How To Brew Your Own Homemade Kombucha

May 19th, 2009 - filed under: The Food » Recipes




Kombucha, that magical mysterious elixir, is actually quite easy to produce with a bit of kitchen chemistry. I wrote about Kombucha a few weeks back, after I’d finished my first batch. And as promised in that article, here’s your step-by-step guide to home brewing.


What You’ll Need:



  • A living SCOBY + some starter tea
  • A large *glass* jar (no metal, no ceramic, no plastic, etc) with a wide opening (a standard 1-gallon jar, as shown at right, is best)
  • Sugar
  • Caffeinated tea
  • A very clean cloth + a rubber band
  • A steel pot and a big metal stir spoon



Prep Work

  • Most likely, the hardest part will be getting your hands on a SCOBY. You’ll just have to be creative and snoop around your city for a source. I suggest starting with Craigslist or googling ‘[your city] kombucha’. You can also try poking around your local co-op or health food store – and check the bulletin board.
  • Once you’ve secured a SCOBY (and it’s alive, floating in some starter tea), you’re on your way. Make sure your workspace is clean and at least semi-sterile. Gather and clean your tools (see above).
  • This is a long process, so set your schedule accordingly. Brewing is a good Sunday project; you can have it going while you’re gardening or cleaning or laying around naked with your sweetheart.


How To Brew

1)  In a large, stainless steel (non-teflon or other weird material) stock pot, boil 1 gallon of water. Keep it at a full boil for at least 10 minutes.

2)  Remove the pot from heat and add 1 1/4 cups sugar, stirring with a metal (non-plastic, non-wood) spoon. I use organic evaporated cane juice instead of white sugar. DO NOT substitute agave, honey, Splenda™, or any other sweetener. 

3)  Add the tea. Any kind, as long as it’s caffeinated. This will determine the final flavor, so if you use a cranberry green tea, you’ll get a cranberry-ish flavored kombucha. I usually use organic plain green or black tea bags. You can use bagged or loose tea, but if you use looseleaf make sure it’s in a fine-meshed infuser. You don’t want any tea leaves floating about! 




4)  Steep the tea for about 4 hours, allowing the water to cool and the tea to get nice and strong. Go ahead and garden or clean or or lay around naked. When the tea is good and strong (many hours later), take out the tea bags/infuser.  




5)  Double check that your widemouth glass jar is very clean, and then pour in the gallon of sweetened tea. A funnel can really help with this.



Metal reacts poorly with the kombucha culture. It’s not a good thing.


6)  Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the SCOBY.

7)  Open your SCOBY + starter  container, and pour the starter into the widemouth jar. There may be gooey strings or giblets – that’s just SCOBY stuff, and it’s fine.

8)  Fish out your SCOBY. Admire it’s alien oddity. Blow it a kiss. Give it a name (mine is Scoby-Doo). Notice that there’s a ‘smooth side’ that is lighter, and the other side is darker. The slimy dark stuff is yeast. You’ll also notice that familiar, uniquely komucha-esque odor!

9)  Now carefully slide your SCOBY into the widemouth jar, smooth-side up.  It may sink, which is okay, but it will probably float.  




10)  Place the clean cloth over the top of the jar, pulling it taught and securing with a rubber band. Now you just need to tuck that sucker away for 2-3 weeks. It prefers a warm dark spot, like in a cupboard or closet. It does not like drafts or sunlight, so don’t brew your kombucha on a window sill!

11)  Adjust the brew time for your taste preference. The warmer it is, the faster it will brew. The more caffeinated it is, the faster it will brew. The longer you let it brew, the stronger and less sweet it will be. I like less sugar, so I ferment for at least 3 weeks. It’s not recommended that you brew a batch longer than a month.


— weeks later —


12)  First, you’ll need to remove the SCOBY. Every time you brew, the ‘mother’ (the original SCOBY)  grows a ‘baby’ (a new SCOBY). These names are misleading because the two are identical in every way, indistinguishable from one another. They’ll be stacked together, like two pancakes. You can either leave them be and keep on going with a double-thick SCOBY, or you can carefully separate them. If you do take them apart, each one can brew its own batch. Then you can stagger your batches for constant kombucha flow! Remember: each time you brew, the mother makes a baby.

13)  You’ll need a jar to hold your SCOBY while you’re not brewing.  Make sure the jar has a plastic (non-metal) lid.  With very clean hands, fish your SCOBY out of the widemouth jar and fold it into the storage jar. Then add enough of the new brew to completely cover it.  This is your starter tea for next time.  Store the SCOBY + starter tea in the refrigerator, indefinitely.

14)  Portion out your brewed kombucha into smaller storage containers.  I save glass bottles with plastic lids just for this purpose.  Store the tea in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

15)  Drink!  Experiment!  Enjoy!




