How to Make Kombucha – The Beginner’s Manual


In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to make kombucha at home, all the supplies for homemade kombucha, and all the benefits of this fizzy nectar of the gods.

And let me tell you, you’re in for a real treat.

Most people have heard of kombucha, but have no idea what it is. Is it a type of sweet tea? A yogurt drink? Some kind of magical health elixir? The answer is yes… all of the above!

This post contains affiliate links, and I may earn from qualifying purchases, at no extra cost to you.

If you want to hop around, here are some links to all the content in this article. In this guide:

-My Experience with Kombucha

-Kombucha FAQ

-Kombucha Materials List

-Best Kombucha Kits

-How to Make Kombucha: Part I

-How to Make Kombucha: Part II

My Experience With Kombucha

Before making my first batch of kombucha, I had been purchasing store-bought kombucha for years, but it can get so expensive. A decent store-bought kombucha can cost anywhere from $2-$4 per bottle.

So I decided to start brewing kombucha in 2016 – not knowing how to make it entirely.

After my first brew, I was hooked – even though that brew didn’t turn out great. But you won’t have that problem if you follow my guide below.

I sold kombucha kits as part of New Hobby Box between 2017 and 2020, and they were incredibly popular. I built some great relationships in the industry – especially on sourcing SCOBY – which you’ll find linked in this guide.

So, let me cordially welcome you all to the wonderful world of KOMBUCHA!

There will be two types of readers trying this tutorial:

Camp One: The “I love store-bought kombucha! But it’s so damn expensive… This is gonna be awesome!”

Camp Two: The “Uhhhhhh…. What is Kombucha?”

My plan is to give camp one all the direction they need so they can save some cash and avoid store-bought kombucha altogether, and have some fun making kombucha at home.

And for all of you in camp two, I’m going to convert you into kombucha evangelists. You just wait.

Enough about me, let’s hit some of the basic terms and questions about kombucha.

Kombucha FAQ

Kombucha is one of those things that’s simpler to make than it is to talk about. It’s filled with strange words, I’d expect nothing less from something called kombucha though. So I think it makes sense to lead with a simple FAQ to kickstart this how-to.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented tea full of probiotics, a high amount of B-vitamins, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds, earning it the nicknames “Elixir of Life” and “Healthy Soda.”

Is Kombucha Safe to Drink?

For most people, kombucha tea is safe to drink. But due to living cultures in kombucha, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or those with sensitivities to live cultures, should avoid kombucha.

How do You Pronounce Kombucha?

Kombucha is pronounced “kom-BOO-cha” in English. The fermented tea drink is often mispronounced as “comb-ucka” and other hilarious names.

If you can’t rely on my phonetic English above, let YouTube take the wheel below.

https://youtu.be/MMa5FAxrmDM

What’s a SCOBY?

SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast, a crucial ingredient for making kombucha. When combined with a drink like sweet tea, makes kombucha tea. And if the SCOBY is properly cared for, it can last indefinitely.

That’s where continuous brew kombucha comes in – you can essentially replace ever having to buy kombucha again if you take care of your SCOBY.

This is what a packaged SCOBY looks like – a delicious alien in the making.

scoby in packaging

What is Continuous Brew Kombucha?

Continuous brew kombucha is a method of brewing kombucha in which a mother SCOBY and starter tea are used to continuously brew fresh kombucha. This method is often preferred by brewers, as it results in less work and a more consistent product.

Alright, thanks for attending the New Hobby Box School of Kombucha, let’s apply that learning and make some “booch.”

Kombucha Materials List

My list consists of 7 items – a mix of ingredients and supplies. The cool part is I bet you have quite a few of them lying around your house.

kombucha brewing materials laid out on a table with an orange cloth

If you want to skip the whole supplies and materials list and just get a kit that has everything, no sweat, I’ve linked some awesome kits a bit further down in the article.

1) One Gallon Glass Jar

This will be the home base for your SCOBY and kombucha. If you intend to try doing continuous brew kombucha, you could get a kit that has two jars at once since it will most likely save you some money.

Or you could get the one-gallon glass jar, then add on a one-gallon dispenser (this is the micro-brew method that craft kombucha makers use.)

2) Handkerchief or Cheesecloth

This will cover your jar of kombucha, and you will most likely already have something you can use instead of having to purchase something new.

In the off-chance you do need to purchase, just make sure you get something that is graded for food – you don’t need any nasty chemicals or bleaches involved.

Also if you end up getting the cloth I linked above, it can also be used for making cheese – I have a fun and delicious tutorial on how you can make your own cheese at home.

