If you want to make kombucha tea at home, there are a few supplies that you will need to gather, primarily a brewing vessel and a cover for the container. Beyond that everything else is optional.
Choosing the vessel you use to brew kombucha is perhaps one of the most important decisions you will make before the process can begin. While a number of options exist, some are clearly superior to others.
Glass. Glass is hands-down the best option for brewing kombucha. Glass won’t react to the acidity of the brew. Unlike plastic, glass doesn’t scratch easily (damage to the container can harbor foreign bacteria) nor does it generally contain chemicals such as BPA. Glass containers are also relatively easy and inexpensive to obtain. Good options include larger-size canning jars and glass storage jars (generally found in quart, half-gallon, and gallon sizes). Larger glass jars with spigots for continuous brew systems are becoming quite popular. While these can be very handy, a word of caution: Be sure the part of the spigot inside the jar is made of plastic and not metal, which can damage the kombucha scoby.
Plastic. Brewing kombucha in plastic containers is not recommended, for several reasons. First, plastic can be damaged and scratches in the plastic can harbor foreign bacteria. Second, plastic (even food-grade plastic) often contains undesirable chemicals that can be harmful to the kombucha scoby. In short, using plastic to brew kombucha greatly decreases the odds of brewing a safe batch.
Ceramic. Do not use ceramic as most of the glazes used to coat ceramic contain lead.
Porcelain. Food-grade porcelain is generally safe for brewing kombucha. Avoid porcelain pieces such as vases or decorative pottery that are not food grade.
Crystal. Crystal contains lead. Do not use crystal to brew kombucha.
Metal. Metal is generally detrimental to kombucha and should not be used for a brewing vessel or for any item that will have contact with the scoby. The only possible exception is stainless steel. Because it is relatively inert, some brewers feel it is a reasonable alternative to glass. While we do not recommend using it, some people do have success doing so.
Besides the material from which the vessel is made, there are several other factors to consider when choosing a container for brewing kombucha.
Size. Kombucha can be brewed in any size container from a quart canning jar to a large wood barrel, provided the correct ingredient ratios are maintained. On a practical level, when choosing the size of your brewing container, consider how much kombucha you will consume as each batch of kombucha will take 7 to 30 days to brew. (Keep in mind that you will always want to make extra to use as starter tea for your next batch.) If you will be preparing your brew in one place (e.g., the kitchen) and letting it ferment in a different spot, it is also important to consider how heavy the container and brew will be and whether you will be able to move it safely. Also consider whether you will need to lift the jar to pour out the finished brew once the kombucha fermentation process is complete. In addition to container weight, the kombucha tea will add about 8 pounds per gallon.
Surface Area. The surface area of the brew will influence the rate at which your kombucha brews. Kombucha brewed in a bowl with a 9” diameter opening will brew significantly faster than Kombucha brewed in a jar with a 3” diameter opening. Faster isn’t necessarily better, however, as the kombucha can turn to a strong vinegar taste in a relatively short period of time.
Spigots. Many brewers are now using containers with spigots located near the bottom of the jar for easy removal of the finished kombucha. While such containers are handy, be sure the part of the spigot inside the jar is plastic and not metal. Also make sure the spigot is sturdy as they sometimes will break off when the jar is being moved, resulting in a huge mess.
Lids. While a lid should not be used during the fermentation process, having a container with a lid to use for storing the kombucha after fermentation is complete and the culture removed can be quite handy. Alternatively, finished kombucha can be transferred to other storage jars or bottles.
Utensils. You will need a kettle to heat water in for brewing the tea, and a spoon for mixing the brewing solution. Any utensil that comes in contact with the scoby must be non-metal (i.e., plastic, wood, acrylic, etc.)
It is important to employ an effective cover system for your kombucha brewing vessels. Bugs such as fruit flies as well as transient yeasts and bacteria from the air can easily find their way into your kombucha and ruin the whole batch. An effective cover system should not be air-tight but rather allow the mixture to breathe, as the process benefits from oxygen and will also result in gas that must be expelled. A good cover system will also be secure against invaders. Effective coverings include tight-weave dish towels or fabric, multi-layered tight-weave cheese cloth (known as butter muslin), a paper towel, a paper coffee filter, etc. The cover should be secured with a tight rubber band so ants and fruit flies can't sneak under it. Do not use a tight lid. Doing so will inhibit airflow needed for effective fermentation and also allow gas to build which can make removing the cover dangerous. Undesirable covering options include loose-weave fabric and screens, which will not keep out tiny bugs or transient yeasts and bacteria.
While only a vessel and covering are required for brewing kombucha, there are several additional items that are useful as well. Please note: it is critically important to the health of the scoby that it not come in contact with metal. This includes jewelry such as rings, measuring cups, utensils, strainers, etc. Glass, plastic, and wood kitchen items are far safer for the kombucha. As a side note, metal is only harmful if it comes in contact with scoby itself, so if you wish, you can use a metal tea ball or spoon when brewing your tea. Just be sure to remove the metal prior to adding the scoby.
Tea Ball. If you are using loose tea, tea balls are quite handy for ensuring pieces of stray tea do not end up in your brew. Stray pieces of tea can get caught in the forming scoby and attract mold.
Strainer. Once your kombucha is finished brewing and the scoby has been removed, it is helpful to strain the batch through a fine mesh strainer to catch any stringy yeast particles that may be floating in the brew. While not harmful if consumed, the texture tends to be undesirable. We recommend using a plastic fine-mesh strainer for this task. Please note: if the finished kombucha sits in a storage container for a period of time, it may be useful to re-strain the kombucha prior to consuming to catch any yeast particles or immature scobys that may have formed during the period the kombucha is stored.
Grolsch-style Glass Bottles. Flip-top air-tight bottles make the perfect containers for storing your finished kombucha tea. They are available on our website or from your local beer- and wine-making supply store. The bottles come in several sizes from a pint to a liter or more and are available in several colors. Keep in mind that dark colors (brown, green, and blue) are most effective in ensuring light doesn’t degrade the kombucha. Avoid clear bottles when possible.
Funnel. Plastic funnels are very handy for transferring finished kombucha into bottles.
pH Meter or pH Strips. While not required, a method for testing the pH level of your finished kombucha is handy for determining whether the batch is acidic enough to be considered safe to drink. pH strips are generally easier to use than pH meters but both work well. Finished kombucha generally should have a pH level between 2.6 and 4.0.