The Ultimate Kombucha FAQ
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is a naturally fermented sweet tea. It was discovered thousands of years ago somewhere in Asia, and its popularity is now growing because of its health benefits, its delicious taste, and how easy it is to make at home.
Is kombucha an healthy drink?
Yes, kombucha has been praised for a long time by dietitians, and physicians. It was known as the elixir of immortality in Asia. Simply put, Kombucha is a low-sugar drink that contains a high diversity and quantity of probiotics, while also containing antioxidants...
You can read many things about the benefits of kombucha, but the best thing is simply to try it yourself, and see how you, and your body, like it!
How much should I drink kombucha ?
Simply start slow, and see how your digestive system, taste buds, body, or spirit like kombucha!
If your digestive system is weak, start with half a glass per day. If your digestive system is very strong, you could drink up to 1 or 2 liters per day.
There are no real limits but the ones of your body. Some people can drink many liters per day with only positive effects.
Why should I drink kombucha?
Drinking kombucha helps your digestive and immune systems. It's low sugar, and helps detox your body. But, more than that, it tastes pretty good, and it's very easy to make at home.
Kombucha is used by people as an alternative to:
- Coffee, because it contains theine, but not caffeine.
- Tea, because kombucha is fizzy and fresh.
- Soft drink, because kombucha is a natural drink with low sugar.
- Beer, because kombucha has a very low alcohol content.
How much sugar is in kombucha?
During fermentation, the sugar is transformed, and when you harvest your kombucha the sugar level will be much lower.
Home-brewed kombucha’s sugar level is usually between 20 and 50g per liter.
As a comparison, soft drinks generally contain 100 to 130g of sugar per liter.
Is Kombucha hard to make?
No! It is effortless to make kombucha yourself. If you know how to make sweet tea, then you already know 50% of the recipe. The other part is adding a “mother”, also called scoby, and waiting for a week or two. And then it's ready to drink!
How can I make kombucha?
1) Prepare a sweet tea.
2) Add a kombucha mamma (scoby).
3) Let it ferment on the counter.
4) Add herbal tea, or juice (optional).
How can I get a kombucha scoby?
You want to start but you don’t have a scoby. You have multiple choices.
You could simply use commercial (unpasteurized) or homemade kombucha to create a new scoby. It should work most of the time, but you need to wait for a new pellicle to form. You could also find a friend, or someone in your area who could give you a scoby, or you could buy a new one from our shop.
What tea can I use to make kombucha?
You can use any tea, but it's better to use tea without added flavor (they could weaken your scoby).
The best tea is black (which contains the best nutrients for kombucha fermentation), followed by oolong (which is a good compromise between green and black), and then the green (which is more herbal, but still very stable). White tea sometimes lacks nutrients and may weaken scoby after a few batches.
You can mix tea, and infuse it at different temperatures, and for different lengths of time. Feel free to experiment! It's fun, and you learn a lot by doing it. The choice of tea and infusion strategy can make a big difference to your kombucha’s taste.
How much tea should I use to make kombucha?
We recommend about 4g of tea (2 bags or 1 tbsp) per liter of water, but you could add less, or much more. Tea is important, but its relative quantity is mostly a matter of taste.
What sugar can I use to brew my kombucha?
You can use any sugar like white, brown, or cane sugar. In fact, you can use any sugar that yeast are able to eat (like sucrose), so maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey, turbinado, demerara or agave could work (not the best choice).
Remember: The sugar is not for you. It's mostly for the yeast!
So the best method is to use a sugar that yeast find easy to transform. Organic cane or beet sugar are good choices.
You can’t use sugar substitutes like stevia, xylitol, or erythritol, to start kombucha fermentation.
How much sugar should I use for my kombucha?
We suggest about 80g per liter of water (1/3 cup of sugar per quart), but feel free to put in a bit more, or less.
Remember: The sugar is not for you. It is mostly for the yeast! You could start making kombucha with as little as 40g of sugar per liter of water, but you can't make kombucha without sugar.
Is water quality important for making kombucha?
By volume, water is the most important ingredient in any kombucha recipe. Your water quality will have an impact on your kombucha quality.
Filtered, reverse osmosis, or distilled water is normally not required, but in some cases it could be a good idea.
