Kombucha Tea: Ultimate Guide with Instructions and FAQ
Warning, during this COVID era, we must protect our probiotics from bleach, antibacterial products, and disinfectants. Read more about how we do this HERE.
Kombucha Tea is a culture of bacteria and yeast, made with tea and sugar. It’s been used for thousands of years to treat things like inflammatory ailments, arthritis, acme, diabetes, or cancer. It isn’t a cure-all, but it is a fantastic building block for any holistic healthy lifestyle. And it’s something you can brew yourself at home! This page is like a crash course in all things kombucha, so you can start growing and drinking your own.
Kombucha and probiotics are still very new for western culture, and the science community is still learning about all of its benefits. Let’s talk about kombucha and answer some of the biggest questions you might have about it.
What is Kombucha Tea?
Much like water kefir and other probiotics sold by Poseymom, kombucha tea is a culture of bacteria and yeast. It is different from kefir, though, in that it is grown, not in water or milk, but in tea. You add sugar to the tea so that the culture has something to feed on.
What is a Kombucha SCOBY?
The Kombucha culture has a very interesting shape. Many people call it the “Mother,” because it produces more beneficial culture as it feeds and grows. Some may call it a “mushroom” because it looks like a mushroon top floating in the tea. But the true name for the culture is “SCOBY.” What does that mean?
The pancake-like mass in your tea is a “Symbiotic Culutre of Bacteria and Yeast.” S-C-O-B-Y! So it isn’t a single living creature. Instead, it’s more like a living, growing city of millions of beneficial organisms, all ready to take up residence in your gut!
The Health Benefits of Kombucha Tea
The thought of drinking millions of living creatures may seem strange, or even disgusting, but, in reality, it is super beneficial for us. From the moment of your birth, you have an entire civilization of microscopic creatures living in your body. This is called your microbiome.
The healthier your microbiome, the healthier you will be.
So kombucha tea is not a miracle drug. It has been taken for thousands of years to to treat anything from heartburn to cancer, but we can’t say kombucha cures anything. Instead, it strengthens your immune system and overall health by boosting the health of your microbiome.
Some individuals may be allergic to Kombucha tea. Drink only about 2 oz at first to test the tea to any allergic reaction. A few may suffer from stomach distress due to carbonation and fermentation in the tea. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should be aware that drinking very large amounts of the tea can affect the pH level of some bodily fluids and contain a small amount of caffeine and alcohol. Any doubts, please talk to a doctor!
The kombucha SCOBY is well-tolerated by many people. However, if you are struggling with any health disorder, you may want to think twice about drinking wildly fermented beverages like kombucha tea. This is especially true if you have a pre-existing Candida yeast infection.
How to Buy Kombucha Tea
If you go to your local grocery of healthfood store, you’ll likely find kombucha drinks that you can just buy and drink right away. Many of these taste wonderful, and they are somewhat healthy for you.
However, buying kombucha at a supermarket limits the health benefits you can receive from the probiotic product. This is because anything you buy at a store has probably been pasteurized, and that means most of the beneficial bacteria in the drink have been killed off.
For the same reason, other foods that should be probiotic are often less healthy when bought at a store, things like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi. To get the most benefit from any of these fermented foods, you’ll have to grow your own.
There is good news! You can easily brew your own kombucha tea at home. All you need is tea, sugar, and a starter culture. You can find komucha starter packs online. In fact, we at Poseymom sell amazing kombucha SCOBYs for people to buy and start growing.
What You’ll Get in the Mail
When you order a kombucha tea starter SCOBY from Poseymom, you should get a single SCOBY, double bagged, heat sealed, shipped in a box, with a small amount of tea to keep the SCOBY alive and fresh in the mail.
It’s best to open your scoby and follow the instructions below as soon as possible. Or, if need be, you can keep the scoby in its packaging, kept in a cool place. The scoby can keep for up to three weeks, in room temperature, but sooner is definitely better. Some say you can refrigerate a SCOBY for it to keep longer, but others disagree.
How to Brew Your Own Kombucha Tea
Once you get your own kombucha tea starter kit, you’ll want to start brewing the probiotic beverage as soon as possible. To do that, here are our expert instructions!
What You’ll Need:
Black tea, 5 standard-sized tea bags. (You can experiment with other teas, such as green tea, as long as the tea does not have any oils added. So Earl Grey is a no-no.)
1/2 cup plain white sugar. No sugar substitutes. (Organic, cane sugar is a great choice, our favorite to use.)
