What do you know about making awesome Kombucha?

October 17 |
Kombucha Home Brew Kit
Kombucha Home Brew Kit
I feel like I've graduated — I read Offbeat Bride every day until my recent wedding and now to fill that hole I'm reading Offbeat Home.

Recently I've been thinking about making my own kombucha in my house. I'm wondering what advice you might have about how to go about doing that, what the best ingredients are, what considerations and items I would need?

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts about this! -McKenna

McKenna, hooray! Congrats on becoming an Offbeat Wife and joining us here at Offbeat Home. SO. Kombucha, huh? Well, I was tempted to first just hit you with a lmgtfy.com link, but then I realized wait: if anyone has secret tips that extend way beyond a search engine, it's Offbeat Homies.

So, Homies: what do you know about making kombucha? What websites would you recommend? Any brewing tips? Special products? SPILL!

  1. Actually, I've seen kombucha "kits" at my local co-op. Not something I'm interested in myself (I can't get past the floating blobs, or the vinegary taste), but a starter kit seems like a good place to, um .. start.

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  2. I didn't have any luck and wasted a lot of time trying to grow my own scoby as several websites suggest is possible. I would try to get one locally from a friend or order one from a reputable online source. Ph strips are cheap and helpful. Using sweeteners besides white sugar are an experiment I would not like to repeat. I suggest turbinado sugar and have had good results. Consider investment in a capper and caps instead of swing top bottles because it will be cheaper in the long run. Apple cider vinegar is best to sterilize your utensils and in a pinch if you are worried about mold you can adjust hte ph by adding some. If you see any mold though, throw everthing away and start over. After a few weeks you will likely have some backup scobies in your scoby hotel anyway. I have such an abundance of scobies that I have started dehydrating them for dog treats. My husband wants to try to use them to make vegan sushi but I'm not sure I will go that far. Good luck!

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  3. I saw this and thought, hm, I've made my share of ACCIDENTAL kombucha in my day, but never on purpose. In reality I keep unsweetened brewed tea in a plastic pitcher on the counter until it starts to get funky, then I throw it out. Is this dangerous?? I doubt it.

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    • There are a lot of different opinions about what's "okay" and what's "right" regarding tea storage. Myself, I can detect a sour note if it's been left out. Ideally, unsweet tea shouldn't sit out longer than 8 hours. It keeps longer in the fridge, but can sour in there after a day, too. But in truth? I've stored it for about three-four days in the fridge, but I sweetened it after.

      As far as being dangerous? Probably not in normal circumstances.

      In an ideal world, you'd take some steps to eliminate as much bacteria as possible to give yourself more time with your tea. Those steps would be to boil the water before brewing (some teas aren't meant to be made with water that hot, others are made to be brewed cold, so chilling the water may be necessary), using an airtight container for storage and cleaning the container REALLY WELL between uses.
      THE MORE YOU KNOW.

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      • Yeah, Dootsie, you are right about all of these things, but…I figure that's what I have an immune system for. And full steam ahead I go drinking my tea that's been on the counter for a week, in a questionably clean, open to the air pitcher. lol. I'd never advocate anyone else do it, and I don't offer it to guests that way…so I'm the only one at risk, and so far (I've been living this way for over 20 years) so good.

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  4. I just can't get myself to be ok with the idea of kombucha. I got excited about the reported health/nutritional benefits and bought some commercial stuff, and even though it tasted ok I couldn't finish it because I couldn't stop thinking about what it was. >_<

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    • Jessica, does this mean you don't eat yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream or drink beer or wine either? It's all the same process more or less.

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      • Actually, as a kid I did avoid yogurt, cheese with obvious mold (like blue or brie), cottage cheese, and sour cream because I was grossed out by fermentation. Then I learned that cheddar cheese and sauerkraut were fermented too. Now I eat/drink them all but with each new thing I still need to get used to the idea.

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  5. Actually I don't eat yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese or sour cream incidentally but that's because I'm vegan.

    Beer and wine I am totally down with however! Maybe I just found out too much about "mothers" and bacteria and whatever else in terms of kombucha specifically, whereas I hadn't thought about/read about that stuff when it comes to beer and wine.

    And I've seen people home brew beer before and it sure didn't look anything like a kombucha culture.

    I realize I'm being totally silly of course.

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    • I feel the same way. I hear about how good kombucha is for you, but then I look at it and feel pretty grossed out. Especially when I read stuff about "baby" and "mother" SCOBYs… fdskjfldsafl;.

