What you need to make your own kombucha

I didn’t start brewing my own kombucha until they yanked it off the shelf. I was hooked on the stuff, I was having on average one a day. I had no choice to brew my own, but the math was also compelling. What I was paying $3.50 retail for I could make myself for about 20 cents once I had the equipment (it’s only sugar & tea!). My all in, including equipment I now know I don’t need, was $137.65 so I’d pay for my investment after 42 bottles, or 6 batches.

What you’ll need for initial brewing (primary fermentation):

  • (1) Large stainless steel stockpot (big enough for 20 cups of liquid).
  • (6) 64 ounce (1/2 gallon) wide mouth canning jars.
    • You’ll use 3 jars per batch, so 6 is enough for 2 rotating batches.
    • Jarden 68100 6 Count Wide Mouth Canning Jars were the perfect solution for me. About $20 including shipping ($10 if you can find locally).
    • Some sites will say to use 1 gallon jars, and you certainly can, but I don’t have room to store such a large container and didn’t cherish the thought of lugging such a big heavy thing around. Plus, as it turns out, brewing 1.5 gallons is what fits in my stockpot and gives me a week’s supply (7-9 bottles).
  • Basket style paper coffee filters
  • (6) rubber bands. If you shop at Whole Foods they’ll keep you in plenty of rubber bands if you ever buy sushi or eggs.
  • SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria & yeast), aka “mother” or “mushroom”. I got mine from Nick’s Natural Nook on ebay. She shipped immediately and it arrived in perfect condition. Or┬átry the Worldwide SCOBY exchange
  • pH Strips. You want your kombucha to have a pH of 4.6 or lower upon initial fermentation and 3.0 or below when you bottle. The strips you’ll most easily find are designed to test saliva or urine and won’t go low enough. You want to have strips that will measure from 0-6, or those designed for wine testing have an even narrower range.
  • Organic Tea (green, black or a mix). Nothing fancy required but I always use organic when available. I use the cheapest bags of 365 organic tea from Whole Foods.
  • Organic cane sugar. Again, nothing fancy. Plain organic sugar.
  • Gloves? Don’t bother. Wash your hands.

Equipment for secondary fermentation (bottling):

  • Straws…or you can go overboard and buy a Wine Thief like I did for $5, but free straws you can swipe from your local Starbucks or Whole Foods? Much cheaper.
  • You’ll be using those pH strips again, at least until you get the hang of what your kombucha should taste like when it’s ready to bottle.
  • A dozen 12-16 ounce bottles ($20-$50, you’ll use 7-9 per batch if you use my recipe).
    • I like the .375 liter Voss water bottles which retail for about $1.50 a piece. They’re heavy, glass, have a plastic cap (important, kombucha doesn’t like metal) and I know the only thing that was previously in them was clean water. I use these for bottles I give to other people. I don’t feel bad if I never see it again.
    • For reusable bottles, I love E-Z Cap Beer Bottles. I got mine online from a place that asked me to remove their link – that’s a first). $26 for a dozen bottles plus shipping which was $16. I could have saved myself the shipping fee had I done a Google search for home brewing beer supplies, there’s a specialty shop in my city. C’est la vie.
  • plastic funnel. I like this one (which happened to already be in my kitchen): Oxo Good Grips 3-Piece Funnel and Strainer Set, $8. It has little rubber grippy things so it stays put when you put it in the bottle and fits perfectly into the E-Z Cap Bottles. It also has a stainer which comes in handy for catching seeds when squeezing fresh lemon juice into a bottle of ‘buch.
  • If you use a 1 gallon jar to brew in, you’ll need a plastic ladle to transfer into your bottles. Oxo Good Grips Nylon Ladle, $7. Remember, kombucha doesn’t like metal! But if you use 1/2 gallon jars you won’t need this, it’s light enough to just pick it up and pour.
  • If alcohol is a concern – or you’re just plain curious like I am – you’ll want to test the potential alcohol level of your kombucha with a hydrometer & a test tube. Completely optional however. I tested my home brew and it tested almost zero alcohol. If there was one thing I bought that I consider a waste of money it was this.
  • SCOBY hotel. At some point you’ll have extra SCOBYs. You’ll want to hang onto a few just in case you have a batch go bad (very rare from what I understand). As much as you want air to get into your kombucha as it’s brewing, you don’t want your SCOBY hotel to breathe. One of your canning jars with lid will work fine (it’s ok if it has a metal lid – as long as it doesn’t touch your kombucha). I’m using some smaller canning jars I had. Too small for brewing, but big enough for a SCOBY hotel. A pyrex container with a plastic lid also works. Don’t store in plastic though. Glass please.

Time to brew! My basic recipe and brewing instructions are here.