How to Brew Your Own Kombucha, Flavor It, and Care for Your Mother
Well, I can’t teach you to care for your actual mother, as the title of this post may imply, but I can give you notes on how to brew, bottle, and flavor your own kombucha as well as tips on growing your own starter and caring for scobies. Below is my recipe for Kombucha, handed down to me from Amanda H-W along with a scoby that has now grown a whole extended family of scobies! I’ve added in my notes to the information Amanda originally gave me.
- Black tea, green tea, or any non-herbal tea: 4 family-sized iced tea bags*
- 8 cups of boiling water
- 3 cups of white, granulated sugar (can go down to 2.75 cups. Can slowly replace with honey or another sugar source)
- 8 cups of cold water
- At least 1 Scoby (starter/mother. You can buy these online or grow your own, see below)
*If your scoby is used to black tea, you can gradually transition it to green tea (or from green to black, or other non-herbal tea). Just feed it half black/half green, then 3/4 green 1/4 black the next time, etc.
- Very clean, large brewing vessel able to hold 16 cups of water with several inches at top. Must not be metal, plastic, or ceramic with toxic glazes. Glass is what I go with to be safe
- Very clean hands/everything
- Clean wooden spoon for stirring
- Measuring cups
- Large ladle and funnel are handy for transferring ingredients between containers
- Fine weave, clean cloth(s) to cover brewing vessels and scoby hotels (see below for more information about scoby hotels)
- Rubber bands or string to hold clean cloths to top of vessels
Process for Brewing
- Boil 8 cups of water in a very large pot (capable of holding 16+ cups). Scale recipe as needed for smaller/larger batches.
- Brew 4 family-sized iced tea bags (5 minutes or longer).
- Stir in 2.75-3 cups of sugar with a clean wooden spoon until completely dissolved.
- Add 8 cups of cold water and stir.
- Let cool completely to room temperature. This is very important, as if the mixture is too hot, it can kill your scoby.
- Pour tea into brewing vessel (such as a large glass vase or jar).
- Add in a scoby (mother) or more. Make sure to add a cup or more of starter liquid (liquid from the hotel the scoby was being stored in, after stirring said liquid in its original storage container)
- In a well-climate controlled house and/or during summer, brew 4-6 days. In winter, it may take longer. Check progress every few days for growth of a new scoby on top.
- Put scoby back in hotel with several cups of the brew plus some fresh tea if desired. Make sure it is fully covered with tea/starter liquid and has breathing room in the hotel.
- Decant kombocha brew into clean glass containers with corks or other tops conducive to fermented brews.
- If desired, add small amounts of chopped up flavorings (see below). Then allow to sit open on counter 15 minutes or so to incorporate flavors before corking and storing in fridge for up to 1 month
Ideas for Flavoring Kobucha
Never add anything with oil in it to kombucha. It could create botulism
Never add flavorings to your kombucha while your scoby is still in it. Never add flavorings to your scoby hotel.
- Citrus: Lime, Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit
- Berries: Blackberry, Blueberry, Strawberry, Dewberry, Mulberry
- Other fruits, Such as Apple, Pineapple, Etc.
- Hot Pepper Flaks or Powders
- Cilantro (the leaves themselves didn’t hold up well, but the flavor was nice!)
- Anything else your heart desires as long as it follows the rules at the top!
I recommend even unflavored kombucha straight up or on the rocks! You can also use flavored or un-flavored as a mixer for all types of cocktails! I’ll have to share some recipes in the future!
I’ve used it mixed half and half with white wine, with gin, vodka, whiskey, bourbon, tequila and spicy ginger-ale etc.!
In-between brewing sessions or as you continue to grow more and more scobies and want a nice home for them/want a nice way to give them away to friends, it is best to store the scobies in a hotel. A hotel can be any clean, glass vessel covered with a clean, fine weave cloth.
Just add your scoby or scobys to the container with a cup or more of starter liquid (last brew reserved, after stirring the brew to make sure it is a good core sampling of the whole) plus fresh tea.
Store out of direct sunlight. I’ve left mine up to around 3 months without doing a thing, and they have been fine.
Periodically, remove some liquid from hotel (after stirring) and add fresh tea. The removed liquid may be vinegar, in which case it is great to cook with, season with, or drink if you like that sort of thing (I do!)
A few times a year, make sure to remove the scobies from the hotel and clean off excess yeast strands (long brown dangling things). Keep them covered in a clean bowl with a cloth over it to prevent fruit flies getting in while you scrub down the hotel with hot soapy water and then rinse very well and dry before returning the scoby to its hotel. Just always make sure to keep it in some of the (old) starter liquid from the previous batch of brew and feed it fresh tea every few months at least. Check on it when you can. It will grow new scobies as it stays in the hotel as long as you keep adding fresh tea.
Note: When I first got my scoby, it was in a ziplock bag with starter liquid in the fridge to slow growth. Some folks do this. I just evolved to the hotel model, and my scobies have been happy. Plus I figured since they’re not supposed to be in plastic, and ziplocks are plastic, that it might be best.
The above video has some good information. I do touch the scobies with my bare hands, though, which she does not. I just make sure my hands are very clean. Ferments/cultures get used to their owners, is my belief from watching this short documentary series, People’s Republic of Fermentation: https://youtu.be/M4elw9rIs9Y
- Learn to identify mold/not mold on Kombucha. This link is helpful, https://www.kombuchakamp.com/kombucha-mold-information-and-pictures I had a few scares myself, but now I can tell the white yeast growth from the mold pretty well, and in 2 years I haven’t had any issues with mold
- If your kombucha didn’t brew in 4-6 days, check the temp. Is it cold out? Try storing it in a warmer, yet dark place (some folks like on top of the fridge). First you will see a layer of tiny bubbles. Then it will form a paper-thin layer on top, largely white in color. This will thicken over time.
- If your komucha doesn’t seem to be growing, make sure your tea wasn’t too hot when you added it, which can kill it
- Make sure no bugs or other creatures can disturb your kombucha
- I recommend the Facebook Group, Wild Fermentation Uncensored for any other questions or to share your fun!</li?
Growing Your Own Scoby from Scratch
You can grow your own scoby from a bottle of unflavored kombucha from the store. Just add it to a brewing vessel (like a large mason jar), add in the tea from the recipe at the start, and allow 4-6 weeks to begin seeing growth. Keep feeding it, and it will learn to grow with yer lurve. <3