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Kombucha Questions & Answers

For those new to making kombucha, the process can be intimidating. Every little thing is confusing. Does it matter if my kombucha SCOBY sinks? Can I cut my SCOBY in half? Why can’t I ferment the kombucha SCOBY with fruit juice? How much sugar is left in the kombucha when it’s done? How can I tell when my kombucha is done? It’s taking an unusually long time for my SCOBY to grow. How long is enough?

Today, I’m answering these and other frequently asked questions about kombucha. Hope it helps!

Does it matter if my kombucha SCOBY sinks?

If your SCOBY sinks after you put it in your sweet tea, that’s okay. A new SCOBY will grow across the top. Sometimes, if your SCOBY culture is weak, it may take a while longer to grow a new one across the top. This isn’t bad, just inconvenient. So, to prevent this inconvenience, you can ensure your SCOBY won’t sink by bringing both it and your sweetened tea to room temperature before trying to rest the SCOBY across the top. A kombucha SCOBY will sink when it is a different temperature than the sweetened tea — even a few degrees matters.

Can I cut my SCOBY in half?

Sometimes, you want to double your batch, or share a SCOBY with a friend before yours has produced a baby. You can safely cut a SCOBY in half. Just make sure your scissors or knife are completely clean before you handle it to avoid contamination. The next batch you brew with the cut SCOBY will grow a new SCOBY to grow across the top, as always.

My SCOBY is a different size than my container. Does it matter?

Nope. As with cutting the SCOBY, all that will happen is that a new kombucha mother will grow across the top of the liquid, taking on the shape of the new container.

Why can’t I ferment the kombucha SCOBY with fruit juice?

If you’re opting to use the double fermentation method to create flavored kombucha, you can’t allow the SCOBY to be in the same vessel as the fruit juice, fruit, or other flavorful additions. That’s because the fruit juice contains a different type of sugar than the one kombucha thrives on. This causes a slightly different balance of bacteria and yeast to grow in your culture. While that may be desirable for the short term results (flavored kombucha), it will ultimately weaken your SCOBY. To keep your SCOBY uncontaminated, simply make sure it is always grown in a sweetened tea with no fruit or fruit juice added.

How much sugar will be left in my kombucha when it’s done?

That’s entirely up to you! The shorter your brew time, the sweeter it will be. That’s because sugar is the food for the SCOBY. As with all cultured foods, the longer it ferments, the more sugar it consumes. For those of you who desire less sugar, just let it ferment until it is very tart. Be prepared for it to be quite sour, though.

My kombucha isn’t fizzy, how can I fix that?

There are a lot of factors that go into making a nice, fizzy kombucha. But I’ve found that if people are following my instructions for the double fermentation method, the lack of fizz is usually because they don’t leave enough air at the top of their final bottle. When decanting your kombucha into a bottle or jar that contains fruit juice for the second ferment, be sure to leave at least an inch to an inch and a half of air at the top and seal with a lid.

How can I tell when my kombucha is done?

That’s entirely up to you! So many factors affect how long it can take to get to the flavor you desire. In Texas in the summer, my kombucha fermentation takes 7 days from start to finish, including the second ferment with fruit. In the winter, when room temperature is about ten degrees cooler, my kombucha takes about 12 to 14 days to reach the same level of tartness. There are people who live in more Northern climates who let their kombucha brew for 21+ days! If you’re concerned about safety, just use a pH strip to make sure you’re drinking the brew between pH levels 2.5 and 3.0.

My SCOBY isn’t growing! HELP.

If you’re trying to grow your own SCOBY from scratch, my first response is to give it more time. Sometimes, it can take weeks for a thin layer of something to appear across the top, then it will thicken up over the course of the following week. If, however, more than a month has gone by and absolutely nothing is growing, then it means the bottle of organic, raw kombucha you purchased was weak or old. Sadly, this happens from time to time. You can try again, or you can breakdown and order a kombucha SCOBY online. (Where to buy a kombucha SCOBY.)

If you’re not trying to grow your own SCOBY, but are instead in the middle of fermenting a batch of kombucha, then you may have inadvertently killed your culture. To avoid this in the future:

  • Don’t use antibacterial soap to clean your fermentation vessel.
  • Make sure you’re using filtered water that’s free of chlorine and other contaminants that can harm your SCOBY. (Where to buy water filters)
  • Don’t add your SCOBY to hot or even warm tea.
  • Don’t add any herbs, spices, honey or anything else foreign that can harm your SCOBY.
  • Keep the fermenting vessel away from any disturbing fumes such as paint or solvents.

Is kombucha safe to drink when pregnant or nursing?

Yes and no. See my post Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing for more detail.

I want to double my recipe and brew 2 gallons. Will it take twice as long to brew?

No. Fermentation time is affected by a lot of things from temperature to the strength of your SCOBY, but the quantity of kombucha you’re brewing is not one of those things. It doesn’t matter how big your batch is.

I don’t like sweetened teas. Can I brew kombucha without sweet tea?

No. Absolutely not. You wouldn’t be providing the SCOBY with any food, so it would die.

Where to Find a Kombucha SCOBY

If you want to eliminate a lot of the guesswork, you can buy a SCOBY online from a reputable source. I recommend this company.

Want to know more about kombucha?

Check out these other articles on kombucha I’ve written:

(photo by dorywithsurfs)

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.

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141 Responses to Kombucha Questions & Answers
  1. Sara Jo Poff via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:01 pm

    Have you ever tested the alcohol content of your kombucha from either the first and/or second ferment? I recently used a hydrometer and tested the first batch at .5%; 2nd ferment I think added about another .5% or less for around 1% total alcohol by volume. Not sure if it’s accurate though!

  2. Dawn Turpin Walsh via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:02 pm

    Does kombucha exacerbate a systemic yeast problem???

    • Monica
      June 18, 2012 | 11:01 pm

      I have a systemic yeast problem and was specifically told not to use any yeast products including kombucha.

  3. Food Renegade via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:09 pm

    Sara Jo Poff — No, I’ve never tested the alcohol content. But, that sounds about right. As long as there’s sufficient oxygen reaching your ferment and you’re not adding too much sugar to your sweet tea, the yeast have no reason to produce alcohol instead of CO2.

