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Kombucha FAQ

admin February 15, 2011

 

Today I’m talking all about kombucha!  Several people have asked questions about brewing it, and since I’ve been doing so for nearly a year, I thought I’d answer several of the most popular questions today in a FAQ.  Be sure to ask any other questions that you have in the comments section, or leave your own answers if you brew kombucha too!

  1. Is foam on kombucha normal? — Yes.  This means that your new SCOBY is growing!  A whitish foam is completely normal.
  2. How long can I brew kombucha? — Kombucha can be brewed anywhere from 7 days to 30 days, depending on what flavor you like, the temperature of the room, etc.  In a cooler room you’ll need to brew longer; in a warmer room, less time.  I brew for 9 – 10 days in the summer and 14 – 18 days in the winter.  You may like it less or more sour; so taste with a small spoon after a week and every couple of days afterward until you find out where you like it.
  3. What if I leave it too long? — If your kombucha is a bit too sour (left a few days too long), you can add a little extra sugar and/or juice and bottle it for a brief (1 – 2 days) second ferment.  If you have left it way too long, and it is undrinkable, throwing it out is advisable.
  4. What can I do with extra SCOBYs? — Composting them is a good idea.  If you can, pass them along to friends or neighbors who might like to brew their own kombucha.  You can throw them in the trash if you can’t find a way to use them and don’t compost.
  5. How do I grow my own SCOBY? — It’s easy!  Just mix 1 c. black tea, 1 tbsp. sugar, and 16 oz. of plain kombucha (unpasteurized).  G.T. Dave’s plain kombucha works great.  Leave it sit for a few weeks and it will grow you a new SCOBY!
  6. I started my kombucha and my SCOBY sank!  What’s wrong? — Nothing!  This happens sometimes.  It will float back to the top eventually.  It doesn’t mean anything if your SCOBY sinks.  It doesn’t matter if it sinks when growing your own, either.
  7. How do I know if my SCOBY is bad? — If your SCOBY starts growing black, fuzzy mold, it is not good anymore.  You may choose to throw it out if it sits unused for several weeks because it will produce “stale” kombucha.
  8. What do I do with my SCOBY in between brewing?  How long can I leave it? — The best thing is to just start another batch!  It tastes several days so you may be ready for more by the time it’s ready.  But if you need to store it for any reason (like vacation), place it in a glass container with enough brewed kombucha to keep it moist and cover it.  Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to brew again.
  9. What is the brown stringy stuff in the kombucha or under my SCOBY? — This is just the yeasty stuff, and it is normal!  Don’t worry about it.
  10. Why hasn’t my kombucha grown a baby yet?  How long does it take? — Usually your batch will grow a new SCOBY every time you brew a batch.  But sometimes it doesn’t completely grow one and it doesn’t separate from the mother.  It will look like it hasn’t grown one because they haven’t separated, but it has grown some.  You can check under the mother to see if there is a layer you can peel off.  That is your baby!  Otherwise, just use your mother in a new batch and let it keep going.  Soon you will have a baby.  Ordinarily it takes 7 – 10 days but it can take longer.
  11. Should I strain my kombucha?  At what point? — No!  If you really don’t like the “stuff” floating in your kombucha, you may choose to strain right before drinking.  But don’t strain it before this!  All that “stuff” is really good for you!
  12. Help!  My kombucha isn’t carbonated.  Why not? — A variety of reasons.  You may not have brewed it long enough, or brewed at too cool a temperature.  Use double fermentation and allow your kombucha to sit, bottled, at room temperature for 2 – 3 days to help ensure carbonation. You may also want to leave your kombucha in the fridge (after bottling) for a week or so to help it age.  Kombucha improves with age! Although you may not like it as well without carbonation, it retains the same health benefits, so don’t worry about it.  Batches can vary and sometimes they just aren’t carbonated.
  13. Is pasteurized kombucha the same as unpasteurized in health benefits? — No!  Not at all.  Pasteurization kills all the enzymes and probiotics that make kombucha so beneficial.  Never buy pasteurized kombucha and never pasteurize your own!
  14. Is kombucha good for stomach viruses? — It can be!  If you are used to drinking it, the probiotics in it will help the stomach virus go away.  However, since kombucha can cause die-off because of the high levels of probiotics, you may not want to start drinking it during or right after a stomach virus in order to avoid unpleasant die-off.
  15. I have a headache and feel weird after drinking it, is this normal? — Yes, usually.  This is typically die-off.  Go slower in introducing kombucha, taking only a few ounces per day until you know how you handle it.  You don’t want to cause problems.  In rare cases, this could be an allergic reaction or a sign you should not drink it, but this is typically not the case.
  16. Is kombucha safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding? — If you have already been drinking kombucha, yes, it is perfectly safe to continue.  It is not a good idea to start during pregnancy or while exclusively breastfeeding in case you have a die-off reaction.  During breastfeeding, it will get to the baby, as well, and can cause fussiness.  If you are breastfeeding only part time, it is safe to start very slowly.  Watch both your baby and yourself for die-off.
  17. Is lemon juice good for kombucha? — Yes.  It is good for flavoring and seems to help produce carbonation when used in the double fermentation method.  Lime juice is also good.  No juice needs to or should be used during the initial fermentation.
  18. How do I do a double ferment? — After your kombucha has initially brewed (for the 7 – 14 or so days), bottle your kombucha in glass bottles with tight lids.  Add about 1 ounce of some type of juice or other flavoring (fresh ginger slices, dried fruit, etc.) and cap the bottles tightly.  Allow the bottles to sit for 1 – 3 days (depending on temperature), then place them in the fridge.  They are ready!
  19. What flavors can I use? — Anything you can dream up!  Cherry, strawberry, grape, guava, mango, greens, etc.  Whatever you like!  Simple puree it or juice it and use about 1 ounce per 16-oz. bottle.

