Make Homemade Kombucha: A Step-by-Step Guide

make your own kombucha

Make Your Own Kombucha

Kombucha has undoubtedly taken the beverage world by storm, captivating health-conscious consumers with its distinctive tart and effervescent flavor profile.

While the store-bought varieties may seem enticing, there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of crafting your own kombucha at home.

Not only does this allow you to customize the taste to your liking, but it also opens up a world of experimentation with diverse flavor combinations.

In this easy to follow guide, we'll delve into the fascinating world of homemade kombucha, exploring the key ingredients, equipment, and techniques required to brew your own batch. Whether you're a seasoned kombucha enthusiast or a newcomer to the fermentation scene, this article will equip you with the knowledge and confidence to embark on your own kombucha-making journey.

Understanding Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that has been enjoyed for centuries, with its origins tracing back to ancient China and Russia. The process involves transforming sweetened tea into a tangy, effervescent elixir through the magic of a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This unique fermentation process not only creates the signature kombucha flavor but also imbues the drink with a wealth of purported health benefits, including probiotics, antioxidants, and organic acids.

The Kombucha Fermentation Process

The kombucha fermentation process can be broadly divided into two stages: the primary fermentation (F1) and the secondary fermentation (F2). During the primary fermentation, the SCOBY, along with the starter tea, converts the sweetened tea into a tart, slightly carbonated beverage. This stage typically takes around 7-14 days, depending on factors such as temperature and personal taste preferences.

Once the primary fermentation is complete, the kombucha is then transferred to sealed containers for the secondary fermentation. This is where the magic happens – the addition of fruit juices, herbs, or other flavorings allows the kombucha to develop a unique and customized taste profile. The secondary fermentation usually lasts 2-4 days, during which time the kombucha becomes increasingly fizzy and complex in flavor.

The Importance of the SCOBY

At the heart of the kombucha-making process is the SCOBY, a gelatinous, disc-shaped culture that serves as the catalyst for fermentation. This remarkable symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast is responsible for transforming the sweetened tea into the tangy, effervescent kombucha we know and love.

The SCOBY acts as a living, breathing organism, continuously growing and reproducing with each new batch of kombucha. It's this self-perpetuating nature of the SCOBY that allows kombucha brewers to maintain an ongoing supply of the essential fermentation starter, making it a truly sustainable and cost-effective endeavor.

Gathering the Necessary Ingredients and Equipment

Before embarking on your homemade kombucha adventure, it's essential to ensure you have all the necessary ingredients and equipment on hand. Let's take a closer look at the key components required for a successful kombucha brew.


  1. Water: Filtered or spring water is the preferred choice for making kombucha, as it helps to ensure a clean and consistent fermentation process. Tap water can also be used, but it's important to ensure it's free of any chlorine or other contaminants that could disrupt the delicate balance of the SCOBY.

  2. Tea: Black tea, green tea, or a combination of the two are the most commonly used varieties for kombucha brewing. These caffeinated teas provide the necessary nutrients for the SCOBY to thrive and create the desired flavor profile.

  3. Sugar: Cane sugar, whether in the form of white, brown, or turbinado, is the primary food source for the SCOBY during the fermentation process. It's important to avoid using artificial sweeteners or honey, as these can interfere with the SCOBY's ability to properly ferment the tea.

  4. SCOBY: This living culture is the heart and soul of your kombucha operation. You can either obtain a SCOBY from a trusted source, such as a fellow kombucha brewer or an online supplier, or you can grow your own SCOBY using a store-bought kombucha as a starter.

  5. Starter Tea: This is the liquid from a previous batch of kombucha that contains the live cultures necessary to kickstart the fermentation process in your new batch.


  1. Brewing Vessel: A 1-gallon glass jar or two 64-ounce glass jars are the ideal vessels for brewing kombucha. These provide ample space for the SCOBY to grow and allow for proper air circulation during the fermentation process.