  4. Food Renegade via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:10 pm

    Dawn Turpin Walsh — No, it shouldn’t.

    • Val @ Tips on Healthy Living
      June 12, 2012 | 5:58 pm

      Just an FYI, people on an anti-Candida diet generally avoid anything fermented so not sure this would be a good idea, but it may depend at which stage in the elimination diet you are on.

  5. Joshua Allen Donini via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:16 pm

    Thanks for getting us started with this. We started our SCOBY about a year and a half ago, and though the original mother has long since been turned to compost, her great great (ad infinitum) grand daughters are still producing for us with very little effort on our part.

  6. Vincent Mandeville Gauthier via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:55 pm

    This is going straight to my bookmarks! And thanks to your comprehensive guide on kombucha, I can now have my daily dose of all-natural fizzy delicousness.

  7. Food Renegade via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 12:59 pm

    Joshua Allen Donini — You’re welcome! I just killed my SCOBY. Sad, but true. It had been getting weaker, and I don’t think it wanted to get rescued. I actually just bought a new one today from one of my sponsors so I can keep up my kombucha habit.

  8. Sarah
    June 12, 2012 | 2:01 pm

    I had to laugh at the old shirt you use for your cover. Way to recycle/reuse! :)

  9. Donna
    June 12, 2012 | 2:06 pm

    OK…really new to this…what’s a SCOBY? I am assuming an acronym maybe?
    thank you!

    • KristenM
      June 12, 2012 | 5:27 pm

      You’re right. A SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast — a starter culture for the ferment. Sometimes they’re called “mothers.”

      For more info, read my post on How To Brew Flavored Kombucha.

  10. David Gal via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 4:35 pm

    trying our first batch of kombucha this week!

  11. Julie
    June 12, 2012 | 4:42 pm

    I try to be pretty non-fussy with cooking & keep foods as simple as possible… but something I keep hearing about are the heater things you can use to keep kombucha at the right temp..? Do you worry with that? With keeping it warm enough? Sounds like extra steps, but I don’t want to compromise my brew ;) Pros? Cons?

    • KristenM
      June 12, 2012 | 5:28 pm

      I personally don’t use one because I live in Texas. It never falls below 72 degrees in my kitchen, so I’ll never need a warmer. If you live in a more Northern climate and can’t guarantee a room temperature between 74 and 78 degrees, it’d be a good idea to get SOMETHING to keep the ferment warm.

    • Steve
      June 29, 2012 | 1:49 pm

      I live in Pittsburgh, PA and had the heater at 68F all winter. It was on up high on a bookshelf next to the heater vent in the kitchen, but I cannot imagine it was that much warmer than the thermostat 10 feet away. I had no problem at all and have had my scoby for over a year now.

    • Charlotte
      June 12, 2014 | 1:15 pm

      if you keep it on top of the fridge it will provide that bit of warmth for the colder months. I find this very effective.

  12. Kaylene Hebdon via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 5:13 pm

    Could you make this with an herbal tea, instead of black or green tea?

    • Lauren H
      September 25, 2013 | 2:52 pm

      I have had success brewing very good quality organic rooibos loose leaf tea, instead of using black or green. (I am very sensitive to caffeine, and I have read though that not much remains after it has fermented…) You can also try flavoring your black tea with herbal teas in the second part of the fermentation!

  13. Food Renegade via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 5:39 pm

    Kaylene Hebdon — No. In order for it to actually BE kombucha, it needs to be a fermented tea. The SCOBY needs the caffeine, tannins, and other goodies in real tea leaves to create the beneficial acids that make kombucha so worth while. That said, you CAN add herbs for flavor if you’re willing to do a second ferment (without the SCOBY) to flavor it.

  14. Mary Hastings via Facebook
    June 12, 2012 | 7:36 pm

    Finally got up the nerve and tasted (store-bought) kombucha for the first time last week and LOVED it, but it was very expensive. Now to get up the nerve to attempt making it myself. Because I could easily drink this a lot :) Thank you so much for all the great info on how to do this!

  15. rftallent
    June 12, 2012 | 11:16 pm

    Can you store your scoby in unsweetened tea between brewing batches?

    • KristenM
      June 12, 2012 | 11:27 pm

      I would store it with a little (at least half a cup of) kombucha OR sweetened tea, but not with unsweetened tea. Wouldn’t want it to die from lack of food.

  16. Caitlin Grace via Facebook
    June 13, 2012 | 12:49 am

    I am the same Mary! Toatlly loved it and was so excited to see it for sale here in NZ as had never found ti before. Cant wait to start making my oewn.

  17. Diane Starbuck
    June 13, 2012 | 6:55 am

    During the winter, I grew a scoby according to your instructions. It took 6 weeks but I did end up with a 1/8″ scoby. I have made kombucha several times with this scoby. The new scoby that I get on a batch is very thin. I cannot keep it intact. I usually let it brew 8-10 days. It is always a thin film, not a thicker scoby. Is this normal? I feel like I am getting a decent kombucha. It has a distinct, vinegary scent and I like the taste. Is my scoby too weak? Please advise. Thanks and I enjoy your site and use it frequently.

    • KristenM
      June 13, 2012 | 11:12 am

      No, Diane, this isn’t normal. 1/8″ is about as thin as I would ever allow a SCOBY to get. Really healthy ones can be more than an INCH thick. Mine are most often at least half an inch thick.

      I think your SCOBY is weak — so weak it’s barely there. If I were you, I’d buy a SCOBY or see if a friend has one to give you.

  18. Diane Starbuck
    June 13, 2012 | 1:00 pm

    I thought that might be the problem. I will purchase one. Thanks.

  19. t
    June 13, 2012 | 4:23 pm

    After drinking store bought Kombucha intermittently for a few months, I finally followed your instructions and grew my own scoby, and am now on my 2nd batch of delish home brewed bucha! I have some questions, though. my home-brew is giving me headaches (i think). Do you think something is wrong with it? Or is it just more potent than the store bought? Or did my 5 day long honeymoon (a week ago) at an all-inclusive resort with way too many non-real-food pina coladas just create lots more junk to detox from my system? Opinions?
    Also, My new husband and I have also decided to try to have a baby; do you think I should stop drinking it since I didn’t drink it for very long before ttc?
    Thanks so much!

