Healthy SCOBY & Starter Tea
This can be a SCOBY you have received from a family member, friend, or have ordered from a reputable source online.
The addition of an acidic liquid is critical to the health of the SCOBY and the safety of the batch of kombucha. The most desirable acidic liquid to use when brewing a batch of kombucha is properly brewed kombucha tea from a previous batch.
If starter tea is not available, there are two options:
- Use a bottle of store-bought raw, unflavored kombucha tea.
- Use white distilled vinegar. Vinegar can make up all or part of the acidic liquid portion needed to brew a batch of kombucha.
If you are using any water other than distilled you should boil it for 10 minutes before use. Even bottled water may contain bacteria. It depends on where the water originated. It could also contain microscopic parasites.
Kombucha cultures best using water that is as free from contaminants as possible. A high mineral content is not important for kombucha and may be harmful to the SCOBY.
Water that is structured, alkalized, or pH-adjusted is not appropriate for making kombucha.
Distilled White Vinegar
This is the vinegar you will you is you do not have starter tea. It is also what should be used to clean all your Kombucha supplies instead of soap. It is very important to keep your workspace as clean and sanitary as possible for your SCOBY.
Once the initial fermentation period is complete and the SCOBY has been removed, consume the kombucha as is or choose to add additional flavoring.
Flavored kombucha can be enjoyed immediately or fermented further, for a more developed taste in the final product. Choose your favorite fruit, juice, herbs or spices to make a variety of flavored drinks.
- If flavoring with fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, start with 10-30% fruit and 70-90% Kombucha.
- If flavoring with juice, start with 10-20% juice and 80-90% Kombucha.
- If flavoring with herbs, the variety and strength of herbs varies greatly. Experiment to come up with the best ratios and combinations for your taste preferences.
- For flavor extracts such as almond or vanilla extract, start with ¼ teaspoon extract per cup of kombucha and adjust to taste. Remember the flavor will continue to develop during the second fermentation period.
Many “teas” do not contain what Kombucha needs to brew successfully, especially over time. Brewing kombucha requires real tea (camellia sinensis) for both minerals and nitrogen. We recommend using organic tea whenever possible, to avoid chemical contaminants. The type of tea used to brew kombucha can affect the health of the SCOBY as well as the taste of your finished brew.
Traditionally, Kombucha has been brewed with black tea (known as “red tea” in China, named for the color of the resulting brewed liquid rather than the color of the leaves themselves). Research has shown that green tea produces the healthiest looking culture. The most common recipe for brewing Kombucha includes a combination of green & black tea. Loose leaf teas are, across the board, of a much higher quality than those that come in tea bags. Loose leaf is more likely to contain bigger pieces of rolled leaves. Bag tea is often made from small pieces or dust. Dust is the lowest grade of tea. It is usually reflected in the price if a company is using dust, unless you are paying extra for the name. Dust or no dust, bag tea is more expensive per cup than loose leaf.
|Black (Ceylon, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, etc)||
Fully oxidized tea leaves; provides all the nutrients for the SCOBY; makes a bold, fruity-tasting kombucha
|Avoid Earl Grey and other black teas containing oils and added flavoring. Best choice for activating a SCOBY and making kombucha regularly.|
Partially oxidized tea leaves; makes a milder flavored kombucha, somewhat fruity and grassy
|A CFH favorite for brewing kombucha! Works well for activating a dehydrated SCOBY and making kombucha regularly.|
|Green (Jasmine, gunpowder green, etc)
|Withered and steamed tea leaves; minimally oxidized; makes a lighter, softer kombucha||Avoid green teas with oils or added flavoring. Use in combination with black tea or on its own.|
|Baked and dried tea leaves, minimally oxidized; flowery and delicate flavor
|Use in combination with black, green, or oolong tea. Not recommended for activating SCOBY or making first 4 batches of kombucha.
|Usually refers to an herbal tea from South Africa; fresh, almost nutty flavor||Use in combination with at least 25% black tea for brewing kombucha. Not recommended for activating SCOBY or making first 4 batches of kombucha.|
|Yerba Mate & Other Herbal Teas
Made from plants other than camellia sinensis; flavor varies
|Use in combination with at least 25% black tea for brewing kombucha. Avoid herbal teas containing oils or added flavoring. Not recommended for activating SCOBY or making first 4 batches of kombucha.|
Cane sugar is the most common type of sugar that is used for brewing Kombucha. Most people use “plain white sugar” – you want to make sure the package says “cane sugar” on it or you are most likely using GMO Beet Sugar.
Since Kombucha is intended to gently detoxify the body, I prefer to use organic, evaporated cane juice sugar crystals in order to avoid adding any harmful chemicals from the sugar bleaching process to my brew.
Again, the sugar is NOT FOR YOU!! You might think that you are helping yourself by not adding all of the sugar the recipe calls for, in fact you are starving your culture.
|White cane sugar||Pure white, free of minerals||Good choice for brewing kombucha|
|Organic Cane Juice Crystals||Unbleached white sugar; very low mineral content||CFH best choice for brewing kombucha.|
|Brown, raw, or whole cane sugars||Sugar that is less refined and contains molasses||Hard on the kombucha SCOBY. Produces a yeasty kombucha and may shorten the SCOBY’s life. Not recommended.|
|Honey||Natural sugar from bees; may be raw or pasteurized||Results may be inconsistent; If used, always have a back-up SCOBY available.|
|Agave, Maple, coconut, palm sugars or syrups||Sugar extracted from various plants or trees||Results may be inconsistent and hard on the SCOBY. Not recommended.|
|Stevia, xylitol, or Artificial Sweeteners||Sugar substitutes||Do not contain nutrients or proper food for the kombucha SCOBY. Not recommended.|
Glass is the best option for brewing Kombucha. It won’t react to the acidity of the brew, doesn’t scratch easily or contain chemicals such as BPA. Glass containers are also easy and inexpensive to obtain. Canning jars and storage work well. For continuous brew systems a larger glass jar with spigot is a good choice, but it can also be used for batch brewing to make the funneling process easier. Be sure the spigot inside the jar is plastic, not metal.
Metal is generally detrimental to Kombucha. The only possible exception is stainless steel because it is relatively inert. Some brewers feel it is a better alternative to a plastic spigot.
A coffee filter or tight-weave dish towel, secured with a rubber band, is an excellent choice. Avoid loose-weave fabric or screens, like cheesecloth, which will not keep out tiny bugs like ants and fruit flies. Do not use a tight lid. Doing so will inhibit airflow needed for effective fermentation. You can also buy a brewer’s cap online, or make one with some fabric and elastic.
Plastic Funnel (for bottling the batch brew method)
When using a continuous brew, you can fill your bottles straight from the spigot on the bottom. When bottling batch brew you may find it easier to use a funnel to bottle your brew.
Tea Strainer (if you use loose-leaf)
A mesh tea ball is handy when using loose tea to brew Kombucha. Metal tea balls are fine to use, as they will be removed before the SCOBY and starter tea are added.
There are a variety of tea infusers/strainers for loose leaf teas to choose from. Teavana in particular sells paper filters made with abaca pulp (a strong fiber procured from the stalk of a specific banana tree), cellulose, and sealing fibers, and they are bleached with oxygen and are biodegradable.
Choosing Bottles for Kombucha
While essentially any glass container with a lid can be used to store kombucha, to obtain the best carbonation level, it is important to bottle kombucha in truly airtight bottles. While canning jars make wonderful storage vessels for finished kombucha, they are not truly airtight, and carbon dioxide will leak from them. A better option is a Grolsch-style flip-top bottle, which will adequately contain the fermentation gases and keep the kombucha better carbonated.