How to make and flavor kombucha at home

Hi! Hope you enjoyed your weekend <3 Ours was very relaxing and included some of the usual suspects: a trip to Mission to ride the carousel, takeout from Tender Greens and relaxing.When I posted the following kombucha pic on Instagram, I got quite a few requests for an updated homemade kombucha post. Here it is! (Curious to learn more about kombucha? Check out this post.)

So, it FINALLY HAPPENED. 

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After about a year (maybe a little longer?) of inconsistently making kombucha at home, I finally made some that tastes even better than store-bought stuff.

Orange cranberry ginger:

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It was getting really close, and I was happy with the flavor combos I’d tried, but it was always a little too tangy, too sweet, not fizzy enough, etc.

After quite a bit of experimentation, I got the result I’d been searching for; it was a glorious moment indeed. A warm embrace was shared with the kombucha jar before holding the scoby in the air like a baby Simba while singing a celebratory chant.

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(Ok, just in my mind.)

What I’ve learned in my homemade kombucha adventures:

-I follow the steps in this post, but will outline them again, updated with the current techniques.

1) The quality of the scoby (the starter bacteria that looks like a flat, opaque gummy disk) makes all the difference in the world. I got an awesome scoby from Amazon, but I’ve also ordered a dud that ended up molding. (A little tidbit about mold: a lot of people are rightfully fearful about making moldy or bad kombucha. If the batch is bad, it’s an obvious thing. You will know it’s bad just by looking at it. The scoby will have blue or greenish patches on it, and well, it will look like mold. Don’t drink it; throw it away to start over.) The scoby I picked up from the farmer’s market in Ocean Beach is a BEAST.

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(That was the bottle from the farmer’s market, filled with scoby strands and starter tea. To say I was skeptical would be an understatement. Shame on me.)

I’ve made multiple batches with said amazing scoby and also gave one to Whitney; she now has a full-up scoby hotel.

I like ‘em thick.

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Scoby handling guidelines: always make sure your hands, tools, container, anything that comes in contact with the scoby, are fully sanitized. Do not touch the scoby (or stir your kombucha) with anything metal; it can destroy it. Use wood or plastic tools instead.

2) After you have your scoby, make your starter tea (black and green tea with NO added essential oils work well). I like the Newman’s Own organic black tea. 8-10 cups of water to 8-10 bags of tea (equal water:tea ratio). After the water comes up to a boil, I add the tea bags, remove from the heat and stir in one cup of organic sugar. Let the tea cool completely to room temperature before straining it and pouring into your kombucha jar (this is a perfect one).

3) Next, you’ll add about 2 cups of starter liquid (or whatever came with your scoby), and gently place the scoby on top. If the scoby and tea are the exact same temperature, it will float beautifully to the top. If it sinks to the bottom, NBD. Just let it swim around and a new scoby will grow on top.

4) Cover it with cheesecloth or a paper towel (covered to protect, but with something that will enable it to breathe) and secure with an elastic band before placing in a dark cabinet to ferment. Avoid looking at it while it’s fermenting, and start checking the taste of the mixture in about a week. This is where you’ll decide how tangy or sweet you like it.

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Dip a clean plastic spoon into the ‘buch and give it a taste. If it’s to your liking, you’re ready for a second ferment! If it’s too sweet, give it a couple more days to become more tangy/acidic. If it’s too tangy, move onto the next step (flavoring and second fermentation) and add some extra fruit juice.

The duration for your kombucha fermentation will vary based on your climate and taste preferences. In hot Tucson, it was ready in about a week. In cooler weather, it could take up to two weeks. Be patient, young grasshopper.

5) When you’re ready for your second fermentation, this is the fun part: flavoring it! Get another jar or two (that has a flip lid, like these ones), or some Mason jars for the second round fermentation + flavoring the mixture.

Some things that work well to flavor:

-Fruit juice (apple, berry, orange)

-Berries (raspberries, blueberries, strawberries)

-Herbs (lavender, dried ginger, mint)

Have fun experimenting!

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To each jar or bottle, add some juice, herbs (if you’d like) and (this is KEY) some dried fruit (like dried cranberries or raisins). The sugar in the dried fruit will continue to feed the bacteria, and will also make the kombucha fizzy. Another thing that helps will fizz factor: dried ginger. This stuff is particularly awesome; a little (like a hefty pinch for each Mason jar) goes a long way. Pour the kombucha into each jar or bottle, but be sure to leave at least 2 cups of kombucha in the original jar to use as your “starter tea” for the next batch.

6) Seal the flavored kombucha and place back in the pantry (in a dark, temperate spot) for 2-3 days. 

7) Next, you’ll transfer the jars/bottles from the pantry to the fridge to chill and enjoy! (if you used any “whole” fruits, herbs or berries, strain the mixture before sealing again to place in the fridge.

