When most people begin their kombucha journey they are faced with the decision to purchase a complete kombucha starter kit, or build their own starter kit themselves. Really, it comes down to cost. But will you get more savings buying in bulk, or purchasing each piece of equipment individually?
I’ll have the answer to this question below. I’ll also cover a few of the more popular starter kits on the market with my personal opinion (I haven’t bought all of them – that would be too expensive!)
My guess is most people are here for a product recommendation, so let’s first cover my favorite starter kits and continue our discussion on costs below.
My Favorite Kombucha Starter Kit
There are two major things I look for in a good kombucha stater kit:
- Has everything you need to brew your first batch from start to finish
- Uses live SCOBY cultures
Basically, after that, it just comes down to price. There are a few other features that can differentiate a good kit from a bad, but we’ll get more into that below. For those just looking for a quick product recommendation, here is the best kombucha starter kit (IMHO.)
The Kombucha Shop – Kombucha Brewing Kit
What I like About It:
- Ships live SCOBY
- 1-gallon brewing vessel
- Black tea and raw cane sugar
- Temperature and pH gauge
- Tight-weave cover and elastic band
The Kombucha Shop kit was really one of the only kits on the market that ticked off my “must-haves.” You can tell that the people who put the kit together are actually home kombucha brewers like you and me.
The regular kit will come with everything you’d need to brew your first batch. I’d recommend purchasing the deluxe kit if you can afford it. The flip-top bottles in the deluxe kit are a great addition if you don’t already own a set.
What I Wish It Had:
My only real complaint with this kit is that it only supplies you with enough sugar and tea for a single brew. For most home brewers, the first batch of kombucha is mainly a learning experience. I find that things really come together on the second brew.
Additionally, I’d like to see a long plastic straw provided so you can sample your kombucha while it’s brewing. In terms of the deluxe kit, I’m happy to see they used flip-top bottles.
Finally, the funnel that comes in the deluxe kit is a filter funnel. You really want to have unfiltered kombucha in your bottles for the second ferment. This is where most of your carbonation is going to come from!
What Equipment Does My Kit Need?
Obviously, one of the most important features of a starter kit is the equipment that is included. Here’s a list of everything you’ll need to start your first brew:
- Brewing vessel (at least 1-gallon)
- Cane sugar
- Elastic band and cloth covering
- Live SCOBY
Most beginners are going to start out with a 1-gallon brewing vessel. Look for a clear glass container with a wide-mouth top. Read my post on brewing vessels if you want more specifics.
One huge difference you’ll find in lots of brewing kits is in the starter liquid. If the kit dehydrates its SCOBY for transport this means it doesn’t come with any starter liquid. I highly recommend you avoid starter kits that dehydrate your SCOBY before shipping. Dehydrating the SCOBY is a great way to end up with a moldy first brew.
Avoid starter kits with dehydrated SCOBY
If it ships live SCOBY, you’ll know that it comes with prepackaged starter liquid. Don’t worry about the SCOBY going
“off” during transport – you can read more about why here.
I like kits that provide enough tea and sugar for at least 2 brews. I find that the first brew is mainly a learning experience. You will have a better handle on the process for the second brew and have a higher chance of ending up with something you enjoy.
I recommend looking for something that uses the classic black tea and raw cane sugar. You can always experiment with other teas later.
Another thing you want to avoid is cheese cloth for the covering. Cheese cloth is much too loose of a weave to be used a cover. Fruit flies will easily find their way into your tasty kombucha!
Avoid cheese cloth coverings if possible
Nice To Have Equipment
There are a few other things that are “nice-to-haves.” You can still brew you kombucha without them, but they can make your life a little easier during the process. They are:
- Flip-top bottles
- Long plastic straw
- Temperature gauge
Bottling your kombucha is the easiest way to store it. Plus, it’s a crucial part of the process of carbonating.
1 gallon of kombucha will fill six 16 oz flip-top bottles and still leave enough kombucha left over to keep your SCOBY happy. While there are plenty of alternatives, I recommend sticking with the classic flip-top bottles (find out why here.)
It’s nearly impossible to pour your kombucha from the vessel into the bottles. This is where a funnel really comes in handy. I usually recommend avoiding the funnels with the built-in filters. You are going to want that extra yeast in your bottles to really kick the carbonation up a notch.
The long plastic straw is nice to have to sample your buch during the brewing period. This way you can closely monitor the sweetness vs. acidic level.
Finally, having a temperature gauge is always nice to have on your brewing vessel. While most of the time you will be brewing your kombucha at room temperature, it’s always nice to know if your temperature drops below the recommended lower limit (64 °F.)
When you become more advanced you can start adding in a vessel heater to crank up the temperature to the optimal range of 78-80°F.
