Sunday, 29 December 2013

How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation

I have an addiction to Kombucha Tea. I started making Kombucha tea for my 5yo who is healing from alot of tummy issues after numerous courses of antibiotics and a recurrent c.diff infection (which has since cleared) and got hooked myself. It's now my go to drink when I feel like I need a little pick me up. My kids love it also. 

How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation
Beautiful healthy SCOBY's and one of my SCOBY Hotels where the babies 'hang out'
Kombucha tea is a detoxifying naturally fermented beverage with many health benefits. It is made with sweetened black or green tea, a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony/Culture of Bacteria & Yeast) and some starter tea (already fermented tea), as the bacteria and yeasts feed on the sugar it creates a carbonated probiotic drink which can be flavoured with your favourite fruit, herbs and spices. 

There are two stages to making Kombucha tea. The first stage is fermenting the sweetened tea and the second stage is to flavour the tea and make it fizzy like soda or champagne as some of my friends describe it :)

The first fermentation takes at least 7 days to 14 days. The best way to check when you first start making kombucha tea is with a PH strip. The first fermentation should read 3.0, anything above you should leave for another day and recheck, anything below 2.8 will be quite strong and vinegar like (which is great for dressings and dips). After a few batches and some gained confidence, you can just go by taste. You can drink your kombucha as it is or you can flavour it with a second fermentation (see my recipes page here).

How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation
Get creative with your favourite flavour combinations - This one is Strawberry Mojito Kombucha Tea

With each new batch a new SCOBY forms on the top, the beginning stages of the new SCOBY can look scary! I had to keep googling images to make sure it looked right. I was terrified of mould which I read can happen - I have since learnt this is quite rare and usually it's caused when the there isn't enough starter tea or some mould spores contaminating the batch. If you are wondering about mould and how to tell, the mould looks like it would on bread or cheese, circular, fuzzy and very clear that it is mould. If this ever happens, throw the entire batch out and clean the jar with hot water and distilled vinegar before making a new batch. 

The forming SCOBY is one funny looking growth with patchy solid bits and some translucent bits, sometimes it just doesn't form into a smooth 'pancake' looking thing either, it can have a few bumps and brown stringy stuff hanging from it (totally ok, it's just the yeast). I recommend not checking in on it for the first 7 days if you can!  I couldn't help myself for the first few batches but now I know to leave them alone so the new SCOBY has a chance to form nicely. If you bump or move the jar, the new forming SCOBY may drop from the surface, so it will need to start again on the surface, it's best to keep it somewhere you will not have to move too much.

Kombucha SCOBY in some starter tea & brewed green tea with sugar

All you need to start your first batch is a SCOBY and some starter tea, if you have a friend who makes Kombucha tea, you can ask them for a spare SCOBY, otherwise if you live in Australia or Vietnam, you can buy a SCOBY here or if you live in USA, Canada & elsewhere you can buy one from Kombucha Kamp. You can book a Kombucha workshop in Vietnam here

How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation

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You will need:
  • 1 x SCOBY & Starter Tea
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar  (buy on iherb or amazon - alternatives or substitutes are not recommended)
  • 2 x organic green/black tea bags or 2 tsp loose leaf tea (avoid any tea's with oils such as earl grey and non caffeinated teas. I use Numi Organic Gun Powder Green Tea)
  • 1 litre of filtered non chlorinated water 
  • 1 x 1.5litre capacity wide mouth glass jar (or larger)
  • 1 x muslin square to cover the glass jar
  • 1 x rubber band large enough to go around the glass jar

I found Ikea has a good range of wide mouth glass jars or in Vietnam you can go to Metro or Glass Street (I go to Quynh Anh at 192-194 Vo Thi Sau, P7, District 3 HCMC) for glass jars, continuous brews and bottles
How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation
This is my SCOBY Hotel <3

  • Clean all equipment with distilled vinegar and rinse very well (it is best not to use soap as any residue is harmful to your SCOBY)
  • Ensure your hands are clean and free from soap residue
  • Do not use any metal utensils or containers as this can harm your SCOBY, stainless steel is ok
  • Boil the water and pour in the glass jar (or if you have access to filtered water, you can save time by boiling approximately 1/3 of the filtered water and adding the rest of the water later to cool the tea quicker)
  •  Stir in ¼ cup organic raw sugar until dissolved and add the 2 organic tea bags or 4 tsp of loose leaf tea
  • Steep for 10-15 minutes
  •  Remove the tea bags (if using loose leaf tea, ensure all leaves are strained out. If you only boiled 1/3 of the water, pour in the remaining water)
  • The tea should be room temperature, if it is still warm, leave it for some time or stick it in the fridge with a timer set and return to check the temperature. 
  • If unsure whether it is cool enough or the jar still feels warm, leave it for 10-20mins to be safe. be patient with the cooling, it will be worth it!
  • Once the jar and tea is cooled to room temperature, add the SCOBY & starter tea
How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation
After the sweetened tea has cooled, add the SCOBY and starter tea
  • Cover with the muslin cloth and secure with the Elastic band to ensure bugs do not get in
  • Keep the jar preferably somewhere in the cupboard away from light, other ferments and strong smells. 
  • Keep the cupboard door ajar at night to allow the SCOBY fresh air.
  •  Ideally the temperature should be around 26ºC (78ºF) for best results
  • Allow to ferment for at least 7 days. You can leave it up to 14 days for a moderate taste, the longer you leave it the stronger the vinegar taste. For the first 2-3 batches I recommend leaving it for at least 10 days, check the PH levels if you are unsure, it should read 2.5 -3.0
  • The longer you leave it the more beneficial bacteria there is, but remember it needs to be palatable and enjoyable
  • Remember to keep about 1/2 cup of fermented tea for your next batch for EACH mother & baby SCOBY, don't drink it all :)

