- 14 cups of filtered water
- 4-8 bags of black tea, or equivalent amount of loose leaf black tea
- 1 cup of real sugar
- 1 gallon glass jar (no lid)
- A tight breathable cloth, held by a rubberband
- 2 cups (16 oz) of GT’s Raw Original Kombucha -or- 2 cups of starter scoby from either online or a friend.
Do not use metal as kombucha’s acidity will react. Use glass for containment, and plastic or wooden utensils/tools.
- Wash your jar and utensils. Do not use “anti-bacterial” soap as it can reside and end up killing your kombucha. Kombucha is made of living bacteria that needs to be safe from bad bacteria and anti-bacteria. Regular dish soap works fine as long as you rinse really well!
- Boil your water (as this is the recommended temperature for black tea).
- Add-in your black tea. Read the ingredients on your black tea first and make sure there’s nothing more than just the black tea in it. Any flavored teas will likely have harmful ingredients for your kombucha.
- Let the black tea soak in for as long as you’d like, the longer the stronger the tea taste.
- Pour and mix your sugar in after removing the black tea bags/leafs.
- Let it cool to the room temperature. It shouldn’t be warm anymore! (68-78°F)
- Once your jar has the sweet tea at room-temp, pour your scoby in! Scoby can survive up to about 85°F.
- Cover the jar with your tight cloth (I used many layers of cheese cloth but if I had a muslin I would use that) or coffee filter, to keep fruit flies and dust particles away. Enjoy watching the 1st fermentation!
While you wait:
Wait at least about 6 days before tasting. There’s no rush, the bacteria is feeding on the sugar and tea and creating a safe atmosphere for your kombucha. You’ll start seeing weird and gross things mostly at the top and middle, it’s likely just fine. If you bought the scoby as a dehydrated gross-mushroom-looking thing or your friend gave you one, the rubbery mushroom is called a pellicle. The pellicle is made of cellulose and serves as a protective shield at the top for the bacteria environment. The bacteria lives in and below the pellicle, and is a by-product of the bacteria. “Scoby” is an acronym for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” which really means everything in your jar. As you continue to make batches of kombucha, your bacteria matures and becomes stronger. The bacteria creates the pellicle during every batch therefor you’ll either end up having one big pellicle of many layers if you choose to transfer the pellicle to your next batches, or you can just make new batches without it if your bacteria is mature enough – you can throw out the pellicle every batch. (Some say the taste is slightly different.) You can divide the pellicle layers and share with your friends too. (Just include some of the liquid too since the pellicle isn’t the bacteria but only contains some of it.) Some people cut up the pellicle and use it as fertilizer to boost their acidic garden plants such as tomatoes, others do all kinds of things with this rubbery thing but I won’t get into the craze here. As the pellicle forms, it’ll start from a very thin invisible layer, and will grow to be a more visible white-yellow color with brown yeast strands below it from the black tea. It’s ok if the pellicle is vertical or sinks, just let the bacteria do it’s thing.
Is it mold?
- A forming pellicle can look different every time, white oozy floats is the pellicle forming.
- Floating dark pieces is just yeast.. Yeast is good, just not pretty to look at.
- If your batch is contaminated – mold will only grow on the surface, never under water.
- Mold is furry-looking. If it’s furry, it’s mold. Toss the whole batch.
- When in doubt, give it more time and see what happens.
- If you reuse the pellicle in your next batch, make sure that the surface doesn’t dry. Mold can grow on a dry surface of the pellicle.
Bottling (aka 2nd fermentation):
Take a plastic straw and taste your kombucha after about 6 days. The longer it sits, the taste will mature and becomes more sour and vinegary. Each batch will have it’s own timeframe therefor tasting is important. When the taste is about right, you’ll want the kombucha to be carbonated. Carbonation happens when you close off the air from the kombucha; bottle.
- Glass bottles with a swing-top are best for bottling. Square bottles can handle less pressure before breaking, and the best air-tight top solution is the swing-top. I tried these 12 oz bottles off Amazon and loved them so much that I ended up getting 2 more boxes and making more kombucha for extended family. If you make normal kombucha without fruits/flavorings, I would recommend 12 oz over 16 oz as it’s just the right amount of drink and no extra. (Same liquid space as a soda can.) But if you’re looking to always include fruit/flavorings, I’d go with the 16 oz to have room for the extra things in it.
- Plastic funnel
- Optional: A fine plastic strainer or coffee filter/tight cloth to filter out yeast. This isn’t necessary but you may get bits or chunks of yeast into your bottles and while it’s perfectly healthy and good to drink, it may be an unpleasant surprise while drinking your kombucha drink.
Pour the kombucha into your bottles and set them aside for about 3-6 days. You don’t need to burp them when you’re bottling kombucha without any added sugars or natural fruit sugars. (Unless you ferment them for longer of course.)
Faster carbonation and fruits/flavors:
You can add sugar, or just about anything with natural sugars to speed up the carbonation process. The culture will eat up the sugars and make bubbles. You can also get your kombucha to taste a certain way by adding things into your 2nd fermentation. Popular things that people add into their 2nd fermentation:
- Cut up fruit: If you cut up the fruit, the culture eats away at the natural sugars from the fruit and creates carbonation. “Burp” your bottles after the second day by slightly opening them to release pressure.
- Blended fruit (puree): This gives the culture instant access to all the natural sugars of the fruit at once and creates carbonation very quickly! Burp your bottles 1 or 2 times a day, else you might have a huge mess of either everything shooting out of it on open or a shattered bottle! If you open a highly-carbonated bottle, closing it back up may cause it to explode from all the bubbles it’s making, so be aware!
- Juice: Most store-sold juice contains preservatives and other ingredients. You want the bare organic essential of the fruit, so the best juice is one that you make from the fruit yourself! Again, don’t forget that carbonation will build very quickly!
- Flavorings and spices: Ginger, cinnamon, thyme, basil, honey, fennel seed, rosemary, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, lavender, hibiscus, rose petal, hazelnut, raisins, peppermint, even a little bit of cayenne or jalapeno if you’d like.
Once you’re ready to drink it, put it in your fridge. It’s better served chilled.
- If you open it and have some, it’s best to have it all without refrigerating again as the carbonation won’t be as great as it was initially. (Just like a previously opened bottle of soda from the fridge can taste flat.)
- And if carbonation isn’t good yet, just leave it out for another day or for a few.
- If your kombucha bottles are ready, set them in your fridge! The cold temperature slows the culture down significantly and they won’t over-carbonate, at least for a long while. Some people “age” their fridge kombucha for months, of course burping it.
Q: Can you make kombucha with tea other than black?
A: Once your scoby is mature enough, you can try adding in other tea types while still using some black tea especially in the beginning batches, it’s ideal to transition more and more to a different tea throughout batches. Not only can you do green tea, oolong tea, and white tea (which I recommend), there’s even a different kind of kombucha scoby called “Jun” which feeds off of honey instead of sugar, and green tea only.