How to Brew and Bottle Kombucha
Kombucha is the delicious, fizzy fermented tea that has soared in popularity over the last few years. Providing healthy probiotics and potent antioxidants, it can also boast anti-inflammatory benefits when flavored with ginger or sour cherry juice. It takes only 30 minutes once a week to brew kombucha, making it a low-maintenance, easy-to-love DIY project.
The Benefits of Temperature Control
For the best results, kombucha needs to be fermented in a fairly narrow range from about 72-76 °F / 22-24 °C. Temperatures warmer than that can work but often bring out a little too much “funk” in kombucha’s flavor. Temperatures below 72 °F / 22 °C are more concerning, because the risk of mold contamination rises as the temperature falls. Using a Proofer to brew kombucha in cooler environments reduces the risk of contamination, keeps the culture balanced and helps produces the most desirable flavors. Kombucha brewing temperatures can also be tweaked to maintain a once-a-week schedule that is convenient (for example, you prefer to brew on weekends).
Finding a Culture to Use
The key to making kombucha at home is obtaining a scoby, the cellulose disc that contains the culture. A new scoby is formed with each batch of kombucha, so a friend who makes kombucha can be a great source for a spare scoby. Or you can get started with our excellent method for growing a scoby from a bottle of store bought kombucha.
Equipment: Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer & Slow Cooker
Yield: 1 gallon / 4 liters. This recipe can easily be halved or doubled, the Proofer will hold up to 2 gallons / 8 L of kombucha, as long as the containers are no taller than 8” / 20 cm.
Timing: Brewing and bottling together take about 30 minutes of active time. The brewing cycle is approximately one week long (unattended).
|Table header 0
|700 g / 24 oz
|200 g / 7 oz
|6-7 tea bags
|12-14 g / 0.5 oz loose tea
|500 g /16 oz
|Additional water, non-chlorinated
|2.5-2.75 L / 88-97 oz
*Tea can be black, oolong, green, white or decaf, or a blend of any of those types. Herbal teas should not be used as they do not provide adequate nutrition for the culture.
**Unflavored, mature kombucha, usually reserved from the previous batch.
***The key to making kombucha at home is obtaining a scoby, the cellulose disc that contains the culture. A new scoby is formed with each batch of kombucha, so a friend who makes kombucha can be a great source for a spare scoby. Or you can get started with our excellent method for growing a scoby from a bottle of store bought kombucha. See website: brodandtaylor.com/kombucha-scoby/
Equipment: Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer, one gallon non-metal brewing jar no more than 8″ /20 cm tall, tightly woven fabric or paper cover and rubber band. An instant-read thermometer can be helpful for making sure the tea has cooled adequately. One widely available glass container that works well in the Proofer is Anchor Hocking’s Heritage Hill 1-gal / 4 L jar, without lid.
Get Ready. Set up the Proofer with the rack in place and the thermostat at 75 °F / 24 °C. Choose a location where the Proofer is away from direct sunlight because light can reduce nutrients. For best scoby formation, place the Proofer where it will not need to be moved so the jar and scoby remain still.
Make the Tea Concentrate. Bring 3 C / 700 ml water to a boil. Remove from heat. Add all of the sugar and stir to dissolve. Add black or oolong tea and brew for 20 minutes. If using green or white tea, brew for only 4 minutes or the resulting kombucha will be bitter. Remove the tea at the end of the brewing time.
Cool the Tea Concentrate. When brewing is complete, allow the tea concentrate to cool for at least ten minutes.
Tip: It often works well to bottle your previous batch of kombucha while the tea concentrate is brewing and cooling.
Fill the Brewing Jar. Add the two cups of kombucha (reserved from a previous batch) and at least half of the remaining water to the brewing jar. Slowly pour in the tea concentrate (adding the hot concentrate after the jar is partially filled helps protect glass from abrupt temperature changes). Top off with as much water as necessary to bring the level up to a generous 6″ / 6 cm below the rim of the jar.
Tip: Leave some airspace at the top of your brewing jar, because carbon dioxide can build up under the scoby and cause it to bulge upwards. If the container is too full, the scoby will spill kombucha as it rises.
Check the Temperature. Before transferring your scoby to the new batch of kombucha, check to see that the temperature is below 85 °F / 29 °C. Cool further if necessary.
Add the Scoby. When the mixture in the brewing jar has cooled, place the scoby into the jar. Cover with a clean cloth, tea towel or commercial size coffee filter and secure the rim with a rubber band.