Notes on Safety

  • Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.
  • Sometimes a culture will become contaminated.  It happens!  If your SCOBY shows anything resembling mold, TOSS IT!  If your brewed kombucha comes out smelling funny, TOSS IT!  If your kombucha ends up tasting funny, TOSS IT!  Remember, there’s only a porous rag separating your fermenting sugar water from any and all airborne bugs.  Contamination can happen, so be wise and play it ‘better safe than sorry’, okay?
  • If you want to add fruit juice to your kombucha, do it after you’ve brewed.  DO NOT add fruit juice before fermentation.
  • Don’t use bleach on any of your kombucha-making equipment. Vinegar is a great cleanser. The dishwasher (with a mild detergent) is also okay.
  • Listen to your body!  Start by drinking a little at a time.  Home brew is A LOT stronger than the store bought stuff, and the B-vitamins can get you quite heady. So take it slow and listen to your body!


Close-up during brewing - you can see it bubbling.

Close-up during the brewing process - you can see it bubbling away!


***DISCLAIMER – My dears, I cannot be held responsible for what you do with this information.  So please, use your big beautiful brains, and be thoughtful and be careful.***


I know there’s been a ton of interest out there, so I can’t wait to hear how this works for you guys. Make sure to report back! And LUCK!


  • valleygirl

    I am so confused. I directed here after growing my first scoby from a storebought drink. I have brewed already for 3 weeks (it was really slow to start and I’m guessing because I didn’t use as much original store bought as I should have, following someone elses directions so it took longer to grow) and I think it’s ready? How do I know if it’s ready? Where do I pick off in this section to actually make something drinkable with it? Help!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    If it’s been going for three weeks and it looks good (no mold) and it smells good (sort of yeasty, like beer or vinegar) then you should be fine. Drink up!

  • valleygirl

    I haven’t smelled it yet….will do so…but now what? Do I drink exactly what’s in there? Cuz it looks nasty, not sure I could!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    You can mix it with fruit juice to make it more palatable, if you don’t want to drink it straight up. Luck!

  • Jimmy Hodum

    Just about to check out my SCOBY! Used your advice on growing one, and I am about 6 hours away from 2 weeks of growth passing! I moved it once when I realized it may be too warm above the stove, but otherwise it has been in complete warm darkness the entire time. Thanks for the help, I will let you know how it turned out!

  • Jimmy Hodum

    you DEFINITELY shouldn’t use those. Not only can toxins be leached from the rubber/plastic gaskets, those materials have pores which allows for harboring of bacteria, which have easy access to the tea in that way. I prowl the thrift stores on the daily for jars and its fairly common to find a good large glass jar w no modifications.

  • Jimmy Hodum

    its gonna look a little weird with the floaties and the thick color…. if the floaties turn you off, just sift them out.

  • Skaspektor

    Hi,I have a quick question – there is some kind of film forming on the surface of my tea – whitish thin layer. Not sure if it’s good or bad? I would gladly attach an image to illustrate. Let me know, thanks. Jenya

  • Sayward Rebhal

    That sounds just like another SCOBY forming, not a problem at all. =)

  • Bella Booboo

    Maggots usually like dead matter like roadkill and such, but that doesnt sound good. Considering that any contamination is bad contamination, the fact that larvae were able to get in means there was probably a loose seal and that gnats or fruit flies got to it.

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  • Michele

    Hello, so I accidentally forgot to mix in the sugar with the boiling water before I put the tea bags in. I just realized this, and the tea has been steeping for about an hour. I also realized I don’t have any white sugar, so I will have to wait until tomorrow to get it (I know, bad planning). What do you think, is there any way to salvage the batch?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Probably fine if you keep the tea in the fridge. You may need to reheat it to get the sugar to dissolve. Yeah, I’d say a reboil is a good idea but otherwise you should be fine!

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  • Biz NetUsa

    houston I think we have a problem. My kombucha smells like rotten eggs. What do you think the problem is?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Sounds like you got contaminated. You have to throw everything away and start fresh. Sorry! =(

  • Cutebutklutsy

    Temperature influences brewing time (Kombucha is typically ready in 6-8 days when fermented at 78-82 degrees F., or longer for 8-14+ days in colder weather 60-72 degrees F.), and it sounds like you have a few related issues going on…

    I think storing the culture at that temp. range inhibits the bacteria growth, allowing the yeast to take over.

    “Yeast may hang down from the bottom of the mushroom. They may discolor as well as cause the mushroom not to form properly. Carbon dioxide produced from the yeast may create holes or bubbles in the mushroom trying to escape. Excess carbon dioxide will suffocate the acetobacter that produce the gluconic acid” (yeast produces acetic acid and alcohol, while bacteria produces gluconic acid). This may be why it is brown, has holes, and is not producing.

    Optimum temperature of a kombucha ferment is 74F – 84 F; try putting it in a warmer place. This will also speed up the fermentation.

    See for related pictures and more information :) this website has a TON of really helpful information!

  • Mike

    I made mine for the first time last week and it’s great, working on my second batch as we type (LOL), last one was mixed with grape juice, and went very fast. Even friends want me too make it for them now, so hopefully I can get rid of some SCOBY’s.

  • Nikki Weldon

    thank you so much this was sooo helpful i have some brewing now and i am using a decaffeinated tea will this damage my scoby?

  • Spinsters

    how many tea bags do you use for the gallon of water?