If your water tastes bad, or contains chlorine, then you need some filtration. Reverse osmosis and activated carbon filters (like Brita filters) work very well.
How long is kombucha fermentation?
Most people will ferment kombucha in 10 to 15 days. The longer you wait, the lower the sugar level and the higher the acidity. Factors influencing fermentation are temperature, ingredients, and your preferences.
The best way to decide the number of days you will need is to simply taste your kombucha every two days. However, it is best to start at day five. Prior to that, the flavor evolves slower.
Explain Like I'm Five: Kombucha Fermentation
Kombucha is a sweet tea that the micro-organisms, yeast and bacteria, transform into a healthy drink that taste sour and sweet. It is easy to make at home with equipment you can find in most kitchens.
When you add the Kombucha SCOBY to the sweet tea, the yeast will transform sugar into alcohol, CO2, and other nutrients. Then alcohol will be eaten by some bacteria and transformed into vinegar.
The longer it ferments, the lower the sugar and alcohol content, but the higher its sour flavor and health benefits.
What equipment is needed to make kombucha?
You need a jar with an opening to let air circulate but also to prevent fruit flies from entering. The jar could also be made of other materials like food-grade plastic or steel.
We like to use a 3.7 liter (1 gal) glass jar with a large opening and some cotton fabric, held over top with a large rubber band. You can use them to make 3 liters of kombucha at once. The size is perfect to be placed on the counter or fridge, and you can produce more when you want by adding new jars.
You can use any kind of fabric, but never use cheesecloth! The mesh of cheesecloth is often too large. If you use it, you’ll have fruit flies and you don’t want them inside your kombucha jar. Some jars are equipped with a tap, which can be used to brew continuously.
Optional equipment includes a temperature sensor, heat pad, pH meter, mesh filter, and refractometer. They can be very useful, but you can still make very good kombucha without them.
How much Scoby should I add?
We recommend adding about 10% of scoby starter liquid to your sweet tea. For 1 liter of water it is 100ml (or about 1/2 cup per quart).
Scoby starter liquid is a strong kombucha from the previous batch. You can include a pellicle, or pieces of it, but it is not a requirement.
If you add less than 10%, your culture will have a hard time populating fast enough, and some mold could form on the top of your jar. If this is your first kombucha fermentation, it is good to double the amount of starter liquid. This will lower the PH-level from the start, and help keep away mold.
At what temperature should I ferment kombucha?
The best kombucha fermentation temperature is around 26°C (78°F), but you will produce a very good kombucha between 18 and 28°C (65 to 85°F).
Below these temperatures, the fermentation will be slower, whereas above, the taste and quality will be lowered.
Where can I keep my kombucha while it’s fermenting?
You can keep you kombucha fermenting on your kitchen counter, on your fridge, or inside your pantry. Also, ensure good ventilation because kombucha fermentation needs fresh air. Keep away from direct sunlight and bad odors.
How can I flavor my kombucha?
Plain kombucha is delicious, but it's certainly nice to give it more flavors. You can add herbal tea, flavored tea, fruit (juice, fresh, frozen, dried...), honey, spices, etc. If it’s edible, why not throw it in to add some flavor to your kombucha. Everything is not a good flavor, but the choices are many.
We like to add between 5 and 20% additional ingredients to our kombucha. For 1 liter of plain kombucha, it’s 50 to 200g of ingredients. Spices like ginger juice are often used in a much lower quantity. These percentages are only an indication. You will have to do your own tests. Simply start with a lower quantity and test while adding more until you get the flavor you like.
When is the right time to flavor kombucha?
We advise you to add the flavoring ingredients just after finishing the first fermentation (1F). That’s just after putting aside your scoby for the next recipe. By doing this, you will keep your scoby strong, and keep it natural-flavored for each of your next recipes.
What quantity of ingredients can I add to flavor my kombucha?
You can add a lot, but most of the time 10% is a good choice. The more you add, the slower the yeast will produce CO2. But the more sugar content you add, the more you’ll feed your yeast… More sugar = more CO2. So be careful about your bottle pressure after adding some juice.
What ingredients can I use to flavor kombucha?
