Kombucha 101

Meet kombucha, your new fermented and fizzy best friend.

Now kombucha is a selfless friend, providing you with an abundance of health benefits without requiring much in return, just a few minutes once a week.

What is kombucha?

Kombucha is a fermented sweet tea that is widely consumed for its health benefits. The fermentation process requires a SCOBY, a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.” SCOBYs are also sometimes referred to as “mothers” (since they reproduce with each batch of kombucha brewed) or “mushrooms” (because of their appearance).

It is thought that kombucha originated in Asia around 200 BC. It was referred to as the “Remedy for Immortality” or the “Tea of Immortality.”

The health benefits of kombucha

Kombucha contains a significant amount of antioxidants, glucuronic acid, glucon acid, lactic acid, B vitamins, amino acids, and probiotics. These properties give kombucha a wide variety of health benefits:

Aids digestion

Probiotics and enzymes work wonders for the gutty-works.

Helps to boost the immune system

Kombucha is very rich in antioxidants, which strengthen the immune system and neutralize free radicals. Plus, 70% of our immune system is in the gut, which kombucha’s probiotics and enzymes greatly assist.

Promotes detoxification

Kombucha’s helpful bacterias and enzymes are necessary for our natural detoxification systems, and it can reduce pancreatic load and prevent your liver from becoming overburdened.

May reduce risk of arthritis

Kombucha contains a high amount of glucosamines, which are necessary for healthy joints. Glucosamines enhance the production of hyaluronic acid, which can help preserve cartilage structure and reduce arthritic pain. It is known that hyaluronic acid provides pain relief that is comparable to NSAIDs. This acid makes it possible for connective tissues in the body to bind great amounts of moisture, and it facilitates the maintenance of healthy tissue structure as well as the lubrication and flexibility of joints.

Kombucha’s detoxifying properties and high concentration of glucaric acid is even believed by some to prevent cancer. In his autobiography, Nobel Prize-winning Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote that his stomach cancer was cured by his regular kombucha consumption. After President Ronald Reagan learned of this claim, he began drinking kombucha to prevent his cancer from spreading. The president survived his cancer. Was the kombcha responsible? Who knows.

How to brew kombucha

kombucha 101

While kombucha is now widely available at health food stores, a single bottle costs around $3.50 on average! So if you plan to consume komubcha often, this would be quite a large expense.

Fortunately, kombucha is extremely simple to brew at home. All you need is:

*You can purchase a SCOBY online, get one from a ‘buch brewing friend, or grow your own kombucha SCOBY.

** If you purchase a SCOBY online, it will likely come in a package with starter kombucha. You may also use a bottle of store-bought kombucha. 

While I am going to go through the brewing process using a one-gallon jar, you may simply double the ingredients if using a two-gallon jar and half the ingredients if using a half-gallon jar. (I use a half-gallon jar at home since I am the only kombucha drinker!)

The brewing process is incredibly simple:

  1. Brew a little less than one gallon of tea (using 5 tea bags or 5 teaspoons of loose tea) and sweeten it adding 5 tablespoons of sugar (the sugar is necessary for the fermentation process; the SCOBY consumes most of the sugar, which in turn does not end up in the final product). Let the tea cool to room temperature, which can take up to 3 hours. 
  2. Sterilize your jar by washing it thoroughly with hot water.
  3. Pour the 8 oz of starter kombucha into the jar, followed by the sweetened tea (now cooled to room temp). Do not pour the tea to the very top of the jar: leave about 2 inches at the top for the SCOBY and to prevent spillage. Mix the two together.
  4. Gently place the SCOBY on the top of the mixture (it is fine if it does not lay flat).
  5. Cover the jar with cheese cloth or a tea towel and secure with a rubber band.
  6. Place the jar in a cool dry place for a week (I stick mine in the cupboard).
  7. Periodically check on your kombucha to make sure your SCOBY does not grow any mold. If you see mold, immediately discard everything and start over.
  8. After a week, remove the SCOBY (which now should be considerably thicker), set 8 oz of the kombucha aside, and pour the remaining kombucha into airtight jars or glass bottles. If you plan to add any spices such as raw ginger, cloves, or cinnamon sticks, or fruit for flavor, now is the time to add it. You can start back at step 1 with a new brew, using the SCOBY and the 8 oz of kombucha you set aside (be sure to sterilize the jar and other materials before starting your next brew).
  9. Place the jars or bottles of kombucha in a cool dry place again for two more days. This step allows the kombucha to carbonate.
  10. After two days, place the jars or bottles in the fridge and begin drinking!

