Saturday, October 19, 2013

How I Make Kombucha

I've settled into a pretty good kombucha-making routine recently. Here's how I've been doing it, how you can get started, and how you can make sure your kombucha survives even if you need to abandon it for a few weeks!
Feel free to post any kombucha questions in the comments at the end of this post—I promise to answer them as quickly as I can.

Here's why to make your own kombucha rather than buying it at the store: First, making it yourself is way cheaper. You can make a 16 oz. (450ml) bottle of kombucha for about $0.15 in the US (the price of an organic tea bag and two tablespoons of sugar). Compare this to $3 or $4 at the store. 20x savings!
Second, your kombucha will be better than what you can buy at most stores.

This recipe yields 7 or 8 16-oz (450ml) bottles per week. (If you want information for how to get started, or how to keep your kombucha factory alive while you're traveling, scroll to the very end of this post.)



  • Sugar. I use plain old cane sugar. You'll go through it pretty fast, so you may as well buy it in 5 pound bags. Don't be afraid—most of the sugar gets "eaten" by the SCOBY!
  • Tea. I use loose organic green tea. You can use tea bags if you prefer; they're slightly easier to deal with. Whole Foods "house brand" organic green tea bags work nicely, and are quite inexpensive. It's important to use organic tea, because non-organic tea can be high in fluoride.


  • A 2-gallon glass vessel, typically sold as a "cookie jar". Get it at your favorite hardware store, at Target, or on Amazon. These often come with glass lids, but you won't need a lid.
  • Two clean dishtowels and a rubber band. These will be used to cover your kombucha while it is fermenting.
  • A large stainless steel stockpot, at least 6 quarts. If you are reading my blog, you may already have one of these. If not, you can get one at any decent hardware store.
  • Eight or more 16 oz. kombucha bottles with caps, or pint Mason jars with lids. Some folks have reported that the caps from old kombucha bottles don't seal well, but I haven't found this. Use Mason jars if you prefer!
  • A digital scale. Nowadays you can find them on Amazon for under $10—a totally worthwhile investment.
  • A stainless ladle, stainless funnel (the narrow end must fit in your bottles or jars), and large stainless cooking spoon. If you don't have these exact things, you can probably make do, but they're good to have.
  • A water filter. This can be as simple as a "pitcher" filter (like a Brita). You definitely want a water filter of some sort anyway, even if you're not making kombucha; municipal tap water is full of chlorine, which is pretty good for killing microbes but not so good for drinking.
  • Some masking tape or painter's tape, plus a sharpie or magic marker. You will use this to label your finished kombucha!
  • (optional) A metal mesh strainer, if you are using loose tea. All this gear may sound like a lot to you, but if you've been buying kombucha at the store for $4 a pop, the payoff is pretty quick.


I do this once a week, generally on Sunday night or Monday morning. It takes me about 20 minutes total. It may take you longer the first couple of times.


  1. Assemble 7 or 8 empty containers (bottles or jars). I'll generally rinse them once with hot tap water, then pour some boiling filtered water on them (especially around the lip), then let them cool and/or rinse them with room temp filtered water, then empty them. You may want a towel or something to hold onto them with!
  2. Clean your gear (stockpot, ladle, funnel, spoon, optional strainer). Clean them as you normally would, then pour some boiling filtered water over all their surfaces to get them extra-clean.
  3. Put the bottles or jars in the sink, and move the kombucha container to the edge of the counter next to the sink. This will make cleanup easiest.
  4. Remove the towel from the top of the kombucha vessel.
  5. Start ladling and funneling. Using the ladle, push the "mushroom" down to the bottom of your 2-gallon kombucha jar, put the funnel in the first bottle, and ladle kombucha into the funnel. Then move the funnel to the next bottle, and ladle again. I do one ladle of kombucha into each bottle, then another into each bottle, and so on, until I'm done. This may be two or three rounds, depending on the size of your ladle. You can fill the bottles pretty full, but you don't want the liquid to be touching the cap or lid when you close them. Make sure to leave at least one bottle's worth of kombucha in the vessel—this will be your starter liquid for your next batch. This may sometimes mean that you fill only 7 bottles rather than 8.
  6. Close the caps firmly, rinse the bottles off under the tap, and dry them with a towel. Put a piece of masking tape on each cap, and mark it with today's date. Store the bottles somewhere on the cooler side, but not in the refrigerator if possible. Keeping them out of the fridge will give them an opportunity to ferment a little more, which will help them build up some fizz.

