Kombucha is one of the easiest fermentations you can make. The ingredients cost very little (tea, sugar and water) and the preparation is remarkably simple. The only minor complicating factor is getting your hands on a starting culture. The culture is often called a “mother” or a “mushroom” but don’t be fooled, it is not an actual mushroom, but simply a colony of bacteria and yeast. It is often referred to by the acronym SCOBY which stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.

The Scoby floats on the surface of the Kombucha and every time you make a new batch of Kombucha, the Scoby continues to grow and thus creates another layer which can then be shared with someone else. In the past year, I’ve given away 6 or 7 SCOBYs to others who since have been making batches of their own, and perhaps sharing their colonies as well. To share your colony (or collect one from someone else) simply peel a layer off the existing colony. You can store it in a little kombucha in a jar until you are ready to make your own. It’s pretty durable, so don’t be afraid to keep it a few weeks if necessary. Adding a little sugar to the liquid can help keep the colony well fed. Although I’ve never tried this, I’m quite certain that if you were to simply pour some kombucha into your tea rather than getting a colony from someone else, that a colony would form in your batch over time and you’d get a lovely kombucha. If you try that, let me know how it goes please.

Preparation Time: 1 hour
Fermentation time: 7 days
Yield: 1 gallon

1 gallon non-chlorinated water
1 cup sugar
4 black tea bags or 2T loose black tea
1 SCOBY (a.k.a. colony, mother, mushroom)


  1. Make the tea.
  2. Dissolve the sugar into the tea
  3. Strain out the tea leaves (or remove the tea bags)
  4. Place it in the container you will use for the fermentation. I like to use a 2 gallon glass Anchor Hocking wide mouth jar, but use whatever you like. I’ve heard it said that it’s best to use a container that is wider than it is deep, such as a large bowl, but so long as you have sufficient surface area for the culture, you should be pleased with the result. I have a friend who makes her batches in a five gallon plastic pail, but I prefer the glass.
  5. Cover it with a cloth to allow it to breathe some while keeping other dust and microbial invaders from settling in your batch.
  6. Let it sit for about a week. The longer it sits, the more tart the taste will become. If it sits too long, it will become vinegary. If you aren’t so keen on the drink yet, let it sit longer.
  7. Bottle it, adding flavorings such as juices and berries. Some like to add chia seeds to their bottles to further enhance the nutritional qualities of the drink.
  8. It’s best to refrigerate it after bottling to significantly slow the fermentation activities.

Getting it to be nice and fizzy is something that has been inconsistent in my experience. I think a fizzy drink is mostly a product of a healthy happy SCOBY.  Have some patience and trust during the fermentation and after a week, dip in a spoon in and give it a taste.  Leave it longer if it’s not quite right.


Developer / Chef at Fermentation Recipes
Ted Seymour is a passionate writer, blogger, photographer, traveler and avid fermenter who lives on the coast of Northern California. His kombucha colony is a great great great great great great great grandmother many times over.

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Kombucha — 20 Comments

  1. You say to use a spoon to test your kombucha, but I’ve heard that it’s best to avoid all contact with metal since it can react with fermenting kombucha and give it off-flavors. Have you had any problems with that or do you have any opinion on the matter?

    • I haven’t noticed any problems with that and can’t honestly imagine that using a metal spoon would cause a problem. Your question reminded me of an episode on an old 60s/70s tv sitcom where butler played by Sebastian Cabot instructed the young girl that one must not cut the lettuce for a salad but gently tear it so it doesn’t turn brown. She then asked something along the lines of, “Then why do you put it in a metal bowl?” Good question.

  2. Actually there’s a valid reason for the “don’t cut lettuce” rule, one I only recently learned after 45 years of salad-making. When you tear lettuce, it mostly breaks along the boundaries between cells, which are like tiny perforations. This makes for a fresher tasting salad. When you cut it, you are cutting across the cell membranes, which makes for limper leafy greens.

  3. “Although I’ve never tried this, I’m quite certain that if you were to simply pour some kombucha into your tea rather than getting a colony from someone else, that a colony would form in your batch over time and you’d get a lovely kombucha. If you try that, let me know how it goes please.”

    I tried this with bottled Kombucha years ago and it took a lot longer than a full fledged SCOBY. Maybe because the Bacteria and yeast are dispersed in the bottle, then it had to form a home (SCOBY) and there is the possibility that there was too much liquid for the amount of SCOBY material in the bottle. But it did work!