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    • As a homebrewer of beer, I think kombucha is on a totally different level. Yeah, there's yeast added during the process of making beer, but:

      1) It dies in the process of fermentation once it has converted enough sugar to alcohol, which results in an inhospitable environment.

      2) Then we strain it out before secondary/kegging/etc. (Except in the cases of some bottled Belgians and the like where a little bit is left in the bottle but I'm pretty sure it's still dead.)

      3) We sterilize everything really carefully to avoid any other contamination. Contamination by things besides the yeast you want is bad, except in the case of sours where you introduce certain specific bacteria.

      Basically, the main differences are that the beer you drink is not a live culture and there shouldn't really be bits of things floating around in it. So I totally hear you.

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      • Whoops, I lied. My brewing partner-in-crime says that there is still some yeast lying dormant and it doesn't all get strained out, which is why bottle-conditioning works (add a little sugar, cap it, and it gets fizzy). And why you can age craft beers–the yeast still works but slowly. But we do always end up with a pile of dead yeast at the bottom that doesn't make it past the primary fermentation stage.

        Commercial beers on the other hand strain all of it out so things will taste consistent, unless they're the fancy expensive ones.

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  6. I love making kombucha! After buying some start-up materials, it's so much cheaper than buying at the store! I got my first scoby through a workshop at a local yoga studio. They also gave me a booklet of directions that I follow. I recommend getting a 2 gallon glass container, and a heating pad and temperature sticker (aquarium suplies). I also have eight glass bottles with those attached tops from ikea ($3.99 each). Use whatever tea you like and after harvest experiment with adding different fruits, ginger, even a little juice for flavor. Let that sit for two days more before refrigerating. Blueberries/ blueberry juice is the best for carbonation!

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  7. I've only had store bought kombucha and it's so $$$, I would love to try making it at home.

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  8. When I brewed kombucha I just took a blob out of a bottle of local kombucha(it isn't as severely filtered as stuff like GT's) and grew my own from that. Get it from a bottle of plain kombucha if you go for this route as any of the flavors will stay on the scoby. If any of your friends brew kombucha I am sure they will have some scobies they don't need.

    My kombucha project got really out of hand. I had a whole cabinet for nothing but 'buch! The scobies keep reproducing, so know what you can handle and set limits about how much you want to brew.

    It is immeasurably satisfying to drink a healthy beverage you made yourself. I hope to do it again when I have more time.

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  9. My bf and I have been brewing kombucha for about two years. It's great! When you make it yourself it always tastes better than store bought, and you have to taste it as it ferments to decide when it's done, so you have control over how fermented tasting it ends up. We started with a kit from a local company, but they ship:
    http://shop.kombuchabrooklyn.com/collections/complete-kits-gift-sets

    We've found plain organic black or green tea works best (I prefer black, bf likes green). The instructions with our kit say to use bottled water, but water run through a filter like the Zero Water filter is also fine. We like to flavor ours with apple and lemon juice, or lemon and ginger. but lots of things work!

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  10. I found a class put on a local yoga studio as well, and that helped a lot. They handed out SCOBYs with the presentation. I would definitely recommend getting one from somebody already brewing. The biggest tips from that class were that it is a two-step process. One is the "brewing," the other is the "bottling."

    During the brewing phase you combine vinegar, steeped tea, sugar (I agree with the commenter above about using raw turbinado sugar), and your SCOBY and let them sit under the right conditions until a second SCOBY forms.

    During the bottling phase is when pour the liquid from your brew (keep your old and new SCOBYs for future brews) and you add flavors – mixing your brew with fruit juices or adding actual pieces of fruit to each bottle. Then letting each bottle sit in the refrigerator for about 3 days while everything kind of melds before you drink it.

    I like using ginger tea to brew. I think the ginger helps slightly coutneract the bitterness of the kombucha. My favorite so far is with ginger tea and bottling it by using about 3/4 of the kombucha brew and 1/4 organic cherry juice. Simple and yummy.

    Good luck!

