Learn how to avoid the worst homemade kombucha mistakes and how to care for your kombucha scoby. Plus get the kombucha brewing method that works best for me after years of practice.
Homemade kombucha is surprisingly easy to make.
I’ve been brewing kombucha at home pretty consistently for many years now. To get started making homemade kombucha, you need a few supplies (see below), you need to understand the process (I run through my tried and true kombucha brewing method below) and you need time to allow fermentation to take place.
But there are some rookie mistakes that can cause you to ruin the whole batch of kombucha, and worse, your entire scoby. Believe me, I know, because I’ve made them.
Homemade Kombucha Mistakes
In light of that, I’d like to share two of the worst mistakes I’ve made brewing kombucha – and hopefully keep you from making them too!
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Mind the temperature
Kombucha brews best between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. That might seem like no problem in a home where a comfortable temperature is maintained. But you need to be careful where you leave the container during the brewing process.
My mistake: Leaving my kombucha to brew in the basement, where it was much colder than I thought.
Guess what happens when your scoby gets too cold?
It grows mold and you have to toss the whole kit-and-caboodle. If you want to learn more and see some gross pictures, Kombucha Kamp has a whole page about moldy scobys. In general, warmer temperatures will speed up the brewing process, but if it gets too warm, the scoby may be damaged.
The fix: I now set my glass brewing container on a top shelf in a cupboard or closet – where I know the temperature is consistent and there is no direct sun shining on it.
Beware fruit flies
Fruit flies LOVE kombucha because of its sweet, vinegary flavor. In fact, kombucha makes a great fruit fly trap if you have a fruit fly problem in your home.
My mistake: Using cheesecloth as a cover for my kombucha.
Turns out that the holes in cheesecloth are small enough for fruit flies to enter. Unfortunately, cheesecloth is mentioned in many kombucha tutorials and even my very popular kombucha post includes a photo with a cheesecloth cover.
I learned this lesson the hard way this past summer, when I discovered a major fruit fly infestation in my scoby. It wasn’t just a few fruit flies, it was TONS, because they were breeding in there.
Grossest thing ever – you don’t even need to see pictures. Needless to say, the entire mess had to be tossed and I had to buy a new scoby and start over.
The fix: I now use a breathable, cotton dishtowel or napkin to cover my kombucha container. You can also buy covers from Kombucha Kamp if you prefer.
My tried & true kombucha brewing method
You’ll find plenty of tutorials for brewing homemade kombucha out there, but here’s the method that works for me (makes 1 gallon):
- Boil 15 cups water (that’s 1 cup less than 1 gallon)
- Turn heat off and add 6 black tea bags (or 2 tablespoons loose black tea) and 1 cup of sugar (organic preferred)
- Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove tea bags and let liquid come to room temperature
- Pour liquid into 1 gallon glass container
- Add SCOBY and 1 cup of finished kombucha
- Cover with a breathable, cloth cover
- Let ferment for 1 to 3 weeks (I usually taste it after 2 weeks but tend to prefer it after 3 weeks)
- Do a secondary fermentation in bottles to increase carbonation – learn how to do a secondary fermentation and get my 5 Favorite Fruit Flavored Kombucha Recipes here!
- Add dried or pureed fruit to bottles for flavor (we love dried cranberries, fresh or crystallized ginger, pureed mango – but the options are endless!)