Kombucha. With all the recent buzz about fermented foods and probiotics, you may have heard of this effervescent, fermented tea made from a SCOBY, sugar, tea, vinegar, and water.
Whether you are familiar with traditionally fermented foods or are just starting to explore the wonderful world probiotics, we've compiled the most frequently asked questions we receive about kombucha to help you get started on your next culturing project.
If you still have questions, be sure to explore our collection of Expert Advice on Making Kombucha at home or one of our other kombucha FAQs.
Jump to a Section:
- Kombucha + SCOBY Basics
- Making Homemade Kombucha
- Caring for Your SCOBY
- Flavoring, Bottling, and Second Fermentation
- Finished Kombucha
Kombucha + SCOBY Basics
Q. What is kombucha?
A. Kombucha is a fermented tea made with a kombucha starter culture (mushroom, mother, scoby, etc.), tea prepared with sugar, vinegar and some kombucha tea from a previous batch (starter tea). Kombucha contains a number of vitamins, particularly B vitamins.
Q. What does kombucha tea taste like?
A. Kombucha tea has a rich, earthy flavor, which can vary greatly depending on the length of time it ferments, 7-30 days.
- For a mild flavor, brew the kombucha for a shorter time.
- For a bolder, more vinegary flavor, brew the kombucha for a longer time.
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.
Q. Are kombucha cultures reusable? How long will the culture last?
A. Yes, with proper care kombucha cultures can be reused many times. The cultures will multiply, and as a practical matter - you will likely recycle or compost older cultures after a few months or sooner.
Note: It may take several batches for a baby scoby to form after initial rehydration. With care, you should be able to continue using the same kombucha culture until the time a baby scoby does form.
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. We take your safety seriously.
Making Homemade Kombucha
Q. Can I make my homemade kombucha tea taste like that bought at the grocery store?
A. Yes, experimenting with the type of tea, fermentation time, and flavor additives (fruit, juice, ginger, etc.) you can invent your own kombucha tea flavors, or you can try to replicate a commercial flavor.
Learn more about Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha.
Q. What supplies will I need for making kombucha tea?
A. Find advice on the best equipment for making kombucha tea in our article Choosing Equipment for Making Kombucha. Glass is the most popular choice for brewing kombucha. If you eventually want to set up a continuous brewing system you will need a large glass jar with a non-metal spigot, like this one.
Learn about the best ingredients for making kombucha tea in our article Choosing the Best Ingredients for Making Kombucha (including tea, sugar, water source, etc.).
Q. What type of sugar should I use to make kombucha? What type of tea? What type of water?
A. Learn about the best sugar, tea and water for brewing kombucha in our article, Choosing Ingredients for Making Kombucha.
Q. What is the process to make kombucha?
A. Making kombucha tea at home involves making tea, adding a starter culture (SCOBY) and letting it culture in a warm spot for 7-30 days. You can find instructions and a How-To Video on our page for How to Make Kombucha.
Q. How long should I brew my kombucha?
A. Kombucha can be brewed from 7 to 30 days, depending on personal preference. A longer brewing time results in less sugar and a more vinegary-flavored beverage. Keep in mind that temperature will play a role in how quickly the kombucha cultures.
Q. Can I use less sugar or alter any ingredients used to make kombucha?
A. We strongly recommend following the tea:sugar:water:starter tea ratios indicated in the instructions. These ratios encourage a proper balance, which discourages the growth of mold and the spoiling of the batch. It also helps ensure the scoby gets enough food to culture properly.
Q. Can I use a plastic container to brew kombucha and plastic bottles to store it?
A. We recommend glass containers when working with starter cultures, because of the potential of plastic to leach undesirable chemicals. Additionally, plastic is more easily damaged, often without your knowledge, which can result in hidden bacteria that may disrupt the culturing process.
Q. Can I culture my kombucha tea in a cupboard, or on a windowsill, etc.?
A. Brewing kombucha tea in a cupboard is perfectly fine. However, do not put kombucha tea in sunlight. It is important to keep fermenting kombucha out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat or cold.
Q. Can I make kombucha without a starter tea?
A. Yes, you can use an equal portion of distilled white vinegar in place of starter tea. Alternatively you may use bottled raw, unflavored kombucha tea, which can be purchased at many health food and grocery stores. However, when activating a dehydrated scoby, use distilled white vinegar only.
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?
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.
NOTE: For the initial batch when using a dehydrated culture, there may be no visible signs of culturing. The best way to check progress of the brew is to test aroma and flavor.
Q. If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, etc.), how far apart do I need to keep the cultures?
A. We suggest keeping a distance of at least 4 feet 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.
Q. Where can I view the instructions for making kombucha?
A. Click here to view the kombucha instructions.
Caring for Your SCOBY
Q. Will kombucha tea starters multiply?
A. Kombucha tea cultures multiply. Each time you brew a batch of Kombucha tea a new starter culture will form. The original starter culture ("the mother") and the new starter culture ("the baby") can each be used to brew a new batch of kombucha tea.
Note: It may take several batches for a baby to form after initial rehydration.
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 one sign that your batch of kombucha is fermenting properly.
Q. My kombucha tea 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 kombucha 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, the culture may sink, float or sit sideways. Any of these is normal and will not affect the brewing process.
Q. The new baby kombucha culture seems to have detached from the container opening. Will this affect the fermentation process?
A. Having the baby kombucha culture detach from the container opening does not affect the fermentation process.
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. As a result, idle kombucha will eventually form a new baby culture.
Q. One of my kombucha cultures has a hole in it or is split into pieces 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 recommend using a culture or a piece of a culture. The culture should be at least 3 inches in diameter.
Q. I've been brewing kombucha for awhile and am overrun with kombucha scobys. What can I do with them?
A. Don't worry, there are lots of ways to use leftover scobys. Try on these creative ideas for using the extra scobys.
Flavoring, Bottling, and Second Fermentation
Q. How can I flavor my kombucha tea?
A. There are lots of ways to flavor kombucha tea! In our how-to video on Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha we show you how to flavor and bottle your homemade kombucha tea, plus include our favorite kombucha flavor ideas!
Q. What ratio of juice to kombucha should I use for the second fermentation (to add flavor)?
A. For a second fermentation, a ratio of 20% juice and 80% kombucha generally works well. You can also experiment with other ratios to change the flavor.
Q. How do I increase the carbonation of my kombucha tea?
A. Bottling kombucha in an airtight bottle helps to increase carbonation. Learn more about Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha.
Q. Is there any danger of the glass container exploding under the carbonation pressure when bottling kombucha?
A. While it is possible for bottles to explode, it is more common for lids to fly off, particularly when being opened. We recommend keeping your whole hand over the lid of the container as you open it. Check bottles for cracks or imperfections before use.
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 finished product. At the end of a 30-day fermentation period, there is generally very little sugar remaining. Begin with the required amount of sugar, to ensure that the scoby gets enough food to culture properly.
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 containted in kombucha will vary from batch to batch, the amount should be quite small.
Q. How do I take a break from making kombucha tea?
A. Read our instructions for Taking a Break from Making Kombucha Tea.
Q. Why would I need to strain the finished kombucha?
A. Straining finished kombucha tea isn't necessary. Some people prefer to strain their kombucha tea prior to drinking it to filter out the yeast particles as well as any baby kombucha cultures which may be forming. Our plastic mesh strainers are perfect for this task.