Any ingredient can be added like vegetables, or vegetable juice, herbal decoction, tea infusion, fresh or frozen fruits, honey, syrup... There is no limit. If it's edible, and it mixes well with water, then you can use it. If you are adding any infusion, or decoction, then make sure it is not too hot. You do not want to kill your kombucha.
Look at our recipes to get some ideas, or simply look inside your fridge and try something new. It will be a great experience.
How can I make a low-sugar kombucha?
To make a low-sugar kombucha, simply ferment it longer.
Day after day, your kombucha will become less sweet and more sour. You can harvest when you like its flavor.
Note: Do not lower the sugar you add into the recipe. Yeast needs it! Yeast will eat most of the sugar and produce important components needed for kombucha fermentation. Starving yeast would not be a good strategy unless you want to experiment.
How can I make my kombucha sweeter?
You want your kombucha sweeter? Reduce fermentation time, or add some sugar just before bottling. The good news is that at this point you can add any sugar! Any kind of real sugar or substitute can be used. But, after that, be careful about the pressure inside your bottles if the sugar you use is fermentable. More sugar = more CO2 in your bottles.
Is it possible to make 0% sugar kombucha at home?
Not really. Home-brewed kombucha at 0% sugar is impossible to make easily because the natural process takes about 2 months to remove all the sugar content… and that fermentation time will transform any kombucha into a full-power kombucha vinegar.
How can I make my kombucha less sour?
If your kombucha is a bit too sour, just add some herbal tea, plant extract, or natural sweetener to adjust the taste.
Your kombucha taste like vinegar? Congratulations, you have the best vinegar! It’s made with very good ingredients, with love, and it contains a very high density of good bacteria.
How can I make my kombucha more sour?
You want it more sour? Simply wait a bit longer. Don't forget it, or you'll have only vinegar. It's still very healthy, but we do not recommend drinking a glass of it.
Can I use essential oils to flavor my kombucha?
It is not the best idea, because essential oils could be dangerous, and because essential oils don’t mix well with kombucha.
Want lemon? Add lemon juice! Want peppermint? Add some mint tea! Want ginger? Add some ginger slices, or juice! Want cardamom? Add some crushed cardamom seeds, or cardamom infusion.
What type of bottle can I use for kombucha?
You can keep your kombucha in any bottle that can sustain pressure. For example, you can buy or recycle any beer or fizzy drink bottles. Transparent glass bottles are preferred because we can see the beautiful colors of kombucha. Any cap is good, but swing-top does have better durability.
Don’t ever use Mason jars, or any jar to keep your kombucha. These containers are not designed to sustain pressure and could explode!
I have little scoby pellicles growing in my bottles. Is this normal?
Fermentation will continue inside your bottles and even inside the fridge. Sometimes a new scoby will grow inside the bottle. This is perfectly safe to eat while you drink your delicious kombucha.
How can I make my Kombucha Fizzy?
After bottling, simply keep your bottles at room temperature. Yeast eats sugar and produce CO2. If the CO2 is kept in a closed bottle, then its pressure grow, and fizz develops.
Test your bottle pressures daily and put it in the fridge as soon as it is sparkling (always be cautious with the pressure).
My Kombucha is not fizzy enough. What are my options?
Keeping it longer at room temperature is the best solution. After a few days your kombucha should be fizzy enough.
If this is not working for you, add a teaspoon of sugar or a piece of ginger (juice works too) while bottling. The idea is to give yeast more food.
My Kombucha is too fizzy. How can I open my bottle?
Don’t panic! Opening your kombucha bottle outside would be a good idea, unless you want to paint your ceiling with kombucha… If you can’t go outside, open your bottle in your sink with a clean plastic bag, or bowl over the top.
My Kombucha is always too fizzy. What are my options?
Simply put it in the fridge sooner. You have too much active yeast. Next time, make your scoby more sour in order to promote bacteria.
How long should I keep my kombucha bottle on my counter?
Not very long if yeast are active inside your kombucha. Test the pressure daily and put it in the fridge as soon as it is sparkling to your preference (be careful with the pressure). Not all bottles will have the same pressure, so test them all.
If you forget a bottle for longer than expected, take much care when opening it. Don’t forget a bottle for more than a week without pressure testing... It could explode if the glass is not strong enough.
