Recipe for making kombucha

Making Three Quarts of Kombucha

This brief overview of our method is based on considerable research and experience–we began in 1993. We endeavor to be clear while avoiding too much lecturing about our preferred ways.

We look at Kombucha preparation as being similar to caring for a pet or maintaining a compost pile: after all, when we “make” kombucha, what we are really doing is managing a group of creatures, in this case a symbiosis of bacteria and yeasts. They will thrive when we create optimal conditions for them. What they care about most are the temperature and the nutrients (sugar and tea). As Kombucha researcher Michael Roussin puts it, Kombucha seems to have memory: it likes to do what it has done. For this reason, we strive for consistency in all aspects of the preparation.

1. Wash your hands and fingernails carefully. Rinse well to remove all soap.

2. Heat one quart water in a stainless steel pan. Over-boiling drives off needed dissolved oxygen. Since we use green tea, we aim for 170°. Yes, the quality of the water matters.

3. Add 15 grams tea, about 3 tablespoons, or 7 teabags. Steep 10 minutes, then remove tea. Steeping time is a matter of judgement, as are so many things about kombucha. We prefer green tea, but any real tea (camellia sinesis) works. (If you are making a bigger recipe, we recommend using 6 grams tea per liter.)

4. Stir in one scant cup “white” sugar. We use the least-refined sugar, known as evaporated cane juice. (If scaling up, we recommend 70 grams/liter.)

5. Add two more quarts water and allow to cool to room temperature (or at least below 85°). Letting it sit too long increases risk of contamination.

6. Pour tea into a wide-mouth container that will not be affected by acetic acid. One gallon glass pickle jars work well. Food grade HDPE #2, is OK, as are crocks without lead glaze.

7. Add 1¼ cup Kombucha tea from an earlier batch – the rule-of-thumb is 10% of the volume of tea – in order to quickly acidify the brew. This gets the batch off to a quicker start and protects it from mold infection. Vinegar will work, too; but use only pasteurized vinegar.

8. Add the Kombucha colony. In our experience, the colony prefers not to be refrigerated between batches.

9. Cover the container with a piece of tightly woven fabric (we now use cotton) and secure it with a rubber band to keep out fruit flies, dust, and other airborne contaminants. Fruit flies can be a real nuisance but (likely) do no harm.

10. Ideal container location has several parameters.

  • Warmth: 78°-80° (An acceptable range seems to be 74° to 84°. Do not expect success below 68°.)
  • We used to say “keep out of the light;” now we caution against strong sunlight.
  • Better if it can remain undisturbed.
  • Cigarette smoke seems to be a problem.

11. Fermentation time depends on temperature. Ours is ready in 7 days at 78°-80°. In cooler temperatures it will take longer.

12. After about a week, take a small taste. When it becomes slightly tart but is still a little sweet, it’s time to bottle. Remove the kombucha colony and the new baby colony that will have formed on the surface of the tea. Place them on a clean plate. Everyone agrees, handle them with care.

13. If you wish to bottle it, pour the tea into glass bottles that can be tightly capped, leaving some airspace. This is an opportunity to develop effervescence. Care is warranted because it is possible to develop enough pressure to break the bottles. Other procedures are possible here.

14. To make another batch, start again at step 2. You may add both the kombucha mother and the baby.

15. We store the bottles at cool room temperature for a spell, say a week if it’s 70° or two weeks if the temperature is 60°. After that, store them in a cooler place to stabilize microbial activity. Refrigeration is fine but not necessary. Kombucha is about pH 3.0–very acid–and, in our experience, will not spoil.

16. The question often arises: “How much should I drink?” Consumption recommendations vary considerably, starting at about two ounces per day.

  • The kombucha guy I currently trust the most says between four and eight ounces a day would be prudent.
  • Following the research we did when we started, I drink what we considered a maintenance amount of four ounces at each meal.
  • A man who used kombucha as part of an overall therapeutic program for Parkinson’s and prostate cancer drank a “curative” eight ounces per meal.

Seattle, Washington                            Communi-Tea Kombucha              cj@communitea-kombucha.com

edited October 15, 2011

  1. It isn’t helpful to add bacteria that will make vinegar, when you are tying to make kombucha. You just want the acidity of vinegar.

  2. We would too! But they will not sell it. Perhaps you could convey our message to them?!

  3. Why pasturized vinegar?

  4. I brewed a batch of kombucha for my in laws in June, unfortunately they didn’t keep feeding it. Could I still use the culture to brew a new batch even though it’s been sitting for 6 months? Thanks.