So what do you do with the old kombucha bottle (which now has the old “Mother” scoby in it + the new layer “baby” scoby growing on top)? You separate the baby from the mother (yes, this involves touching it with your hands and cringing as you peel the slimy layers apart). The baby scoby can now venture on its own into the world to make its own kombucha (so you can have two batches growing at once). Or even better: put it in a baggie with some starter tea and gift to a friend! The gift that keeps on giving haha.

A little tip: I only use one scoby for a max of two batches of kombucha, and then will switch over to the baby scoby. They become weaker with each batch, so it’s good to switch to a new scoby after a couple of rounds.

Hope this helped those of you who were considering making your own kombucha!

Kombucha: yay or nay? Have you ever made it at home? Anything unique that you like to make or ferment? I would love to experiment with homemade ghee or goat cheese!

Hope you have a lovely night <3

xoxo

Gina

More adventures in fermentation:

Homemade sauerkimchi

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Comments

  1. I am so intimidated by this process slash fermenting in general. I fear explosions would happen in my kitchen, so for now I am sticking to living vicariously through your fermenting =)

  2. Pretty cool how many things you can make on your own at home! Just takes a little pre planning and a little patience!

  3. So cool! I cannot wait to try this. To be honest, it is totally intimidating, but I would love to try. I love kimchi and would like to try and make that at home as well.

  4. Mmm I am totally bookmarking this, Gina! I love kombucha and while ginger is my favourite, I like berry flavoured ones too. I’ve never tried making my own, but you make it sound really easy so I just might have to try. 🙂

  5. I am SO glad you posted this! I’ve been buying Kombucha consistently for the past few weeks (We like to drink them at night as a healthier substitute for beer/wine) and each time I think “I need to look up how Gina makes her own” because it is so dang expensive! Thanks for posting…I’ll be trying it out soon!

  6. Great tutorial!! I brew my own kombucha at home but didn’t know about switching to the baby scoby as the mother gets weaker! I just did my third round, so I’ll switch to the baby this time! My fave flavour combo so far is peach ginger, or just straight up ginger! We also did orange this round and worked out nicely too. Mistake I made this round was used jasmine scented green tea and it’s really gross to me…the hubby likes it but let’s just say, he’ll never be experiencing kombucha with that tea ever again haha

  7. I use the entire “stack” of baby scobys with the mother underneath each time I brew, I haven’t separated the mother from the babies. It helps it brew even faster. I might have to separate them eventually, though.

  8. I love kombucha but have been to scared to make my own! I’ll get there one day!

  9. I’ve been meaning to make my own kombucha for what feels like -years- now, but I keep putting it off because I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong and give myself food poisoning 😆 Good to know that it’s pretty obvious if the batch is bad. Maybe I’ll give it a shot one day.

  10. I love kombucha but am a little terrified to make it myself. Way to go on making one that’s better than the store version!

  11. I have not had very good luck with making kombucha at home. I don’t know if it was my scoby or what but tit never tasted just right. My last batch ended up moldy 🙁

    I have had success making goat cheese though! That was fun and rather easy with a kit bought on amazon 🙂

  12. I just bought a kit to make goat cheese off of etsy! I hopefully am going to make it soon. My first cheese I made was a farmers cheese last weekend. It was surprisingly easy! I highly suggest making cheese I really have been wanting to make kombacha so I may get brave and try to make it 🙂

  13. This is really interesting to me… I’ve never tried kombucha, but it’s definitely on my list of things I’d like to test out. I’m a huge fan of kimchi, and I usually buy it from the Asian grocery store, but it’s another item I’d like to try to make at home. My mom always talks about living in Korea, and how my grandmother would make her own kimchi and bury it in the ground to ferment haha, talk about old school!

  14. I started making kombucha a couple of months ago and my last batch was the perfect flavour/fizziness!! My fave flavouring is using an organic frozen berry blend of cherries, blackberries & blueberries — so good! Next, I really want to try adding ginger 🙂

  15. I love love love kombucha, and I’ve recently become interested in fermenting in general, but I’m a little hesitant haha. I’m thinking of starting with a sour pickles recipe from Nourished Kitchen, then moving on to kombucha. Great post!

  16. Awesome! I was literally going to post my kombucha adventure today on my blog I just finished my first ever batch! Got introduced to it by you:)

  17. Great tutorial! Thanks for sharing your experimenting. Do you think overall that it costs signifigantly less to make it at home?

    • Fitnessista says:

      totally. i have made multiple batches for free since i have everything at home! to get everything was making $30 initial investment

  18. I bought a SCOBY for like 39 bucks or so online, was so excited to brew my own kombucha, bought all the supplies, then my ADD kicked in and I totally forgot about it. Whoops.

    Nice work on the kombucha front. Yours looks perfect!

