To start brewing your own kombucha you need a few basic ingredients and pieces of equipment. Usually, the most difficult thing to get your hand on is the SCOBY.
The SCOBY, or symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, is what makes kombucha kombucha. All of the health benefits come from the healthy balance of probiotics and helpful acids.
Most people get SCOBYs from people they know who brew kombucha. But what if you don’t have any brewer friends?
Well, never fear! It is possible to grow your own SCOBY from scratch. All it takes is the right supplies and a little patience. Let’s get started!
What You Need To Grow Your Own SCOBY
In order to grow your SCOBY you are going to need to get a few supplies. The good news is these same supplies are what you will be using to to regularly brew your kombucha. So while it may seem like a high upfront cost, it actually is cheaper in the long run.
Here’s exactly what you’ll need:
- Brewing vessel
- Small cloth
- Elastic band
- 1 cup of cane sugar
- 1 bottle of plain kombucha
- 8 tablespoons of black tea (or 8 tea bags)
- Water (filtered is best)
- Kombucha heating wrap (optional, but recommended)
- Kombucha brewing bottles (what I recommend)
The main difference between growing your first SCOBY and brewing actual kombucha is going to be the timeline.
When you brew kombucha you will already have a healthy amount of yeast and bacteria in your SCOBY and starter liquid. This provides the brew the kickstart it needs to jump into brewing the tasty kombucha right away.
If you don’t have the SCOBY, or the strong starter liquid, the amount of yeast and bacteria is far less. This means it takes a longer time to grow.
How To Grow Your Own SCOBY
The process of growing your own SCOBY is actually very simple. The first step in the process is creating the sweet tea.
Step 1: Make The Sweet Tea
The sweet tea is what is going to feed the growth of the SCOBY. This is why you put so much sugar into the mix – it’s to make sure the yeast has enough food to start producing the food for the bacteria, which in turn makes the healthy acids.
To make the tea you simply boil 4 cups of water. Once the water has boiled, remove the pot from the stove and add your tea. Your steeping time is going to depend on the type of tea you use – you can find out everything you need to know about tea and kombucha here.
For black tea 4 minutes is the longest you want to let it steep.
After 4 minutes, remove the tea from the water and add the cup of cane sugar. Mix with a spoon until most of the sugar has dissolved.
Step 2: Mix The Water And Sweet Tea With The Kombucha
In your brewing vessel (find our recommendation here) mix the sweet tea with enough water to fill up at least half of the brewing vessel.
Ideally, you will want to let the tea cool down to room temperature before you mix your kombucha in. I usually just use cold water to cool down the hot sweet tea.
Once the tea/water mixture is cool, dump the entire bottle of kombucha into the vessel.
Fill up the rest of the vessel with water, leaving about 2 inches of room at the top.
Step 3: Cover And Wait
Using the elastic and cloth, cover the top of the brewing vessel to keep any foreign invaders out. This is especially important during fruit fly season!
I find this method to be much more successful when you have a kombucha heater at your disposal.
Kombucha loves to be at a certain temperature to really thrive. I don’t know about your home, but my home usually isn’t sitting at 86 degrees for room temperature.
This is where a kombucha heating wrap comes in. They maintain the temperature of the vessel at the optimal brewing temperature – giving your baby SCOBY the best chance at growing to become nice and healthy.
How Long Does It Take To Grow A SCOBY
The next question you are probably asking is how long is this going to take?
A regular kombucha brew takes about 7 days to fully ferment in the brewing vessel. It then takes approximately 2-3 days to finish fermenting in bottles.
When you are growing your SCOBY from scratch it is going to take at least 2 weeks. Sometimes it will even take 3-4 weeks depending on how cold your house is and whether you are using a heating wrap.
A heating wrap will ensure the growing time stays around 2-3 weeks.
If you are trying this in the winter without a heating wrap it will likely take 3-4 weeks to fully develop.
What To Look For When You Are Growing Your SCOBY
It can be a confusing process growing a SCOBY if you have never seen one before. Many people often confuse the early SCOBY growth with mold and end up throwing out their perfectly fine SCOBY.
Read this article to get a sense of exactly what mold looks like in kombucha.
The early days of SCOBY growth will look like translucent white circles growing on top of the liquid inside the brewing vessel.
Overtime, these small circles connect – creating a translucent layer that covers the opening of the brewing vessel.
This layer will become thicker and thicker over time as the SCOBY adds layer upon layer. Once your SCOBY has grown to a thickness of 1/4 inch you can finally start using it to brew your own kombucha!
How To Start Brewing Your Own Kombucha
Once your SCOBY has grown to 1/4 inch it is now old enough to start a kombucha brew.
Unfortunately, the kombucha inside the brewing vessel now is likely too acidic to drink. You can try some for yourself just to see – it isn’t bad for you.
What you want to do is to dump most of the kombucha vinegar out and save 2-3 cups worth inside the vessel.
This is now your starter liquid!
Follow the same steps as above, except you will use your starter liquid in place of the kombucha from the bottle.
Brew the same sweet tea and use the same kombucha heat wrap. This time, the brew will only take 7 days. After which you can bottle your kombucha, add whatever fruit you want, and enjoy your first batch of homemade kombucha!
Welcome to the club!