- Diane Sanfilippo | New York Times bestselling author of "Practical Paleo" and "The 21-Day Sugar Detox" | Home of the Balanced Bites Podcast - http://balancedbites.com -

Easy Recipe: Home-Brewed Kombucha

The first time I tried kombucha was in 2007.

I was working at Lululemon Athletica part-time in San Francisco while I was working on the business plan for Balanced Bites – originally a grass-fed/organic meal delivery business. Yes, really. One of the many cool things about working at the store was that we’d get a “treat” each morning or evening if we opened or closed – especially over the holiday season when times were busy. Often we’d get items from Starbucks, but this time it was a run to the local health food shop down the street. I asked some of the other Lulus what they were getting, and most of them replied “kombucha!” Okay, well I wasn’t going to be a sore sport who didn’t try this crazy sounding drink everyone raved about. So I tried it. They recommended GT’s Synergy Mystic Mango. I took one sip and nearly choked on it. It was sour, tart, even alcoholic-tasting. I am a notoriously bad drinker.

About 5 minuter later, I felt buzzed. What the heck?! I thought this was some kind of fruity drink thing, not a cocktail?! I can’t say I was hooked from that moment, because I don’t think I even finished the whole bottle, but that was when kombucha and I first met.

Fast-forward to 2009 sitting in one of my nutrition classes learning about the benefits of fermented foods and a classmate was going on and on about how she had all these extra SCOBYs if anyone wanted one. Um, what? A what? A SCOBY [sko • bee] is a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. I figured I was game as anyone for an at-home science experiment, so I took one home and did a little googling to figure out what to do with the slimy little thing.

My first batch of home-brewed kombucha was a disaster.

I didn’t have much sugar in my house at the time, and I think all I had was about 1/2 a cup of granulated muscavado. It’s dark in color, and not super appetizing once combined with the tea I brewed. Well, the fermentation went even longer than it needed to, and, with the lack of sugar in my batch, and I quickly ended up with about a gallon of weird tea-vinegar. Needless to say, I didn’t try making it again until pretty recently.

I’m lucky enough to have some awesome home-cook/home-fermenting friends these days, and one of them shipped me a SCOBY from North Carolina. SWEET. I dove right in, but this time, I followed the instructions and used the full amount of sugar called for. This is very important, folks. It ain’t like cooking or baking where you can take a lot of liberties in the way the bacteria grows on the food you provide it.

I drink kombucha regularly/daily for several reasons:

  1. I like it. I like the taste. I like the slightly fizzy texture of it, and I like the ritual of my glass in the morning.
  2. It has replaced my morning coffee. While I don’t need my kombucha to get me going, I certainly enjoy the caffeine-free (if I buy it from a store) or mild caffeine hit from the home-brewed green tea versions I make – as well as the B vitamins that are produced in the fermentation process.
  3. I like food projects. Specifically ones that freak other people out, like fermented foods. So I really enjoy making my own at home and trying out new flavors (see below for a few ideas).
  4. I enjoy the effects of the probiotic content of the tea. My digestion feels better while I’m drinking it, and unfortunately I don’t currently tolerate even grass-fed yogurt or kefir, so I’m left with other options (including my own homemade raw sauerkraut).
  5. I feel better drinking it. I have not been sick in – knock on wood – at least a year now I don’t think. If I have been sick since then, I don’t recall it happening so it couldn’t have been that bad. And I travel a lot! We all know what kind of bugs are circulating on airplanes, but it’s not just about what bugs are around that determines whether or not someone gets sick, it’s how strong (or not!) your immune system is at crushing those bugs! Mine’s been pretty darn good at it lately. Coincidence? Perhaps… but I’m still going to drink this stuff anyway.
  6. It’s an easy-to-find/easy-to-enjoy/socially-acceptable-and-embraced fermented food. I travel a lot, did I mention that? I find that getting my hands on some kombucha and slugging it down is a lot easier than getting some raw fermented sauerkraut and then toting the jar around until it’s finished, with or without refrigeration. Granted, I travel to lots of places where there are Whole Foods Markets, but kombucha is becoming more readily available in many other shops as well. I also find that my (now mostly Paleo) friends all pretty much are hooked as well and enjoy grabbing a bottle of the refreshing beverage together – score!

While this post is dedicated to the recipe for my raw kombucha, click here or here to read more about the health benefits of raw, fermented kombucha.

Home-Brewed Kombucha: A raw, probiotic-rich food (drink)

This is my recipe. There are many, many, many ways to make kombucha. A card was included with the SCOBY from my friend, but I don’t follow it to the letter. This is the way I’ve made it for several batches now, and I’m pleased with the results. There are parts you can modify, and parts you can’t. A lot of this is trial-and-error in my opinion, but the main things that must remain are: some kind of tea, a SCOBY, and a granulated sweetener like organic sugar. From there, you can change things up as noted below.

Yield: Approximately 1 gallon of kombucha tea.

Tools & equipment:  

Ingredients for the basic brew:

Note: This part does not involve imparting a specific flavoring to the tea.


To make different flavors, you’ll go on to complete a second fermentation:

Second fermentation: to add fizz…

Second fermentation: to keep the tea flat (no fizz):

  • Follow the instructions for adding fizz, but “burp” the jars every day or two to let the air out. This will keep the tea flatter. Allow the tea to ferment another 5-7 (or more) days to your taste. Then refrigerate it before serving.

Yes, you can enjoy this recipe while on the 21-Day Sugar Detox – up to 8oz per day of kombucha is allowed.

Note: I earn a small commission if you use the links in this post to purchase the products mentioned. I only recommend products I would use myself or that I recommend for clients in my practice or at workshops. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information about nutrition and health.