  2. Cloth Covering: A tightly woven cloth, such as a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or a clean tea towel, is used to cover the brewing vessel. This allows for air exchange while keeping out any unwanted contaminants.

  3. Rubber Bands: These are used to secure the cloth covering to the top of the brewing vessel, ensuring a tight seal.

  4. Thermometer: A food-grade thermometer is essential for monitoring the temperature of the brewing environment, as kombucha thrives best within a specific temperature range.

  5. Bottles: For the secondary fermentation, you'll need clean glass bottles with airtight lids, such as swing-top bottles or repurposed kombucha bottles.

  6. Funnel: A small funnel makes the process of transferring the kombucha from the brewing vessel to the bottles much easier and more efficient.

With these key ingredients and equipment in hand, you're now ready to embark on your homemade kombucha journey.

Preparing the Sweet Tea Base

The first step in the kombucha-making process is to create the sweet tea base, which will serve as the foundation for the fermentation.

  1. Boil the Water: In a large pot, bring 4 cups of filtered or spring water to a rolling boil.

  2. Steep the Tea: Once the water is boiling, remove the pot from the heat and add 4-8 tea bags (or 2-4 tablespoons of loose-leaf tea). Allow the tea to steep for 15-20 minutes, ensuring a robust and flavorful infusion.

  3. Dissolve the Sugar: After the tea has finished steeping, stir in 3/4 cup of cane sugar (white, brown, or turbinado) until it has completely dissolved.

  4. Dilute the Sweet Tea: Transfer the sweet tea to a 1-gallon glass brewing vessel and add an additional 8 cups of cool or room-temperature water to dilute the mixture. This step is crucial to ensure the tea is at the optimal temperature (70-90°F) for the SCOBY to thrive.

  5. Cool the Tea: If the sweet tea is still too hot, allow it to cool to the appropriate temperature range before proceeding to the next step.

By following these steps, you've now created the perfect sweet tea base to kickstart your kombucha fermentation.

Introducing the SCOBY and Starter Tea

With the sweet tea base ready, it's time to introduce the essential components that will transform it into delicious, fizzy kombucha.

  1. Add the SCOBY: Gently lower the SCOBY into the sweet tea, ensuring it is fully submerged. The SCOBY may float, sink, or hover in the middle of the liquid – all of these positions are perfectly normal and acceptable.

  2. Incorporate the Starter Tea: Pour in 2 cups of previously brewed, unflavored kombucha. This starter tea contains the live cultures necessary to initiate the fermentation process.

  3. Cover and Secure: Cover the brewing vessel with a tightly woven cloth, such as a coffee filter or a clean tea towel, and secure it with a rubber band. This allows for air exchange while keeping out any unwanted contaminants.

  4. Find the Perfect Spot: Place the covered brewing vessel in a spot that's out of direct sunlight and maintains a consistent temperature between 70-85°F. A kitchen counter, pantry, or other shaded area with good air circulation is an ideal location.

With the SCOBY and starter tea now incorporated, your kombucha is ready to embark on its primary fermentation journey.

Monitoring the Primary Fermentation

The primary fermentation, also known as the F1 stage, is where the magic really begins. Over the course of 7-14 days, the SCOBY will work its transformative powers, converting the sweetened tea into a tart, slightly carbonated kombucha.

  1. Resist the Urge to Peek: It can be tempting to constantly check on your kombucha, but resist the temptation! Disturbing the SCOBY during this critical stage can disrupt the fermentation process and potentially lead to undesirable outcomes.

  2. Start Tasting: Around the 5-day mark, you can begin tasting your kombucha to gauge the level of tartness and acidity. Dip a clean straw into the liquid and take a sip. If it's still too sweet for your liking, allow the fermentation to continue for a few more days.

  3. Monitor the Temperature: Ensure that the brewing environment maintains a consistent temperature between 70-85°F. Fluctuations outside of this range can slow down or even halt the fermentation process.

  4. Watch for SCOBY Growth: As the primary fermentation progresses, you may notice the SCOBY growing in size and thickness. This is a natural and expected part of the process, as the culture continues to thrive and reproduce.

