How to make a one-gallon jar of Kombucha Tea
Anybody can learn how to make kombucha at home. Follow this easy step-by-step kombucha tea recipe designed for anyone who wants to brew up to a gallon in their first batch.
The gist of it is: make sweet tea, add the kombucha culture, wait.
Homemade kombucha is the best kombucha!
Brewing Homemade Kombucha Supply List:
To make kombucha tea you will need a few specific supplies:
-Large glass or ceramic container
-Flip-top fermentation bottles
-Kombucha starter kit (optional)
Black tea is by far the best option when it comes to brewing your own kombucha. Not only is it sure to provide a delicious base flavor for your kombucha tea, but it ferments easily and will keep your SCOBY very happy!
SCOBY & Starter Tea:
The SCOBY, short for “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” does all the work when it comes to making your delicious kombucha! While kombucha starts out as nothing but a sugary tea, the SCOBY feeds on the sugars, fermenting the tea and creating a deliciously fizzy, probiotic-filled beverage for you to enjoy!
If you don’t already have the starter tea or a SCOBY, you can order one from Amazon (see my recommended products below). The culture will play a significant role in the flavor of your finished kombucha so you may want to experiment with cultures from various sources and see what you like the best.
The starter tea can be either 1 cup of liquid from a previous batch of kombucha for each gallon of sweetened tea or store-bought bottled kombucha (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored).
Large glass or ceramic container:
You can’t have kombucha if you don’t have a jar! You’ll need a large, food-safe glass or ceramic container to keep your kombucha in during the fermentation process. It is best if it is able to contain least one gallon of liquid, has a spigot, and a wide mouth. Just add in your black tea and other ingredients, then sit back, relax, and let the SCOBY do all of the work for you!
Cover for the Crock:
In order to ferment properly, the kombucha needs a breathable covering; A few layers of a piece of cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels will do the trick.
Flip-top fermentation bottles:
These bottles are great for storing all of the incredibly delicious kombucha that you’ve brewed! Their tight-seal tops are absolutely perfect for keeping your beverage fresh and flavorful until you’re ready to enjoy it!
Kombucha starter kit:
Kombucha starter kits are a great way to begin brewing your very own kombucha from home, especially if you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by the process! No need to stress- there are many kombucha starter kits available that have most everything you need to get started immediately, without any hassle! Most are incredibly affordable, so they’re a great option even if you think you have everything you need but are still feeling a bit uncertain!
Shop Amazon for the following recommended kombucha brewing supplies:
How to Make Raw Kombucha:
To start the kombucha recipe you will need a starter kombucha, a SCOBY, plain black tea or green tea, sugar and a pot to boil water in; as well as a one-gallon or larger container to ferment in with a cloth and rubber band to cover it.
Begin by brewing a gallon of sweet tea. I use 1 cup of sugar for one-gallon (16 cups ) of tea and eight tea bags or 2 tablespoons of loose-leaf black tea (or green tea).
Once your tea is brewed, remove the tea bags and let it cool to room temperature. When it is thoroughly cooled, add the SCOBY and starter tea. It’s essential to ensure the liquid is completely cooled when you add the SCOBY. You don’t want to accidentally cook the SCOBY and kill it.
The SCOBY may sink or float but it doesn’t matter, it will begin fermenting the tea regardless.
Cover the jar with a piece of cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels and secure with a rubber band.
Ferment for 7 to 10 days: Store the jar in a cupboard or pantry, out of direct sunlight at room temperature.
You will notice that the SCOBY tends to move around during this period. It is normal to find it at the top, bottom, or even sideways during fermentation.
Within a few days, a new layer of SCOBY will start forming on the surface of the kombucha. It might attach to the old SCOBY, or be separate. These are all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.
Next is the hard part: waiting.
Taste and Bottle
It should take roughly a week to 10 days to finish fermenting, but this, like pretty much every other aspect of brewing kombucha, is up to your personal preference. The longer you allow the tea to ferment, the more acidic and less sweet the final product will be.
Conversely, shorter fermentations leave more sugar unconverted and are less acidic. You want to find a happy medium. Test your kombucha every few days to see how it tastes and decide when you’re satisfied with it.
