A few years ago, most people wouldn’t even dream of drinking naturally fermented tea teeming with living bacteria. But hey, all things change, including mainstream opinion of delicious, delicious bacteria-filled fermented tea… also known as kombucha. Well, if you’re thinking about how to make kombucha safely at home, you’re in luck!
Nowadays, many people make kombucha safely at home for its probiotic properties. Probiotic bacteria helps with gut health, which impacts your entire body, from your nutrient intake to mental wellness.
Good gut health is thought to be helped along by getting enough probiotics in your diet.
However, there are a lot of different opinions on the wide range of supposed health benefits of kombucha. Personally, I don’t know whether it helps with joint pain, liver health, or cancer prevention. I’m pretty sure that my digestion is improved when I drink kombucha regularly, but I can’t speak for its other properties. You can read more about what people say about its impact on your health at WebMD.
Regardless of whether it’s a superfood or whatever, kombucha is tasty as heck and I enjoy making it a lot. A small bottle of kombucha also boasts a $7 price tag at Whole Foods. Those are more than enough reasons for me to keep making it, drinking it, and giving it away to friends.
Because brewing kombucha was my first time fermenting anything at home, it took me a round or two of making kombucha before I was confident that I wasn’t going to poison myself accidentally. But really, there’s no need to be nervous.
In my experience, making kombucha safely is really easy.
This how-to guide will walk you through how to get your hot little hands on a kombucha SCOBY and how to make kombucha safely, as well providing a kombucha FAQ in case you have any questions or concerns about how to make kombucha safely.
How to Get a Kombucha SCOBY
Obtaining a kombucha SCOBY is the easiest way to start making kombucha at home. To clarify, a SCOBY is actually an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. If you’re curious, the yeast culture usually includes Saccharomyces and the bacterial component almost always includes Gluconacetobacter xylinus.
There’s lots of very beneficial types of bacteria in the world, so there’s no reason to be grossed out by the prospect of handling a live bacterial culture. In fact, a SCOBY goes a long way in protecting your kombucha from harmful bacteria and other nasty things that could make it go bad. You should be grateful to SCOBY, not scared of them!
Fun fact: SCOBY are necessary in the production of a lot of different things, not just kombucha. Kefir, certain types of vinegar, and sourdough bread all start with different types of helpful bacterial cultures.
The most common ways of getting a kombucha SCOBY are:
- Asking someone you know who already makes kombucha to give you an extra SCOBY (they’ll have plenty, so don’t be shy)
- Buying a kombucha SCOBY off Craigslist or another local buy and sell group (they’re usually between $0-15)
- Ordering a kombucha SCOBY online and getting it shipped to you
When you’re getting a kombucha SCOBY, ask the person giving you the SCOBY to transfer it in a jar with about a cup of the kombucha and covered by a coffee filter. Seal the top with the lid or saran wrap to prevent spillage for up to a few hours while you transfer it between locations.
It’s certainly possible to brew kombucha without anyone else’s help, but it’s a heck of a lot harder than simply pouring a SCOBY in a jar with some sweet tea and forgetting about it. If you really can’t find anyone who’s making kombucha in your area or online, check out this guide to growing your own kombucha SCOBY.
How to Make Kombucha Safely
Making kombucha is really easy, but it’s good to know that the process of brewing does take place over the course of two days. After that, the fermentation itself can take up to two weeks or more before it’s actually ready for you to drink it. Patience is key!
Day 0: Keeping Your Kombucha SCOBY Alive
- Uncover your kombucha SCOBY and let it breathe by removing the saran wrap or lid that you put on it to transfer it
- Cover the kombucha SCOBY and liquid in the jar with a coffee filter held in place by a rubber band
- You can keep your kombucha SCOBY healthy for a few days like that, but you should start brewing your sweet tea right away!
Day 1: Brewing The Sweet Tea
- Bring 6 c. tap water in a pot (that has a lid) to a rolling boil, and then turn off the heat
Pour in ½ c. sugar and stir to dissolve, and then add 2 black tea bags, such as orange pekoe or earl grey
- Steep tea for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then remove tea bags
- Remove from heat and cover for 24 hours until cooled to room temperature
Day 2: Transferring the Kombucha
- If this is your first time making kombucha, transfer your kombucha SCOBY and 1 c. kombucha to a 2 L mason jar and pour the sweet tea on top
If this is your second or later batch of kombucha, reserve 1 c. finished kombucha and put the rest of the kombucha away in the fridge. Pour the sweet tea into your 2 L mason jar with the reserved kombucha and kombucha SCOBY
- Cover with a coffee filter and secure with a rubber band, and then place the brew in a warm, dark place, such as in a cupboard above the fridge
- Let your brew sit and ferment for 1 ½ to 2 weeks or until delicious and slightly effervescent
The day before your kombucha is ready to drink, repeat Day 1 and 2 until you have a never-ending supply of kombucha to enjoy and give away to friends!
What should my kombucha look, smell, and taste like when it’s ready?
If you use black tea, your kombucha should be a beautiful red-orange colour that smells and tastes tart with a touch of sweetness. A healthy kombucha should also be pretty clear and slightly effervescent or sparkling.
The longer you let your kombucha ferment, the more vinegary and less sweet it will taste, because the sugar will ferment out. Eventually, it will produce a very low level of alcohol. The booze probably won’t be enough to get you drunk, but it might make your morning smoothies a little more festive.
Why did my kombucha SCOBY have a baby so that I have two (or more) kombucha SCOBY?
A really healthy kombucha SCOBY will reproduce and grow another SCOBY every time with every new batch you make. Feel free to throw out (or eat, if you’re so inclined) the older SCOBY.
Will my original kombucha SCOBY die eventually?
In time, the older kombucha SCOBY may stop being as capable of fermenting your kombucha within 1 ½ to 2 weeks. It’s best to say goodbye to them and switch older SCOBY out for the newly produced ones that your kombucha naturally produces.
Were you kidding about eating the kombucha SCOBY?
Nope! I personally don’t eat them, but I know of people who have tried eating them and lived to tell the tale. If you want to try to eat your SCOBY, please do your research online before chowing down, as I don’t know enough about eating them to provide any information or advice.
My kombucha looks weird/is growing mold/smells funny. What do I do?
Okay, it’s hard to say whether your kombucha is safe anymore or not, as I can’t actually see it. If you say it looks or smells weird, I believe you.
Some kinds of molds are safe, others will make you sick. I would err on the side of caution if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe with the state of your homemade kombucha.
If you aren’t 100% sure it’s safe, throw your questionable kombucha out, sanitize your kombucha-making tools and area, and try again with a new SCOBY. Make sure you’re making kombucha safely!
Do I really need to make sure that my kombucha doesn’t touch any metal?
To be honest, there’s a lot of hearsay when it comes to a lot of things like making kombucha. I use a metal pot to brew my kombucha and it works out just fine.
Kombucha Health and Safety
Please note that I am not a scientist. I’m not qualified to give out specific advice about what is safe and not safe when it comes to kombucha. Be aware that there are risks involved with fermenting your own foods at home, so please don’t sue me.