If you haven't done it before (and even if you have!), making your own kombucha can seem downright intimidating. It's one of those things that just makes sense once you've actually done it a couple times. To make it a little easier, here are some of the most common missteps to avoid.
1. Using the wrong type of tea.
The type of tea used to make kombucha is an important choice. It helps to flavor the kombucha, and more importantly provides necessary nutrients for the scoby. While flavored and herbal teas have a lovely fragrance and taste delicious, they're tough to use on their own, as they don't provide quite enough nutrients for the scoby. The essential oils found in most flavored teas can also harm the scoby.
Follow this tip: Black tea is a great variety to use for homemade kombucha — especially if you're just getting started, since it's the easiest and most reliable to ferment into kombucha. Oolong, green, and white tea also work well. If you do try herbal tea, skip using it on its own, and be sure to blend it with some black tea.
2. Cutting down the sugar in the recipe.
It may seem like there's a lot of sugar in your kombucha recipe — enough that you may be tempted to use less, but don't. While the sugar does add some sweetness to the kombucha, that's not its primary purpose. The role of the sugar is actually to feed the scoby during fermentation, and without a sufficient amount, it might not culture properly.
Follow this tip: Stick with the amount of sugar in the recipe you choose. Most recipes are created with a specific ratio of ingredients (including sugar), which ensures the scoby gets plenty of food to culture properly and the mixture is balanced. It also discourages the growth of mold.
3. Using a plastic or metal brewing container.
Once the tea base is prepared and the starter tea has been added, the liquid is then transferred to a brewing container where it will be stored while it ferments. For the best results, it's best to steer clear of plastic and metal containers, as plastic can leach undesirable chemicals or unpleasant flavors into the kombucha, while metal can harm the growth of the scoby.
Follow this tip: Your best bet is to use a wide-mouth glass or ceramic brewing container, like a large Mason jar, cookie jar, or vessel specifically designed for this purpose.
4. Adding the scoby to the liquid too soon.
Successfully making homemade kombucha requires time and patience; it's not a process that can be rushed. If the scoby is added to the tea mixture before it's had enough time to cool completely, the remaining heat can kill the scoby.
Follow this tip: For the best results, be sure to give the tea sufficient time to cool to room temperature (68°F to 85°F) before adding the scoby.
5. Storing the fermenting kombucha somewhere that's too hot or too cold.
Once you've prepared the tea and added the tea starter and scoby, it's time to let the fermentation process do its thing. While the process is more or less hands-off, where you store your fermenting kombucha is crucial. An environment that's too cool can inhibit fermentation, while one that's too warm can harm the scoby.
Follow this tip: One of the most important elements of making kombucha is storing it in a place that's warm enough to keep the scoby alive, but not in a place that gets hot, which can kill the scoby. It's best to keep it at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.