If you are following a keto diet, then check out my post on how to make kombucha keto-friendly. I share some great tips on how you can still enjoy kombucha while on a keto diet.
Avoid metal utensils when testing the kombucha, since metal can react with fermenting kombucha and create off-flavors among other problems. Use a clean glass utensil to check the taste.
The kombucha is ready when it loses its sweetness, has a tangy taste, and fizzes as you pour it.
Once your kombucha is finished fermenting, it is time to bottle it and store it in the refrigerator.
You can use a siphon or pour through a funnel, but make sure to leave around a cup of kombucha in the jar to use to get your next batch started.
Use glass bottles only; I recommend swing-top glass bottles specifically made for carbonated drinks, available on Amazon.
Avoid using plastic bottles because they can easily be damaged, and scratches in the plastic can harbor foreign bacteria. Plastic, even food-grade may contain undesirable chemicals that can be harmful to the kombucha SCOBY.
One thing to consider when bottling is that while the kombucha remains at room temperature, fermentation will still be occurring even if no culture is visible in the bottle.
Because of the pressure, if glass bottles are kept at room temperature long enough, they can explode!
You can avoid that danger by putting them in the fridge after a few days to dramatically slow fermentation, it won’t stop completely, and will resume once it warms up to room temperature again.
Kombucha Recipe Notes & Tips
- Metal will react badly with kombucha so do not use it. Use plastic or glass utensils and a plastic funnel.
- Sanitize your bottle with hot water or white vinegar. I ran mine through the dishwasher with no soap, just hot water.
- Before you remove your SCOBY, it is best to sanitize your hands with white vinegar. Do NOT use soap because it can kill your SCOBY.
- Lastly, kombucha offers a range of potential health benefits. If you’d like to learn more about those benefits please read my post on What are the health benefits of Kombucha Tea?
Homemade Kombucha Tea FAQ:
What does kombucha tea taste like?
Kombucha is a fizzy, sweet, fermented tea that tastes similar to sparkling apple cider, but slightly sourer. Many describe the taste of kombucha as being somewhat “vinegary”. There are many different types of kombucha, and depending on what flavors you decide to add into your batch, it can take on more of a spicy, floral, or fruity flavor! With so many flavor options for this versatile beverage, you are certain to brew a kombucha tea that will have you craving more!
How much alcohol is in kombucha?
While kombucha does contain alcohol, commercial kombucha contains such a small amount (less than .05%) that it is considered to be a “non-alcoholic” drink. However, homebrews can often contain up to 3% alcohol. There are several factors in the fermentation process that influence the alcohol content of your kombucha brew. Fermenting your brew twice or using yeast which ferments at a higher temperature can cause higher alcohol content in your kombucha tea! Make sure to always follow the brewing instructions so you know exactly what you’re getting!
What are the side effects of kombucha?
While kombucha has many benefits, including the ability to settle an uneasy tummy, it can cause unpleasant side effects if your batch becomes contaminated! Some of these side effects include nausea, vomiting, head and neck pain, yeast infections, allergic reactions, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). Due to the risk of contamination, kombucha is not recommended for those who have compromised immune systems. However, if you are a healthy adult, follow brewing instructions, and exercise caution, the risk of brewing a contaminated batch is incredibly low!
What are the health benefits of kombucha?
Kombucha offers many incredible health benefits. This fermented tea is rich in probiotics, a are healthy bacteria which is naturally found in the gut. Consuming probiotics may help to improve overall gut health and is even thought to assist in treating diarrhea and even IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Additionally, studies have shown that kombucha may assist in preventing or managing cancer, heart disease, infections, liver health, and Type 2 diabetes. This miracle beverage is even believed to assist with weight loss and to support good mental health!
Can you use no-calorie sugars such as Stevia and Splenda in kombucha?
Unfortunately, artificial sweeteners such as stevia and Splenda do not ferment well, so it is not a good idea to use them during the initial fermentation process. You can, however, add them during secondary fermentation, but remember- this will increase the alcohol content of your brew. If you are wanting to add a little extra sweetness to your kombucha, and prefer to use a no-calorie sugar, you can always add them in at the time of bottling!