    • KristenM
      June 14, 2012 | 12:37 am

      Headaches after drinking it can be a sign of detox. As with all detox reactions, you can either plow through it or ease off the kombucha and do it more gently (drink less while your body adjusts).

      If I were you, I’d buy some pH strips and test to make sure my brew was acidic enough. Then, assuming it passed muster, I’d keep drinking it throughout my pregnancy because it’s quite beneficial.

      All that said, I’m not a doctor or a medical professional. Listen to your body. Do what seems best for you.

  20. chars
    June 14, 2012 | 5:02 pm

    i made my own scoby using store bought kombucha and the first batch was great. now my second batch is taking very long to brew and the ph is only about 5 after 6 days. smell kind of yeastie and vinegar at the same time but weak and not that fizzy. i’ve bottled it up with some grape juice for extra fermentation but am wondering if this is safe to drink and why is it so weak??? did it need more time?

  21. Marcy
    June 14, 2012 | 8:32 pm

    Is there a way to strengthen a weak SCOBY? And what about mold? I had several spots of green mold on one of mine this week-the compost got that one. Thanks!

    • KristenM
      June 20, 2012 | 3:20 pm

      You did the right thing. If it’s molding, you need to throw it out and start from scratch with a new SCOBY.

      And as for how to strengthen a SCOBY, that depends on what’s weakening it. It could be almost anything — unfiltered water, antimicrobial soaps, interference from other household appliances or EMFs, not enough oxygen, not enough sugar, too much sugar. I’d try to eliminate anything obvious first, then perhaps try adding more culture to the mix with a bottle of raw, organic kombucha (preferably locally made so that it has a shorter shelf life).

  22. Peggy The Primal Parent
    June 20, 2012 | 2:59 pm

    Another common question, or suspicion, is that metal destroys the SCOBY. I have not myself observed this to be true in all the years I’ve been making kombucha. I suppose you don’t either since you advise cutting it with scissors.

    • KristenM
      June 20, 2012 | 3:16 pm

      I don’t think a few minutes of contact with metal (OR plastic) is dangerous for the SCOBY. I would, however, think twice before fermenting the SCOBY in a metal or plastic vessel. That’s true for any fermentation, however. Metal and plastic both have chemical additives that I wouldn’t want leaching into my acidic ferments.

      • Peggy The Primal Parent
        June 20, 2012 | 4:28 pm

        Agreed. I got a funny comment on my blog the other day about allowing kombucha to contact metal, “It is reminiscent of the Celtic fairy lore in which iron was horribly weakening and repulsive to the fairies.”

        I’m not that superstitious myself. :)

        But I’ve heard this many times before. I think that the warning against fermenting in metal has morphed into contact with metal…

  23. Adria Torrez
    June 20, 2012 | 11:55 pm

    Hey there, thanks for this great Q&A article! I’ve been brewing for several months now, but my last couple batches are TOO strong/acidic. I think this is because the weather is warming up and I wasn’t shortening my fermenting time to accomodate the warmer weather (does that sound possible?) I JUST ordered pH strips (thanks to this article) so now I can remedy that problem going forward (along with shorter time). But is there any use for a too strong batch? Can I use it as vinegar? Or cook with it? I hate to throw it away, but it’s not drinkable. :( Thank you!

  24. Adria Torrez
    June 21, 2012 | 12:04 am

    Oh yeah…wasn’t done with my question above (d’oh sorry). I have not been removing the oldest layers of the mother before brewing a new batch – would that cause problem of creating an overly strong brew? I had just been carrying over the whole thing from the previous batch until the bottom looked too funky (never moldy, just brown and mucky and um, just kinda “tore up” and tired) but I’m thinking I should remove a little more with each new batch? Is there a point where the mother is TOO thick that it could cause problems (i.e. is 1″ thickness ideal)?

    • Steve
      June 29, 2012 | 2:05 pm

      I was wondering about the thickness also. After the first week, I drain the Kombucha into a second container, wash up the first container, and start brewing with the same scoby. I do flip it over to keep the even appearance. But because it floats very near the top, there is no baby… it just adds to the mother. This process has created a layered looking scoby. I was wondering how thick I should let it get before splitting it!

      • glenn
        April 27, 2013 | 8:34 am

        Steve, the baby SCOBY quite often grows on the underside of the mother so the layering you see is actually the baby attached to the mother. I usually pull them apart and use the baby for my next batch. I think this is the the right thing to do but I am not sure if it matters. Hope someone else with more experience will comment on this…

  25. Kaymer
    June 23, 2012 | 6:33 pm

    Some of my batches of kombucha taste a little watery. Any ideas of why this would be? It happened on the apple flavored more so than the grape. Other batches turned out GREAT. I use 5 organic tea bags per gallon in the first fermenting and add about 1/8 fruit juice for the second.

  26. tina
    June 24, 2012 | 9:40 am

    I would never buy a SCOBY when they are so incredibly easy to make. I just made a SCOBY and it took roughly a week and it’s gorgeous. Please do not buy what can be easily and cheaply made by you.

    • Terri B
      July 21, 2012 | 11:49 am

      Not everyone has good luck creating a SCOBY from scratch. And there is nothing wrong with spending money on something that will, down the line, be healthy and save you tons of money on not buying soda or kombucha!

      • Dan Lund
        August 13, 2014 | 4:29 pm

        I’ve been looking for how to make a scoby from scratch for a while, but everywhere I look always makes it out to be some mystical thing that can’t be made, and can only be traded/bought. How do you make one from scratch?

  27. Linda
    June 26, 2012 | 11:55 pm

    But what do you do with kombucha? Is it just a tea that you drink?

    • kaymer
      June 27, 2012 | 10:43 am

      Linda: It is a flavored fermented tea full of healthy-for-you probiotic organisms that you need in your digestive system. Kind of like the kind that is in yogurt. It is also fizzy like soda pop, only without all the sugar. The sugar in kombucha is mostly eliminated during the fermenting process.