3) Jute Rope or Twine

I used jute in my tutorial because I had a ton of it lying around from my Macrame Plant Hanger DIY – but you could use anything here that will keep the cloth securely attached to the lid of the jar – even a rubber band.

If you go the jute route, definitely use your leftover to do the macrame tutorial – everyone that’s taken it has made some beautiful plant hangers, and you’ll have some downtime while your kombucha ferments.

4) Organic Sugar

You may have sugar in your house, which is great, but make sure it’s organic sugar before you get much further. You’ll need at least one cup of organic sugar for this tutorial.

5) PH Strips

This will test the acidity levels in your kombucha to guide you on how to make adjustments. Don’t go cheap here, instead get a quality PH strip for an accurate read.

For this part of the tutorial, you’ll need at least two PH Strips.

6) Pipettes

This will be used to place droplets of kombucha on your PH strips. Hopefully, you already have these around your house, because if you have to buy them, they are hard to find in small quantities like a 3-pack.

I linked to the smallest quantity I could find on Amazon above – it’s a 20 pack that cost $3.99 at the time of writing this.

7) Oregon Kombucha: Teas and SCOBY

all of the oregon kombucha flavors lined up in a row in their packages

Okay, so this is technically a kit, but this is the exact organization I used to work with on my kits, and they sell tea and SCOBY in a single pack.

I can’t say enough great things about the team at Oregon Kombucha and their products. Based in Portland, Oregon, they’ve been selling some of the highest quality SCOBY and teas for kombucha kits for years now.

The flavors are amazing too – I used to send out three flavors in my kits (blueberry, coconut, and a standard black tea.) Here are four links to their SCOBY and tea kits, and where you can get them.

A Couple of Quick Points on SCOBY

Okay, so there are a few points I need to make here. The first is that you can make your own SCOBY. I haven’t included that in my tutorial, but plan to do a separate tutorial in the future.

The reason why I opted to go with pre-made SCOBY instead of making your own, is that for a beginner, I find that too much can go wrong if you try to make your own SCOBY as the entry point.

inside the bag of oregon kombucha kit - a look through the clear plastic of the back of the bag

All of my tutorials are about getting people to discover new things they can do and having fun in the process. Waiting weeks for your homemade kombucha to be drinkable, only to discover your SCOBY made the batch go awry isn’t fun.

Plus, I want you to make something you can drink as quickly as possible – making your own SCOBY just delays that.

The other thing is that you can purchase any sort of SCOBY you like, I’m just recommending the Oregon Kombucha because I’ve been using them for years now, and stand behind their product.

I trust their quality to the point where I used to exclusively partner with them when I sold kombucha kits on New Hobby Box

Best Kombucha Kits

There’s no shame in just wanting to purchase a full kit and skip the gathering of supplies step. I get it, believe me.

So for those of you who want a soup-to-nuts kombucha kit, here are two I can personally recommend.

I chose these two because, in my opinion, great kombucha boils down to the quality of the SCOBY. The two kits listed below come with quality SCOBY first and foremost.

The first option is more affordable, but still maintains the quality of SCOBY you’ll need. And the second option is more expensive but has a top-notch SCOBY in the kit.

I would still recommend Oregon Kombucha’s SCOBY over both of those options, but you won’t be able to find a full brewing kit from Oregon Kombucha – meaning Oregon Kombucha doesn’t include a one-gallon glass jar, sugar, etc.

Kombucha Essentials Kit

picture of kombucha essentials kit from amazon

I chose this kit because it comes with everything you need to get started and at the time of writing this, runs about $35 on Amazon.

I’m a SCOBY snob if you couldn’t already tell, and they carry USDA Certified Organic Kombucha SCOBY.

The kit also includes a 1-gallon glass brewing jar. Material for covering the jar, like a muslin cover and rubber band. And because the temperature is important for fermentation, it also includes a thermometer.

It does come with an instruction guide, and between this tutorial and the resources linked throughout, you’ll be completely covered on your first fermentation.

The Kombucha Essentials Kit also includes some interesting flavoring ideas, and some additional brewing techniques you can try as well, which is a nice bonus.

Brew Your Bucha – Starter Kit

brew your bucha starter kit from amazon

Ok, so this kit is more expensive – at the moment of publishing, it cost $58. But this is a premium SCOBY inside of a premium starter kit.

It comes with everything you need to make two full gallons of kombucha.

Inside, you’ll get a glass brew jar with a plastic lid, 4 amber bottles (awesome for bottling,) a healthy kombucha culture (SCOBY) with starter tea, 2 bags of raw cane sugar, 2 bags of Yunnan gold black tea, disposable tea bags, an adhesive temperature strip, a cotton cloth cover, an elastic band, a pipette straw, and detailed step-by-step brewing instructions.