1/2 gallon distilled water. (You can boil tap water and let cool.) R/O, filtered, or purified water is NOT RECOMMENDED.
we have noticed that some filtered or RO water works fine as long as it takes out the chlorine. We have used a good commercial grade RO water and it does just fine. We have also noted that some city water may have harmful additives that boiling does not take out...we have mixed well water with RO water for premium quality.
1/2 gallon-sized glass jar. (No plastic!)
Large wooden or plastic spoon, for stirring. (No metal!)
1 Coffee filter. (Or paper towel, napkin, or even a clean, thin cloth.)
1 Rubber band.
1 large pot.
Special Note: As is, your SCOBY and starter tea should make about 1/2 gallon of kombucha tea. If you want to make 1 gallon, you can up your ingredients to 10 standard tea bags, 1 cup of sugar, and 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar. (The vinegar is only for the first batch only.)
Poseymom Kombucha Tea Brewing Instructions
Time needed: 10 days.
These instructions will help you grow both your first brew of kombucha tea, as well as all batches that follow. Simply follow the steps and repeat the process!
Boil your water in a large pot. Add the tea bags to make the tea. After the tea has steeped for a while, remove the tea bags. While the water is still hot, add the sugar and stir thoroughly. Then let the tea cool completely. Best to keep the pot covered while cooling, so you don’t get bugs.
Pour the tea into the one-gallon glass jar. Cut open the double bags, carefully. Add the full contents we sent to you into the jar. (Also, add the vinegar if you’re making a full gallon.)
Stir gently with your wooden spoon. The Kombucha SCOBY may sink to the bottom, or it may float on top.
Seal and Store
Cover your jar with the coffee filter or cloth, and stretch rubber band over the covering to keep it in place. Store your jar in a dark place, where the temperature is about 72-80 degrees.
Important! Leave the SCOBY alone! Seriously, do not disturb the SCOBY. One little peak can actually impede the growth process and harm the SCOBY. Try not to move it around, and definitely do not stir it!
Eventually, the SCOBY may form into what looks like a thin pancake. At first, the SCOBY will be thinner, but it will grow stronger (and even make new copies of itself) with each batch.
In some instances, a second (baby) SCOBY may not form. The tea will still be fermented. The original (mother) SCOBY can be reused again and again for future batches.
On the seventh day, it’s time to taste the tea and see how you like it! Carefully remove the cover and insert a straw along the edge of the jar. Sip and taste. The tea will have a sweet and sour flavor. If you like the taste of the tea as-is, you can move on to the next step.
If the tea tastes too sweet to you, you can recover the jar and let it sit for a few more days. The longer it sits, the more sour the tea will be. Some people have let their tea sit for up to 30 days, but we don’t recommend waiting beyond 10-12 days in total.
Enjoy Your Tea!
When you feel the tea is to your liking, you simply pour out the remaining tea into a new container. Keep the tea in the fridge, and the longer the tea is in the fridge, the smoother the taste will be.
As we said above, it is very important to not touch the kombucha while it is brewing. (That’s Step 3 above.) Through the side of the jar, you may see some of the following things. Do not be alarmed. They are all normal.
You may see:
Little floating things in the tea
A skin forming across the top, like mucus
Small bits on top, white or brown
This is NOT MOLD. Do not worry.
(And, by the way, why are you peaking? Don’t remove the cover, even a little, no matter how curious you are. Seriously, just leave the SCOBY alone.)
Your Next Batch(es)
Once your tea is ready, you can save the SCOBY and jar, with about one cup of tea (or two cups if you’re doing a gallon), keep in a cool place until you’re ready to make more.
Once you’re ready to start a new batch, follow the same instructions as above, adding 2 cups of tea from your previous batch instead of the vinegar.
Over time, your SCOBY may produce a baby SCOBY, which can be used to make two batches at once instead of one. Then, you could even share with a friend!
What is Kombucha Tea Second Fermentation?
Every time you brew a new batch of kombucha tea, following the above instructions, you’ll be making what we call a first fermentation. A single SCOBY can produce an infinite number of first fermentations. However, you can take your probiotic experience to the next level with a second fermentation. How can you do that?
How to make a second fermentation:
In order to make a kombucha tea second fermentation, you take the tea from Step 5 above, after the SCOBY has been removed, and you re-seal it in a glass jar or bottle.
This is different from covering the container with a cloth or coffee filter. Instead, this is sealing the kombucha tea in something air-tight.
While the tea is sealed, you can leave it on your counter or in your fridge of a few days. This will allow the active culture in the tea to continue to ferment, giving your beverage a stronger, fizzy, and healthier effect.
On top of that, the second ferment is the perfect time to add any extra flavors to your tea. For example, you can add berries, fruit, or spices, making your own specialty flavor. In the end, you’ll have a custom fruity beverage similar to what you can buy at the supermarket, but with all the beneficial bacteria still alive and active!