Next Batch, Beyond

  • Set aside about 1/2 cup starter tea per SCOBY (you will have 2 scoby's now) using the liquid at the top (try not to stir up the jar as all the yeast settles at the bottom and you don't want to use that for your starter)
  • With clean hands remove your mother & baby SCOBY and place in a clean jar or bowl
  • Bottle up the remaining fermented tea to drink as is, or you can flavour your kombucha tea and make it fizzier like a soda (soft drink) with a second fermentation. I have lots of flavour options under the Kombucha section on my recipe page
How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation
Second Fermentation - Ginger, Turmeric & Black Pepper Kombucha Tea
  • You will now be able to make 2 Litres of Kombucha tea so double the recipe for 2 batches (one for mother, one for baby), you can put them both in one large jar or 2 separate jars
  • If you do not wish to have an additional litre, store your spare SCOBY & future SCOBY's together in a jar with some brewed Kombucha tea and cover with a lid or cloth known as a SCOBY Hotel
  • Add some sweetened tea to your SCOBY hotel each time you make a batch to feed your babies
  • Don't leave all your SCOBY's in your brewing jar, it will cause the fermentation to speed up considerably and may not result in a great tasting brew
  • If you have an overgrowth of yeast (this can happen in warmer climates), you can leave the batch for at least 30 days for the yeast to die off and start a new batch with only the new formed scoby at the top and 1/2 liquid from the top of your batch
  • In colder climates or winter, it will take longer to ferment. I don't recommend a heating pad as they sit at the bottom of the jar they will activate the yeasts and cause an overgrowth. You can get a heating belt (like this one) which wraps around the jar
  • Don't guzzle the whole lot at once either, go slow, Kombucha tea is a health tonic.  I usually have 1-2 small cups a day as do my kids who started off with 1/4 to 1/2 a cup
How to make Kombucha Tea - First Fermentation
My family favourites - Passionfruit, Raspberry and Ginger, Turmeric & Black Pepper Kombucha Tea

Need a Kombucha SCOBY? Buy one here in Australia or Vietnam or go to Kombucha Kamp for USA, Canada & Worldwide. You can book a Kombucha workshop in Vietnam here


  1. I'm currently growing my own SCOBY to make my first batch of kombucha. Just doing some research to see how it's done. You have good, clear directions. One question...can you store "extra" SCOBY's in the fridge to keep them longer if you're not using them?

    1. Hi Linda, to store your extra SCOBY's you don't need to leave them in the fridge. You can just store them in a jar as you would normally have them when you brew them. Every 15-30 days you can add some freshly brewed tea with sugar (cooled) to feed them. You can use a lid or a cloth, I prefer the cloth to allow them to 'breathe'. Putting them in the fridge is ok, but it will take a little longer to 'wake' them up when you want to use them. You will also get a nice new SCOBY forming at the top too :) This is what I do to store my extras, I have 4-5 in each of my spare jars. Hope that helps and good luck with your baby SCOBY! x

  2. To avoid contamination from unwelcomed biological organisms, I would suggest you sterilize all of the water being used by boiling it, or using distilled water that hasn't previously been opened.

  3. What is the difference between a mother Scoby and a baby Scoby (other than size). Do they react differently. When making the second batch can you use both, and then third batch do you use 2 babies and the mother? Is the rule 1 Scoby her 1L kombucha?

    1. The mother scoby is the original scoby, the baby scoby when it forms if left to ferment long enough and dependant on the temperature will be as big as the mother scoby. You can split them up for 2 separate brews of 1L each or keep them in the same big jar for 2L. Once they have been through a few batches you can definitely increase the volume to 2-3 litres. I would then keep any spare baby scoby's in a separate jar filled with sweetened tea enough to cover them. Don't leave too many scoby's in your brewing jar as it might ferment too quick and won't have as nice a taste. hope that helps Lani :)

  4. So I must have my home too warm. I get a lot of brown "yeast in my Kombucha. I also had too many scobies in 1 jar. It was a hotel itself. Should I wash off the brown yeast or start with a new scoby? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kaia,

      Make a new batch in a new jar and have your hotel separate, you can wash the scoby with some white vinegar. It might take a few batches to return good but should be fine :)