  5. Check for Mold: While rare, it's important to keep an eye out for any signs of mold, such as fuzzy, discolored growths on the SCOBY or the surface of the liquid. If you suspect mold, it's best to discard the entire batch and start fresh with a new SCOBY.

Once the kombucha has reached your desired level of tartness and acidity, typically after 7-14 days, it's time to move on to the secondary fermentation.

Transitioning to the Secondary Fermentation

The secondary fermentation, or F2 stage, is where you can unleash your creativity and customize your kombucha with a wide array of flavors and carbonation levels.

  1. Separate the SCOBY: Using clean hands, carefully remove the SCOBY from the kombucha and set it aside. Reserve 2 cups of the fermented liquid to use as the starter tea for your next batch.

  2. Bottle the Kombucha: Using a funnel, transfer the remaining kombucha into clean, airtight glass bottles. Leave about an inch of headspace at the top of each bottle to allow for carbonation.

  3. Add Flavorings (Optional): Now's the time to get creative! You can add a variety of fruit juices, chopped fresh fruit, herbs, or spices to each bottle to infuse your kombucha with unique and delightful flavors.

  4. Seal and Ferment: Securely cap the bottles and set them aside at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, for 2-4 days. This secondary fermentation will allow the kombucha to develop its signature fizz.

  5. Monitor Carbonation: Check the bottles daily by gently squeezing them. When they become firm and pressurized, your kombucha is ready to be refrigerated.

  6. Refrigerate and Enjoy: Once the desired level of carbonation is achieved, transfer the bottles to the refrigerator. This will halt the fermentation process and preserve the fizz. Enjoy your homemade kombucha within 2 weeks.

By following these steps, you'll be able to craft a wide variety of flavorful and effervescent kombucha creations that will delight your taste buds.

Exploring Flavor Combinations

One of the joys of making your own kombucha is the endless possibilities for flavor experimentation. From classic fruit-infused varieties to more adventurous herb and spice blends, the options are truly limitless.

Fruit-Based Flavors

  • Citrus: Lemon, lime, orange, or grapefruit juices and zests add a refreshing, tangy twist to your kombucha.
  • Berry: Strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, or blackberry purees or juices lend a sweet, fruity character.
  • Stone Fruit: Peach, plum, or apricot infusions create a delightfully complex flavor profile.
  • Tropical: Pineapple, mango, or coconut bring a touch of the tropics to your kombucha.

Herbal and Spiced Flavors

  • Ginger: Freshly grated ginger or ginger juice adds a warm, spicy kick to your brew.
  • Herbs: Basil, mint, rosemary, or thyme can impart subtle, aromatic notes.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, or nutmeg introduce cozy, earthy undertones.
  • Floral: Dried hibiscus flowers or rose petals lend a delicate, floral essence.

The key to successful flavor experimentation is to start with small amounts of your chosen ingredients and adjust to taste. Remember, the secondary fermentation process can amplify the intensity of the flavors, so it's best to err on the side of moderation.

Maintaining and Storing Your SCOBY

One of the most remarkable aspects of homemade kombucha is the ability to continuously brew new batches using the same SCOBY. With proper care and storage, your SCOBY can become a lifelong companion, allowing you to enjoy a steady supply of your personalized kombucha creations.

Caring for Your SCOBY

  • Cleanliness: Ensure that your hands and all equipment are thoroughly cleaned before handling the SCOBY to prevent the introduction of unwanted contaminants.
  • Temperature Control: Maintain the SCOBY's environment within the optimal temperature range of 70-85°F. Extreme temperatures can weaken or even kill the delicate culture.
  • Consistent Feeding: Start a new batch of kombucha as soon as the previous one is finished to keep the SCOBY well-fed and thriving.

Storing Your SCOBY

If you need to take a break from brewing or want to share your SCOBY with others, proper storage is crucial to maintain its health and viability.