Thorough, right? If you already drink store-bought kombucha and enjoy being in the kitchen or like home brewing, this is worth the extra dollars.

How to Make Kombucha: Part I

Making kombucha is simple, it requires combining sweet tea and SCOBY in a glass container with water, then letting the mixture ferment for weeks. Making it is a quick process, but fermentation is slow.

So, this tutorial breaks the process into two Parts. The first part is about making your sweet tea, combining it with your SCOBY, and letting it ferment for 7-10 days.

The second part of this tutorial on how to make kombucha will show you how to test your PH levels, and when to know if it’s in the right state to consume.

It will also show you how to continue your next batch of homemade kombucha.

Now, let’s begin.

1. Gather your materials

In addition to the 7 items from the materials listed above, you’ll need to get the following from around your house:

  • Water at the ready (if you’re close to a faucet that’s good enough)
  • Large pot (big enough to hold 1/2 gallon of water, and bring it to a boil)
  • Scissors
  • Something to stir with (preferably wooden)

You’ll start by making some sweet tea.

2. Fill your gallon jug with water

Tap water is fine to use here. On most gallon jars, you’ll see a fill line embedded toward the top that says “1 Gallon” – fill to that line.

one gallon glass jug with a fill line graphic overlaid for making kombucha

3. Empty half a gallon of water into the pot

Using your jar/jug that you just filled up to a full gallon, empty half of it into your pot, and bring the water in the pot to a boil.

one gallon glass jug and medium sized pot for boiling water to make kombucha

4. Pick a tea

Depending on how you went about the tea route, this is the big moment to decide on flavor. Choose wisely…

Just kidding, there’s no winning or losing here. You’ll do your best to keep your SCOBY in great condition, so you can make more batches and try different flavors of tea.

5. Brew your tea

Once your water has come to a boil, remove your tea bag from the plastic and place it in the water. Reduce your heat to medium and allow it steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Then remove the tea bag and stir.

three blends of tea in bags from oregon kombucha sitting on a wooden counter

6. Pour brewed tea and sugar into the jar, and stir

Grab your gallon jug (it should still have half a gallon of water still in it) and pour both the brewed tea from your pot and one cup of sugar into the gallon jar.

Since you’ve been boiling the one-half gallon of water in the pot, the water level will not go as high as it did previously, since some of it has evaporated in that process.

Now stir. You want the tea/sugar mixture to be completely mixed.

7. Let the mixture completely cool

You’re just going to play a waiting game now, you’ve got about two to three hours to kill.

If you ended up getting jute for this tutorial, or have some yarn/rope lying around, head over to the macrame tutorial. You could probably complete a macrame plant hanger while you wait.

pouring sugar into one gallon of tea in order to make sweet tea for kombucha

8. If it’s cool, add the SCOBY

Once you are certain your sweet tea is cooled down, add the SCOBY and the cup of Kombucha it is floating in.

pouring a scoby into sweet tea to make kombucha

9. Cover your kombucha and give it a new home

Grab your cheesecloth, handkerchief, coffee filter, or whatever cloth you settled on, and use your jute or twine to seal away the top of the jar from any unwanted particles.

You are now entering the fermentation stage, so you need to find a place for your kombucha to call home for the next few weeks.

Your kombucha’s new home needs to be dark, still, and at a nice room temperature – aim for 70-73 degrees Fahrenheit.

homemade kombucha in a one gallon jug with a orange handkerchief tied to the top to prevent particles from entering

10. Bless your kombucha

Tell it how much you believe in it, love it, and be sure to set your intentions. (Give it a name if you so choose- my first batch was named “Boochy.”)

11. Patience!

Give your Kombucha space. Your newly blessed kombucha is going to need around 7-10 days of alone time before you check on it.

So no poking/prodding or messing with the bottle… It will alter the flow. Instead, peep in on it every few days and say hello (with your mind only) and send positive vibes.

hand showing time with homemade kombucha in the background, meant to show that it takes a while for kombucha to ferment

What You’ll Begin to Notice

Over time, you may notice that your Kombucha will turn from a dark black tea color to a lovely golden brown.

Any intense colors like fuzzy blue or red mean it’s BAD.

It’s rare, but sometimes your Kombucha can grow mold. Just one particle accidentally falling into your batch can cause this.

That’s why it’s important to keep your ‘bucha covered and not to mess with it.

The following photos are of a 4th generation SCOBY that grew on top of another one.

In my opinion, this is the most exciting part… No matter what size or shape of the vessel, a new SCOBY will form on the surface.