  19. Oh Gina,
    I so appreciate that you love your scobi and kombucha………..BUT, I just can’t ever, ever, ever……..imagine creating or consuming this type of drink again…….wow. It only took buying 1 bottle of the stuff at Whole Foods…….then drinking 1 swig, to confirm it is not for me. That said, more for you and all that love the stuff:)

  20. i’m equally grossed out as i am intrigued by kombucha.. i have yet to buy a bottle of it in the store because i’m afraid i’m going to be drinking it and something slimy is going to come hit me in the face, haha

  21. I love kombucha! We usually by a case of Synergy from WFM for a discount, but have recently been trying some others at the market. I’ve really been enjoying Barefoot kombucha recently.

    I think I’m going to need to venture into the world of making my own too. I put off making my own almond milk until this weekend thinkig it was a difficult and lengthy process only to be proved terribly wrong. If kombucha is the same, I better get on it like yesterday!

  22. Congrats on mastering kombucha!! I’m still a little scarred… but you’re getting me closer to giving it a try! It would sure save me a lot of money! I’m addicted for sure.

  23. So, for the orange-cranberry-ginger–did you use orange juice, and then the dried cranberries and dried ginger? I am brewing a batch of kombucha now and that flavor sounds so yummy!

  24. I’ve never tried kombucha even the store bought kind. I’ve also felt like it was scary for some reason. If I tried to make it, I would be worried I would poison myself. It sounds really easy though.

  25. I would love to make this myself!!! I haven’t had to guts to, but you make it look so easy! 🙂 Maybe I’ll give it a try. My favorite flavor Kombucha is grape.

  26. I love homemade kombucha! When one of my coworkers gave me a scoby a couple years ago, we joked that it was like friendship bread, haha. I just made cultured butter for the first time the other day–I’m definitely hooked. I’m honestly surprised you haven’t tried making goat cheese yet! I hope you do, and share the experience with all of us 😀

    • Fitnessista says:

      haha it is like friendship bread!!
      i definitely will post about goat cheese adventures when i give it a whirl 🙂

  27. I love kombucha, but haven’t tried making it at home yet. It seems like something I might try someday, but I also don’t love the idea of having all that stuff hanging around somewhere. I’m not sure where I’d put it exactly and I’m sure my husband would be less than thrilled.

  28. Very very interesting. I’ve definitely never made it at home, in fact, I’ve only tried it one time, which was at the airport. You’re pretty crafty, nice work!

  29. So glad you posted about this! I’ve always been intrigued about making kombucha but haven’t done it yet… nice to have the info right here at my fingertips!

  30. omg Gina!!! i am so happy you’ve posted this, I’ve been patiently waiting for the fitnessista kombucha tutorial/recipe, since there have been many kombucha mentionings over the last few months! We have a kombucha addiction at our house and I would love to try to make this at home and you’ve broken it down in a way that makes it feel like I can do it 🙂 I do have one (semi weird) question, (we live in a small high rise condo, so not alot of extra space up in this joint!) does the fermentation smell? Thanks 🙂

  31. so happy you did this! I have tried kombucha a few times and while I didn’t like it at first, I am a bigger fan now!

  32. This is SO COOL!! I really love kombucha but I don’t know if I’ll be making my own anytime soon. Not that it looks extraordinarily complicated but I’m a bit on the paranoid side and don’t trust my bucha skills (I guess you have to practice to get skills!) Still this is a great tutorial and I love that I could do this at home if I wanted to!

  33. Thank you thank you thank you!!! I started a batch last year (my first), using a scoby purchased from Amazon. It started to mold within a week, and I haven’t tried again, thinking it was something I did (or didn’t do). You directions are so clear, I’m ready to try again!

  34. Dumb question, but why do you drink kombucha? For the taste, or are there other benefits? (I know I can google it, but I’m curious about your personal experience/preference). I appreciate this trial and error tutorial and hope you will continue to update it should I decide to get in the kombucha game 🙂

    • Fitnessista says:

      not a dumb question at all! i drink it for the health benefits (mostly the probiotics since i don’t do a ton of dairy), but also love the taste. it kind of reminds me of soda, but with a bit of tang and it’s very refreshing 🙂

  35. These instructions led to my first batch of ‘real’ tasting kombucha – flavored with orangejuice, cranberries, and crystalized ginger. Thank you!!!

  36. Question for you! I’m interested in trying to match a batch of kombucha, and have one question – how do you store the baby scoby? Do you keep it in some kombucha, or just seal it in a container until you’re ready to use it? Refrigerate it? Thanks!

    • Fitnessista says:

      usually, i make it right away. i make the tea the day i receive it and add the starter tea and scoby that night, after the tea reaches room temp

  37. Dianne says:

    is the dried ginger sugared? That’s the only kind I know of. Thanks

  38. Dianne says:

    Is the dried ginger you used sugared/candied? That’s the only kind I know of. Thanks

    • Fitnessista says:

      no, it’s dried like herbs (similar to the oregano and basil shakers you buy at the store). i haven’t seen it in stores, but it’s inexpensive from amazon!

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