  28. Carmen
    July 9, 2012 | 3:24 pm

    How long can Kombucha brew if I’m out of town for a couple of weeks. Can it sit in the closet that long?

    How long is it good for in the refrigerator?

  29. Matthew A.
    July 19, 2012 | 9:17 am

    It seems that Kevita makes a version of kombucha that’s low in calories and sweetened using stevia. I was wondering if you had any recommendations to alter your recipe so that you can make a sugar free (except for feeding the SCOBY) version of kombucha that’s sweetened mildly with stevia.
    Is the fruit juice step necessary? If I skip that step and just add stevia will this give me the results I desire?

    • Terri B
      July 21, 2012 | 11:47 am

      The fruit juice step is not necessary, it is just a personal preference thing. I regularly leave several servings plain in case I don’t want any fruit. However, I will say that I find kombucha with ginger to be incredibly delicious – and you can use ginger without adding any appreciable amount of sugar.

      You may find, however, that your kombucha will not become fizzy without a second ferment with fruit or juice. Ginger might solve that issue, as well.

      • Desiree
        December 17, 2012 | 2:47 pm

        How do you flavor it with ginger?
        And are there any more benefits to using the fruit juice?

        • Oriana
          September 15, 2013 | 1:20 pm

          So, it IS possible to brew kombucha using stevia instead of sugar?! That would be awesome!

          • Dan Lund
            August 13, 2014 | 4:32 pm

            No, Stevia is not a sugar. The sugar is used by the different bacteria as a food, which makes the fermentation process occur.

  30. Melissa Taylor
    August 11, 2012 | 2:30 pm

    I am one week into attempting to grow a SCOBY. Can anyone tell me whether or not adding a probiotic would be beneficial?

  31. Melly
    September 14, 2012 | 12:13 am

    I bought a scoby and the mother was at the bottom and a little baby was floating on top. Made kombucha. On 5th day, i checked and saw a very white disk floating on top (i didn’t know yet that it was a new scoby) and i stirred it and then asked hubby to taste and he said it tasted like sweetened ice tea. So i put it back in the laundry room. Two days later when i checked i saw that the new scoby that i stirred settled at the bottom in one piece with the mother. And then there is a new tiny white film forming on top again. I put it back in the laundry room as it was not sour enough. Today, i checked again, and the white film turned into a new scoby except that this time the edges were brown to dark brown and the original daughter has attached to it. There are also whiter and thicker spots on this second round scoby. So i took all the scobys and put them in separate bottles. The two young round scobys are not thick enough so i put them in the laundry room with the original tea where they grew. The original mother with tea is in the fridge. I added apple and grape juice to the tea and put it away in a dark closet to ferment for two days.

    Will it be safe to drink this even if the second scoby that formed had brown edges? The daughter also has a round dime-sized brown spot that attached to this second scoby. Will it be ok to use this for a new batch of kombucha?

    Since i made the first round scoby sink to the bottom with the original mother, will it be ok to use it when it thickens to 1/4 inch?

    How will i know if i have ethanol in my finished kombucha tea? I read that sometimes the alcohol turns into ethanol (which can kill?) when implements/tools are not properly sterilized. When i read this, now hubby and i are kinda staring at our kombucha not wanting to even taste for sourness.
    I wonder who would be the first to taste after 48 hours of fermenting it with fruit.

    Many thanks to you for sharing your knowledge.


  32. Anita
    October 3, 2012 | 9:47 am

    I got impatient and started my SCOBY with the green variety of GT’s with seaweed, etc., because they were out of the plain, but my floating blob has several dark flecks in the viscous white blobs. There does not appear to be open mold spots on the top. Do you think this is okay? I am so anxious to get this going that I hate to have to start over again. Currently this is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick with lots of bubbles resting on the bottom side. BTW, I keep mine in the cabinet over the fridge…exhaust from the fridge keeps it steadily warm year round.

  33. Stephen Powell
    October 7, 2012 | 2:54 pm

    A friend told me that she cooks and eats her extra scoobys. Anyone else doing this..How?


  34. KL
    November 5, 2012 | 11:23 am

    I have been continuous brewing for about 1 year now and would like to take a break. How do I take a “vacation”?

  35. squidT
    November 28, 2012 | 9:12 pm

    I’ve been brewing a batch separate from the normal tea one which is made entirely with apple cider (no tea). It does at least as well if not better than the tea kombucha, so don’t say that it can’t be done with fruit juice, because I’m here to tell you it can. I can’s say for sure that all juices work, but apple certainly does.

    If others have tried this and failed, it could be because many store-bought juices contain preservatives which are specifically in there to prevent microbial growth (not what you want!). So make sure what you’re using is only pure juice with no preservatives.

    • KristenM
      November 28, 2012 | 9:26 pm

      Also, what you’re brewing over your apple cider is definitely NOT kombucha. You may have started with a kombucha mother, but you’ve created an entirely different colony of bacteria & yeast.

      Kombucha, by definition, is fermented tea. Any studies done regarding its health benefits have been done on real kombucha, so whatever fermented apple cider you’re drinking may not have those same benefits (glucaronic acid, for example, which needs the tea in order to be produced).

      Think of it like this. You can use the same culture of brewer’s yeast to ferment all kinds of things — mead, beer, or even hard liquor. But you wouldn’t call those substantially the same beverage. They’re completely different! In the same way, popping a kombucha culture on top of apple cider will produce something altogether different from kombucha (probably something much more akin to apple cider vinegar, in which case you’ve got both an ACV mother and a kombucha mother on your hands)!

      • Sherry
        July 16, 2013 | 3:14 am

        I also have an apple cider vinegar mother and wondered how to used it to make vinegar. I began the vinegar using apples, honey and water per Little House on the Prairie cookbook. But I did not know what what actually growing on top of one of the batches until I can to this sight. I love kombucha and can’t wait to start up a batch.

  36. Cam
    December 7, 2012 | 10:19 am

    I wanted to grow a scooby,but the unflavore at the health store are cold would that be okay to use?