I find that stone fruit makes the kombucha more creamy and smooth, which some folks like and some don’t. Nectarines, plums and peaches work well. My favorite fruit flavors are raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry, or a combination of all. Apple is also quite nice with fresh herbs and spices…
Try these combos:
Raspberries and ginger
Any berries plain (my all-time fave is raspberry)
Green apple, cinnamon, cardamom
Blackberry and thyme
Mango and a pinch of cayenne
Watermelon and jalapeño
Flavoring with herbs and spices:
Herbs provide the most flavor with a second ferment. And little goes a long way when adding herbs and spices.
For every 3-4 cups of liquid:
2 cardamom pods
1/2″ crushed cinnamon stick
2 tsp fennel seed
Rosemary and lemon zest
Pineapple and basil
2-3 whole cloves
1 split vanilla bean (here’s how to open)
1/2″ fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp lavender buds
1 tbsp hibiscus leaves
1 tbsp rose petals
Combos to try:
Strawberry and rose and/or hibiscus
Cherries and rose and/or hibiscus
Blueberries and rosemary
Strawberries and thyme
Just like you see with store-bought kombucha, you can add chlorella, spirulina and chia seeds for a second fermentation. For chia, add 1-2 tbsp per 3-4 cups of liquid. For chlorella and spirulina, 1 tsp per 3-4 cups liquid. Don’t strain these ingredients out when your second fermentation is complete.
Ideas for the kiddos:
Instead of sugary sodas, do a second fermentation of kombucha with fresh fruit and raisins for extra bubbles. After 1-3 days, blend up some more fruit (raspberry and strawberry are winners) and add to the fizzy drink (you can strain if you have kids with pulp phobia). This bubbly beverage is so much better than soda—fruity, bright and flavorful enough that the kids will enjoy it. Plus, they are getting all sorts of beneficial probiotics and fiber that are non-existent in soda and plain pasteurized juice. Have them help make it, call it homemade soda pop and I bet it will go over quite well– –
More about the benefits of a second fermentation. I can’t recommend a second fermentation enough. 1-3 days is plenty, and the longer you let the brew continue to ferment, the more acidic and less sweet the taste. If bottled in an airtight container, the live yeast and bacteria in the kombucha will continue to gobble up the tea and sugar that remained after the first fermentation. The fresh sugar that comes from fruit is turned into carbon dioxide which gives the kombucha the bubbliness it’s known for. If you want to skip the fruit and experiment with herbs like lavender (which makes a beautiful kombucha on its own), just add a raisin or two for that second fermentation fizz. It won’t change the flavor, but it gives the brew food to turn into bubbles. Fill your bottle with flavoring ingredients and brewed kombucha only 3/4 full, to accommodate bubbles and expansion.
After your second fermentation, open your kombucha bottle over the sink! And for insurance, place the bottle in a large glass bowl to catch any spill over. Slowly release the cap—there’s a lot of bubble build up in there and the pressure can make your brew spill out volcano-style.
Strain the flavoring ingredients out, rebottle and place in the fridge to slow fermentation. Enjoy anytime.
The measurements above are just ideas to get you started. I hope you will experiment with quantities, combinations and share with us all what YU discover.
Kombucha Tea FAQ
Is My Kombucha Tea Moldy?
This is the most asked question of all time for us. Customers often message in worried about mold in their kombucha. Of course, this is understandable. No one wants to drink something with mold, right?
However, it is important to remember that the kumbucha culture is often discolored and ugly. For this reason, maybe suspect mold is involved, even though that is rarely the case.
We have made several videos about mold and kombucha on our YouTube channel. So then, we suggest you check out those videos for more information.
What Kind of Tea Should I Use?
We at Poseymom use plain, black tea. However, as we said above, you can use a variety of teas, such as brown, yellow, or green tea. Feel free to experiment!
Want to Learn More About Brewing Kombucha Tea?
If you want to get more information about kombucha tea and probiotics in general, feel free to browse our website for more great content! In fact, you can bookmark us to never miss an update.
Of course, if you have any specific questions, you can contact us through our questions box. We promise we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Often, our FAQs come from customer questions sent through that contact form.
In conclusion, kombucha tea is a wonderful probiotic beverage. It’s natural health properties are still being marveled at by the science community. Even though you could always buy flavored kombucha drinks in your local supermarket, they won’t be nearly as beneficial for your health as something you grow yourself at home. We hope our instructions and FAQ answers have helped you start down your journey of becoming a Probiotic Pro!