October 7, 2015

The Kombucha Adventure Begins

I opened the mailbox and there it was: a manilla envelope holding my precious scoby, the "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast" that I would use to make kombucha tea.

Inside the envelope was a Foodsaver bag containing the scoby and some starter liquid. The write-up on Etsy hadn't specified what size it would be, but it looked like it would fit the top of a quart-size Mason jar. The scoby was creamy-colored and nearly an inch thick.

Kombucha is a vinegar-based drink that contains probiotics, enzymes, B-vitamins and more. It supports the immune system, improves digestion, helps cleanse and detox the body, increases energy, and supposedly it helps with weight loss, reduces joint pain including arthritis pain, and many claim that it can even help prevent cancer.

I'd read a lot about making kombucha at home before I ordered my own scoby, and I read several times that it takes several cycles for a scoby to adapt. It needs to get used to my filtered water, my kitchen's temperature, and the kind of tea I use to brew it. My scoby was probably only used to make a quart of kombucha at a time, although it could have come from a half-gallon Mason jar too, so I planned to work up to a gallon-sized batch over a couple of weeks. There would be some to drink along the way, but that shouldn't be my focus at first.

I started with a half-gallon batch using a squatty jar, which was bigger around than the scoby was. I made the sweet tea as directed, let it cool to room temperature, added the starter liquid that was included in my package, and tried to float the scoby on top. It promptly sank to the bottom, but I read that it's ok. I covered the jar with a handkerchief and a rubber band and left it for a week.

The Brew #3 scoby with the quart-size original scoby underneath.

It was an agonizing week. I checked every day, careful not to jostle the jar. No baby scoby appeared on top until the sixth day, and I was ecstatic when I realized it was actually working after all. By Day Seven there was a thin layer of scoby on top of the liquid.

The directions said to let it brew for 7-10 days. One blogger said she just lets it work for a week and always starts a new batch on Wednesday, which I thought was a good plan. So on Day Seven I made a new batch of tea, removed the very thin baby scoby and the original scoby to a bowl and covered them with a cup of the liquid from the jar, and poured the rest of the brewed kombucha into another jar. (This is the finished kombucha that you can drink, or you can flavor it with a "second ferment" for a few more days before drinking.)

Finished kombucha tea, ready to drink or flavor.
That's a thin layer of bubbles on the top.

The new batch I started was also a half gallon.  I added the new cooled, sweetened tea into the half-gallon jar, added a cup of the finished tea from the last batch, floated both scobys on top, covered it and left it for another week.

Since the finished kombucha from the first batch wasn't quite as tart as I wanted, I let this one brew for eight days instead of seven. And when that batch was finished and it was time to start a new one, I made a gallon in a gallon-size jar. This time the scobys didn't sink and I had a nice, thicker baby scoby when this batch was finished after eight days. I think the scoby and I are working as a team now.

I'm now on Batch Four, another gallon-size batch, and this time I separated the smaller original scoby from the larger ones that I've grown. The original scoby went into a jar of its own with some finished tea - this is amusingly called a "scoby hotel" - and the new larger scobys that fit my gallon-size jar are in my current brew.

I'm still experimenting with flavoring and brew time. I haven't hit the right combination yet. Hopefully my kombucha will also get more bubbly as time goes by, it isn't as fizzy as the bottles from the store. I'll share how I'm flavoring it in my next post - maybe some of you who are already making your own kombucha can give us some pointers?

Related Posts:
Adventures in Kombucha
The Kombucha Adventure Begins
Flavoring Kombucha, the Second Brew
How I Make Kombucha

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


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  1. I made kombucha much in the same manner as you, but I did a second ferment with flavorings to get that bubbly fizz, and it works! I bought some jars with the flip bale lids and did the second ferment in those. They fit into the refrigerator when the second ferment is done. Our favorite flavor is the ginger and lemon - tastes like a sour ginger ale! Have fun with your scoby. I will tell you, however, that you will end up with a lot of scoby after you have been brewing for a while, so I hope your family and friends like Kombucha!

  2. I'm going to have to buy some of those jars so I can get more carbonation. I now have "sparkling" kombucha but I'd love more fizz. I'm still experimenting with the second ferment and flavoring. Lemon and ginger sounds interesting, Vicki! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Don't know if my family would go for this. Thanks for sharing on the Homestead Blog Hop.

  4. I know several families that love kombucha, even the children, but I do think it's an acquired taste, Gregg.

  5. I bottle my kombucha for a second ferment and allow the bottles to sit out at room temperature for a few days before I refrigerate. I get pretty good bubbly going on! Also, I started my own kombucha scoby and grew it from a bottle of commercially prepared kombucha. You can read about it on my blog if you are interested. By now you are probably on your way to a full scoby hotel! I have two scoby hotels now! Enjoy!

    1. Miss Nifty Thrifty, I'm still experimenting with the 2nd ferment to find flavors I like and hopefully get more fizz. Yes, I do have a scoby hotel! My goodness, you have two hotels!?

  6. Well sounds like tomorrow is the beginning of my Kombucha adventure. Wish me luck! I sure am excited about it. I love fermenting so this should be great. Quick question how much sugar to tea ratio do you recommend?

    1. 1 cup sugar to a gallon of tea. The scoby will feed on the sugar so it won't be as sweet as you'd think when it's ready to drink.

  7. I'm following your Kombucha journey with interest, Kathi! It's so cool to see the step by step photographs. Thank you for sharing wit us at the Hearth and Soul Hop!

  8. I have found that I the maturation time of my kombucha differs due to a number of factors. The main one being temp and humidity. In warmer it is the quicker it will become tart (maybe 7 days) in colder weather it can take up to 14 days. I test it from 7 days on. I find that 10-12 days with an extra 3-4 days second ferment is good. Also I have read that the atmosphere will determine how the scoby orientates itself in the jar. Apparently it doesn't matter if it sits sideways or not.

  9. How interesting, Therese - like a barometer of sorts? I had one stand upright in the jar once.

    I've read about the temperature in the house affecting the ferment time. Since I'm still new at it, I haven't noticed a difference yet.


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