  5. Hey Melinda Aileo,

    I’m a chef in Miami. I was curious about making vinegar, so I called my friends in Cleveland to send me a “mother.”They sent it in a glass jar wrapped in bubble wrap via FedEx. From what I’ve learned about making vinegar and kumbucha is,”stay away from porous materials.” and I know for a fact when I buy vinegar for my restaurant they are always in glass bottles. So I guess what i’m trying to say is stick to glass jars, its the safest. Have fun!

    Later,
    Steven M.

  6. We do sell SCOBYs. We offer them at our markets and at the brewery/kitchen on 2610 S Judkins St 98144

  7. Hello – I’m on the east side looking for a scoby to purchase to start my own brew. Are you selling any? If so, can I purchase one? Thanks.

  8. Hi Chris, I’m looking to start making kombucha and I’m wondering where to get a mother. I hear you might be the guy? We make cider, so I was just going to use that equipment. I think you’re ‘factory’ is a few blocks from where I work on MLK.

    Thanks for this recipe, it’s helpful. :)

    Sarah

  9. @ JJ ME TOO!!! The combination of highs is beautiful – experienced outside on a nice sunny day and that’s my heaven. I’ve tried adding marijuana tincture into the secondary fermentation process. It works, doesn’t taste the best, but it does make for an interesting experience. Don’t think I’ll keep trying it though. I rather smoke and sip the ‘bucha.

  10. This is interesting. Can you describe the difference?

  11. I love drinking kombucha and I make my own constantly. I´ve recently been smoking marijuana and noticed there is a different intensity to my high when I drink kombucha while smoking cannabis.

  12. Did you try adding the marijuana after the initial ferment? Did it work? Keep us posted!!!!

  13. Thanks! — We’ll be very interested in any observations.

    It would also be very interesting to know if you notice whether the administration of the marijuana by way of kombucha changes the effect of the the marijuana?

  14. I’ll try adding the infusion after fermentation this time and see what my friend thinks. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for the tip.

  15. This is useful information. Thanks for sharing it. We do think our kombucha can be effective, in addition to its intrinsic benefits, as a carrier and opener for other medicinal herbs. 

    So you actually brewed the tea with the marijuana? The accepted wisdom is that this needs to be done with care because it will almost certainly affect the culture itself as well. These changes won’t be apparent right away but with time the culture and the new “tea” will coevolve, and not always to the benefit of a stable SCOBY. And one needs to be aware that there may be unexpected products of fermenting “new” herbs. These may not all be healthful. I’m not trying to inhibit experimentation, just want to pass along a friendly reminder to proceed with care.

    For what its worth, we are having good results by adding infusions of herbs to the brewed kombucha before bottling (rather than to add the herb to the tea initially in the primary fermentation).

  16. My favorite : Get an additional identical gallon jar … put water in this one.
    Buy an  inexpensive aquarium heater, the kind with a simple thermostat.
    Put it in the second — water — jar.
    Put them both in a cupboard (or other  enclosure, like a cooler or even a box).
    The water jar will serve as a space heater.
    Its temperature is adjustable because the aquarium heater which is inserted has a knob which can be rotated.
    Since you have a thermometer on the kombucha jar, you can watch it as you make adjustments to the heater in the water jar.
    Take your time, it will not change quickly.

  17. I brewed kombucha with two ounces of marijuana leaf brewed as tea, mixed with organic green tea and peach white tea and gave it to a friend with cancer that is required to be on oxygen at night, suffers from high blood pressure, and has to take medication for the blood pressure as well as the pain associated with his cancer.

    After drinking 8oz of the bucha he didn’t require any pain pill for three days. After the second dose, four days. His blood pressure dropped to normal, his blood oxygen increased so much he hasn’t needed to use his oxygen at night, and his doctor told him to keep it up. Only complaint: too fizzy, stirred up some acid reflux. Also, this DID NOT make him high, which is NOT the point of the drink.

    Thanks for sharing your own recipe with us.

  18. I bought a brewing kit and scoby at the University dist. farmer’s market last Saturday and managed to fly it all home to Santa Cruz intact and with minimal leakage. I’m ready to begin a batch, but am trying to figure out a location that is consistently warm enough (74°-84° degrees). This could be a challenge because I keep my house fairly cool (62°-68°). On the third floor in summer the temp can be as high as 80°F, but only in the daytime because we get coastal fog and for my own comfort I leave the windows open at night. Consistency is the challenge! Would you recommend a grow light or maybe setting the batch jar next to a lamp that is kept on?