    Make new tea

  7. Boil 1500 grams (1.5 liters, 1.5 quarts) of filtered water. I do this with an electric kettle, then pour it into the clean stockpot. You can boil the water directly in the stockpot if you prefer.
  8. Add 20 grams (7 or so bags) of organic green tea to the stockpot.
  9. Add 200 grams of sugar to the stockpot.
  10. Stir, with the stainless spoon, until all the sugar has dissolved.
  11. Wait 10 or more minutes.
  12. Pour another 2500 grams (2.5 liters, 2.5 quarts) of room temperature or colder filtered water into the stockpot. At this point, the liquid should be cool enough that it won't burn you. You may test this by ladling some off into a glass and sticking your finger in the glass. You should be able to hold your finger in the liquid for as long as you like without pain.
  13. Pour the contents of the stockpot, minus the tea solids, into the 2-gallon vessel. If you're using tea bags, fish them out and discard them beforehand with the spoon; if you're using loose tea, pour the liquid through the mesh strainer.
  14. Put a clean dishtowel onto the top of the vessel, and secure it with a rubber band. It's nice to have two dishtowels so that you can rotate them.
  15. Move the vessel somewhere safe, on the warmer side, out of the way of children and pets, and away from shoes, fruit, and other potential sources of mold. Kombucha likes to stay above 70 degrees F (21 degrees C), but if it's a little cooler than that, it's probably okay.
  16. Wait seven days, then repeat!


If I'm traveling, I'll generally go through my routine through step 6 right before I leave, cover my vessel with a towel, and leave it at room temperature in its usual place while I'm away for up to a few weeks. Then when I get back, I'll pick up at step 7.

Getting started

To get started, acquire a "mushroom" with some starter liquid from a friend who's already making kombucha, or from an online source. Ideally you'll get at least 16 or so ounces (450ml) of liquid along with a piece of "mushroom". If you get approximately this much liquid, put it in your 2-gallon vessel along with the "mushroom", and jump right in at step 7. If you are starting with less liquid, say 8 ounces, try cutting the ingredients in half for your first batch, decant only two bottles after your first week, and then pick up the recipe from there.
This post participates in Kelly the Kitchen Kop's Real Food Wednesday Blog Carnival; also Waste Not Want Not Wednesday at Poor and Gluten Free. Give the carnivals a visit and see some other great real food posts!


Jason said...

wow thanks Alex! this is definitely the most comprehensive kombucha recipe i've been able to find. can't wait to make some.

question though: if i use caffeinated tea (organic of course), will the caffeine still be potent after fermentation?

Alex Lewin said...

Hi Jason,

I'm glad you like the recipe.

And great question!

To start with, it's hard to say how much caffeine is even in a cup of tea. Typical reported numbers are 25mg for green tea and 50mg for black tea. Actual numbers probably vary by a factor of two or three in either direction. (For comparison, a decent cup of coffee contains 100-150mg of caffeine.)

So what effect does the fermentation have on the caffeine content? A good question; unfortunately it's hard to find a definitive answer. I've seen claims that that the kombucha fermentation reduces caffeine to half or a third of its original level. Others claim that the reduction in caffeine is minimal unless the kombucha is allowed to ferment for an unreasonably long time.

I will say this: I am quite sensitive to small amounts of caffeine. I can definitely feel the effect of half a cup of green tea. But when I drink a cup or two of my kombucha, I do not feel the caffeine effect. If your question is motivated by curiosity about the effects of the caffeine in kombucha, my personal experience may be more meaningful to you than conflicting third-hand reports.