  1. Short-Term Storage: Keep the SCOBY submerged in 2 cups of freshly brewed, unflavored kombucha in a sealed container at room temperature. This will allow the SCOBY to remain active and ready for your next batch.

  2. Long-Term Storage: For extended breaks, the SCOBY can be stored in a sugar solution. Combine 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of cane sugar, bring to a boil, and allow to cool. Once cooled, transfer the SCOBY to this solution and store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. This dormant state can preserve the SCOBY for several months.

  3. Sharing and Gifting: If you have a thriving SCOBY, consider sharing it with family and friends who may be interested in starting their own kombucha journey. Simply remove a portion of the culture, along with some of the starter liquid, and pass it on to the next aspiring brewer.

By properly caring for and storing your SCOBY, you can ensure a continuous supply of homemade kombucha for years to come.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

While making kombucha at home is generally a straightforward process, there may be the occasional hiccup along the way. Here are some common issues you may encounter and how to address them:

Mold Growth

Mold can be one of the most concerning problems for kombucha brewers. If you notice any fuzzy, discolored growths on the SCOBY or in the liquid, it's best to discard the entire batch and start fresh with a new SCOBY.

Slow or Stalled Fermentation

If your kombucha isn't fermenting at the expected pace or seems to have stalled, there are a few potential culprits:

  • Temperature Fluctuations: Ensure that the brewing environment maintains a consistent temperature within the optimal range of 70-85°F.
  • Insufficient Starter Tea: Make sure you're using the recommended 2 cups of starter tea to kickstart the fermentation.
  • Weak or Damaged SCOBY: If the SCOBY appears unhealthy or has been compromised, it may not be able to effectively convert the sweetened tea into kombucha.

Lack of Carbonation

Insufficient carbonation in your finished kombucha can be frustrating, but there are a few troubleshooting steps you can take:

  • **Airtight Bottling ## Troubleshooting Continued

Bottles**: Ensure that your bottles have an airtight seal to allow the necessary carbon dioxide buildup during the secondary fermentation.

  • Insufficient Sugar: The yeast in your kombucha needs a sufficient amount of sugar to produce the desired carbonation. Try adding a small amount of fruit juice or sugar to the bottles before the secondary fermentation.
  • Weak Yeast Culture: If your SCOBY is not producing a robust yeast culture, the carbonation levels may suffer. Consider obtaining a new SCOBY or starter tea to reinvigorate the fermentation.

Unpleasant Flavors

If your homemade kombucha ends up tasting off or unpalatable, there are a few potential reasons:

  • Overfermentation: Allowing the kombucha to ferment for too long can result in an overly vinegary or harsh flavor profile.
  • Contamination: Any foreign elements, such as mold or bacteria, can introduce unwanted flavors and aromas to the kombucha.
  • Unsuitable Ingredients: Using low-quality or inappropriate tea, sugar, or other additives can negatively impact the final taste.

To address these issues, experiment with adjusting the fermentation time, carefully inspect your equipment and ingredients, and consider seeking advice from experienced kombucha brewers.

Mastering the Art of Homemade Kombucha

Making your own kombucha at home is a rewarding and empowering experience that allows you to explore the depths of this ancient fermented beverage. By understanding the key principles, mastering the techniques, and embracing the art of experimentation, you can unlock a world of delicious and customized kombucha creations.

Remember, the journey of homemade kombucha is as much about the process as it is about the final product. Embrace the learning curve, celebrate your successes, and don't be discouraged by the occasional misstep. Each batch you brew will provide valuable insights and inspire you to refine your skills, ultimately leading to a kombucha-making practice that is uniquely your own.

So, gather your ingredients, prepare your equipment, and embark on an exciting adventure into the captivating world of homemade kombucha. Cheers to your newfound kombucha mastery!

Profile Image Camille Newman RDN and Life Coach

Camille Newman RDN and Life Coach

Hi I'm Camille Newman, a licensed Nutritionist and Life Coach in the Atlanta area. I look forward to sharing information here at, related to dietary tips and life related recommendations based on my years of experience and medical studies.