5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Making Kombucha

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

As anyone who’s brewed several batches of kombucha can attest, it can feel totally intimidating when you’re getting started. The most important lessons and tips learned about brewing kombucha didn’t come from reading dozens of articles (which I did) — it came from actually going through the process again and again and again. Of all the helpful tips I picked up, this is what I wish knew when I first got started.

1. It is not an exact science.

The first time I made kombucha I followed the instructions to the letter, trying to be as precise as possible. What I wish I new, and what I want first-time brewers to remember, is that brewing kombucha is not an exact science. There are a lot of variables and room for experimentation. Ultimately it’s about figuring out what makes the best flavored kombucha for you. Just as you would in cooking, taste as you go, and the more batches you brew, the more you’ll learn what tastes good to you.

2. Your first batch might not be so great, but the second will be better.

Brewing kombucha is kind of like making pancakes. The first one usually isn’t the best of the batch, but it helps you work out the kinks. It’s sort of the same thing with kombucha. Making that first batch will feel like a great accomplishment, but it might not have the right balance of flavor or carbonation you were hoping for, which can also feel a little discouraging. Think of that first batch as a learning batch, knowing the ones that follow are going to be even better because they will have benefited from any mistakes you made in the first.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

3. Label and date the jars, always.

Even if you have a great memory, labeling and dating your jar of kombucha makes life so much easier. I like to think I have a good memory so I skipped this step the first (and maybe second) time around, and it didn’t take but a few days before I forgot exactly when I started brewing. It’s a small but extremely helpful step, and wish I dated the jar from the get-go.

4. Where you keep your brewing kombucha might start to smell a little vinegary.

Turns out there’s a good chance a mild vinegary aroma will waft from the closet or space you store your kombucha. The longer kombucha brews, the once-sweet tea not only takes on a vinegary taste but also a smell to match. Thankfully I didn’t store my jar in a closet with clothes or coats.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

5. The scoby might not always float on top, and that’s okay.

I really wish someone told me that the scoby might not always float at the top of the jar, and that if it happens to sink to the bottom, turn sideways, hang out on the center of the jar, or anywhere else that is not surface level, it is not cause for panic. It’s totally okay for your scoby to hangout in any of those places.