Q. What is kombucha?
A. Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a kombucha starter culture (a.k.a mushroom, mother, scoby, etc.), tea prepared with sugar, and some kombucha tea from a previous batch (starter tea). The mixture is allowed to ferment at room temperature for 5 to 30 days. It can be consumed plain or with added flavoring such as fruit or juice. Kombucha contains a number of vitamins (particularly B vitamins) and may have a number of health benefits. Click here to learn more about the beneficial yeast and bacteria that comprise Kombucha.
Q. What does kombucha taste like?
A. The taste of kombucha varies greatly depending on the amount of time it was allowed to ferment and whether or not flavoring was added. For example, fermentation time determines whether the kombucha tea has a very mild taste or a very strong vinegar taste. (Kombucha is made using a method very similar to the one used to make vinegar.) If you desire a more sweet taste, we recommend a very short brewing period of about 5 days. If the vinegar taste doesn't bother you, a longer fermentation process will allow the tea to fully culture. When you are first making kombucha, we recommend you taste the kombucha starting at day 7 (using a straw makes this easier) to determine at what point you wish to stop the fermentation process. Adding fruit or juice following fermentation can sweeten the kombucha. Alternatively, you can add water to the finished kombucha prior to drinking to cut the flavor. Click here for more information on influencing the flavor of homemade kombucha.
If you have never tried kombucha we would recommend purchasing a bottle of kombucha from your local grocery or health food store to sample. Kombucha is generally located in the health food section or in the cold case with the other bottled ready-to-go drinks.
Q. I really like the bottles of kombucha I find at the grocery store? Can I make my homemade kombucha taste like that?
A. Many of our customers find us because they like commercial kombucha but simply can't afford the $3+ price tag. Brewing kombucha at home costs $1 to $2 a gallon and offers you great flexibility. By experimenting with the type of tea used, fermentation time, and flavor additives (fruit, juice, ginger, etc.) you can invent your own kombucha flavors or try to replicate a commercial flavor. Click here for more information on influencing the flavor of homemade kombucha.
Q. Why is the kombucha tea starter culture known by so many names (i.e., mushroom, mother, scoby, etc.)?
A. Kombucha tea is a very old beverage and over time a number of names have been assigned to the culture. The term kombucha mushroom likely refers to the appearance of the culture — flat, round, white-grayish, disk-shaped — as a kombucha culture is not actually a mushroom. The term mother is a more appropriate term as kombucha is fermented in a manner similar to making vinegar where the cultures are also known as mothers. Finally, the term SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast (making scoby perhaps the most accurate term).
Q. What ingredients go into making kombucha cultures?
A. Our kombucha starter cultures are grown and packaged in a licensed commercial food processing facility using filtered water, organic sugar, and organic black tea.
Q. Do kombucha cultures contain gluten, dairy, or animal products?
A. No, our kombucha cultures only contain organic black tea, organic sugar, and filtered water. (Please note, our kombucha cultures are grown and processed in the same facility as dairy-based products.)
Q. Are kombucha cultures reusable? How long will the culture last?
A. Yes, with proper care kombucha cultures can be reused many times to create kombucha tea. Since the cultures do multiply with each batch (see below) as a practical matter you will likely recycle or compost older cultures after a few months or sooner, but theoretically with care you should be able to continue using the same culture.
Q. Why are your kombucha cultures shipped in a dehydrated state?
A. We ship dehydrated cultures because they are shelf stable and therefore make the trip to you more safely with a very low rate of spoilage/failure (particularly during warm summer months). We take your safety seriously and use this more conservative method to ship the cultures. Please note, a kombucha culture is a live active organism and in about 1% of cases may fail to culture for unknown reasons. If at any time you have questions about whether your culture is working correctly, please see our troubleshooting kombucha page and/or feel free to contact us.
Q. What is the process to make kombucha?
A. Tea is prepared and sugar is dissolved in the tea. The tea is allowed to cool to room temperature before adding the starter tea (kombucha tea from a previous batch) and the kombucha culture. The container is covered with a breathable cloth (we recommend securing it with a tight rubber band to keep the bugs out) and left to ferment at room temperature for 5 to 30 days. Once the fermentation process is complete, remove the kombucha culture and the new culture that has formed during the fermentation process. At this time you can drink the kombucha as is or you can add juice or fruit for additional flavoring. You can also bottle the kombucha with juice or fruit in airtight bottles (click here to view our flip-top bottles which are perfect for bottling kombucha) and allow them to sit for several days so the carbonation can build. Click here to view our videos demonstrating Making Kombucha and Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha Please note: the initial batch of kombucha you will make from the dehydrated culture will take around 30 days to complete.