Kombucha Starter Kits To Avoid
Avoid any starter kits that don’t ship their SCOBY live in starter liquid. Re-hydrating SCOBY is a risky way to start your first brew. It can lead to off-putting flavors, or worse, mold.
One of the crucial ingredients to starting a kombucha brew is starter liquid. This is another reason why using dehydrated SCOBY is a poor choice. The starter liquid is needed to provide the kombucha with the right starting point for fermentation.
Kits that use dehydrated SCOBY recommend using vinegar as a substitute starter liquid. There are lots of reasons why this isn’t a good idea. While the natural of vinegar is similar to kombucha, it’s also very different in many ways. The SCOBY needs that specific mix of acidic and sweetness to thrive.
If that’s not enough, using vinegar leaves you open to vingear eels. No one wants that!
You will also want to avoid any companies that say they refrigerate their SCOBY. Similar to dehydrating, refrigeration stress out the SCOBY to the point where it’s defenseless against invading bacteria. This is why most people who use refrigerated SCOBY end up with mold in their first or second batch.
There are plenty of kits floating around that don’t provide all of the necessary equipment to complete your first brew. This usually means you will have to pay even more money to get started.
It’s All In The SCOBY
One of the challenges of picking starter kits is determining the quality of the SCOBY. The SCOBY is what’s going to determine the taste profile of your kombucha. Quality SCOBY will also be able to be used for more brewing cycles.
Starting out with the best SCOBY possible is important becuase every other SCOBY you grow will be similar to the mother.
How can we tell who produces good SCOBY?
The only way to know for sure is to actually test it out. The only other thing we have to go on is the reputation of the supplier. That’s why I usually only recommend people buy SCOBY from reputable online suppliers who are actually kombucha brewers.
Otherwise, read the reviews of the SCOBY to avoid any duds.
Is It Cheaper To Build Your Own Kit?
As I mentioned in the opening, you have two options for starting your kombucha journey. Purchase a pre-made kit, or source everything on your own.
If you already know a kombucha brewer this may be a less expensive option.
But if are fresh to the kombucha brewing scene what is your best option?
Let’s do a basic price comparison using the “must-have” list I created above.
Seems pretty comparable to to the kits right? But keep in mind that we still haven’t added on shipping costs. If you’re not an Amazon prime member, paying for the shipping is going to make this much more expensive.
Plus, most kits cover off many of the “nice-to-have” items for no additional cost.
Therefore, it’s usually much cheaper to purchase a kit instead of sourcing everything yourself. Of course, the exception to this is if you already have some of the necessary equipment. I’m willing to bet that many of you already have some black tea at home. Some of you may even have a package of cane sugar.
Just make sure to do your research if you are going to be using your own ingredients. For instance, it’s not a good idea to use herbal or other tisane teas. This is more of a specialty brewing technique you can try out later.
My Thoughts On Some Of The Popular Kombucha Starter Kits On The Market
Some of you may want to compare a few different options when searching for your first kit. I’ve searched the forums and blog comments to see what people are buying today. Let’s cover a few of the more popular options.
Get Kombucha Starter Kit
This is probably one of the most popular kits on the market today. The reason it’s so successful is it provides you with everything you’ll need to brew your first batch of kombucha. Get Kombucha was also an early mover on the market, so they’ve had time to build a name for themselves.
What I like about it:
- Gives you everything you need for your first batch
- The price is reasonable
- Lots of support for their customers
- Comes with instruction sheet
Really, there is nothing major to complain about with this kit. I’d happily recommend it to a friend who is interested in brewing their own kombucha.
What I didn’t like about it:
- I’d like to see enough tea and sugar for a second brew
I’d only recommend you stick with the starter kit from Get Kombucha. The Basic kit that provides you with more equipment (continuous brewing vessel and bottles.) However, in my opinion, the price is pretty steep for what you’re getting. Additionally, the bottles aren’t really suitable for kombucha. You really should stick with flip-top bottles whenever possible.
Joshua Tree Brewing Kit
Another popular kit from a well-known brand in the kombucha space. The first thing we need to notice with this kit is the limited equipment provided. It does not include any tea, sugar, temperature gauge, straw, etc. It only includes the jar, SCOBY and covering.
If you are someone who already has an abundant supply of black tea and raw cane sugar, then this is a great price saving option. However, if you don’t already have the tea and sugar, I would recommend purchasing something else. It’s going to cost too much money to source the other supplies and you always run the risk of buying the wrong equipment.
