Did you know you can make your own kombucha brew at home for pennies and not dollars a serving? I discovered this years ago after getting hooked on this fabulous, fizzy, probiotic beverage.
Over time, I've shared this easy one-gallon recipe with friends and now they are happily brewing kombucha and saving significant money.
Plus, they have all remarked how much better it tastes than store-bought kombucha which can be harsh and vinegary by comparison.
This recipe is a first ferment kombucha brew that can be tailored to the level of tartness you like. It's also the ideal starter kombucha for extra-fizzy, second-fermentation Fruit-Flavored Brews you make at home.
Wondering how to pronounce kombucha? The widely accepted way is kuhm·boo·chuh and sounds like this audio clip.
Why it works
- One-gallon batch
- Simple instructions
- Mellow flavor
- Live probiotics
I still remember the first bottle of store-bought kombucha I tasted. Hubby and I were vacationing at our favorite hot springs resort. That summer, the heat was shimmering in the upper 90’s.
One day we visited the on-site health food store on a mission to quench our thirst. We were looking for something new and bubbly to do the trick.
Needless to say, that first icy-cold bottle of fermented kombucha lightly sweetened with Asian pear and spices made a lasting impression.
Once we returned home, I still craved that amazing kombucha. When I read about the health benefits of homemade kombucha I wanted it even more.
Even though that first exquisite kombucha tasted worth every penny, it wasn’t cheap. Furthermore, the problem of cost didn’t end with our vacation since I was completely hooked.
So, I set out looking for an economical way to make it at home. Initially, the process was baffling. However, it didn’t take long to solve the mysteries of kombucha brew from scratch. Plus, guess what I discovered?
Not only can you reduce the cost of kombucha by brewing it yourself, but you can make it for pennies on the dollar.
When I crunched the numbers, calculating the cost of organic loose-leaf tea, organic raw sugar, and kombucha starter liquid, I was flabbergasted.
I did the math over several times because I couldn’t believe it. Astonishingly, I discovered on average you can make a 16-ounce bottle of plain homemade kombucha for less than 25 cents.
- Starter liquid - Plain unflavored, unpasteurized homemade or store-bought kombucha.
- SCOBY - Purchased, from a friend, or grow your own.
- Water - Filtered or purified bottled water without chlorine.
- Sugar - Organic evaporated raw cane sugar.
- Tea - Unflavored loose-leaf or natural tea bags. See tips on varieties below.
- Saucepan - To boil sugar and tea in water.
- Strainer - A fine mesh standard kitchen variety.
- Large jar - One gallon or two half-gallon-sized jars.
- Cloth - Tight-weave breathable cotton cloth to fit the top of the jar. No cheesecloth.
- Rubber band - Large size to secure cloth on top of the jar.
- Boil water with tea and sugar.
- Cool and strain tea.
- Combine tea, water, and starter kombucha in a gallon jar.
- Place SCOBY at the top of the jar.
Best tea for kombucha
All teas from Camellia sinensis, including white, green, oolong, black, and Pu'er are excellent for brewing kombucha. Many people prefer a mix of equal parts green and black.
White tea produces a milder kombucha brew with the least caffeine and green tea is said to grow healthier SCOBYs. So, go ahead and use a singular tea or experiment to find your favorite blend. I prefer an equal mix of organic green and black tea for the flavor and cost.
Caffeine, as well as the other compounds in camellia Sinensis tea, provide the unique, necessary nutrients that make home brew kombucha possible. This is why herbal teas are not ideal for brewing kombucha.
While it is possible to use alternatives like yerba mate and rooibos, there will be a higher chance of success and fewer surprises if you stick to the traditional use of camellia Sinensis.
Finally, make sure the tea is pure and not flavored or mixed with any other ingredients.
Once you place a cloth and rubber band over the top of your jar, how long you ferment your kombucha brew is up to you. An equal balance of sweet and tart flavors is a good starting place.
Naturally, you'll want to wait long enough to develop the kombucha's healthful qualities, but after that, you get to decide just how tart you want your fermented tea to be.
Depending on how warm your environment is, a fully mature kombucha brew typically takes anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks.
Homemade plain raw kombucha is delightful on its own. But you don't have to stop there. I always do a second fermentation with organic fruit for enhanced flavor and natural carbonation.
I think ample bubbles increase kombucha’s refreshing quality tenfold. A second ferment is also a great way to use free or wild fruit and experience exotic flavors like pink guava.
You can read all about how to do it here on the blog in my post on Flavoring Kombucha.
It's worth noting that even when I choose the most costly fruit from the market, the highest expense is 89 cents for a 16-ounce bottle. What a savings from buying kombucha at the grocery store!