Q. Will kombucha tea starters multiply?
A. Kombucha tea cultures do multiply. Each time you brew a batch of Kombucha tea a new starter culture will form. The original starter culture (aka "the mother") and the new starter culture (aka "the baby") can each be used to brew a new batch of kombucha tea. Sometimes the new kombucha culture will fuse to the original culture, this is not a cause for concern. They can be separated (ripped apart) or used as a single culture when you brew the next batch. If at some point you find yourself with more kombucha scobys than you can use, you can either compost them (they make fantastic compost) or give them away to friends and family. (Please note: because maintaining proper ingredient ratios is critically important to successfully creating a kombucha which is safe to drink, please be sure to give them a copy of the instructions or refer them to this website to download the instructions so they have all the appropriate information.) Click here for more ideas for using extra kombucha scobys.
Q. What supplies will I need for making kombucha tea?
Q. How long should I brew my kombucha?
A. Kombucha can be brewed from 7 to 30 days depending on personal preferences. While a longer brewing time results in a more cultured beverage, it also results in less sugar which makes for a more vinegar-like (less sweet) beverage. When you begin making kombucha, we recommend you taste the kombucha starting at day 7 (using a straw makes this easier) to determine at what point you wish to stop the fermentation process. Adding fruit or juice following fermentation can sweeten the kombucha. Alternatively, you can add water to the finished kombucha prior to drinking to cut the flavor. Keep in mind that temperature will play a role in how quickly the kombucha cultures. During cooler months, the same degree of culturing may take a few days longer than it will during warmer months.
Q. How can I reduce the amount of sugar in the finished kombucha tea?
A. A longer fermentation process will reduce the amount of sugar in the kombucha tea. At the end of a 30-day ferment period, there is generally very little sugar remaining in the kombucha. It's best to allow the mixture to start off with the appropriate amount of sugar as this will help ensure that the scoby gets enough food to culture properly.
Q. Can I use less sugar or otherwise play around with the basic ingredients used to make kombucha?
A. While some kombucha masters do occasionally experiment with the ingredient ratios, we strongly recommend you stick with the tea-sugar-water-starter tea ratios indicated in the instructions. These ratios help encourage a proper pH balance which discourages the growth of mold and the spoiling of the batch, and also helps ensure the scoby gets enough food to culture properly. If you do choose to alter ingredient ratios, be sure to obtain and use a reliable pH meter or pH strips to ensure that the pH level for your kombucha is below 4.0 before consuming.
Q. Can I use a plastic container to brew kombucha and plastic bottles to store it?
A. Theoretically food-grade plastic shouldn't cause any damage to the culture but we always recommend glass when working with starter cultures or food due to the potential of plastic to leach undesirable chemicals. Additionally, plastic is more easily damaged (often without your knowledge) and can result in hidden bacteria which can grow and not only disrupt the culturing process but also potentially cause food-borne illness.
Q. How can I flavor my kombucha tea?
A. Once the fermentation period is complete and the culture has been removed you can ferment the kombucha a second time by adding juice (most common), fruit, and/or ginger to flavor the kombucha tea. After adding the flavorings, allow the kombucha to sit for an additional few days with an airtight lid. This process also allows carbonation to build so be careful when removing the lid! While most air tight jars or containers will work, bottling your kombucha in flip-top style bottles works particularly well. Click here to view our flip-top bottles. Flip-top bottles are also generally available at your local beer- and wine-making supply store. Our customers also report success bottling kombucha using old wine bottles with new corks.
Q. What ratio of juice to kombucha should I use for the second fermentation (to add flavor)?
A. Generally speaking a ratio of 20% juice and 80% kombucha works well. We've also had customers report good luck adding fresh fruit (peaches are a favorite) to the kombucha. But adding fruit and juice is one place you can certainly experiment to find your preferred flavors. When using fresh fruit, be sure to limit the amount of time the mixture is allowed to sit (24 to 48 hours).