  37. GC
    January 14, 2013 | 9:01 pm

    I made my tea with Ginger green tea. It was mixed in the tea bags. I added the sugar to the ginger green tea and let it ferment for about 10 days. When I poured it out it was really bubbly and foamy. Smells and looks more like beer than the Kombucha it normally makes. What happened and is it ok to drink?

    • Maddy
      April 27, 2013 | 12:32 am

      I’m not an expert, but my reading has led me to understand you do NOT want to use flavored teas to make kombucha. Rather, if you want it flavored, a two-stage fermentation process is necessary. The reason is this: SCOBY food is tea and sugar. Anything else – literally – can change the balance of the bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY. If you want ginger kombucha, you’ll probably get better results by adding ginger juice OR a big chunk of minced/thinly sliced ginger to the second fermentation. You want to keep your SCOBY out of that. Using it too long with additives to your tea/sugar blend can weaken it and make it susceptible to contamination, and even if it doesn’t, it will likely change the flavor/strength of at least your next few batches of kombucha, if not permanently.

  38. John Seedner
    January 31, 2013 | 3:27 pm

    is it ok if your scoby floats to the top and is exposed to the open air and gets my coffee filter wet that i was using to cover the jar for a few weeks?

  39. Peke
    February 2, 2013 | 4:00 pm

    How long can you keep the mother and starter in the refrigerator in a glass jar? Would it still be good after a few months?

  40. Christina
    February 22, 2013 | 10:56 pm

    Hi, I’m very knew to brewing and haven’t even received my scoby yet, however, I’ve found conflicting info on storing your scobies. That being said, what is the best way to store them? How long usually? And, what is the best cloth to cover with? Again, cheesecloth is conflicting, thx!

  41. Tricia
    March 15, 2013 | 2:51 pm

    I used a double fermentation method using green tea and Cran-cherry fruit juice. This is my second batch (I was given scobies) It smells sour, taste is ok and it is not real fizzy. My first batch (with a different scoby) was with a Black Assam tea and Apple-grape. It was just awesome! Did I do something wrong? I go about 7 days then bottle it. I use a seedling heater to keep them warm.

    • Maddy
      April 27, 2013 | 12:36 am

      Cranberry and cherry are very sour – nearly no sugar there. Sugar feeds yeast; yeast makes bubbles. You could add a bit of sugar to that particular juice before adding it to the kombucha, or you could blend it with a sweeter juice. Make sure the bottles are closed up tightly.

  42. Rose
    March 24, 2013 | 3:19 pm

    how do you brew your hot water/tea since you are not supposed to use metal??? we only have a stainless steel kettle.

    • Star
      March 29, 2013 | 11:47 am

      A stainless steel kettle is fine for brewing your tea. You brew your tea and put it in a glass jar, let it cool to room temp, then add your SCOBY. The SCOBY is not in contact with your kettle. The main concern is that SCOBY not be fermenting in contact with metal or plastic. The comments above from Kristen M on June 20, 2012, sum up the concerns nicely.

      “I don’t think a few minutes of contact with metal (OR plastic) is dangerous for the SCOBY. I would, however, think twice before fermenting the SCOBY in a metal or plastic vessel. That’s true for any fermentation, however. Metal and plastic both have chemical additives that I wouldn’t want leaching into my acidic ferments.”

  43. Galen
    March 28, 2013 | 9:31 am

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  44. Jan
    April 8, 2013 | 2:26 pm

    I hate tea, I wish I could stomach it. I try every year to see if my tast buds have changed. It makes me gag.

    can I use herbal tea like rasberry or chamomile anything that does not taste of tea.

    I really wnat to try this brew. Help please.

    • Maddy
      April 27, 2013 | 12:43 am

      1. Use the very best quality organic white, green, or black tea you can get your hands on, and keep the steeping time short. A couple of minutes is usually perfect. Make sure you heat the water to the correct temperature before making tea with it – black takes hotter water than green, and green takes hotter water than white. That should reduce the amount of tannins in the tea and produce a pleasant flavour.

      2. No, you can’t use herbal or decaffeinated teas to make kombucha. The tea and sugar are perfect food for the SCOBY. Anything else will be imperfect food, and will eventually weaken or kill the SCOBY.

      Honestly, kombucha hardly tastes like tea at all. Kind of like a really light beer or vinegar. The best way to decide if you like it or not is to buy a bottle and try some. The ones with ginger tend to be my favorites. :]

  45. Laura
    April 19, 2013 | 7:23 pm

    Can I boil Ceylon cinnamon stickers and ginger with the tea?

  46. gelindo
    April 30, 2013 | 9:43 am

    I have a pretty thick scoby and it has a top of fairly stiff white surface on top. Is this ok, or should I renew the scoby?

  47. Leeanna
    May 6, 2013 | 2:56 pm

    I didn’t think my baby had grown after 7 days so I had a dumb idea to warm it up in the oven and I forgot to turn it off, it got up to 350! Even worse when taking the mother out to toss I realized there was a baby, I just didn’t see it. So is the bacteria killed in the tea as well as mother and baby? Is it worth drinking at all?

    • Josh
      March 25, 2014 | 9:57 am

      Most certainly this would have killed it.

  48. James
    May 19, 2013 | 8:32 pm

    Hi, I have a question. I made a batch of Kombucha and added fruit, strawberries, it’s been in a glass container on th counter with a lid. Its been about 5 days, its half gone and now I see what looks like a scoby on the surface of it. It’s thick and big, it seems alive, but there is fruit mixed in with it. What can I do with this? Will the fruit eventually go bad, can I salvage this second scoby somehow?

    Thank you.

  49. Cinhen
    May 20, 2013 | 12:01 pm

    I was told that Kombucha has to be in a cool setting 78 or under. We live in a mobile home, and it gets above 78 in the late afternoon until the sun goes down past the trees. Will my kombucha go bad?

    • Sarah
      July 10, 2013 | 8:25 pm

      Someone lied to you. Kombucha is happiest at 80-85.

      • Josh
        March 25, 2014 | 9:56 am

        Everything I’ve read says 65-75 degrees

        • Dan Lund
          August 13, 2014 | 4:35 pm

          My kitchen is almost always 82 degrees, and it’s been brewing okay.

