found this video on youtube, check it out
So how long will the SCOBY last?? Will it really remain useful by simple storing it properly? It really can be used time and time again that you wan to make Kombucha?
I had started my tea 15 days ago and now its vinegar tasting – (went on holidays) – this is also my first try at it – so question is can I start another batch with the mother and a bit of the tea or do I have to get new scoby because this one is so vinagery tasting??
Samuel Sowah says
Thanks for the instruction on how to make Kombucha Tea.I live in Ghana and I don’t know how to get Kombucha SCOBY. I will be grateful if you can instruct as to to make it at home.
Can you give the benefits of taking the Kombucha
I am in need of help! Brewed my first batch and on day 6 of breweing woke up to my scoby laying on the bottom of my glass gallon jar 🙁 Not sure what has gone wrong and am hoping someone can give me some suggestions. It never seemed to bubble at all or attach itself to the sides or grow bigger. I received the scoby from a friend who has been doing it for a long time. I am wondering if its too cold on my counter if maybe that is why it sunk. I tried to lift it but it just sank again. Was wondering if maybe I need to start over or if the scoby is even still good? Please any help would be greatly appreciated!
Scoby will float or go to the bottom. Both are fine. Totally normal. Nothing happened. It’s all good. Scoby is just fine. What you’re really looking for is a new baby scoby to form on top. The primary scoby may fall to the bottom.
Thank you Rob! I was so worried I had killed it or done something wrong! I noticed it has started to grow a film on the top now after placing a towel under it to get it off the cold granite counter top. I also moved it to a warmer spot in the apartment hoping for it to do better. It’s only been 11 days and I know some brew as fast as 5 days and others have said it has taken up to 3 weeks so I am keeping my fingers crossed I am still ok and I will have my awesome tea soon! Thanks again Rob 🙂
You’re welcome. Sorry for the delay in answering. Time for brewing all depends on the room temp. Some people even get one of those heating pads and put under them in the winter. My first few batches took 14 days or so. Then when I went to Phoenix, there were done in 4 days. I had my best batches in Phoenix, Florida and Savannah
@Samuel, are you able to get a bottle of Kombucha from any health food store? To make Kombucha, you must at least have access to starter kombucha, even if you dont have the SCOBY. It’s a living beverage, so must have a starter to work from.
@Sherall, Kombucha goes more and more acidic over the brew time. Vinegar is the “prime” condition for it and the SCOBY. Scoby LOVES this acidic environment and Kombucha is an acid. The more acid, the better it is for you, but simply tastes too strong for most people.
When not brewing, I leave my scoby’s in the jar with some liquid for a month or more and it gets to it’s most acidic point, uses up all the fuel and goes dormant (sort of).
all that happened is that it fermented too long. You probably have a warm environment for it. next time test it for flavor at 4 days and see how you like it. Then try it at 7 days (it will be less sweet and more acidic). Find a time frame that you like for flavor. The longer it ferments the better it is for you though. It’s not supposed to be sweet, but some find that the little bit of sweet helps offset the acid taste.
now… that acidic Kombucha you brewed is PERFECT for your next batch. Use a portion of it as the starter for your new batch.
Here’s the thing: Kombucha loves a low pH environment. That’s partly why we add some starter, to get the sugar / tea solution a little lower pH to begin with so it brews better. If this isn’t done, mold can grow and ruin the scoby.
in a lower pH solution, the scoby takes care of itself and mold will not grow. This is why it’s safe to drink, it kills off any bad things simply because it’s so acidic (while being very good for our tummies which also love an acid environment)
hope that helps
@EZmelts, the SCOBY will last for many batches of Kombucha. It will eventually have to be lovingly discarded though (I compost mine). In prime condition it’s white but over time begins to get discolored and turn a darker brown color.
Scoby should be good for nearly a year, but then simply begin to use the newer scoby’s.
From what I understand, less scoby’s in the jar result in a better ferment. This is a case where more is not better.
Garry Garrett says
Can you sub xylitol for sugar when making kombucha?
@Garry, No, you cannot substitute Xylitol for sugar when making Kombucha. And you wouldnt want to anyway.
the sugar and the tea are food for the culture. None of it is left when the Kombucha is finished fermenting.