    Janet

  19. Chris – Thank you for your response and sharing your tea source. “Organic” is becoming a diluted word these days and anyone farming biodynamically is much more likely the real deal. I look forward to trying this tea both itself and brewed as kombucha. I have not noticed any caffeine effects from your kombucha or others I have tried. In my own homemade kombucha, as I am taste testing along the fermentation process, I can “taste” the caffeine seem to get weaker as the brew matures. Caffeine in regularly brewed black tea or coffee has a strong effect on me but green tea and mate not at all. I’ve read and heard that the caffeine is transformed/eliminated by the kombucha culture, but elsewhere on your site here you mention the contrary. It doesn’t really matter to me, for the caffeine and alcohol. The fact I can drink kombucha and not worry about feeling jacked by caffeine or loopy by alcohol works for me.

    I will be putting my two cents into both PCC and Whole Foods that I would like to see your kombucha there.

    jr

  20. We very much appreciate your comments, JR. I’m very interested in your response to the alcohol content. Others have commented that both the alcohol and the caffeine are less apparent than they expect. Perhaps there is some modification due to the action of the micro-organisms, so that they are metabolized differently in our bodies. We don’t presently sell the biodynamic tea, though we have considered it. It is available mail order. Our kombucha is for sale presently at Madison Market/Central Coop. We welcome you to speak to PCC and Whole Foods!

  21. Hi Chris – While at the U-district farmers market last Saturday, I finally got a chance to try your kombucha and bought a bottle. My first few tastes, I was not sure I liked it. It didn’t taste bad…just quite different from any other kombucha I had ever had, including my own. About halfway through the bottle (I still have a little left!), I began to really, really like it. I think part of it is the biodynamic green tea you are using. Is it possible to purchase this loose tea from you or can you direct me where I might find it?

    If your kombucha really does have 2-2.5% alcohol, I cannot taste or feel it at all, which is a good thing to me. I do not drink beer, wine or spirits, so my palate is quite sensitive to it.

    I would love to be able to find your kombucha at PCC or Whole Foods. Thanks for sharing your creation!

    -jr

  22. Sorry slow in responding. pH is usually about 3, but it can vary. Taste is a good way to judge: Tart but yet a tiny bit sweet.
    Store carefully (pressure can build up and break bottles. We do 2 weeks at about 65 degrees. Warmer — shorter time
    Brown glass is fine.
    Store SCOBYs in enough kombucha that it doesn’t dry out, at room temperature.

  23. It’s your call. I separate when it gets to be about 3/4″ think. I think a consistent thickness is helpful for a consistent brew.

  24. If there is not a new film growing at the top, the culture is no longer vital.

  25. Our kombucha has about 1 gram per ounce of sugar, mostly as fructose. You will have to be the judge yourself after you see how it affects you.

  26. We can send you one for $15 plus $10 shipping and handling.
    I also recommend the Happy Herbalist http://www.happyherbalist.com/kombuchamushroomstarterkits.aspx
    and Kombucha Kamp
    http://www.kombuchakamp.com/kombucha-cultures

  27. I am from india on a Visit to the US.
    Can you pl let me know some reliable sources from where I can get
    2 to 3 different cultures of Kombucha to take back home ?
    Thanks in advance for information
    SLN Rao

  28. I would like to know if diabetics can drink kombucha. Also, I bought a kombucha culture almost a year ago that didn’t grow much. sits on the bottom of the jar and has a brownish color. Is it good to use it, or should throw this culture away? I bought from a site on the net that sells dried cultures and I had problems since the very beginning with those cultures.

  29. Hi, where can I buy your scoby these days?

  30. Yes, kombucha still has caffeine. My tests indicate the level is about the same as one would expect from the type and quantity of tea one has used to brew the kombucha. However, some people say it does not affect them as they would expect. Perhaps it is metabolized in a way that changes the way it interacts with our systems. I have not tried it but some writers I trust say it is possible to brew it with decaf tea. White tea still has caffeine, sometimes quite a lot, depending on when it is picked and how it is processed and brewed.

  31. Hi! A friend of mine doesn’t do well with caffeine. Is there any left in your kombucha after brewing? Can he brew it without tea? Decaf tea? White tea?

  32. We’ve been there three weeks, now and plan to be there all summer.

  33. I will have SCOBYs at U District Saturday. In my experience, recovery after refrigeration isn’t reliable.

  34. If I make it to the U District market on Sat can I pick up another scoby? BTW I still owe you I think it’s $10 from when I came by your “factory” a couple of months ago.