Q. How do I increase the carbonation of my kombucha tea?
A. Once the fermentation period is complete and the culture has been removed you can ferment the kombucha a second time by adding juice (most common), fruit, and/or ginger to flavor the kombucha tea. After adding the flavorings, allow the kombucha to sit for an additional few days with an air tight lid. This process also allows carbonation to build so be careful when removing the lid! While most air tight jars or containers will work, bottling your kombucha in flip-top style bottles works particularly well. Click here to view our flip-top bottles. Flip-top bottles are generally available at local beer- and wine-making supply stores. We've also had customers report success bottling kombucha in old wine bottles with new corks. Click here for more information on using a secondary fermentation period to improve the kombucha carbonation level.
Q. Is there any danger of the glass container exploding under the carbonation pressure when bottling kombucha?
A. It is possible for bottles to explode, although it is more common that lids occasionally fly off, particularly when being opened. We recommend keeping your whole hand over the lid of the container as you open it to prevent being hit by a flying lid. We also recommend opening the container over a sink in case the carbonation causes the kombucha to bubble over.
Q. What type of sugar should I use to make kombucha? Can I use honey?
A. Click here for information on the types of sugar most appropriate for making kombucha.
Q. What type of tea should I use to make kombucha?
A. Click here for more information on choosing the best varieties of tea for brewing kombucha.
Q. What type of water should I use to make kombucha?
A. It is important to use non-chlorinated water to brew kombucha tea. Ideally the water should also be free of fluoride and other added chemicals. Click here for more information.
Q. Can I make kombucha without starter tea?
A. Yes, you can use an equal portion of either distilled white vinegar or pasteurized apple cider vinegar (preferably organic) in place of starter tea. Alternatively you can purchase bottled kombucha tea at many health food and grocery stores which can be used. If you choose this option, we do recommend using a non-flavored variety of kombucha.
Q. Can I culture my kombucha tea in a cupboard, on a window sill, etc.?
A. It is important to keep fermenting kombucha out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat or cold. (Heat can speed the fermentation process and/or damage the culture; cold can slow the fermentation process significantly.) Kombucha does do best if allowed to breathe during the process but both those locations allow for some air to enter. Click here for more information on choosing an ideal culturing location for your kombucha.
Q. Does finished kombucha contain alcohol?
A. Yes, as with all cultured and fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is typically present in the finished product. Although the amount will vary from batch to batch, the amount should be quite small (usually about 0.5%). There have been reports of alcohol levels exceeding this range in cases where the kombucha has been mixed with fruit juice for flavoring, then bottled and allowed to sit for excessive periods of time.
Q. How do I take a break from making kombucha tea?
A. Click here for instructions on how to take a break from making kombucha while keeping the scoby safe and healthy.
Q. If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, etc.), how far apart do I need to keep the cultures?
A. When items are being actively cultured (and don’t have lids), we suggest keeping a distance of at least several feet (and preferably more) between items. When your cultured items are being stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them. Brewing kombucha should be kept at least several feet from rising bread made with yeast, garbage or compost bins, or other cultured foods (yogurt, kefir, sourdough, fermenting veggies, etc.). Transient yeast and bacteria can be harmful to the scoby.
Q. Where can I view the instructions for making kombucha?
A. Click here to view the kombucha instructions.
Q. What signs should I look for to determine the kombucha is culturing properly?
A. A few good signs the kombucha fermentation process is proceeding normally include the formation of a new kombucha culture over the opening of the brewing container, development of brown stringy yeast particles, and the liquid becoming less sweet and more vinegar-like. Click here for a comprehensive discussion of how to determine whether your batch is proceeding normally.
The development of mold (generally green but not always) is a bad sign. If your batch of kombucha develops mold, you will need to throw out the batch and the culture (see below). The most common reason for mold development is improper ingredient ratios. (Forgetting to add the sugar or starter tea are the most common reasons.) Click here for a comprehensive discussion of normal variations in a batch and signs of a problem (including mold).
Keep in mind that for the initial batch using a dehydrated culture, it can take up to 30 days at room temperature (70° to 80°F) for signs of a new forming kombucha culture. If you are making your initial rehydration batch and need specific troubleshooting information, click here.
