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Guide to Homemade Kombucha -

Step 1: First Fermentation

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. To brew kombucha, you have to go through two phases: 1st fermentation and 2nd fermentation.

1st fermentation (F1):

F1 typically takes around 7-12 days, though some people like to go longer. During that time, the sweet tea ferments and is transformed into kombucha by the starter tea and a kombucha culture (a SCOBY). At the end of F1 fermentation, you’ll have unflavored, largely un-carbonated kombucha.

2nd fermentation (F2):

This is when your kombucha tea is flavored (usually with fruit) and bottled in a sealed container for around 2-4 days at room temperature to create carbonation.


This guide covers how to make a 1-gallon batch of kombucha and put it through its 1st fermentation phase.


Throughout the recipe, you’ll see links to other articles on my site if you want to dive deeper into the ingredients and methodology. You can also learn how to build your own kombucha starter kit to find out what my favorite materials are. Or if you're not quite ready to brew a batch of kombucha with your SCOBY, check out my video here for tips on storing it until you are ready. 


  • 4 cups water (to boil) + approx. 8 cups of cool/cold water

  • 2-3 tbsp. loose-leaf black tea, I like English Breakfast

    • If you like a stronger tea flavor or are using a milder tea, feel free to use more!​

  • ¾ cup cane sugar, I use organic

  • 1 SCOBY (find out what a SCOBY is here. You can also find out how to get a good quality SCOBY here. Alternatively, you can learn how to grow a SCOBY here.)

  • 2 cups kombucha starter tea

    • Starter tea = unflavored kombucha tea that’s successfully gone through a 1st fermentation cycle. If you buy a SCOBY, it’ll usually come with some starter tea.

    • If you don’t have enough starter tea to make 2 cups:

      • You can cut this recipe in half (or even quarters!) 

      • Alternatively, you can purchase unflavored, raw store-bought kombucha to make up the difference.

    • NEVER use vinegar in place of starter tea. Find out why here. Also here!

  • Steeping vessel (like a french press, but a pot + strainer would work)

  • 1 gallon glass jar

  • Food thermometer

  • Cotton cloth cover (coffee filter, clean shirt/bandana, fine-weave cheese cloth)

  • Rubber band


1. Make a tea concentrate by boiling 4 cups of filtered water. Once boiling, turn the heat off and steep your loose-leaf tea for 15 minutes.

  • You can use a basic strainer, but I use a french press to get all the tea leaves + tea dust out of the brew. Tea leaves like a lot of room to bloom so I don’t recommend small tea balls for this.


2. Add ¾ cup cane sugar to the hot liquid and stir to dissolve.

  • Organic/non-organic is fine. Honey, brown sugar, molasses, stevia, aspartame, or any other sugar substitutes or sweeteners will not work. The bacteria and yeast need cane sugar to eat and reproduce. Don’t try to skimp out or starve them by using less than ¾ cup or by not giving them their food source.


3. Once 15 minutes has passed and your tea has steeped, strain out the leaves and add the hot sweet tea to a 1-gallon glass jar.

  • Learn about brewing vessels here.


4. Add approx. 8 cups of cool/cold water to the jar to dilute the tea and bring the temperature down. The temperature of the liquid in the jar should be between 70 – 90 degrees Fahrenheit before you move on to next step.

  • If it’s too cold, you could put your SCOBY into a state of dormancy. If it’s dormant, it won’t produce enough bacteria and yeast fast enough to acidify the brew. That could lead to mold.

  • If it’s too hot, you could kill the SCOBY and end up with the same problem. A dead SCOBY can’t do its job to acidify your brew. If it’s not acidifying fast enough, it could get moldy.


5. Once the temperature is just right, add 2 cups of starter tea from a previously brewed batch of kombucha + the SCOBY.

  • Find out how to acquire a good quality SCOBY here.


6. Cover the jar with a clean, tight-weave cloth (a bandana, tee-shirt, even a coffee filter would work) and secure it with a rubber band.

  • Don’t cover it with an airtight lid because it needs airflow. But make sure the rubber band secures the cloth so dust and fruit flies can’t get in.


7. Let it sit at room temp (between 70 – 85 degrees) in a shady spot with decent

airflow for around a week.

  • Read about ideal fermenting temperature here.

  • Read about ideal brewing locations here.


8. Leave it alone for at least a few days. No peeking or jiggling the vessel! Otherwise, you might interrupt SCOBY growth.

9. You can start tasting your brew at around the 5-day mark. (Once you get the hang of it, you’ll get a feel for how long it takes for your brew to get to a state of “donenessthat you like.) If you like it less sweet, let it keep going so the bacteria and yeast can continue to eat the sugars. You can continue tasting each day until it tastes right to you. I tend to ferment mine for 7-9 days before I bottle.

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