What are your best kombucha brewing tips?  What other questions do you have?

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61 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post – one question – how do I get started?! I tried store bought once right after I found out I was pregnant and I really liked it. Now I'd like to try brewing my own but I'm not sure where to start.

    Reply

  2. Kombucha is yummy. My problem is that my mom (who lives with us) "stored" my kombucha on top of the fridge one day, and I had forgotten about it. It's been there for over a year, and looks no worse for the wear, but I'm a little nervous about using it. Any opinions?

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  3. What is a die-off reaction?

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  4. i will admit, i am a little afraid of the kombucha…

    Reply

  5. What is the "die-off" experience that you talk about if you consume too much to soon? What causes it? Thanks!

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  6. i think it is interesting that you mentioned lemon juice produces 'fizzier' kombucha, i did not know that, but by experience i have found it to be true! my absolute favorite variety of kombucha to make is when i bottle it i add lemonade leftovers (that is lemons, organic of course! sliced thin that i already used to make lemonade (i.e. all juice removed) with peel and pith and all!) i add pieces of this to the kombucha and then refrigerate at least a week! SOO good and extra fizzy! i just bottled some up yesterday and am eagerly awaiting this batch being ready!!

    Reply

  7. Danielle,

    Here are links to a couple other posts I did on brewing kombucha: https://modernalternativemama.com/2010/4/18/kombucha and https://modernalternativemama.com/2010/10/2/kombucha-brewing-tips-and-hints Those will help you get started!

    Monique,

    I wouldn't drink the kombucha that's up there, probably wouldn't taste good! But if there is no sign of mold (it would be black and fuzzy) on the mother, then you should be safe to brew with it.

    Kay and Lauren,

    Kombucha contains a LOT of probiotics, so this can cause any bad bacteria in your body to start to die, releasing toxins. This makes you feel rather yucky for awhile. Starting slowly will minimize this! But it's ultimately a GOOD thing because you don't want those bad bacteria in there, you want to replace them with the good ones!