  50. Madri
    May 27, 2013 | 9:13 pm

    My kombucha takes vinegar-y. Any idea why, or what I’m doing wrong?
    Please advise.

    • Josh
      March 25, 2014 | 9:55 am

      Sounds like you’re letting it ferment too long.

  51. jen
    June 2, 2013 | 12:46 pm

    hi, I successfully grew my own scoby and am now brewing my first batch of kombucha. it has been resting for 9 days and I simply can’t tell if it’s done. is the baby supposed to split from the mother? is it two different scobys or do they grow together? all I see is my mother getting thicker and kind of gunky looking. it definitely is beginning to be tart (I like it tart so yay) but I don’t know if I should let it rest longer or dig in! I’m in northern jersey so it’s not as warm as texas but 5 of the last 9 days have been 85 degrees outside and my tea has been in a very warm (almost hot) closet. is it possible I ruined it from heat? could it be ready already? any advice would be helpful and so appreciated! thanks in advance.

  52. April Van Wagenen
    June 7, 2013 | 2:01 am

    I am on my third batch of brewing kombucha and I am loving it! I want to expand to a larger vessel. I have read conflicting opinions on using a vessel with a spout and how it can harbor mold and bad bacteria. What do you think?

    • Dan Lund
      August 13, 2014 | 4:39 pm

      The spout on the container makes for a great continuous brewing system.
      Use best judgement on taking the spout off and running water through it to clean it out, since the bacteria will definitely grow in there… but definitely not bad bacteria. The pH of the kombucha will stop bad bacteria from growing inside of it since the liquid will be in constant contact.

  53. Heidi
    June 18, 2013 | 12:56 pm

    I have a continuous brewing system with 1 gallon of tea in there now. It will hold up to 3 gallons and I’d like to have at least 2 in there. How do I increase it? Do I just add another scoby and another gallon of tea? I don’t want to mess up the balance that is in there. Also, should I remove a baby scoby each week? I am new to this and just realized I had 5 scobys in there!! My tea was starting to have a very strong vinegar taste. I have removed all of them except the mama now and hope that helps. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Dan Lund
      August 13, 2014 | 4:46 pm

      If you keep every scoby in there, it will basically end up being a scoby hotel. That will make it so sour and vinegary it will be almost undrinkable. (well, by most ;) )
      There are a couple of ways of doing it of course, it’s all a matter of taste. I’m new to it all but have done alot of research so far. I’ve seen collections kept in a separate jar with starter tea surrounding it, and stored in the cabinet. (refreshed every so often as well, with kombucha that has been made)
      Some people rotate their scoby taking the oldest from the jar and putting the current in, and some others just take the extra and put in the jar continuing to use the same one. Whatever the case, it’s best to only have one (or maybe two if you want a quick brew? I don’t know) in there.

  54. Elma Chambers
    June 19, 2013 | 12:18 am

    How do you store your Scobys if you are not ready to make another batch? My friend puts hers in the refrigerator and puts a lid on it. Doesn’t it need air or does it go dormant?

    • Judith
      November 16, 2013 | 12:39 pm

      I heard a lot about the benefits of kombucha but never tried. Recently i am searching for the best way of healthy life and food/beverage intake. I was advised to drink alkaloid, enhanced PH (8+) water to push my blood PH to the alkaloid side. I noticed that the recommended PH for kombucha is very low, 2.5 PH; how would consuming this acid product and my alkaloid water would interact?

    • Josh
      March 25, 2014 | 9:54 am

      Just going off what I’ve read, you can either store it at room temperature in kombucha with a cloth lid, or seal it up tight and put it in the fridge. The latter will slow the fermentation process.

      • Dan Lund
        August 13, 2014 | 4:50 pm

        The thing is, kombucha is an aerobic fermentation, not like kefir which is anaerobic. If it’s kept in a container which doesn’t have oxygen, the bacteria will not survive.
        They use oxygen.
        The rest is correct though, room temperature with a cloth lid to keep the bugs and environmental doohickeys out.

  55. Sarah
    July 10, 2013 | 8:23 pm

    I was cooking brown rice last night under low heat. I always place my kombucha vessel onto the burners after cooking to try and get it to it’s happy temperature. Stupidly, I didn’t realize I hadn’t shut the heat off. About 30 minutes later I went to feel my vessel and realized what I had done. It wasn’t boiling but it was really warm to the touch. I tried measuring the temp but all I have are candy thermometers and it wouldn’t read on those (it was less than 110F) I had a beautiful big SCOBY growing on top. How do I know if I killed it? Thanks, Sarah

  56. Mary Noll
    July 25, 2013 | 9:11 am

    i have brewed 3 batches of Kombucha with my Scoby, and it has not produced a daughter scoby. I have no idea why and i tried to research it and found nothing. There is no mold and it produces Kombucha but no daughter scoby.

  57. Mikhaila
    August 6, 2013 | 2:30 am


    Yesterday when I was stirring the sugar into my tea with the scoby in there I forgot to use my wooden spoon and instead used my rubber one with a metal handle and I know it got in contact with the liquid where the scoby was ! If so … what do I do ???? Please help !

  58. Rash
    October 2, 2013 | 10:56 am

    Hi Food Renegade,

    Could you please tell me if I could brew Kombucha with fruit tea, like raspberry tea? It is without caffeine and has licorice root in it. Or do I have to use black or green tea?


    • Josh
      March 25, 2014 | 9:51 am

      As I understand it, you need to use teas with caffeine as the scoby needs that in order to do it’s thing. It does get rid of most of the caffeine content, though, in case you’re worried. And they recommend not to use teas with additives because the oils used in many of these tea bags can kill the scoby, and also (as seen above) fruit has different sugars than the scoby is used to and so you don’t want to contaminate your mother. Keep them separate is what I’ve gathered.

      • Dan Lund
        August 13, 2014 | 11:25 pm

        Actually, caffeine isn’t used by anything but the person drinking. If you steep the tea in freshly boiled tea for 30-45 seconds it should remove the majority of the caffeine. It will still have some in it, but not nearly as much.

  59. Heather
    November 6, 2013 | 4:28 pm

    Hello. I just made my second batch of Kombucha ever and have a few questions.