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  11. 1.) buy a scoby. 2.) get a large pot (that can hold at least a gallon of liquid), a ceramic crock (that can hold at least a gallon of liquid), 6-8 tea bags (any flavor – i like rooibos and black tea, my 4 year old son likes "very berry" or the likes from celestial seasonings), 1 C sugar, 1 C "starter" (aka already brewed kombucha – i use leftovers from my own batches, but if it's yer first time, just buy a bottle of booch from yer local hippie store and dump it in), 2 clean, dry dish towels. 3.) boil a gallon of water in the large pot. 4.) pour boiling water into ceramic crock and "swish" around. 5.) dump water out of ceramic crock ; let air dry ; cover empty, dried crock w/1 clean dish towel and set aside. 6.) boil another gallon of water. 7.) turn off heat ; add sugar ; stir ; add tea bags ; steep tea bags in pot, overnight, covered w/2nd dish towel covering pot. 8.) next morning, uncover yer sweet tea and throw that towel in the laundry ; uncover yer empty crock and set that towel aside ; pour tea into crock. 9.) add the starter and scoby to the tea and *gently* stir. 10.) place the full crock in the room in yer house that is as close to 80 degrees F as is possible ; cover w/the towel you had set aside. 11.) leave. 12.) check back in two weeks ; (a funky skin will have formed on top – that's yer new scoby!) stick a clean spoon in near the edge and dip out some booch. taste. sour enough? i store mine in mason jars in the fridge. still too sweet? repeat taste test in another week. 13.) HELL.YEAH.BOOCH.

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    • I was going to write out my steps, but mine are super close to shadymam's. (I always used black tea and cheap white sugar)
      I used a few large, large mouthed mason jars instead of a crock. And I boiled them in a pot to sterilize them (instead of her step 3 & 4). For "lids" on the jars I put a single clean dry coffee filter held on with a rubber band, so the booch could breath but not collect bugs.
      then in step 12, if it was strong enough (I liked mine vinegary) I would take off the coffee filter, screw a lid on, and put them in the fridge.
      13. mmmmm home-made booch :D

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  12. We found that it was important to taste it as it brews so we could "catch" it when it was at our preferred ratio of sweetness: vinegaryness. We also prefer our kombucha fizzy. To keep the fizz, siphon it into bottles instead of pouring it. Also, we added about 1/4 tsp sugar to each 16-oz container before capping it. This makes it undergo a second fermentation, and makes it fizzy from the bottle. I suggest storing it for anywhere from a week to several weeks at room temperature for the second fermentation before refrigerating it. Watch out, though, because if you leave it out, the pressure build-up from the fizz can make your bottles explode. We stored ours in a big rubbermaid container and only lost about 2 bottles to explosions in about a year and a half of brewing. Kombucha brewing took a lot of trial and error, but it was so worth it once we got it down.

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  13. There's an article in this month's Urban Farm magazine about growing Kombucha. Unfortunately it's not available on their website.

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  14. I grew a scoby from store bought kombucha. Make sure you choose a plain RAW bottle of kombucha to grow your scoby with. Put it in plain room temp tea with a little sugar. It took a few weeks, I didn't think anything was happening so I moved it to the top of the water heater where it was warm, and a week later voila!. The tea I used to ferment was darjeeling, red rooibos,rose hips and hibiscus flowers. After about 2 weeks I bottled it with blood orange juice, and let it sit on the counter for a week before refrigerating. It pretty much tastes like tart blood orange soda, so good!

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  15. My husband is an avid Kombucha drinker and we've passed along SCOBYs to almost everyone we know and have even sold a few on Craigslist. We've been brewing non-stop for about a year, but now we've left our SCOBY dormant in the fridge for a bit while we try our hands at brewing beer.

    My best tips are these:
    Reuse those pop top beer bottles you get from many micro breweries. We find they carbonate the best.
    Make sure that no additional moisture can get into your brewing jar. We had ours in the cupboard under our sink initially and it was humid and our SCOBY grew mold.
    Use a container with an opening large enough to fit your hand through. Healthy SCOBYs can get inches thick and are really hard to pull through a small opening.
    Flavored teas seem great in theory, but don't do much to flavour the 'buch. Add fruit juices and flavorings just before you bottle, but after you've removed your SCOBY and starter tea for the next batch.

    Favorite flavours to add:
    Ribena (black currant syrup) and ginger. SO GOOD!

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  16. I have been making my own kombucha for a little over a year now. It's so easy! It's a natural process that's pretty hard to mess up. In my experience anyway.

    Also, my mother is OUT OF CONTROL. I would love unload some of it honestly. It grows so fast. Maybe someone on here wants some? :)

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    • Also, my mother is OUT OF CONTROL. I would love unload some of it honestly. It grows so fast. Maybe someone on here wants some?

      As someone who has NO IDEA about what goes into making kombucha, this comment popping up REEEEALLY confused me. Then made me LO-the F-OL forever.

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    • Post on Craigslist! I've passed the live along and I know my grandscobies are out in the world making even more people happy!

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