When you add fruit and bottle kombucha for a second fermentation, the nuances of flavors from the fruit, herbs, and spices you choose are limitless. Our visitors always remark how much they prefer the taste of homemade over store-bought.
Finally, unlike bottles from the market, with homebrew you are guaranteed natural versus artificial carbonation. So grab your gallon jar, some organic tea, raw sugar, and a SCOBY, and go for it. Believe me, it’s a good kind of obsession.
- Use unflavored real tea that is not decaffeinated. See notes on best tea above.
- Use evaporated cane sugar, preferably organic.
- Use filtered or purified water without chlorine.
- Clean hands and equipment and make sure there are no traces of soap present.
- A glass jar is preferred. Don't use plastic.
- Cool sweetened tea to room temperature before adding starter liquid and SCOBY.
- Use a tight-weave thin cotton fabric that breathes to cover the brewing jar.
- Cheesecloth is not recommended as small insects can crawl through it.
- Store kombucha brew in a dark location, (pantry or cupboard) where it won't get jostled.
- Test flavor by slipping a finger-capped straw down the side and extracting a taste.
- Throw out any batch that shows signs of mold or smells foul.
- Always set aside a portion of starter liquid, (1 ½ cups per gallon) to brew the next batch.
- You can rinse SCOBYS in filtered water and trim or cut them as needed.
Yes. Traditional kombucha is brewed with tea that contains caffeine. However, during fermentation, both the sugars and caffeine are largely reduced. Amounts vary with the tea used, but residual caffeine averages between 3 mg. and 25 mg. per cup of kombucha.
You can reduce sugar once you have experience, but I recommend starting with 1 cup per gallon of brewing for best results. You need sufficient sugar for a SCOBY to feed on. Keep in mind sugar is consumed by a SCOBY while kombucha ferments and only a small amount of residual sugar is left when your kombucha brew is ready to drink.
Homemade kombucha will last tightly capped in the refrigerator for a long while and doesn't really go bad or spoil. The question is more one of how gradually the taste changes until it resembles vinegar. Typically, this recipe holds its initial flavor for about one month. After that, it becomes increasingly sour.
More healthy beverage recipes
Kombucha Brew For Pennies
- 1 medium saucepan
- 1 gallon jar
- 1 medium strainer
- 6 inch square piece tight-weave breathable cotton piece
- 1 rubber band
- 1 gallon filtered or bottled water without chlorine
- 1 cup organic evaporated cane sugar
- ¼ cup loose-leaf black tea or half green and black tea
- 1 ½ cups unflavored, unpastuerized plain kombucha
- 1 live scoby (gallon brew) or 2 SCOBYs (half-gallon brew)
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add sugar and tea. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let tea steep 1 hour until it is room temperature.
If brewing in a one gallon jar
- Strain the tea leaves from the brewed tea. Pour tea into one gallon jar and top with water to about ¾ full. Test the temperature. It should be lukewarm or cooler. If it is not, stir in a few ice cubes to cool mixture.
- Pour 1 ½ cups of starter liquid from growing a scoby into the jar. Or, use store-bought unflavored, unpastuerized kombucha. Finish topping off the jar with water. Leave enough room to float your scoby on top. Gently add the SCOBY.
If brewing in two half-gallon jars
- Strain the tea leaves from the brewed tea. Pour all the tea into one of the half-gallon jars and top to ¾ full with water. Test the temperature and add a couple ice cubes if needed. It should be lukewarm or cooler.
- Pour 1 ½ cups of starter liquid from growing a scoby into the jar. Or, use store-bought, unflavored, unpastuerized kombucha. Finish topping off your first jar with water.
- Pour half of the mixture into the second half gallon jar. Top both jars with water. Leave enough room to float a scoby at top of each jar. Gently float the SCOBYs on top.
- Cover the jar(s) of kombucha with breathable cotton cloth and secure with rubber band. Don't use cheesecloth as it lets tiny insects in.
- Place kombucha brew in a dark cupboard. Check in 7 days for balanced flavor, not too sweet or too tart. Slide a straw down the side of the jar and cap top end with finger to draw out a sample. Continue checking every couple of days if needed, up to 3 weeks in cold climates.
- Once your kombucha brew full of beneficial probiotics has the taste you prefer it's ready to drink. Serve it chilled or over ice.
- Store kombucha brew in a tightly capped bottle in the refrigerator up to one month. After that it will grow increasing tart leaning towards vinegar. You can use kombucha vinegar in salad dressings and other recipes.
Optional second fermentation
- If desired add fruit for a second fermentation. Your double-fermented kombucha will taste fantastic and be full of lively carbonation!