Ferment for 7-10 days. Place the covered kombucha onto the rack in the Proofer and close the lid. Leave to ferment for 7 days. Check occasionally to see if whether the scoby is rising out of the jar and to allow fresh air. After 7 days, taste the kombucha by slipping a clean drinking straw between the scoby and the side of the brewing jar. You may need to gently break the seal formed by the scoby. Push the straw down about 2″ / 5 cm into the kombucha. Seal the top with your finger and withdraw the straw from the container. Taste the kombucha in the straw and decide whether it has a good balance of sweet and sour, or needs more time to ferment (i.e., whether it too sweet or not tart enough).
If you plan to bottle ferment the kombucha, it should be slightly sweeter than you would ultimately like to drink, because the culture will consume more sugar during bottle fermentation.
Bottling and Flavoring Kombucha
Kombucha develops beautifully blended flavors and an appealing natural carbonation through a second fermentation in the bottle. For maximum carbonation, we recommend swing-top bottles because they are strong enough to prevent explosions and seal tightly enough to contain the natural carbonation. However, if you are only looking for a little carbonation the bottles commercial kombucha is sold in work well. They often don’t seal tightly enough to produce more than a light fizz.
Pour kombucha into bottles through a fine stainless steel mesh. After the kombucha is bottled, it should be sealed and then left to ferment at cool room temperature for two days. Remember that light can reduce nutrients. After that it should be stored in the refrigerator. If your environment is quite cool, it may need three days to build up a pleasant carbonation, while warmer rooms may only require only one day.
Less Sweet Flavors. These flavors benefit from having a little extra residual sugar at the end of the first fermentation, so that the culture still has enough sugar to consume for a second fermentation in the bottle.
- Classic Kombucha. Kombucha has plenty of flavor on its own and can be bottled without adding additional flavorings. This is a particularly nice option if you have invested in premium quality tea or are learning the art of blending teas.
- Ginger Ginger is one of the easiest and most popular kombucha flavors. Add plenty of fresh, thinly sliced or minced ginger to bottles and fill with brewed kombucha.
- Lemon or Lime. Fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, with or without a little of the peel, make for a particularly refreshing flavor. Use 1-2 T / 15-30 ml of juice per pint / 500ml, and keep the amount of peel modest (too much can inhibit the culture.)
- Tart Cherry. For pure sour cherry juice without added sweetening, add 4-6 T / 60-90 ml per pint / 500ml
- Ginger-Lime. Green Tea For 6 pints of kombucha add the juice of one or two limes, 1-3 tsp / 4-12 g of sugar and thin slices of ginger (2 slices of ginger per pint works well).
Sweeter Fruit Juice Flavors. For flavors that add a sweet juice, the kombucha can be brewed slightly longer (1-2 days) than for the flavors above or to taste.
- Mango. The tartness of kombucha balances the tropical sweetness of mango juice beautifully. Use about 4-5 T / 50-75 ml per pint / 500 ml, or to taste.
- Apricot. Apricot nectar blends wonderfully with kombucha. Use 5-6 T / 75-100 ml per pint / 500 ml, or to taste.
- Peach. Mellow peach nectar needs a little more juice for its flavoring to come through, use about 7-8 T / 110-125 ml per pint / 500 ml.
- Concord Grape. Kombucha brings a delicious tart balance to this family favorite, use about 4 T / 50 ml per pint / 500 ml.
- Pomegranate juice combines sweetness with added nutritional benefits, add 7 T / 105 ml per pint / 500ml.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha tea is a delicious and fizzy probiotic beverage. Kombucha is made by adding a colony of bacteria and yeast to sugar and tea, and then allowing the mix to ferment at a low temperature.
What is a SCOBY?
A symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast that feed on tea and sugar. These micro-organisms metabolize and create kombucha.
What temperature should the tea be before I add the SCOBY?
It is important for the temperature to be 85F / 30C.
How do you know if the kombucha is culturing effectively?
Seeing a SCOBY form over the opening of the brewing vessel, the development of brown stringy yeast particles, and the liquid inside becoming less sweet and more like vinegar are all signs that the kombucha is culturing properly.
Is a cloudy layer on top of the kombucha normal?
Yes, a cloudy white layer is the start of a SCOBY and a sign that your batch of kombucha is fermenting successfully.
Are brown string particles in the tea normal?
Along with the new SCOBY, you may see brown strands forming and possibly hanging down from the SCOBY or floating freely. These strands are yeast colonies and are a normal byproduct of the fermentation process. They can be strained out of the finished kombucha if desired.
Is it normal if the SCOBY sinks to the bottom of the container, rises to the top or float sideways?
These SCOBY behaviors are all normal and will not affect the fermentation.
Is it ok to store cultures for various cultured foods (kombucha, sourdough, yogurt, etc.) near each other?
We recommend keeping various cultures a few feet apart. However, once the cultured foods are fitted with lids and in the refrigerator, you may keep them next to each other.
What temperature will kill kombucha?
At 95F kombucha will start to die.