The longer it sits, the thicker it becomes!

aerial view of a scoby growing inside of homemade kombucha

Once you get your first batch of homemade kombucha under your belt, you’ll be amazed at all of the possibilities and types of kombucha you can make.

If you want some inspiration, check out one of my favorite resources for kombucha, Cultured Food Life. You’ll find some great kombucha recipes and ideas there.

If you’re new to the Kombucha world, I recommend jumping over to Amazon or adding a bottle of kombucha to your Publix, QFC, Whole Foods, etc., trip.

GT’s Enlightened (shown below), Kevita, and Simple Truth are the brands I see the most, and all have some delicious flavors. GT’s Mystic Mango is so good! Gingerade (pictured here) is also delicious.

Once you’re ready to consume your brew, check back here for part two!

Have questions about this process? Don’t wing it- drop a line below!

Have questions about this process? Don’t wing it- drop a line in the comments or shoot me a note on Instagram.

How to Make Kombucha: Part II

Thank you for waiting what feels like forever, but has only been 7-10 days…

You’ll be glad you did. But let’s pause for a moment and do some inspecting.

*PAUSE*

If your Kombucha has fuzzy look or a blue/green shade to it… do not proceed to the following steps because unfortunately, your batch needs to be thrown out.

Use the visual guide below to figure out whether your SCOBY has mold or if it’s healthy.

chart of what a healthy scoby vs moldy scoby looks like

Did your kombucha pass inspections? No fuzz or blue hues? Perfect, let’s continue with part two.

Your kombucha has now been sitting for 7-10 days, so it’s a great time to test its PH levels.

1. Grab your pipette and a PH strip

Grab your pipette and carefully steal some ‘bucha from it, and by careful I mean don’t disturb your culture as much as possible. Once you gather a sample in your pipette, empty it onto your PH strip.

Even if you started your batch the same day as someone else, the PH will most likely vary based on temperature, light, or even how potent you made your tea.

2. Compare your PH strip to the acidity chart

Find the closest color scheme standard shown on the chart below and analyze where your strip falls on that chart. If your PH strips came with a similar chart, compare it to that instead.

aerial photo of ph levels by color rating

What is the Ideal PH Level for Kombucha?

The ideal PH levels for kombucha tend to be around 3.0 to 3.5. For a stronger and more vinegar-forward flavor, 3.0 or lower is best. For a more balanced flavor of sweet to vinegar, 3.5 PH is ideal.

If your Kombucha doesn’t fall within this range, don’t be discouraged!

Again, depending on conditions, it could take up to a month (and lots of practice) for your Kombucha to be where you want it!

Don’t be afraid to also take a little taste test as well, just make sure to not contaminate it.

You will notice “floaties” in your brew and it is completely normal. Once you bottle the kombucha, the sediment will settle to the bottom. If you prefer, you can filter it out.

If you think your batch is bottling ready, and you hit the PH balance you desire, let your SCOBY fall to the bottom of your gallon jar.

3. Transfer your kombucha to a separate vessel

Leaving the SCOBY and at least a cup of kombucha in the gallon jar, pour the rest of your kombucha into a new vessel.

It’s important to always use glass for any of your kombucha or SCOBY creations.

So when you’re transferring your liquid or SCOBY into new homes, don’t place them in something plastic or otherwise.

I’m a huge fan of “swing-top” bottles for bottling my kombucha. I use an IKEA version, but you can find them in so many other places, like the Otis swing top bottles on AMAZON.

Another great option is using mason jars or even recycling old pickle jars or sauce jars!

4. Refrigerate and celebrate

homemade kombucha in a swing top bottle, sitting on a kitchen counter

Once you transfer it into a bottle, be sure to refrigerate it! And of course, pop one open and enjoy your hard work.

Here’s a pic of my most recent batch named, Boochy. She is a tart ginger pear brew and quite delicious.

Want to Try Flavoring Your Kombucha?

I’ve pinned some delicious recipes worth taking a look at… If you use any of them, let us know how they turn out!

Okay, story time – What flavor did you brew first? How do you like it? Have questions? Please share your experience!

Thanks again for trying new things with me – Cheers 😉

nhb

Hey - I'm Steve, co-founder of New Hobby Box, and hobby enthusiast. A few years back, I felt like I was getting dull when it came to learning new things. That's why I was part of the original crew who set out to challenge ourselves to learn new things. We liked it so much that we decided to take our challenge public - and that's what ultimately started New Hobby Box. I love going against the status quo when it comes to hobbies, I've tried so many things that I would never have thought to do, that ultimately became part of my life. You'll find quite a few of my hobby experiences throughout the site. Happy Hobbying!

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