    Reply

  8. Have you ever made it with teas other than black? I used to make it a lot with black tea but now use decaf black because I now try not to drink any caffeine. (Which makes me wonder – anyone know about the caffeine content in kombucha? Is it still in there after brewing?) Have you ever tried rooibos or green, decaf green, etc? Just wondering how it would work.

    Reply

  9. Katie,

    No, I haven't tried them. I had some kombucha from a local brewer made with green tea and didn't like it, so I haven't been eager to try! I LIKE green and rooibos teas a lot and drink them, just haven't made kombucha from them. I get asked that so often, though, that maybe I'll try an experiment soon! I think I have both and I do have two extra jars….

    I don't think much caffeine is left. I can't say for sure, but I am VERY sensitive to it, generally, and kombucha — even lots — does not bother me.

    Reply

  10. I posted this question on another post but figured I'd re-ask it here: How much does kombucha taste like black tea? Even though I'm a southern girl, I can't stand iced tea (sweetened or not), so I'm afraid I'll not like the kombucha… Thoughts?

    Reply

    • I recently tried GT’s plain and I think it tastes like apple cider with a little kick. It was really good. I’m getting my own SCOBY saturday!

      Reply

  11. I have my very first batch of kombucha brewing at the moment! So excited! I love it, but it's an expensive habit to keep paying $4/bottle.

    RE the green tea question: I got my scoby from a friend who has been making kombucha for a long time. She instructed me to use green tea, so that's what I'm using. I thought I had heard (read?) that I was supposed to use black tea, but I trust her so I used green. Will see how it turns out…

    Reply

  12. Lauren,

    I don't think it tastes like tea at all. My husband agrees — he says he does not like black tea, but he does like kombucha. The fermentation totally changes it!

    Reply

  13. Hey there!

    For those wondering about the "die-off" reaction, it is known in the medical community as a Healing Crisis or a Herxheimer Reaction and occurs naturally with many healing foods, not just Kombucha.

    For more info on Herxheimer Reactions, I wrote a post specifically about them. 🙂

    Thanks again ModAltMama!

    Hannah Crum
    The Kombucha Mamma

    Reply

  14. I've been making kombucha for almost 2 years. It's wonderful! Thanks for all the great FAQ.

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  15. I see you store your kombucha in old bottles, can you store it in canning jars?

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  16. I didn't know I could grow my own SCOBY! I have been wanting to start but haven't been able to track down a SCOBY locally. Now I can make my own! Hooray!

    Reply

  17. Wow – great information! I've been brewing for a few months now, and I love it! You answered a few of the questions I had and gave me some inspiration for flavoring – I never thought of using dried fruit!

    Reply

  18. Hi Matt,

    Yes, you can. I don't personally like to do it because I don't think it gets as carbonated. But others do because then you can pour it into individual glasses and it's just a wider mouth and easier to clean.

    Reply

  19. Hello!

    With regards to the "die off" reaction:
    If taking it slow means that you'll slowly experience die off, does drinking more kombucha/probiotics, etc., mean that you can get it over with more quickly?

    Maybe it's just my impatient side (heh…okay, it's totally that!), but if I can, erm, "get 'er done!" a little faster and move into good health quickly, I think I'd rather do that.

    Thanks in advance for your time! 🙂

    Reply

  20. Your body's toxin filters, like your liver, kidneys, etc, can only filter out a certain amount of toxins at a time. It's so much safer to detox slowly! Otherwise you will be allowing those bad guys to circulate free in your body, and you're gonna absorb them back into your system if can't flush'em. Steady does it, soldier 😉

    Reply

  21. I brewed my kombucha for a while and a scoby formed on top but when I went to check the flavor, it sank to the bottom of the jar with it's momma. What should I do? The kombucha isn't sour enough for me. Can I continue brewing? Thanks!

    Reply

  22. Hi there,
    I can't wait to try this…I am tempted to run to the store now and get some to grow my own culture. I do wonder though, is there a downside to it? What do you think the sugar content is after brewing (as of course I don't want to intake too much sugar). Thanks so much for all your awesome info. Your sight is great!