    My first batch worked great. A beautiful large “baby” grew across the top of my bowl. This second batch, not so great. After a week I went to check on it. There was a baby but it was quite small. At first I thought maybe it was because I used a large jar with a smaller mouth as opposed to a large bowl. Then, when I transferred my kombucha to mason jars I realized it was already a little carbonated. I think what happened was that the towel I put over top the second batch was thicker and did not breath nearly as much as the first batch. I am assuming this is why the baby did not grow very much as well as why it is already slightly carbonated, but that’s just a theory… you may have a better answer. Anyway, that leads me to several questions.

    1) Is my kombucha safe to drink since it became carbonated while the scoby was still in it?

    2) Is my scoby ruined because it is now sitting in carbonated kombucha waiting for me to make another batch or can I still use it like normal?

    And several general questions:

    3) How old should children be before they drink kombucha? ( I have a 2 1/2 year old and a 13 month old)

    4) I am nursing my 13 month old and read your post on nursing / pregnancy. Where do I buy a ph test to make sure it’s safe for me to drink while nursing?

    5) I am yet to start ovulating since the birth of our 13 month old. As far as we know I am not currently pregnant but there is always the chance I could become pregnant. Is it safe for me to start drinking kombucha for the first time during this “wild card” time?

    Thanks so much for your help! I greatly appreciate it!

  60. pat salem
    November 30, 2013 | 9:30 pm

    I had a 2 gallon jar that I put in the frig cause I was gone for 4-6 wks. My scoby is thick, like 3 inches and there is not much kombucha left is it ok to go ahead and add more sweet tea like I did before or do I need to decrease the size of the scoby first…? Thanks Pat

  61. Leah
    December 1, 2013 | 5:00 pm

    I am buying Kombucha at a local juice place on tap in a large bottle and storing it in the fridge. Can I reheat it on cold days and drink it hot? I mean will that change it? Also how long willit last in the fridge?


    • Paulen
      February 22, 2014 | 12:33 am

      The heat will destroy the bacteria that you have tried to reproduce. Let it go to room temperature, but I wouldn’t heat it up.

  62. Leslie
    December 28, 2013 | 2:23 pm

    Maybe someone can help, I am using the double fermentation approach, and have removed my Scoby from my first successful batch of kombucha. I put berries and lemon in my strained tea (Scoby free) and that batch is growing another Scoby altogether! Should I be concerned? Is the Scoby strong enough to use in brewing a batch of kombucha with sugar/tea? Thanks!

  63. Mary meyer
    December 28, 2013 | 7:04 pm

    I just made my first batch. I like the flavor now. Do I take the scoby out of container and put in refrig. While I drink it? Do I have to start a new one right away is there a way to “store ” the scoby if you can’t make another batch for a time? A week?

  64. jaYne
    January 7, 2014 | 6:02 pm

    I bought a bottle of original Kombucha [enlightened] and there inside already was a beautifully formed was less than half inch when I bought it and now it is almost an inch in size..i am new to SCOBY and learning about making my own, but after reading about how it is not as good to use Kombucha, erm,now what..
    i mean can I use this still..?
    felt kinda like I hit the jackpot in getting such a perfect (it seems) ready made SCOBY..heh

    I really like your blog, too..!

  65. Paulen
    February 22, 2014 | 12:29 am

    I have a SCOBY. Looks happy and healthy. The tea beneath is quite tart, or sour even. Did I not provide enough sugar at the beginning or should I wait even more time? and what do I do now? do I consume the tea from the birthing vessel? I know I am to use about a cup to create the next batch but what can I do to minimize the sourness?

  66. sarie
    February 25, 2014 | 9:16 pm

    I am interested in making my own kombucha but was wondering about temperature. It’s winter now and we keep our house sort of cold(57degrees). Will this affect the kombucha?

  67. Danielle F
    March 2, 2014 | 10:13 pm

    Hi, I am interested in making a continuous brew kombucha, but had a question. If it isn’t safe to use a plastic container to brew kombucha due to the plastic leeching into the kombucha.. why is it all right to use a container with a plastic spigot? Won’t the chemicals from the plastic spigot leech into the kombucha that way also?

  68. Rebecca
    March 21, 2014 | 5:13 pm

    I was wondering because I recently am in the process of making kombacha if I totally screwed it up? I added raw cultured organic butter not really knowing the differences of probiotics yet…. I also used organic brown sugar. Umm I know this probably sounds ridiculous but can my baby kombacha be saved or should I just start over to be safe?

  69. Josh
    March 25, 2014 | 9:46 am

    Hi there! Thank you for sharing. I’m about to start my first kombucha batch and am pretty stoked. I’ve done a fair amount of research lately and one of the articles I read had some serious warnings about leaving too much space in your bottle during the second fermentation. They claimed that leaving too much room can provide more space for dangerous gas to build up, increasing the chance that your bottle will explode. They also claimed that the second ferment thrives in an anaerobic environment created by filling the bottles to the top. Have you heard anything like this?

  70. Dr. Green Mom via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 7:11 pm

    I love this idea! One day I’ll have to try it!

  71. Ellie A. Akers via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 7:13 pm

    We tried and failed to brew Kombucha even with a scoby from Cultures for Health. We live on a well so chlorination was not the issue. Turns out our water was two pure after going through the filters and was killing the scoby. I now add a few milliliters of Andersons Mineral drops to every batch and now it grows great. (I also add it to my regular drinking water because if it does that to the scoby…)

  72. Food Renegade via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 7:16 pm

    Glad you figured it out, Ellie!

  73. Karen Barger via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 7:30 pm

    Just started with kombucha. Going to try a couple of commercially mixed to see what I like. Looking forward to really getting this going.

  74. Jean-François Lepage via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 7:33 pm

    The kombucha in the picture is smiling at me!

  75. Shelley Lisko via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 8:02 pm

    Kim Daniels, this is for you!

  76. Dottye Holt via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 8:08 pm

    Been making my own for about 6 months and it’s just as easy as you say it is!

