Sure, Kombucha is pretty easily found in glass bottles. If you’re lucky enough to live near Berkeley, you can even hit the House Kombucha Taproom which serves up zero waste ramen and boba tea, as well!
But store-bought kombucha can be a little pricy. And those caps are plastic, who are we kidding? Even buying drinks or food packaged in glass will often have some plastic element: the caps, a plastic safety-film covering the cap, a plastic-liner inside the spice container, or even the little shaker part in the spice jar…. there’s always some element of plastic.
Aside from the debatable health benefits of kombucha, I really enjoy the taste. I had terrible FODMAP intolerance before I started drinking kombucha regularly. And ever since that discovery, I drink it every day.
But at $2-4 per bottle, those drinks add up. Yet the idea of making my own was intimidating. SCOBY? What the heck is that? I have to keep some giant snot-like mass alive? Like some bacterial pet?
No, actually, that was pretty exciting.So where does one find this SCOBY? Which by the way, stands for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” Similar to sourdough starter, the internet often tells you that you need to get a SCOBY from a friend who already brews kombucha. Super helpful, right?
Well, what if I told you that you can make your own. No friends required!
That’s right fellow loners, you, too, can brew your own kombucha without having to talk to people. Simply start with a bottle of store-bought kombucha. Your favorite flavor.
Might I recommend organic?
Pour a bit into a glass. Do you see anything floating on top? No? Drink it, and pour some more.You’re looking for little floating bits… it might even look like a cluster of bubbles but when you look a bit closer, you realize there’s some gunk in there. Like if someone hocked a loog into your tea.
That’s your baby SCOBY. Name it. We will call this your starter kombucha. Mine is named Scoby Bryant. And this baby is what is going to grow into a big SCOBY… in about a week!
Now you’re ready to start your Kombucha.
And if you don’t see any little floaty bits, don’t panic. There’s still bacteria in the kombucha, it’ll still work. Use it anyway!
- 1 clean pint size mason jar (boil it in water for about 10 minutes – do not use antibacterial soap or alcohol!)
- 2 cups hot water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup starter kombucha – with baby SCOBY floaters.
- 2 grams of organic black of green tea (about 2 bags worth)
After sanitizing the mason jar by boiling it in water for ten minutes, fill with 1/3 cup of sugar and pour in the water. Swirl the jar gently until the sugar dissolves, then using whatever tea-steeping method you prefer, steep the tea for 10-15 minutes, then remove, or strain the tea from the jar.Allow the jar to cool to room temperature – this is very important.
Hot water will kill your SCOBY. Cold water will shock it. It’s just like transporting your goldfish to a clean tank, you want to make sure the water feels the same so you don’t shock the little darling.
Once the mixture reaches room temperature, carefully pour in the starter kombucha.
Cover the jar with a piece of cheese cloth or even a paper coffee filter. It needs to breathe, but you don’t want flies getting in, that would be super gross. If using a mason jar, you can secure the paper or cloth on top with the mason jar lid ring. Otherwise, reuse a rubber band or piece of twin to secure.
Now store the jar in a warm, dark spot for about a week. I put mine in the cabinet next to the stove which remains fairly warm. You don’t want it to be hot, of course. Around 70-75F would be ideal.
After 5-8 days, you’ll notice that your baby SCOBY is now a mama SCOBY and you’re ready to brew your Kombucha!
Now first batch is technically ready to drink, but usually won’t be as tasty as the next batch. Try a bit, then use the Mama SCOBY and remaining liquid to go into the next batch, which can be as big as you want it. I’m going with a quart size this time instead of a pint.Now you’ll repeat the process, only increase the ingredient quantities.
- 1 Mama SCOBY
- 8 cups filtered water
- 6 grams black or green tea (about 6 tea bags)
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup starter kombucha
In a quart size mason jar, pour in 1/2 cup of sugar and 4 cups of hot water – hot enough to dissolve the sugar, but not necessarily boiling. Once dissolved, add the tea and steep for 10-15 minutes. Remove/strain tea, and add the remaining 4 cups of cold water, this will help cool it down faster.
Again, you want to expose the SCOBY to room temperature water so you don’t shock it. So once the mixture is cooled, you can add the SCOBY with the 1/2 cup of kombucha it was floating in.
Cover the jar with cheese cloth or a coffee filter and place it back in the cabinet to do its thing. Fermentation, baby. You’ll want to wait another at least 7 days, but ideally 14.
The longer you wait for this stage, the more carbonated it will become.
Bottling and Flavoring:
This is the fun part, the part where you get to play Mad Scientist. Whatever flavors you love, use ’em. Really into ginger? Chop some up! Fresh berries? Perfect. How about turmeric and pepper? Hmm, doesn’t sound super tasty but I hear it’s good for inflammation. Go for it, friend.
You can bottle them in whatever glass containers you have. You can even reuse the glass kombucha bottles you originally purchased your starter kombucha in! But if you want something a little fancier, these bottles seal and store kombucha perfectly:
Place a little of whatever ingredient you want to use in the cleaned bottles. Let’s say cayenne because I’m spicy. I’ll drop a little piece of cayenne in the bottle, and fill the bottle with the second batch, making sure I leave myself about a cup for the SCOBY and next batch.
Make sure to fill pretty close to the top – only leaving less than an inch of space whenever possible. This reduces the amount of oxygen present and allows for more carbon dioxide to dissolve, meaning more bubbles!
Seal the bottle and allow it to rest for a few days — the longer it sits, the more carbonated it will get.
BUT THIS IS IMPORTANT:
SET YOU ALARM TO GO OFF EVERY 24 HOURS. Ideally at a time you know you’ll be home.
YOU MUST BURP THE BABIES!
That’s right, these bottles are gassy and need to be burped. If you forget, they won’t cry. They’ll explode. Hahaaaa, lots of fun. Just release the cap once a day, you’ll hear a cute little hiss, and then re-seal.
Truth be told I went 36 hours without burping a bottle and it was okay, no explosions. But why risk it? I’ve heard horror stories, so try to be on top of this.
Pro-tip: fresher kombucha tastes better. But you can store these bottles in the fridge for upwards of 3 months due to their low pH.
Is it safe to consume the SCOBY?
Absolutely. If you swallow little bits, it’s just healthy bacteria.
My SCOBY is black
That’s messed up. Don’t drink that, start over.
My Kombucha isn’t carbonated enough
Try adding 1/2 cup of fruit juice to your next batch, or allow it to ferment for an extra week.
Can I seal the kombucha when fermenting? Or do I have to use a cheese cloth
If you don’t want to use cheese cloth or a coffee filter to allow air to get into but keep the bugs out, you can seal the kombucha with a lid. Just make sure you’re burping it every 24 hours as described above.
Instead of black or green tea, can I use herbal tea?
Not this time. The SCOBY needs the caffeine to thrive, just like me.
Do I need to sterilize these jars?
Unless you have an autoclave, I don’t see how that is possible. But no, you do not. In fact, you don’t want to use alcohol or antibacterial soap either. You just want the jars sanitized, which is why I recommend boiling water. Remember, SCOBY is bacteria, good bacteria, but antibacterial soap or alcohol will kill it.