    Reply

  23. I started a batch in the beginning of November. I just used a bottle of organic Kombucha for a starter and a mason jar. Used alot of sugar and threw it up in the cupboard with a paper towel secured with a rubber band. Two weeks later I saw something growing on the top (a thin, thin layer). One week later I saw some mold so I scooped that out. Then I forgot about it until yesterday and when I looked a beautiful whitish clear mushroom was floating happily atop of my concoction. I just tasted my creation. Wow! What a delicious surprise! First time for me. I poured out most of it into another mason jar and threw some cranberry/apple juice into the top fifth of the jar, sealed it and threw that into the fridge to ferment! I can't wait. I am now brewing three mason jars worth of tea to create more cultures. Very cool!

    Reply

    • I have read that the first fement of the tea and the mother SCOBY is only supposed to contain the tea. No fruit or fruit juices are supposed to be combined with the mother. Fruits can be combined on a second ferment after the other has been removed.

      Reply

  24. I really want to start make kombucha. Where is a good place to get a scoby?

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  25. Hello! I just brewed my first batch and started my second one tonight… But on my first batch I sealed the lid of the glass jar tightly – Now I understand to use a cloth and rubber band. But is this first batch going to be bad now or do you think I can still drink it?

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  26. I have brewed 4 or 5 batches so far. this time I used black tea. Today is the 10th day. I now have foamy bubbles on top of tea? Is it save?

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  27. Curious about the natural lifestyle, and I’m completely ignorant on the subject. What is Kombucha and what is SCOBY?! New things (new to me) like this makes me nervous. what if I don’t like it, I’m kinda picky, but i’m looking for a lifestyle change. so a little at a time, first cutting down on grains instead of cutting out and of course reducing and eventually eliminating pre-packaged foods. we are super busy and sometimes it is just easier.

    Reply

  28. I just made my first batch of kombucha. Its been 10 days. It is forming a baby on top but a little too sweet and no carbonation. I still think it is yummy and am excited that I don’t need to pay $3 a bottle anymore. I will let it sit longer than try bottling and lemon juice.

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  29. Can I use water from my well that is filtered through a Brita tap filter to make my Kombucha?

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  30. I am just now starting to learn about Kombucha. Is it safe for kids to drink too? Also, I typically do not like carbonated beverages. Is there a way to make it without carbonation and will it still work/be good for me?

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    • Yes, it is safe for kids. All of my kids drink it! You can choose not to do a second ferment or choose to not seal it completely in a second ferment (use a mason jar) and that will make it not carbonated. I don’t normally like soda either but I like this carbonated, so you can experiment.

      Reply

  31. I just made my first batch of Kombucha. It is still in the fermenting stage. I am trying to get more probiotics in my diet since my exclusively breastfed son has a milk protein intolerance. I used to eat a lot of yogurt and kiefer but those are out. Do you think starting Kombucha slowly is a bad idea since I am exclusively breastfeeding. Any other ideas for safe ways to get probiotics in my diet. Thanks! By the way, I have you Breast to Bib ebook and love it !

    Reply

    • I originally started kombucha when I was exclusively breastfeeding my second. Just go slow and as long as you and baby seem okay, go with it. I never had much of a reaction and baby didn’t either, but some friends had a different experience. Try out some fermented veggies, like pickles and sauerkraut, or try water kefir for probiotics.

      Reply

  32. Hi there. I saw your kombucha video and you seem to make alot. Our small family would never consume that much in the time needed before the next batch is ready. If I just use a smaller glass jar so that I only made a certain amount is that okay? Also, I bought a bottle of the GT Dave’s kombucha but they didnt have plain, so it’s flavored. Is that okay?

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  33. I was just curious if there are adverse effects if brewed untouched for almost a year. I forgot the jar in the back of the pantry and just found it, the liquid level has droped but the scoby dosent apear to be moldy but there is a crust ring were the scoby was originaly. Ive read that left for too long can make the kombutcha stale but, the discussuion in meantion was talking about only a couple of months.can you clarify this for me?