  • Josh_the_dog

    how many tea bags do you use for the gallon of water you’re boiling?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    4-6, depending on how you like it.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yes it will. You must use caffeinated tea for the SCOBY to survive.

  • Freya

    I’ve been brewing kombucha for a very long time and flavored teas have never been an issue. What matters more is that you have separate scobys dedicated to different teas as they become accustomed to specific nutrients. For example if you have a scoby which has never been in a flavored tea, it may not survive the shock. A scoby may have trouble moving from black to green tea as well. To help your scoby adjust, always introduce it to the new brew along with at LEAST one cup of the previous batch.

  • Newby Doo

    Okay I’m scared but I’m starting a scoby and then on to my first batch of kombucha- wish me luck!

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  • Lauren

    Just started the scoby making process, hopefully in two weeks I have a ‘mother’…just wondering…I only have 1/2 gallon glass containers, can I halve the recipe using 3/4 cups sugar, 1/2 gallon of water and 3-4 tea bags?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I’m sure that would work!

  • Lauren

    Great! Miss your posts something terrible by the way, hope all is well!

  • Newby Doo

    It worked!!! I am overjoyed! Thank you so much!

  • Pepper

    Hi! I have a question about my SCOBY – I followed your awesome directions for growing a mother and when I checked on her today (2 weeks) she is very small and not… pancake looking? There is more film on the bottom of the jar than the top. Should I let her grow more or is this wrong/contaminated? I don’t see mold and it doesn’t stink.. just a little baby. Thank you!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I would let her grow, or maybe even do the whole procedure over again using what you’re currently growing as the “bottled kombucha” in the directions (does that make sense?) It doesn’t sound like contamination – you’d smell if it were contaminated. It sounds like it just needs more time or more strength (sugar + caffeine). Hope that helps!

  • Karenastar

    One of my favorite flavors is strawberry but mine get’s too effervescent and tends to explode when I open the bottle and I’ll lose 1/2 of it to froth. I use fresh strawberries and liquify them in a food processor. Anyone else experience this and find a solution?

  • Jules

    what if my mother doesn’t make a baby?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    No problem, you can just reuse it!

  • Jessica

    We have been brewing for about two months or so and my husband didn’t smell it at first but it started smelling like bile to me. I stopped drinking my home brew and my husband kept drinking it but now he smells it too. The scoby’s look fine and it’s still fizzy it just has a strange bile like smell and taste. I am of the opinion to just throw it all out, but we have put so much into it! We have 5 two gallon containers and a big beautiful SCOBI in each one. It seems so hard to start from scratch again.

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Oof, I don’t know what to tell you. It may be getting too acidic, are you adding enough sugar? Letting it brew too long? Could you try to switch the type of tea you use?

    It may just be time to start over though. =(

  • Erin

    My sister makes strawberry Kombucha, but she puts in whole strawberries (without the green tops of course). When she is ready to drink it she fishes out the strawberries so she’s left with delicious strawberry fizzy goodness. She has never mentioned to me that it was too effervescent.

  • Elizabeth Warfield-Murray

    Thank you so much for your post! I am in the beginning stages of growing my first SCOBY. I enjoy the store bought flavors and would like to flavor the ones I make at home. How would you go about making a ginger flavored batch? Cranberry? Also why do you discourage using honey or agave to sweeten the tea? One more question! I have mason jars with the standard silver lids, after brewing a batch, can the tea be stored with the silver lids or is plastic necessary/preferable?

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  • Sayward Rebhal

    I don’t usually do the flavoring step, but my understanding is that you jut bottle some whole fruit with the kombucha after you finish the first ferment. This then causes a second ferment (new sugar from the fruit) which will add extra bubbles. =)

    For ginger you can just add some slices of fresh ginger root. You’ll have to play around with the proportions.

    You can experiment with agave or honey, I was just told not to deviate from sugar, loooong ago when I first started brewing.

    You can definitely use metal rings. Fill the jars less full so that the kombucha/SCOBY doesn’t touch the metal. I do that all the time. =)

  • diane

    why is my kombucha not fizzy-I am using the original mother with several layers of babies is it no good, need to be separated?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I think it’s better that you separate them and keep the SCOBYs from getting too large. That said, my kombucha is rarely very fizzy. To get a good carbonation you have to do a second fermentation with added fruit or other sugar source.

  • Gabbie

    I’m not sure if anyone else has said this but about step 13 you aren’t supposed to store SCOBYs in the fridge. That is a quick way to kill your SCOBY and produce mold.

  • Anne

    Oh NO! I just got one from a friend and put it in the fridge overnight!!!! About to add it to my tea now. Maybe it will still work? Fingers crossed!

  • Anne

    our SCOBY was just dubbed SCOBY wan kenobi by son #1. :)

  • Sayward Rebhal

    It will be fine. I keep all my SCOBYs in the fridge (and so does everyone else I know) and they all work wonderfully. No worries!

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  • enemee1982

    was the glass dispenser w/plastic tap a mistake or okay Colette?

  • Sayward Rebhal

    I was told not to use those.