What I like about it:
- Uses the right brewing vessel and live SCOBY with starter liquid
- Reasonable price for what it offers
What I don’t like about it:
- Doesn’t come with temperature gauge or straw for sampling
- Doesn’t come with tea or sugar
Kitchen Toolz Kombucha Starter Kit
If you’re really on a tight budget then this is the kit you should be looking at. It’s the cheapest kit on the market that actually provides you with everything you’d need to get started.
There’s a lot of things Kitchen Toolz got right, but there are also a few things they’ve gotten wrong.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, you want to avoid using cheese cloth as your cover. Unfortunately, this is what’s supplied with the kit. This can easily be remedied at home through using a cloth with a tighter weave.
They’ve also used tea-bags instead of loose-leaf tea. It’s preferable to use loose-leaf tea when brewing kombucha because it prevents the tea from clumping up inside the bag. The tea brewed from loose-leaf tends to have more body and a smoother taste profile. Nevertheless, tea brewed in tea bags is still a viable option.
Besides that, the kit is perfectly fine.
Things I like:
- Perfect vessel
- Uses live SCOBY with starter liquid
- Uses raw cane sugar
- Great price
Things I don’t like:
- Cheese cloth covering
- Bagged tea
- Instructions are poor
Everbru Continuous Brewing Kit
There are a few ways the Everbru kit is different from the other kits on the market. For starters, it’s one of the few continuous brew kits. Interestingly, it also provides a single batch brewing vessel. The first downside I notice is the size of both vessels. For single batch, I like using 1-gallon vessels. On the other hand, for continuous brewing, 2-gallons is much more preferred.
Both the vessels in this kit at 1.75 gallon. While it’s not the end of the world, this size can be awkward to use. Mainly because you will have to be doing conversions for every recipe you use if you want to take advantage of the full container.
They’ve also included a strange bubbler. I’ve never heard of anyone using something like this before and don’t really see any utility to it. Personally, I just write it off as a marketing ploy.
Otherwise, the kit looks good! I would have preferred it if the kit just stuck with one style of brewing. The bottle and glass makes sense for continous brewing, but you’re going to need a lot more bottles if you want to batch brew in the provided vessel (approx. twelve 16 oz bottles.)
I also have a small bone to pick with the CB vessel. I usually like to see transparent vessels to be used for kombucha. Especially for beginners. This way, you can monitor the health of the SCOBY without having to do any guesswork.
What I Like:
- High-quality vessels
- Loose-leaf tea and raw cane sugar
- Nice choice of bottle
- A few nice extras (temp gauge, tea ball)
- Reasonable price for what’s included
What I Don’t like:
- Non-transparent CB vessel
- Cheese-cloth covering
- Bubbler marketing gimmick
Cultures For Health
The last starter kit we’ll talk about: Cultures For Health.
The Cultures For Health is one of the largest brands in the home brew kombucha space. Strangely, they have a lot of issues with their kit that’d I’d recommend they change.
My biggest grip is they use dehydrated SCOBY. I’ve mentioned many times how the stress induced by the SCOBY during dehydration makes it difficult for it to fend off invading parasites. This means, during your first or second brew, your SCOBY is likely to grow mold.
This can be very frustrating for beginners. They could have done everything completely right, but they still end up with mold in their Kombucha.
Secondly, they recommend using vinegar as a substitute starter liquid. While it can work in a pinch, I usually recommend people stay away from vinegar. If you aren’t using the right vinegar (100% pasteurized) you run the risk of growing vinegar eels.
They also don’t provide you with a glass jar! So make sure you add on another $18.00 to your budget if you want to take a risk with this kit.
What I Like:
- Gives you most of what you need to start your first brew
What I Don’t Like:
- Uses dehydrated SCOBY
- Doesn’t supply the bottle
- Uses vinegar as a starter liquid
To summarize: it’s cheaper to buy a kit yourself vs. buying everything separately. The two kits I recommend are: The Kombucha Shop and Get Kombucha (either of these will be just fine.)
You really just need to stick to the basics. There is not need to be buying expensive kombucha kits that offer you a bunch of extras you will likely never use. Refer to my list above when you are assessing the kits. If it’s missing an item off that list, I recommend moving on.
Buying your first kit is an easy way to break into brewing your own kombucha at home. The equipment side of things is really a sticking point for many people (particularly finding the SCOBY.) But if you have the right equipment and ingredients, it’s as simple as following a recipe!
The only product I’d highly recommend in addition to your kit is bottles. Bottling your kombucha is essential to getting that carbonation as well as any special flavors you may want.
A few of the kits above will offer lifetime membership to their information pages. This can be a great way to learn how to brew kombucha, or to meet other home brewers. It can be challenging to get your questions answered if you don’t have a friend who is an experienced brewer.
I hope I’ve answered all of your questions about starter kits. If not, leave them in the comment section below and I’ll get to them as soon as possible!