Kombucha: a refreshing, gut-balancing, antioxidant and probiotic-rich fermented beverage. It is a favorite around this homestead! Are you a fan as well? If so, why not brew your own at home? Especially if you’re spending a bit of money on buying kombucha regularly from the store. If you are, you know that stuff isn’t cheap! Once you get over the “Am I doing this right?!” stage and get in your groove, you will find that making your own kombucha is quite easy to do! It is also extremely affordable, once you have all the supplies on hand.
This article will highlight all of the key supplies used for making kombucha at home, so you can start brewing your own too!
Oh, maybe you haven’t had kombucha before? I highly suggest giving it a try! Grab a bottle at your local natural foods store, and then you can decide if you want to brew some too. Kombucha is tangy, tart, and slightly sweet, sort of like a lightly carbonated version of apple cider vinegar. It has a lot of the same great healing properties of ACV too! I will write a post all about what makes kombucha so good for you very soon. In the meantime, check out this post if you’re curious to learn more about the health benefits of fermented foods.
When you make your own kombucha, you have the utmost control over the end product! You can choose the quality of ingredients, get creative with adding fruit and flavors, and adjust how sweet or tart you prefer the end product to be. Plus, it’s fun! We have been making kombucha for over 4 years now. See this post to learn how to make kombucha at home!
Are you ready to get started?
Kombucha Supplies List
SCOBY…. What the heck is that? SCOBY is an acronym that stands for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast”. Or “Colony” instead of Culture. I have seen it used both ways. That cultured colony of beneficial critters is what turns sweet tea into kombucha, through a natural fermentation process.
Yep, I will admit, it can be kind of gnarly looking. Especially older ones that get stained from the tea and are a little yeasty. But don’t be afraid! They’re far less slimy than they look. They are actually super tough and difficult to cut through!
To obtain a SCOBY, you have a few different options! Maybe you have a friend or co-worker that can gift you one? Because with every fresh round of brewing, the mother SCOBY produces a new baby SCOBY layer that can be peeled off and shared! Another option is to buy one online. When we started brewing years ago, we snagged an inexpensive certified organic SCOBY off of Amazon. It has worked well and been extremely productive!
A final option is to grow your own SCOBY at home from scratch! We are in the process of growing our own right now so I can share a “how-to” with you all soon! Stay tuned!*
*Update: We had two batches mold on us, and the third looks pretty damn sketchy. In all our years brewing, I have never felt so inept! I have heard from many people that have the same struggles. Personally, we’ve decided it is most foolproof, quick, and frustration-free to simply get one from a trusted source! We recently got another one from the source linked above (shown in the “how to brew” post) and it is CRAZY active and healthy!
2) A Brewing Vessel or “Crock”
This is your kombucha’s home. It is where it will go through the primary fermentation process in bulk. We use a glass vessel because I like to see what’s going on in there. There are also some really neat porcelain ceramic or stainless steel crocks out there, which are both considered safe options too.
Before choosing a brewing vessel, you’ll need to decide if you want to use the “batch method” or “continuous brew method” for making kombucha. I will write a post with more details about the difference soon, but here is the jist:
When using the batch method, you make a batch of kombucha, and then bottle nearly all of it, reserving a small portion of finished kombucha to add to the next batch. With this method, people usually take the SCOBY out of the vessel, set it on a clean plate, pour off and bottle their finished kombucha, and then ressemble the whole shebang. For a batch method, a large solid glass container without a spigot or dispenser is used. Check out this one-gallon container, or this two-gallon container. Note that neither has a spigot.
Note we use the continuous brew method below, but use the one-gallon container listed here as our “SCOBY hotel” – where extra formed SCOBY go to hang out until we have a need for them.
Continuous Brew Method
The Continuous brew method is aptly named. In contrast to the batch method, you never really halt the process. You do not take the SCOBY out of the crock during bottling. Instead, a vessel that has a dispenser is used. On bottling day, you draw off the amount you want to bottle through the dispenser, leave the rest alone, and add back the same volume of sweet tea that you took away in finished kombucha. Personally, this has always seemed like the easiest and quickest method.
We practice continuous brewing, and use Anchor Hocking 2-gallon beverage dispensers to do so. We usually have two of them brewing at once! For all our large glass container needs, we support Anchor Hocking – they’re high quality, durable, and made in the U.S.A!
3) Replacement Spigots
Did you decide that continuous brewing is the best method for you? Awesome! The only caveat on those beverage dispensers is the spigots. I don’t mean just the crocks I recommended either. Pretty much all beverage dispensers come with cheap-o spigots that you’ll want to replace. They may look “metal” but they’re actually plastic covered in a faux metal coating. Kombucha is acidic. Therefore, it will eat away at the plastic and the fake metal crap will chip off into your beverage. Gross.