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    • Hmm…that might be kind of stale and you might be better off getting or growing a new SCOBY. I have never left it that long so I am unsure. I have only left it 4 – 6 weeks, which is too long to drink but okay to restart.

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  34. I experience headaches when I drink kumbucha also, and it just started recently. I’ve been drinking kumbucha for years without problems, and then suddenly, about a month ago, I started developing headaches whenever I drank it. It took me 3-4 times before I figured out what was causing my headaches. I made no changes to my lifestyle, so it has nothing to do with “die off” or “clearing the toxins out of my system” or anything.

    Now I can no longer drink this beverage, because clearly it is doing something negative to me. I think it is responsible to acknowledge that kumbucha may not be for everyone.

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  35. Why is my scoby thin in the middle? Is it because it was left too long?
    How do I get it to be uniform in thickness again?

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    • It could be the size/shape of the jar you are using. It shouldn’t matter as long as it is otherwise healthy. Leaving it too long could let the middle dry out though and maybe that’s why it’s thinner there.

      Reply

  36. I just made my first batch of kombucha yesterday. now I am afraid it will not turn out, I followed a recipe that told me to boil 4 cups of water add 1 c sugar then dissolve, then add 4-6 tea bags and let sit for 15-20 min then add to 1 gallon jar and then fill with water the starter tea and the scoby. I done all this and filtered the tap water through a brita filter pitcher, but now I am worried that the brita does not take out the fluoride and there is fluoride in the water, will my scoby die? It is kinda folded in half in laying in the bottom of the jar.

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  37. I started making my baby a week ago. I have a cluster of brown things floating in the water. I have no idea. I baked in the oven and then when I felt it was cool I sat the jar inside. The temp was not hot at all to me. Maybe I killed it? It changed color. It doesn’t look moldy. Maybe I am just impatient?

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  38. Help! I dropped some strands of my fabric cover into the brew during the fermentation. Is this going to harm it? Is there anything I can do to keep this from further contaminating my brew? Please help!

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  39. Another question. I had a successful brew (1 gal) and started two new brews. I have one 1 gal brew and a 2 gal brew. My two gal brew seems to be growing some sort of cloudy mass to it. I read somewhere else it could be a yeast that is beneficial in beer and wine brewing but not so beneficial in Kombucha brewing. It seems to be growing on my sunken mother and there are some bits in the space of the liquid. I had started a 2 gal before and it did the same thing and ended up throwing it out because it had produce a small bit of mold on top of the newly forming baby. Any ideas? And if this is dangerous to my ferment is there anything I can do to alter this?

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  40. I’m still a little confused. I’m currently growing a scoby from a store-bought kombucha drink. When I’m able to finally do a batch, what am I supposed to do with the liquids that the scoby was originally sitting in? Do I return the scoby back to the liquids after I’m done brewing?

    Reply

    • Hi Amy,

      Add the liquid to your first batch of kombucha. You need 1/2 – 1 cup of brewed kombucha to start your brew so that the pH is low enough that it won’t mold before it ferments.

      Reply

  41. I am brewing my first batch of Kombucha. I have it in a beehive jar with a plastic spout. IT is fizzy now and I haven’t bottled it yet. Is that normal or did something go wrong?

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  42. Just started my first batch. I am on day 4 and checked it and nothing is happening. maybe I am not being patient!

    Reply

  43. […] an exciting one (at least to me!).  By the way, if you’re not familiar, check out the Kombucha FAQ, or my kombucha […]

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  44. Hello

    What scoby is better to continue with, the “old” one or the baby scoby?

    warm regards
    Petra

    Reply

  45. I have been reading up about this because my SCOBY keep sinking. I found an article about why a SCOBY sinks to bottom, but no other websites have the same information. I was wondering your thoughts?

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  46. great post thanks for your hard work

    Reply

  47. I just made my first batch of coffee kombucha and it produced so much foam I was so worried! Lol thank you for easing my fears and answering questions I didn’t know I had.

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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