At $4 a bottle, a kombucha habit can seriously drain your wallet. But that tart, fizzy drink can be so irresistible. That's why we're loving Cultures for Health's Starter Culture, which has nearly everything you need to brew bubbly, organic kombucha right at home—including the SCOBY, which stands for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.” When you open the kit, you’ll see it—it looks a little bit like brown, dried mango. The SCOBY is important because it’s the living home for the bacteria and yeast that turns sweet tea into fizzy, probiotic-packed kombucha.
While there are only two main steps involved in brewing your own kombucha, things can get a little confusing, especially when “rehydrating” the SCOBY (more on that in a minute). That’s why we’ve created this follow-along video, just for you. Press play to see how easy it is, and check out the how-to below.
Part 1: Rehydrate the SCOBY
- Dissolve ¼ cup organic unbleached white sugar with a little hot water in a quart-sized glass jar. Make sure to use one with an opening of at least 3 inches in diameter. Even if you typically avoid white sugar, don't be afraid to use some here—it's the sweetener that’ll maintain the most consistent pH level, which is instrumental in brewing kombucha. Don’t attempt to use honey or maple sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, fill the jar about three-quarters of the way full with more hot water.
- Next, add in distilled white vinegar to fill the jar. This keeps the pH on the acidic side, and stops bacteria and mold from forming in the liquid.
- Then, add two green, oolong, or black tea bags to steep. Don’t use earl grey, or any other tea that contains oils. If you'd like to use herbal tea, mix it with green, oolong, or black tea to maintain a proper pH level. Steep for 10 minutes, or until the liquid has cooled to room temperature.
- Once cool, add the dehydrated SCOBY and cover the jar with a coffee filter, securing it with a rubber band. (Bugs are attracted to this sugary concoction; this helps keep them out.)
- Store the jar in a warm place—about 75 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer—but out of direct sunlight; try the top of the fridge. Let it sit for about 14 days, then check it (try not to disturb it before then). A new culture may start to form, first appearing as a white haze, then forming into a white disc. As long as it doesn’t turn green, black, or orange, there’s no need to worry about mold.
- After 21 to 28 days, the SCOBY should be perfectly rehydrated. Wash your hands, and then remove it from the jar. Now, you're finally ready to use the culture to brew your first batch of kombucha. Save about a cup of the sugar, tea, and vinegar mixture to use as your starter, which you can use instead of distilled white vinegar when you go to brew your kombucha.
If a new culture didn’t form, no problem—it can take a few tries before that happens. Just use the rehydrated culture, known as the “mother” (a new culture is known as the “baby”). You can typically reuse all cultures for several months. When you're ready to dispose of them, they can be composted.
Part 2: Brew kombucha
- To brew your first batch of kombucha, follow the same steps as above in Part 1, using your mother (and baby) culture, and starter tea instead of vinegar. The process is the same—mix sugar with hot water, add a little of your starter tea, throw in fresh tea bags, and add the culture.
- This time, letting the mixture sit for 5 to 7 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit will be fine. A longer brew time—up to 30 days—will create a more robust kombucha with a higher nutritional content, though it probably won't be as palatable for newbies. The shorter the brewing time, the sweeter the kombucha.
- Strain it and enjoy! To flavor it, you can even add 10 to 20 percent juice to 80 to 90 percent kombucha—try apple and cinnamon or pineapple and coconut.
Host: Lauren Ebersol @thefancyhippie
Produced and Directed by: Liza Glucoft
Director of Photography: Naeem Munaf
Editor: Stephanie Provence