Q. I'm brewing my first batch of kombucha using the dehydrated culture. It doesn't seem to be doing anything. How can I know if it's working properly?
A. Click here for specific information concerning the scoby activation process.
Q. Why would I need to strain the finished kombucha?
A. Some people prefer to strain their kombucha tea prior to drinking it to filter out the yeast particles (brown and stringy) as well as any baby kombucha cultures which may be forming (often the consistency of a jelly blob). Click here to view our plastic mesh strainers which are perfect for this task.
Q. My kombucha has been fermenting for a period of time and is developing a cloudy layer on top. Is this normal?
A. Yes. The cloudy white layer is the beginning of a new baby kombucha culture. The formation of a new culture is a sign that your batch of kombucha is fermenting properly.
Q. My kombucha has been fermenting for a period of time and is developing brown stringy particles. Is this normal?
A. The brown stringy particles are yeast particles and are harmless. They are a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. You can strain them out of the finished kefir if desired.
Q. My kombucha culture sank to the bottom of my container, is floating sideways, rose to the top of the liquid, etc. Is this normal?
A. Depending on a number of factors (including humidity), the culture may sink, float or sit sideways. Any of these is normal and will not effect the brewing process.
Q. The new baby kombucha culture seems to have detached from the container opening. Will this mess up the fermentation process?
A. Having the baby culture detach from the container opening is common if the jar is bumped or moved. It does not affect the fermentation process. If you continue the culturing process, a new baby culture will begin to form on top of the liquid but again, does not affect the culturing process itself (i.e., no additional fermentation time is required unless you are specifically trying to grow a new scoby of a certain size).
Q. I've been storing a batch of finished kombucha for a few days and it seems to be developing a jelly-like mass on top. Is this normal? What is it?
A. The jelly-like mass is the beginning of a new baby kombucha culture. Even after the main kombucha culture is removed, the kombucha remains full of living yeast and bacteria which continue to ferment slowly on their own. Consequently idle kombucha will eventually form a new baby culture. These cultures start out as a jelly-like mass and eventually form a full-blown culture. If you leave a batch of finished kombucha long enough, it will eventually form a full scoby on the top just as it did during the initial fermentation process. You can remove and use this culture just like any other culture. If you accidently consume the culture (easy to do when it's still in a jelly-like mass) it is not harmful.
Q. One of my kombucha cultures has a hole in it or is only a piece because I had to separate it from mother culture after they fused. Can I still use it?
A. Kombucha cultures will work just fine even with holes or if they have been torn in half.
Q. Does the size of the kombucha culture matter in relation to how much kombucha I will be brewing?
A. No, even a small kombucha culture will effectively ferment a full gallon of kombucha. We do recommend using a culture or piece of a culture which is equivelent to at least a 3" diameter circle.
Q. My batch of kombucha has developed mold. What can I do?
A. The most common reason for mold development is improper ingredient ratios. (The most common reasons we hear about are forgetting to add the sugar or starter tea.) Contamination can also be a factor (could be as simple as a bit of food or soap residue the dishwasher missed). Once mold has developed, it is very important to toss the whole batch, including the kombucha scoby. Normally we are all for trying to save cultures but in this case, it could be dangerous to do so.
Q. My kombucha culture has turned black. What should I do?
A. A black scoby is a sign that the kombucha culture has been contaminated or is worn out (takes a long time and many batches to do this). If your kombucha culture turns black, it should be retired to the compost bin. Turning black is not to be confused with developing brown or slightly discolored patches. Yeast build-up will result in brown spots or stringy particles attaching to the scoby and is a normal byproduct of the fermentation process.
Q. I've been brewing kombucha for awhile and am overrun with kombucha scobys. What can I do with them?
A. Because a new culture is usually created with each batch, you may quickly find that you have too many cultures! If at some point you find yourself with more kombucha scobys please give them away to friends and family who could benefit from brewing their own kombucha. (Please note: because maintaining proper ingredient ratios is critically important to successfully creating a kombucha that is safe to drink, please be sure to give them a copy of the instructions or refer them to this website to download the instructions so they have all the appropriate information). If at some point you run out of good homes to send extra scobys too, click here for some creative ideas for using the extra scobys.