Can you use decaffeinated tea to make kombucha?
The SCOBY, or “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” that you will need in order to brew your very own kombucha at home requires caffeine in order to produce the kombucha; However, because of this, the caffeine level in the tea will decrease as your kombucha goes through the fermentation process. If you want to end up with a caffeine-free brew, it is recommended that you use two bags of caffeinated tea and six bags of caffeinated tea per gallon of water used to create your kombucha.
What kind of brewing vessel should I use to make kombucha? Plastic, metal, or glass?
Choosing the correct brewing vessel for your kombucha is a very important task! While there are many types of kombucha brewing vessels available, many find that the most ideal by far is a food-safe transparent glass container, preferably with a wide-mouth and a spigot, that is at least one gallon large. Traditionally, ceramic vessels were used to brew kombucha; While this method has become less popular in modern times, if you’re looking to get old school with your kombucha brewing, you can’t go wrong with a large ceramic container! No matter what, never get a container that is not “food safe”, and be sure to stay far away from containers that are made from non-stainless steel, brass, aluminum, rubber, crystal, or are homemade pottery pieces!
Should I rinse my SCOBY’s to remove yeast between batches?
If you’re new to brewing kombucha, you might be wondering if it is a good idea to rinse off your SCOBY between batches- the answer is no! When you rinse your SCOBY, you are rinsing off the microorganisms which assist in the kombucha-brewing process. Rinsing your SCOBY can actually be harmful to your brew! It is always best to transfer your SCOBY directly from one batch of kombucha to the next.
How do I store my bottles of kombucha?
Once the fermentation process is complete, you must keep your kombucha stored in the refrigerator at all times, even if you have not opened the bottle yet! Keeping your kombucha outside of the fridge can cause it to take on a foul taste and may also make you sick. This is not ideal for a beverage that is supposed to improve your health, so make sure to keep it nice and cold after bottling!
If you have decided to ferment your kombucha to get it a fizzier mouth feel, then cap bottles and store them in a warm, dark place for 2-3 days. I stored mine in the pantry.
After 2-3 days, remove your kombucha from the pantry and place it in the refrigerator. If your kombucha developed a baby SCOBY in the bottle, remove and toss and then drink.
You mustn’t leave your kombucha in the pantry past the three days. It is imperative to move it to the refrigerator to stop the fermentation process completely.
Can I reduce the amount of sugar in the finished kombucha tea?
If you’re wanting to reduce the amount of sugar in your finished kombucha tea, the best way to go about that is to dilute it in some sparkling water or juice! While juice will add its own sugars into the mix, it might just do the trick if you find you’ve over-sweetened your brew! Otherwise, go with sparkling water to cut down on the sugar. While some people will ferment their kombucha a second time in order to reduce the sugar content, this can increase the alcohol content of your beverage!
Why does my kombucha taste like vinegar?
The organic acids during the fermentation process cause kombucha to take on a vinegar-like taste. However, if the kombucha you’ve brewed comes out tasting overpoweringly like vinegar, chances are you’ve accidentally let it over-ferment! As the tea ferments, it will produce more and more organic acids; The best way to find your “sweet spot” in the future is to taste a bit of your kombucha daily.
Luckily, there is plenty that can be done with over-fermented kombucha besides throwing it out; Try blending the bitter batch in with a new batch or even use it to make salad dressing!
Why does my kombucha taste like alcohol?
If your kombucha ends up tasting like alcohol, it is probably because it contains a higher alcohol content than kombucha ideally should.
It is likely that the yeast became dominant and overpowered the bacteria. For your next batch, reserve the starter liquid from the top of the vessel only and avoid any stirring up of the yeast sediment from the bottom of the jar.
However, yeast can also congregate at the top of your brew, they look like brown strands or clumps (or a brain!) So, just avoid those pieces all together.
Warmer temperatures can also potentially cause yeast to become more dominant and reducing bacteria’s ability to acidify resulting in a kombucha tea that tastes much stronger and like alcohol than previous batches.
There are many fermented drinks beyond kombucha. Check out this article that gives you an in-depth look at fermented drinks from around the world.