We replaced our spigots with BPA-free, food-grade plastic ones. They come in two sizes; the 5/8-inch fits our crocks. In addition to safety, an added bonus is that these spigots clog way less and slower than other spigots we have tried! Little bits of SCOBY will try to form in your spigots, and eventually, need to be taken apart to be cleaned. With these spigots, we’ve only needed to do this a few times per year. Others can clog within weeks.
Another option is stainless steel spigots. However, you have to be careful to get truly 100% high quality, food-grade stainless steel. Many products are sold and described as “stainless steel” but often times contain other metals too. Again, because kombucha is acidic, the last thing you want are heavy metals like aluminum, nickel, or lead leaching into your booch. I did some research and it seems like these stainless steel ones are a pretty safe option. I can’t speak to their clogging rate.
4) Cover for the crock
Kombucha likes to breathe while it is in primary ferment, so don’t cover it with the glass lid that may come with your crock. On the other hand, you’ll want to keep dust, floating cat hair, or insects out of your brew! We use non-fuzzy dish cloths, or even an old clean pillow case. Use something that has a tight enough weave and is adequately thick to keep out fruit flies. We learned the hard way how cheesecloth doesn’t work for this.
5) A large pot for brewing tea
Every week or two (as often as you bottle kombucha) new fresh tea will need to be brewed to feed back to the SCOBY and start the next batch of booch. The size of the pot you need will vary, depending on how much kombucha you are brewing. You probably already have something at home that would work! We didn’t have a pot large enough, and needed to upgrade anyways.
We use a large stainless steel stock pot for brewing replacement tea. By choosing an NSF (restaurant grade) pot, we know the stainless steel is high quality and will not corrode, as lesser-quality stainless can do when regularly exposed to acidic tea. When we are brewing with two 2-gallon crocks, we needed to use a 16-quart pot, since that requires about 2.5 to 3 gallons of replacement tea each session. For a single one or two-gallon crock, a smaller pot would be sufficient.
When it comes to tea, there are several decisions you need to make!
The most commonly used types of tea for making kombucha are black and green tea varieties. SCOBY seem to respond best to black tea, in regards to their vigor, growth, and overall health. Black tea is also said to produce the best carbonation. Green tea is another great option, which produces a slightly more mellow flavor, but a tad less carbonation. White tea or oolong teas can be used, but may be best in combination with either black or green. The same recommendation goes for herbal teas, to ensure the SCOBY is getting all of the nutrients it needs.
Avoid flavored teas. There are varying opinions and rumors about using Earl Grey, since it has bergamot oil in it. I believe the conclusion is that it is okay to use, but not as your only tea choice for a long period of time, as it can start to negatively impact the SCOBY.
What about caffeine? Yes, it is standard practice to use caffeinated tea. SCOBY likes caffeine and responds best to caffeinated teas. However, the finished kombucha is very low in caffeine! The fermentation process vastly reduces it. I am pretty caffeine-sensitive. I cannot drink tea or coffee past 3 pm without being wired all night. On the other hand, I can easily drink kombucha in the evening with no noticeable impact to sleep.
Bulk vs. Loose Leaf
Another choice is: Will you purchase bulk loose leaf tea, or packaged tea bags? Both can be used to make kombucha. We use loose leaf, as a more sustainable and also cost-effective option.
Our tea choice:
We love organic loose-leaf Numi tea! After experimenting with various blends, we have come to prefer using half black (a breakfast blend) and half jasmine green or gunpowder green tea. The result is a perfect balanced flavor profile and excellent carbonation! Those bulk bags of tea easily last us over 6 months, even when brewing large amounts every single week!
7) Tea infuser
If you choose to brew with loose-leaf tea, you’ll need an infuser to hold the tea while it is steeping. Most infusers out there are fairly petite, designed for brewing just a cup or two of tea. We hunted around to find one that could meet our brewing capacity needs, which is about 6 tablespoons of loose-leaf tea. This stainless steel capsule infuser is what we love and use, which holds up to 12 tablespoons!
Kombucha is made with sweet tea, so yes, sugar is required. The sugar is what feeds the SCOBY and makes the fermentation process possible. We pick up a big 10-pound bag of bulk organic cane sugar from Costco, which lasts us quite a long time. I will always suggest using organic ingredients, but especially when fermenting. I have heard of some people brewing successfully with honey though I believe it can take a toll on SCOBY health over time. Other substitutes should be avoided.
Not a fan of sweets, or need to avoid sugar? Don’t worry! The SCOBY converts the majority of the sugar to healthy acids during the fermentation process. Meaning, the final beverage you will consume is pretty dang low in sugar. If you read the nutrition label on bottled kombucha, most of them range from only 5 to 12 carbs per 16 ounce bottle. Plus, those usually have fruit juice added for flavor. As I mentioned, you have ultimate control over your own brew. You can choose to not flavor yours at all during second fermentation, or run the primary ferment even longer. Both of which would further reduce the sugar content.