The Kombucha SCOBY culture converts the sugar tea solution (it’s food source) into the kombucha beverage we consume.
The sugar is not for us.
SCOBY needs nitrogen, a carbohydrate fuel source and an acidic environment to function properly. Xylitol will not provide that environment.
Hope that helps
Just wanted to let you know I just bottled up my second batch and it is amazing and my babies are producing like crazy! Thank you for your help!
@Shannon, NICE. I’m so glad. Rate of ferment depends on temp. In Canada right now, it’s a slow process. In Florida or Texas, it’d be right quick!
I’ve got 5 gallons brewing at the moment. 2 in 2 gallon glass jars and one in a gallon.
I would love to know where you purchased the large glass
Patrick Kallie says
Rob thanks for writing about this! I wonder why I have never heard about this tea before?
I am looking to buy a live SCOBY/Kombucha culture.
Can someone tell me where I can get one?
@Alison, first place I recommend to look for one is your local craigslist. Browse there, or place an ad requesting a SCOBY.
Bob Garon says
@Allison- Ebay has them all the time and whenever I need a new one I go there and get one for less than $5 and they’ve always been great quality.
Spread that Kombucha Love! Excellent pictures and easy to follow. And I am impressed with your Kombucha knowledge. Lots of good info in the article and the comments. Wish all articles about Kombucha were as accurate and helpful as yours! 🙂
For those looking for an entire site about Kombucha, swing on by KombuchaKamp.com to sate your appetite. And if you need a culture, supplies and support, I offer that too.
But the site and the info are all free! 🙂
Peace & Love,
The Kombucha Mamma
Danny Dave says
Can I substitute kombucha with tibicos or are they just the same thing?
[Comment edited by Rob – Removed link to a website with content I do not approve of]
Thank you, Rob and Bob. I got two and already brewed the new tea.
Peyton Stafford says
When I started making kombucha, a friend gave me a starter that was descended from a culture smuggled out of Tibet in 1959. All I did was pour some left-over tea into a large glass jar, drop in the starter, and let it work. The kombucha came out fine. It grew a big mother in the bottom of the jar, and I decanted enough to drink every day for several years. Sometimes I used black tea, sometimes green, sometimes peppermint. The kombucha seemed to be strong enough to thrive on anything. Most of the time, it didn’t get any sugar, since I don’t generally sweeten my tea. Sometimes it got honey, and it was fine with it.
I never tried bottling or storing it. The idea never came to mind. I just kept it on the kitchen counter and drank it.
That’s finally something where sugar does any good 🙂 Yeah, my folks have been brewing Kombucha for years and I get it from them. I wasn’t fond of its taste in the beginning, but I got a liking for it over time, which is important if one’s to keep consuming it in the long term. This creature is amazing. Thanks for sharing this detailed post, it’s just great work.
wow @Peyton, a culture from Tibet. Very cool
I don’t have a friend who has a SCOBY or had some from a previous batch, do you have a link as to how to make the SCOBY? And does the finish product have an alcohol content? I can handle Vinegars but I can’t handle alcohol, I like making it, but I can’t drink it, hurts my gut.
Oh I forgot, I see granular sugar is used, can honey be used?
Hey there Rob. Thanks for all of this awesome info. I bottled my first batch about 3 days ago. I used regular wine bottles and corked them, not too tightly in case pressure built up. Well, the pressure did build up too much in one of them and the cork popped. There’s some strawberry apple mash coming out the top, it’s probably been that way for 12-15 hours. Do you think it’s ok to just pour some out and recork it for a few more days? I’m just worried about contamination – we brew beer and contamination is a big concern, not sure if it’s as much of a concern with kombucha at the final stage. Putting the bottle in the fridge stops fermentation, correct? I appreciate your advice. Thanks!
@Tiffany, I’ve had many a cork blow from kombucha in wine bottles. Decided it just wasn’t the right way to do it. Scared the crap out of my cats too (funny though).
at such a low pH AFTER brewing, it shouldn’t be much to worry about. Beer isn’t an acid so contamination could be a concern.
Contamination of Kombucha during the fermentation phase IS a concern. It would depend on how soon you caught the bottle after the cork blew (In my humble, but not expert opinion).
