How To Make Kombucha Tea With or Without a Starter Kit—and Save Up to $1,500 a Year
Follow this simple step-by-step guide to make great-tasting homemade kombucha. Your wallet will thank you!
If you're already a big fan of kombucha, a.k.a., the fermented tea drink everyone's been guzzling, you might be ready to brew it at home.
Why DIY homemade kombucha? First, for those who imbibe often, you'll notice just how quickly the cost of your tangy tea habit adds up. The price per bottle is typically around $4, and if you down one every day, that's nearly $1,500 a year! If you home brew a kombucha recipe, you'll also have complete control over the ingredients that go in, and you can manipulate the flavor profile to meet your own personal preferences. Use a kombucha kit to get started, or follow the simple instructions below.
The steps for making kombucha tea at home can be broken down into three phases: making the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, also known as "the mother"), first fermentation, and second fermentation.
STEP 1: Making the SCOBY
This phase can be intimidating because the SCOBY is weird-looking (here's a kombucha starter kit, $45 at amazon.com if you want to see for yourself). But there's nothing to be afraid of: the SCOBY is the magic kombucha component that gives the tea its gut-friendly yeast and bacteria. You'll start by dissolving a half-cup of sugar into seven cups of boiled water, steeping four bags of tea or loose-leaf in it (black works best, and no decaf!), then allow your brew to cool to room temperature. Pour the sweetened tea into a jar and add about a cup of store-bought kombucha to the concoction—this helps kick the fermentation process into action. (For more flavor and fizz, you can make your own starter liquid, but it'll take some extra time.) Cover your jar with a breathable cotton cloth and secure with rubber bands, then the waiting begins. Let your jar sit in a warm room temp environment (somewhere around 75°F is ideal) in a dark place for one to four weeks, until a quarter-inch SCOBY has formed on top. This mama should live for years if you take good care of it. Don't move the SCOBY from its original tea until you're ready to ferment.
STEP 2: First Fermentation
Similar to step one but with twice the ingredients. Start by bringing 14 cups of water to a boil and dissolving a cup of sugar into it. As the water cools to room temperature, allow eight bags of your favorite black, green, or oolong tea (or the equivalent amount of loose-leaf) to steep in it. Meanwhile, remove the SCOBY from its original jar and discard the old tea. Once it's cool, you can pour your new tea into a clean jar, drop in the SCOBY, then cover with a cloth and secure with rubber bands once again. Allow this mixture to ferment in a dark place at room temp for six to ten days, then give it a try by inserting a straw and taking a sip. It should taste slightly sweet and vinegary, but the call on when to stop your first ferment is yours. A good rule of thumb: the longer you allow your tea to ferment (and the warmer the environment), the more the sugar will be eaten up by the yeast, and the less sweet your kombucha will taste.
STEP 3: Second Fermentation
This is the fun part, where you get to craft your 'booch's flavor profile into what'll soon be your own drinkable spirit animal. But before you begin blending, strain your kombucha into new jars or bottles with a secured cap or lid (leaving about an inch on top) to remove any solid particles. Once you've re-bottled, you can add the additional sweetener(s) and flavorings of your choice. You can use mashed or whole pieces of fruit, honey, juice, herbs, lemon juice, candied ginger, peppermint... options are endless. Seal tightly and allow it to ferment an additional three to ten days—this adds extra bubbles to your brew. Strain out solids again if you wish (or add your own, like chia) and voila! An effervescent miracle.