    Someone told me to refrigerate the scoby if I didn’t make more immediately (she makes kombucha all he time). WIll I know by Sat. if it’s active (that’s about 40 hours from now).

    Thanks!

    Sarah

  35. Do you ever plan to be at the Columbia City Farmers Market on Wednesdays?

  36. Good questions. The numbers are a date stamp, the date it was bottled. So, yes it was a month old when you bought it. It should be dry and fizzy, as you like it. 5 gallon plastic buckets do work well. Just make sure it is food grade, HDPE, #2. Glass of course is great, except for its expense, weight and breakability. I don’t have enough experience with continuous brew, yet, to say much with confidence. Hope to see you at market again. We can talk more there.

  37. Hello Chris!
    I met you at the Ballard Farmer’s Market and tried your awesome kombucha last week. I was wondering …there are dates ? on the bottle caps. They have this stamp 3/11 on it. Is this the date it was bottled? or is it irrelevant! I like my kombucha dry and effervescent – and wanted to leave it set and try it when its a good month old! Is this a good idea? If the stamp is the date, then is it already a month old?

    I would love some tips for brewing also. Can I do 5 gallons at time? How do you brew your batches? (What container do you recommend?) Continuous brew in a crock with a spigot? Plastic? glass?

    If I want dry, effervescent kombucha, what is the best way to bottle it and for how long should I let it sit in the bottles before it goes bad?

    I hope to come buy some more this weekend – and make it a regular event! It’s a long way to go for a brew, but well worth the trip!

    Sure hope you have a minute to answer these questions!
    Thanks,
    Sarah Holmes of Skyway/Renton

  38. Tastings … classes… both are on the radar. We’ll be at Columbia City Farmers market, but not Madrona. Thanks for your sentiments!

  39. Hi Chris,

    I’ve just come to learn and love Kombucha and was having dinner at the new Judkins Street cafe and their was your facility. I’m wondering if you ever offer classes or tastings. Also, any chance of you going to the Madrona Farmers Market. Lots’ of questions I know. I just think this is such a wonderful thing and thanks so much for your persistence in making this “nourishing tradition” come to light! Amy

  40. The best way is to get one from another grower, but many times it works to let some kombucha sit on the counter for a while.

  41. How can I grow a colony – step 8 – myself, or do I have to get the Mother from someone?

  42. Wondering how your effort is developing. In the meantime, I have been getting by with Rejuvenation’s kombucha. It’s too sweet. I also drink High Country, which is less so. But I wish there was a more local source, and also one with the kind of purity and simplicity that you achieved. I am not likely to brew it myself.

  43. I do not recommend refrigerating. The cultures like warm temperatures. My experience is that they do not recover predictably and consistently from refrigeration.
    I would suggest at least that you take it out of its container, so it can get air, and put it in something glass or food grade plastic, along with some (preferably acid) kombucha. Pasteurized vinegar will work in a pinch. Cover it to ward off fruit flies and dirt. Leave it on the counter until you get back.
    Or make kombucha.
    Even if it goes longer than you’d like, chalk it up to helping the culture get acclimated. It will like the increased acid of the longer brew time, even if you don’t. Then make another batch when you get back.

  44. Hi,
    I was given a scoby on Monday while visiting in San Diego. It is in the fridge.
    Today is Wednesday. I am leaving town for 2 weeks on Friday.
    I live in SF where the temperature is in the 60’s. Is there anything I can do to keep it alive until I return from vacation? Should I just start a batch of Kombucha?
    Many thanks.

  45. You can quote us. We do plan to get a Twitter account.

  46. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  47. Dear Chris,
    Thank you for this information. I’ve learned about kombucha from the Weston A. Price Foundation (Sally Fallon’s cookbook, Nourishing Traditions), and I am so interested in making my own. I love G.T. ginger kombucha, and I bet I could make an awesome “soda” for my kids with other fruit juice additions. My sister is Kim Jackson, who met you at the Farmer’s Market at Ballard over the weekend.
    How much will you sell a baby colony for? Will it withstand a flight to the East Coast in a plastic container?
    Are there any sources you recomment for containers to brew?

    Thank you,
    Melinda Aileo

  48. Hi Chris,
    Jim Bovino here. We met today at the Ballard Market. Quick question: where should I store my colony between batches? Conceivably I’ll have a batch going all the time but in the event of a break what are the optimal conditions?
    Thank you for all you do,
    Jim

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