Making kombucha tea requires five ingredients: water, tea, sugar, starter tea, and a kombucha starter culture (SCOBY). While a number of options exist for each ingredient, choosing the right ingredients for the kombucha creates a healthier environment for the SCOBY.
Using different tea and sugar can change the flavor of the final product. If you're interested in experimenting with different tea and sugar combinations, we recommend you wait until you have a baby SCOBY or two to spare.
Choosing Water for Making Kombucha
Kombucha cultures best when you use water that is as free from contaminants as possible. A high mineral content is not particularly important for kombucha, unlike other fermented beverages. In fact, it may be harmful to the SCOBY if the water has too high a mineral content.
Basic, inexpensive spring water is fine to use, but a water that claims to be "mineral water" or has a high mineral content should be avoided if possible.
We recommend using filtered water to remove as many additives, chemicals, and contaminants as possible. If filtering is not possible, at the very least, aerating or boiling the water for 20 minutes may remove the chlorine. Letting the water stand for 24 hours will also allow chlorine to evaporate. If your water contains chloramines, it must be filtered. Removing fluorides also requires special filters.
Water that is structured, alkalized, or pH-adjusted is not appropriate for making kombucha.
If you are still uncertain about the best source of water for making kombucha, you can learn more about choosing the right water for culturing here.
Choosing Tea for Making Kombucha
Brewing kombucha requires real tea (camellia sinensis) for both minerals and nitrogen. We recommend using organic tea whenever possible, to avoid chemical contaminants.
The type of tea used to brew kombucha can affect the health of the SCOBY as well as the taste of your finished brew.
|Black (Ceylon, English Breakfast, Darjeeling, etc)||Fully oxidized tea leaves; provides all the nutrients for the scoby; makes a bold, fruity-tasting kombucha||Avoid Earl Grey and other black teas containing oils and added flavoring. Best choice for activating a scoby and making kombucha regularly.|
|Oolong||Partially oxidized tea leaves; makes a milder flavored kombucha, somewhat fruity and grassy||A CFH favorite for brewing kombucha! Works well for activating a dehydrated scoby and making kombucha regularly.|
|Green (Jasmine, gunpowder green, etc)||Withered and steamed tea leaves; minimally oxidized; makes a lighter, softer kombucha||Avoid green teas with oils or added flavoring. Use in combination with black tea or on its own.|
|White||Baked and dried tea leaves, minimally oxidized; flowery and delicate flavor||Use in combination with black, green, or oolong tea. Not recommended for activating scoby or making first 4 batches of kombucha.|
|Red (Rooibos)||Usually refers to an herbal tea from South Africa; fresh, almost nutty flavor||Use in combination with at least 25% black tea for brewing kombucha. Not recommended for activating scoby or making first 4 batches of kombucha.|
|Yerba Mate & Other Herbal Teas||Made from plants other than camellia sinensis; flavor varies||Use in combination with at least 25% black tea for brewing kombucha. Avoid herbal teas containing oils or added flavoring. Not recommended for activating scoby or making first 4 batches of kombucha.|
Note about Caffeine: While it was previously believed that most of the caffeine is released in the first few minutes of steeping tea, this idea has proved false. If caffeine is a concern, use decaffeinated tea for making kombucha.
Choosing Sugar for Making Kombucha
While it can be tempting to try to find ways not to use sugar in recipes, sugar is required for the fermentation process and cannot be bypassed or substituted. Using less sugar than required may starve the SCOBY.
Keep in mind that the longer the kombucha is fermented, the less sugar remains. Brew from 7-30 days, tasting along the way, to find the best balance between sugar and flavor.
|White cane sugar||Pure white, free of minerals||Good choice for brewing kombucha|
|Organic Cane Juice Crystals||Unbleached white sugar; very low mineral content||CFH best choice for brewing kombucha.|
|Brown, raw, or whole cane sugars||Sugar that is less refined and contains molasses||Hard on the kombucha scoby. Produces a yeasty kombucha and may shorten the scoby's life. Not recommended.|
|Honey||Natural sugar from bees; may be raw or pasteurized||Results may be inconsistent; If used, always have a back-up scoby available.|
|Agave, Maple, coconut, palm sugars or syrups||Sugar extracted from various plants or trees||Results may be inconsistent and hard on the scoby. Not recommended.|
|Stevia, xylitol, or Artificial Sweeteners||Sugar substitutes||Do not contain nutrients or proper food for the kombucha scoby. Not recommended.|
Choosing Starter Tea and Vinegar for Making Kombucha
The addition of an acidic liquid is critical to the health of the SCOBY and the safety of the batch of kombucha. The most desirable acidic liquid to use when brewing a batch of kombucha is properly brewed kombucha tea from a previous batch.
If starter tea is not available, there are two options:
- Use a bottle of store-bought raw, unflavored kombucha tea.
- Use white distilled vinegar. Vinegar can make up all or part of the acidic liquid portion needed to brew a batch of kombucha.
Obtaining a Kombucha SCOBY
A healthy kombucha scoby is important to making a good batch of kombucha tea. If you do not have a healthy scoby, try our Kombucha Tea Starter Culture or check our our information on obtaining or growing a kombucha scoby.