Did you know that I am Type 1 Diabetic? Kombucha does not have a noticeable impact on my blood sugar. Instead, it can actually have the opposite impact, and help keep it more level! The gluconic and acetic acid that are formed in kombucha during the fermentation process are known blood sugar stabilizers.
9) Large glass pitcher
This item isn’t absolutely essential, though it is very helpful! On bottling day, we position a pitcher below the crock and dispense the finished kombucha into it. From there, we pour it into individual bottles with the aid of a funnel. We found this much easier and faster than holding each bottle below the spigot and filling them one at a time. This pitcher has held up great for us, after a previous ones handle broke off. Note that it is not safe for hot liquids.
If you are planning on doing a second fermentation, air-tight bottles are key! Second ferment is when you bottle kombucha after the primary fermentation, but this time in an anaerobic environment – aka, without air. This is the stage when you can add fruit flavoring, and when carbonation develops. Without proper air-tight bottles, it will not carbonate. No, screwing on a lid really tight will not make a container completely air-tight. Gases are sneaky little devils, and will find a way out!
What you need are swing-top bottles made for brewing.
VERY IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE:
There are all sorts of cute and inexpensive swing-top bottles out there, like the ones you can pick up at Target, Home Goods, and the like. Those bottles are great for things like lemonade, salad dressing, fermented hot sauce, elderberry syrup, or fire cider. In contrast, they are NOT made to withstand high pressure from within. They can and will explode under the pressure of highly carbonated kombucha. It is CRUCIAL that you get high-quality bottles that are up to the task.
A couple years ago, we were startled awake in the middle of the night by a gunshot in the kitchen. Or so we thought. One of our cheapo bottles of kombucha on top of the fridge had literally exploded. Shards of glass had been shot clear into the living room, and booch was everywhere! Thank god we were in bed. Can you image what would have happened if we were in the kitchen cooking?!? We could seriously have lost an eye, or worse.
If fizzy booch isn’t your goal, mason jars or other re-used bottles with screw top lids can do the trick!
11) Bottle brush
You do not want to use soap when cleaning kombucha supplies, as it can leave an unwanted residue. Instead, we use hot water and plain white vinegar. To be honest, we do not scrub the inside of our bottles after every use. After pouring a bottle, we’ll often times simply rinse it with really hot water, set it upside down to drain, and then shake some vinegar around inside on bottling day before refilling. However, they definitely need a deep cleaning now and then. Particularly if you flavor your second ferment with fruit puree like we do. The necks of the bottles can get pretty damn scuzzy!
This bottle brush plus some vinegar does the trick. It is extra large and has a long handle, made to scrub the inside of beer bottles and such.
12) Pens to label bottles
This is another optional item, but a useful one! We enjoy writing the flavor of the kombucha on the bottle. This is particularly helpful if we make several flavors in one bottling session. Marking the bottles also helps us distinguish between different weeks batches, so we know which bottles should be consumed before the others.
We’ve come to love these wine glass writers! They stay put well enough to not drip or wipe off with condensation and handling, but wash off quite easily with a little scrub of the sponge.
13) Christmas lights
Wait, what? If you haven’t seen our kombucha set-up on Instagram, you may be asking “Why the heck are Christmas lights on a kombucha supply list?” One reason: Heat.
The goal is to keep kombucha at an ideal fermentation temperature, which is about 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Around 70 is okay too, but you may run into issues if your brew is consistently lower than that. Lower temperatures will not only slow down the fermentation process, but can also increase the risk of mold development. This is particularly true when you’re first getting started and don’t have a super strong healthy SCOBY established yet.
Our house is definitely much cooler than the ideal kombucha temperature range, especially in the winter. Therefore, we wrap our primary ferment crocks with classic white holiday lights. I say “classic” because the newer LED lights don’t give off heat, so they won’t work. We keep them plugged in most of the winter and during cool nights in the summer. A 100-light strand is sufficient to wrap around two crocks a few times each.
Another option is to use a seedling heat mat. I personally like the ambiance of the lights better! For the record, because I know there are plenty of rumors out there: kombucha doesn’t need to be in the dark. The lights won’t hurt it. It should however be kept out of direct sunlight such as in a sunny window. However, ambient room light is fine.
To help monitor the temperature of your crocks, an adhesive thermometer can be stuck on the side of it! This will help you better gauge if your kombucha is happy in there! Once you know the temperature, you can make adjustments as needed. For example, you may decide to re-locate the crock, turn your lights on or off, or maybe wrap them around the crock fewer times to reduce the heat.
There you go!
That is the complete list of supplies that we use to make kombucha. What do you think? Are you now feeling more prepared and excited to brew some of your own? I am so excited to be help get you started on this journey!
Once you have your supplies, you’ll be ready for this post: “How to Make Kombucha 101: Brewing Basics for the Best Booch Ever”
Thank you for reading! I hope you found this helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and pass it on. Cheers!