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  1. I’ve been brewing Kombucha for about two years now. I can’t seem to get a fizz, and I do everything correctly, even using Gorsch bottles. I did get ONE bottle that fizzed once (it was fabulous), but only that one bottle out of the many I do. I have a system down and do the same thing for each bottle each time, so I have no idea why this happened. I do brew for at least two weeks but sometimes three. Do you think I’m brewing too long for a fizz? They sit on a shelf in my kitchen/eating area, usually in the low 70’s, and behind a drop cloth to avoid direct sun exposure. My SCOBY’s get huge too, so I feel like they are doing their thing great. I use oolong or darjeeling tea, organic too from Mountain Rose Herbs. Any ideas or thoughts? Thanks.

  2. Oh, one more thing. I don’t refrigerate my bottles until I need them cold. That could be a week before going in the fridge after bottling. Does this make a difference, really?

  3. Martha, I’ve been having the same issue, although I have gotten fizz a few times but not consistently and I do it the same every time! I do get fizz almost every time when I use fruit and let it ferment a second time not without. 🙁

  4. Lizzette, thanks for the comment. When I first started doing it, I did it with the fruit a second time as well, but it didn’t seem to be any different than without, so I stopped doing that as it was an extra step that didn’t make a difference. Hmmm, not sure what to think about it.

  5. Hi, ladies! I have personally never had a problem with carbonation. Granted, it is not as carbonated as soda, but the swing-top bottle gives a champagne-like “pop” every time I open it, and you can physically see the bubbles when it is in a glass. Do you do the second fermentation (keeping it in a tightly-sealed container while sitting in room temp before you move it to the fridge)? In my experience, this step is responsible for the carbonation.

    Check out what Kombucha Kamp has to say about this issue (they’re my go-to resource whenever I have any questions!): http://www.kombuchakamp.com/2011/01/kombucha-carbonation-for-beginners.html

  6. You will not get any carbonation if there is no sugar left in the liquid during the second stage of fermentation in the Gorsh bottles. Add a small amount of freshly squeezed fruit juice when you bottle. Use only a small amount as too much will lead to too much gas production and the bottles can become over pressured.

  7. Andrew, Thank you so much for that advice. I feel like that is a “duh” moment for me now. I should have known that. Thanks! I will give that a try when I bottle it this evening. I’m thinking just a squirt of lemon will do it. We like to mix the fruit juice in right before drinking, and I’m thinking that lemon blends well with most fruits without overpowering it.

  8. I agree with Andrew. I think you are fermenting it too long before you are actually consuming it, therefore, all of the sugar has been consumed and the fizz is gone. Just a guess on my part.

  9. Going to try this recipe. How long does the 8 oz reserved liquid in the bottle last? There is only me using it, so it may be a few weeks between batches.

    Also, I have a huge variety of custom tea blends– i.e. white/green/black/fruity…. will these work as long as they are caffeinated?

  10. I recently experimented and added more sugar into the bottles during my second stage of fermentation and they were EXTREMELY carbonated! Probably too much so – the lid REALLY popped! I’m sure as Andrew suggested, fruit juice would work well, too.

  11. I noticed that this recipe calls for a scoby AND kombucha mixed with the tea however when I do not have a SCOBY, I just get a store bought kombucha and add to my tea and another SCOBY is created after a week…..just figured I’d mention it.

  12. I made my first continuous brew a couple of weeks ago.and it became so vinegar tasting that we were unable to drink it. I tried adding more sweet tea to the brew but it did not take the vinegar taste away. What might I have done wrong? And can you make it right once it turns to vinegar?

  13. Ohh you likely brewed it for too long. How many days? With the warmer weather, it takes about half the time it does for me in the winter.

    You probably don’t want to drink it but the good news is that it will make a great starter kombucha for your next batch!

  14. Hi there,
    I have been brewing ‘buch for about 3 months now. Things are going well, I get carbonation, good flavor and such, however the part that always throws me for a loop is when I have to take the SCOBY out from the finished brew.

    Am I supposed to peel a bottom layer off of the thick SCOBY I have developed or do I start with a baby again?

    This time around I peeled the bottom layer (the layer touching the tea) and threw the baby with Mother in the gallon jug..

    Is it more advisable to continue using the Mother Scoby or use the baby each time I brew?

    I may be over thinking this entire process and i have done some online research; this is the one area that confuses me every time!

    Thank you for any input you can share.
    Help!

  15. Thank you. If I keep the mother and babies together, should I increase the added sugar? Won’t the sugar be eaten rather quickly?

  16. Yes, it will – which means the brew time will be shorter (which I personally prefer – more kombucha!).

  17. hi,

    I am very allergic to the entire family of NSAIDS and searching for alternatives methods than the series of pain medication I am currently taking, would it safe for me to take this approach?

  18. Fermenting all he sugars away, at low 70’s 10 or 11 days, then into the bottles will give you fizz, or let it go 2 weeks, then put strawberry pieces in or something, the sugar from the berries will make the fizz.