How long can I keep my kombucha in the fridge?
There is no problem keeping kombucha for months or even years. Kombucha is a living drink, so it will slowly transform over time to become more and more sour.
Keeping your culture alive
How long can I keep my kombucha scoby on my counter?
Keeping your kombucha scoby at room temperature could be a good idea. Simply keep your pellicle in your fermentation jar along with 500 ml of kombucha from your last batch. You need to feed it with cold sweet tea every 2 to 3 weeks. This kombucha scoby will become a very strong starter for your next recipes.
Can I keep my kombucha SCOBY in the fridge?
You can keep your SCOBY cool in an airtight container. Microorganisms will then become dormant and will not need to be fed. This option can be used to keep your kombucha SCOBY for up to 6 months or more. However, in the long run it will lose its vitality.
Science of kombucha
What is a SCOBY?
A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. It's a collaboration of bacteria and yeast.
SCOBY is a starter culture. It is used to add the microorganisms needed to properly start fermentation.
SCOBY is the starter liquid and the pellicle is the gelatinous substance made of cellulose that generally floats on top.
Is Kombucha a mushroom?
No, but many people worldwide call it a mushroom.
Yes, the kombucha SCOBY could look like a mushroom (but it's not). And yes, yeast that are living inside kombucha are technically fungi, but Kombucha is biologically not a mushroom (beer isn't, either).
Technically, kombucha is not a mushroom but you can still call this strange creature by this name.
Is there alcohol inside kombucha?
Commercial kombucha has a typical alcohol level of between 0 - 0.5%. Homemade kombucha will be between 1 - 1.5%. If you want to make a very low-alcohol kombucha, then make it more sour.
Can I make my kombucha more alcoholic?
Yes, you can, but your SCOBY will suffer. In order to have higher alcohol content, you will need to stop the formation of acid by acetic acid bacteria. These bacteria need oxygen to transform alcohol into acid. So, if you ferment kombucha without oxygen, you’ll stop acidification. Use a lid with an airlock instead of just fabric and you will have a kombucha with 3 - 4% alcohol.
Do I need to have a pellicle to start brewing kombucha?
You need a starter culture, which can include the pellicle, but the latter is not necessary. The pellicle is produced during kombucha fermentation. A new pellicle will grow even if you do not add one at the start. Fast pellicle formation is a sign of good bacterial activity and acidification.
In elementary terms: Kombucha Fermentation
Kombucha is a sweet tea that the micro-organisms, yeast and bacteria, transform into a healthy drink that taste sour, as well as sweet. It is easy to make at home with equipment you can find in most kitchens.
Why is my SCOBY staying at the bottom?
This is totally cool and normal for your first batches. When your SCOBY is young, there is often not enough yeast to produce CO2 in order to make it stay afloat. After a few days, a new SCOBY will slowly form on top.
What is this floating brown thing?
That is yeast and it's perfectly normal. It means that your kombucha is healthy and alive. If you dislike it, you can filter your kombucha before bottling it.
Is there mold inside my kombucha?
Most of the time it is not mold. Mold only forms on the surface. So if it is inside the liquid, it is definitely not mold. It is often yeast or tea deposits, and it is good.
Mold grows when we add too little scoby or when our scoby is not strong enough. If you are unsure, wait a couple of days, and see if the spots grow bigger and/or more hairy.
If you have mold, you need to start again with a new scoby.
What should I do if there are fruit flies inside my kombucha jar!?
If you want to grow fruit flies, simply keep your jar and wait for the eggs to hatch… It’s going to be crazy.
But if you are not in love with fruit flies, you will want to throw everything in the compost and start again.
Next time make sure not to let any fruit flies enter (use good fabric).
What are these strange words I read about kombucha?
Pellicle: cellulose layer that forms on top of kombucha (also sometimes referred to as “scoby”)
Scoby: symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast - the liquid that makes kombucha work
Starter liquid: when kombucha has finished fermenting, it can be used to start a new culture
1F: first fermentation, mix of sweet tea and starter liquid
2F: second fermentation, where you block the air supply and begin to generate fizz
CB: continuous brewing, a method where you keep refilling the same vessel with new tea