Finally, if your goal is to make kombucha with as little caffeine as possible, may I make the following suggestions:

- Use green tea, as I do in my recipe, rather than oolong tea, black tea, or some combination of the three. Green tea has the least caffeine of these. (White tea generally has less caffeine than green tea, but I haven't tried making kombucha with it.)

- You can use a "second infusion" method as follows: pour some hot water over your tea leaves, wait 30 seconds or a minute, dump out the liquid, and finally add more hot water to your tea leaves. The first infusion takes a lot of the caffeine with it (I've seen estimates of 80%) without taking too much of the flavor.

Hope this helps!

Obat Herbal Penyempitan Pembuluh Darah said...

i like your information
very nice post

Alex Lewin said...

Thank you Darah!

linda @ Axiom at Home said...

This is a very timely post for me as I just purchased everything I need to make kombucha and have been waiting to actually make it. I think this post is the incentive I needed.

Alex Lewin said...

Glad to hear it, Linda. Good luck with your brewing! Post back here if you have questions and I'll try to help.

Anonymous said...

Hey Alex!

I'm started brewing Kombucha via this blog. Question - do you leave the mushroom in the jug along with the remaining volume of starter liquid, or do you take it out for subsequent batches? Thank you!

Alex Lewin said...

Hi Anonymous,

Great question! I should probably add this info to the original post, or do a follow-up post, or something.

I just leave the mushroom in the jug with the starter liquid, and when the time comes, I pour the room temp or warm (but not hot) sweet tea over it. The mushroom pops back to the top, either immediately or within a day or three.

At some point (every month or two?), the mushroom will get so thick that you'll want to thin it out. Peel layers off, like pancakes. It doesn't matter if the pancakes rip and look ugly (the recipients' kombucha vessels may not have have the same diameter as yours anyway). Put the extra pieces in pint or quart mason jars with some liquid, and give them to your friends, along with a link to this blog post!

The jars are fine at room temp for a reasonable length of time (a week or two or maybe three?). I used to put them in the fridge, but someone who makes kombucha commercially told me that this can mess up the balance of microbes--so I don't do it any more.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the detailed directions. I received a scoby over the weekend and am about to make my first batch. I am very sensitive to caffeine. Can you use Red Rooibos Tea? Or should I just use the “second infusion” method you describe? I’ve ordered your book. It will be here tomorrow. I’m very excited.

Alex Lewin said...

Dear Anon #2,

Congratulations! I'm glad you're taking the plunge. Welcome to kombuchaland.

I definitely get a buzz when I drink a cup of green tea, but when I drink my homebrew kombucha, I do not get this buzz. So I think a significant portion of the caffeine is getting metabolized by the beasties.

Combine that fact with the "second infusion" method, and you are probably in good shape. (I hope so.)

Also, if it's health benefits that you're after, you don't need to drink a whole lot. 4 ozs. (100mL) per day, first thing in the morning on a completely empty stomach (before drinking water if possible), should do the trick.

I do recommend making the first couple of batches using green tea or some other type of actual tea from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. My understanding is that successful, long-lived kombucha depends on some properties of this species. Once you have made a couple of batches and have an extra "mushroom" and some liquid, that may be the time to start a second kombucha factory using rooibos.

The "rooibucha" may survive only a few generations, or it may survive forever--I haven't made rooibucha for a long time. But this way, if the rooibucha does fail, you'll still have your tea kombucha to fall back on.

Hope this helps.

obat kanker payudara said...

thank's for your information and i like your post two thumb up for you

Alex Lewin said...

Obat, I'm glad you like the post!

ZoomZoom said...

I've been making my own red wine vinegar batches for a year now and have a very large "SCOOBY" like cap floating in the ferment. Do you think I could use 1/2 of it as a starter for Kombucha? As a side note, what do you think about eating the cap directly?

Alex Lewin said...


Very good questions.

As far as eating: I know people who do this. People also pulverize SCOBYs and use the resulting paste as a facial tonic or scalp treatment (I might try that).

As far as using a vinegar starter for kombucha: Vinegar cultures are similar to kombucha cultures, and probably close enough to be interchangeable. Grab a piece of the cap and some of the liquid, give it a shot, and post back here again to let us know how it worked!