  4. I’m new to fermentation and am anxious to get started. My question is,does the liquid need to be strained after fermenting,prior to bottling?

    • In my experience, there is no need to strain the kombucha before bottling. I believe some of the strainable material in the kombucha are yeast strands. When I first started making kombucha seceral years ago, I would strain it before bottling/drinking, but I soon gave up on that. I guess it’s more of an aesthetic issue than anything else, but certainly not necessary.

      • I honestly don’t know a firsthand answer to your question since I’ve never tried it myself. My understanding is that the kombucha mother contains Gluconacetobacter xylinus while the Apple Cider Mother of Vinegar (MOV) does not. Not to say that you might not enjoy the results, but I don’t think the sweet tea base for the kombucha will respond the same way to using the MOV. Would love to hear what happens if you try it. Please let us know.

        • I agree with ferment Ted. If you don’t have a scoby for Kombucha, use a bottle of Kombucha from a store, plain if possible. I make both kombucha and apple cider vinegar and have yet to try using my vinegar mother for kombucha. I have used a bottle of kombucha to start and it takes a while longer but it does work.

          On a side note, I recently used a wild blueberry powder in the second fermentation and man was that good, fizzy and pretty as can be. Too busy drinking it, to take a picture.

  5. The bubbles come after you move the Kombucha out of the 1st vessel and into smaller vessels. I ferment mine in a large pickle jar then pour into smaller glass jars (mason jars, some use ceramic cork/ wire stopper bottles). This is the 2nd fermentation stage, or 2f, the flavoful, fizzy, fun part! Add ONE raisin to each small container, then any flavor:grated ginger,chopped stone fruit, berries, melon, mango, pineapple, hibiscus, herbs, dried fruit, fruit syrup, fruit jam, spices, citrus…or any combo that strikes your fancy. Close and set on the counter again, 1-2 days. Pop the tops carefully several times a day to release fermentation and to avoid an explosion :)Refrigerate and enjoy.

  6. About obtaining a scoby, you said, “Although I’ve never tried this, I’m quite certain that if you were to simply pour some kombucha into your tea rather than getting a colony from someone else, that a colony would form in your batch over time and you’d get a lovely kombucha. If you try that, let me know how it goes please.” I tried it and it works just fine. About 16 days ago I bought a bottle of GT’S original organic raw kombucha. I made a cup of strong black tea, dissolved two Tbs. sugar into it, let it cool, then poured it into a pint mason jar and added the store bought kombucha. I now have a scoby about 1/4″ thick covering the top of the liquid. Steve

    • I wouldn’t worry about fermenting kombucha and kefir in the same room. I have often had a half dozen or more different ferments in the same room going with no problems. Keep them both appropriately covered.

  7. Question. Has anyone ever used raw honey in place of sugar? white sugar is NOT healthy at all. also what are the health benefits of kombucha?

    • I haven’t tried honey in place of sugar. As to health consequences of using white sugar, my feeling is that almost all of the sugar is consumed during the fermentation process so you’re not diretly ingesting the sugar. I preferred to use raw sugars and organic where possible, simply to avoid overprocessing and pesticides.

  8. responding to the comment saying that the bubbles come during a 2nd fermentation,away from the scoby,
    my kombucha always used to become wonderfully sparkling right in it’s home jar,under the scoby,in a week to ten days. 🙂

  9. oh yeah,about metal use with kombucha, i was told that it was great at absorbing metals out of your body, and one didn’t want it to do this from metal strainers or spoons, then drink the metal traces. just in case,i always try to drink it so as to keep it off the metal fillings in my molars!

  10. Hello guys,
    yes kombi does absorb metal very quickly and I too would not let it soak up metal fillings too much on a regular basis…I wanted to dehydrate some for storage and in some absent minded way put them on a metal rack until an hour later when I said: “Oh shoot what did I do!? was supposed to use unbleached parchment paper!” By then the scoby (s) were very blackened wherever they made contact with the metal…put them in the composter…may not have been the best place in retrospect.

    I am interested in finding out more about how much sugar is really left in the beverage. I let mine brew a long time (25 to 30 days) and end up with a very acidic beverage to avoid the sugar…but I like it that way

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