  77. Annie Rogers Fischer via Facebook
    April 9, 2014 | 9:57 pm

    I’ve been brewing Kombucha for 18 months. It’s the easiest thing ever, and I love it. I’m not sad, either, that my husband and son don’t care for it.

  78. Jennifer Boucher Bartush via Facebook
    April 10, 2014 | 12:15 am

    I just made my first batch yesterday.

  79. Amanda Woods-Osman via Facebook
    April 10, 2014 | 5:23 am

    A couple months, using your instructions.

  80. Rhys
    April 21, 2014 | 6:09 pm

    Hi there,

    RE: this FAQ: “Why can’t I ferment the kombucha SCOBY with fruit juice?”

    I’ve successfully made my first batch of kombucha using a SCOBY I made myself. However, when making my second batch, I accidentally forgot to reserve some for the next batch before adding fruit juice :-(

    So I’ve had to go with flavoured starter for my second batch. Do you think this will work out OK? Or will it kill my SCOBY and I will need to start the whole process again? I added a bit more starter than I did for the first batch because it’s obviously somewhat diluted by the fruit juice.

  81. Mike
    April 22, 2014 | 1:09 pm

    Today I tried brewing my first batch of kombucha in a growler. The scoby wouldn’t fit in the mouth so in my haste I just put the room temperature tea and scoby in an aluminum pot. It sat in the pot for around 3 hours before I did my research and discovered how harmful aluminum is. My question is: Should I throw out the scoby? I’ve moved it to a glass jar with some of the liquid that was in the aluminum. Is there some way to salvage the scoby or is it dangerous to use now?

    Thank you!

  82. Nancy
    May 21, 2014 | 1:21 pm

    Can you use decaf tea to make kombucha, if not, does the fermentation cancel out the caffeine for those that can’t drink caffeine?

    • Valerie
      June 27, 2014 | 10:37 am

      I switched to a Rose Tea when brewing the sweet tea because I too have problems drinking caffeine. What I found is it was infact the best ‘recipe’ I had made, with a much softer, sweeter flavor Kambucha. I found no problems doing the switch, I think any tea is fine to use. :)

  83. Jesse
    June 12, 2014 | 11:25 am

    I bought a 2 gallon jar from Amazon and make mine in that, but my scoby is almost 2 inches thick. Is that going to be a problem at all?

  84. Evelyn Koftinoff
    June 12, 2014 | 11:25 pm

    I have been making kombucha for 1 year and my recipe for brewing the tea is…..
    1 gal. water, 8 teabags (5 red rooibus organic tea bags, & 3 organic Oolong tea bags) and 1 cup organic sugar. I bring the water to the boiling point then take it of the stove and add my sugar and teabags, take the bags out after 15 min. or so, and cool the tea to luke warm then pour it into my gal. jar then add my scobie.I haven’t had any trouble
    with the kombucha, it always turns out very tasty. I taste the brew with a straw to test the flavor to my liking.

  85. Helen
    June 13, 2014 | 7:24 pm

    I am trying to make diabetic friendly kombucha for my daughter – using continuous / double ferment and leaving second ferment a week. Would this be enough to reduce the sugar? I’ve trying using a hydrometer but the method of measuring the usage left me stumped !

  86. teeky28
    June 14, 2014 | 11:21 pm

    why did kombucha give me a yeast infection and why won’t it go away? :(

  87. Carol
    June 16, 2014 | 12:05 pm

    got a good strong scobys, making great kombucha, but after second ferment, I regridgerate, but one of the bottles partially froze. (my silly fridge) will that destroy the benefits of the kombucha, or is it ok since there isn’t a scoby in it any more?

  88. Valerie
    June 27, 2014 | 10:29 am

    Thanks for this great information! So a friend gave me an already prepared Kambucha – with SCOBY and vessel – as a gift about 8 months ago. I have been brewing and using since and LOVE it.
    Unfortunately, within the last few weeks I have neglected it and there is a very potent smell and what is left in there is undrinkable. :(
    What should I do? Which is old/new SCOBY (there are many)and should I clean, is it salvageable etc? Unfortunately I have never cleaned or done anything more than brew fresh batches of tea to refill. (I am sorry if my ignorance insults anyone!) Thanks for the help! :)

  89. Brenda
    July 15, 2014 | 8:27 am

    How long is too long to leave the kombucha fermenting?

    More importantly, although I covered my Kombucha, two fruit flies got into the jar. Should I throw out the whole batch? . . . .the SCOBY (if touched)?

  90. Karen
    July 28, 2014 | 9:11 am

    I would like to take a break from Kombucha tea and make some kefir grains probiotic water. Can I store my SCOBY from Kombucha tea so I can reuse it in a couple of weeks or months? I am not sure I am going to like the water kefir grains. Thanks Karen

  91. Kristin
    August 1, 2014 | 10:04 am

    I recently started making my own Kombucha and we just love it! My question is I do a second fermentation into long neck glass bottles and leave about 1-2 inches space at the top. When it is time to enjoy the brew…I loose a lot of the brew from so much fizz. I am doing or not doing something right?!!! Thanks for the help!

  92. Loa Andersen
    September 3, 2014 | 4:16 am

    I’m LDS (Mormon) which means I don’t drink green or black tea. Can herbal teas be used to make Kombucha? Or anything else other than green or black tea? Help!

  93. You.Naturally. via Facebook
    September 5, 2014 | 7:02 pm

    love making homemade kombucha. SO much better then store bought!!! thanks for the tips :)

  94. Eilish Foley via Facebook
    September 5, 2014 | 7:16 pm

    I want to start

  95. Christopher Dobbins via Facebook
    September 5, 2014 | 8:39 pm

    mine really really taste like vinegar…

  96. Susan Hamilton Roberts via Facebook
    September 5, 2014 | 8:50 pm

    I’ve been making water kefir for a while now, and it’s so easy. I don’t know why making kombucha feels more intimidating. Maybe I’ll try next week…

  97. Monica Oxendine via Facebook
    September 5, 2014 | 9:57 pm

    It’s not hard. Just people write bad info on it on the internet

  98. The Herbal Face Food via Facebook
    September 8, 2014 | 12:03 am

    We love our Kombucha, always have a jar or two in the works!

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.