@Karl, no dont use honey, use sugar. The sugar is for the scoby, not for you.
Making a scoby is tricky, and you’d still have to have the culture from somewhere anyway.
Yes, kombucha has naturally occurring alcohol, each batch is different so there’s not “one answer” as to how much alcohol. NOt very much though. As for it hurting your gut, kombucha is ABOUT improving your gut’s ability to handle food and anything else. My guess is that kombucha consumption over a regular basis would improve your entire health.
@Danny Dave, no Kombucha is completely different from Kefir (Tibicos). Similar in that it’s fermented, but a different culture and different format of fermentation.
Abel James says
Great information! I’m brewing a batch of kombucha right now. I prefer kombucha that is lightly sweetened. You might have some insight on this – how do you make sure that the residual sugar level is low?
Kombucha by design has only 5% of the sugar left in it. Spread out over a gallon, that’s not very much.
The yeast converts the sugar to alcohol and the bacteria then convert the alcohol to kombucha.
slightly sweetened Kombucha is simply taken out of production a little earlier in the cycle.
Currently, I’m brewing for 11 and 22 days and leaning more towards the 22 days.
its great! i like kombucha too because i like the taste more than the benefit of it. thanks for this tips
You have to be a special person to take the time to give and respond to so many people; I am curious to the benefit of drinking Kombucha. I am seeking to loose weight and will Kombucha be a help to that as well? Could you explain the complete benefits to drinking Kombucha and over what time period would someone see the results? Also, are there side effects to drinking Kombucha, that one need to be concerned about?
Again, thank you for caring; if you say this will be a true benefit, that will worth attempting to achieve. I live in Jacksonville, FL and if it does assist with weight lost and other health benefits, I will go to ebay as Bob indicated, thanks Bob for the info, and order mine. One last thing; Rob could you tell me where you get the beer bottles you use and what size and how many do you fill at one time?
I was Google searching organic weight loss and saw your site for formerfatguy.com and your caption appeared to reach out to me: “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is doing the right thing even in the presence of fear;” so I hope your kombucha tea will assist me in losing at least 30lbs so I can push myself to walk further, ride my bike longer, and use my $2000.00 piece of gym equipment; my Total Gym XLS that was given to me by Total Gym as a gift with free shipping, with hope I might achieve my goal in weight loss. I would love to write them with a wonderful success story.
I am 5’1″ and all my life I never weighed over 118lbs; I had a brain turmor that got misdiagnosed for 3 years and I doubled my weight to 238lbs; once the turmor was found I was said to be in the final stages, and I knew God was there and had the surgery. I went down to 175lbs after the surgery, but the 1 year into the healing process caused me to regain the weight, due to being limited in everything.
I am not a big eater; that is one of my problems, even though most of the time I do eat healthy I may not even eat until l:00 pm, or if I eat in the morning, I may not eat again until the evening, like 6 or 7:00 pm. I weight 212lbs now, but my chest burns so much when I attempt to do anything, even when I push myself, as when walking, I hurt for about the first 30 minutes before I feel any ease to continue. I had my surgery in 2000 and I was 43 and now 10 plus years later, I just want to be my healty self again, but not through killing myself or taking chemicals to get there; so I am praying you have a positive response for me regarding the Kombucha tea, because if I can lose about 30 pounds I will be able to do my Zumba DVD’s (I love to dance) and then with my Total Gym I can finish off the rest to a lifestyle change and hope for others such as myself.
Most weight loss campaigns advertise weight loss due to overeating and not eating healty, and those are not the case with me; I eat organic but I do not eat alot or often; I just want a real hope of being healthy again…
@Sha’ron, yes I should write those articles on the benefits and side effects of Kombucha. Haven’t yet. The bottles can be purchased at any beer and wine supply store. I bottle 5 or 6 cases every couple of weeks, but I make 30 gallons every 2 weeks.
as to your second comment, it may very well be that you do not eat enough and are not loosing weight. When I train hard, I lose weight when I increase my food consumption. There are a lot of variables involved, including age, hormones, medication, exercise level etc, but too little food can equal a slowing of the metabolism. The best way to be hungry in the morning is to eat in the morning on a regular basis. Then your metabolism will kick in and you’ll wake up feeling hungry