Brewing Your Own Kombucha: Flavouring and Carbonating

 Brewing your own kombucha: tips for adding flavour and fizz to homemade kombucha

Finally! The last installment of my How to Brew Your Own Kombucha series!

Last week I explained how to grow your own SCOBY from store-bought kombucha (Stage One); I then proceeded to share how you can brew your own kombucha from a home-grown SCOBY (Stage Two). Next, I want to explore how to keep brewing kombucha, as well as flavouring and carbonating your kombucha to make it that much more fantastic.

STAGE THREE: Make Your Kombucha Extra-Tasty!

So, if you’ve managed to let your homegrown SCOBY float around in your sweetened tea for another whole week as I discussed in my last post: congratulations! You should have your very first batch of kombucha!!

Like I mentioned in my last post, If your SCOBY sank, you probably have a new thin film growing on top of your kombucha, in addition to the SCOBY you grew earlier. This film is a new SCOBY (often called a “baby”), which can eventually be used for brewing more kombucha, but it’s probably too thin to do much with right now. You might want to grow it a little bigger in following cycles. I’ll tell you more about that later. For now, you’ll probably want to keep using your first SCOBY for your next batch of kombucha. It can be used for dozens of batches, and will just keep growing (if you can get it to float on top!).

Anyway, time to dig in to your new kombucha! Which hopefully looks something like this once you remove the cloth cover:

finished kombucha(The SCOBY in the photo is a couple of months old — if yours is new, it won’t be that thick. You can see the new baby floating above it)

Before you do anything, start brewing your next batch sweetened tea for your next batch of kombucha, using the recipe/method from my last post: 10 cups of water, 3/4 cups sugar, 6 bags of tea. Just bring it all to a boil on your stovetop and then let it cool.


Remove your SCOBY(s) and set it/them in a bowl. Cover with a little kombucha to keep it from drying out.

kombucha - removing scobyI know. I take amazing photos.

Now, you can drink your kombucha just the way it is. Just pour into a couple of bottles and enjoy. It should be tangy and slightly sweet — kind of cidery — and no longer taste at all like tea. But don’t get greedy and drink all of it — you’ll want to save some for your next batch (at least a cup).

Your first brew is probably not very fizzy, if at all. That’s okay. If you really want fizz, take heart: in a few more cycles, you can probably get a good carbonation going, as your SCOBY gets more mature.

Personally, I like my kombucha chilled; I also like to mix it up with some fruity flavours. And bubbles makes it extra-special. For this, you’ll need to do a second ferment. (Meaning you’ll have to wait ANOTHER 5-7 days before you can start drinking it. I KNOW! Kombucha requires so much patience!) So here’s what I do:

Preparing a Second Fermentation (for Flavour and Carbonation)

Get out a couple of quart jars with lids. Add whatever juices, fruits, or spices you want to use to flavour your kombucha.

(Some people use fancy bottles with hinge tops and stuff like that, but I have no idea where to get those items. So for now I use mason jars.)

I have found that my favourite combination is raspberry-ginger. It creates a drink reminiscent of cranberry ginger ale. Rosy, fruity, and slightly spicy. Whatever you choose, you’ll need about a quarter cup of fruit juice. You can add fresh fruit, too, but I’ve had the best flavour results with juice.

So far I’ve also tried pieces of fresh peach, blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries: I recently tried apple-cinammon (using apple cider and a piece of cinnamon stick. I wasn’t a fan). Your call.

I keep frozen cubes of raspberry juice (that I squeezed in the summer) in my freezer: I toss a couple into the bottom of the jar. Then I add a thin slice of fresh ginger. (Ginger adds great flavour, and really helps to carbonate it. I can ALWAYS tell when I’ve included ginger — even just a tiny bit — because it really helps create fizz.)

(Another tip: pre-slice a whole piece of ginger root and store it in your freezer. That way you already had perfectly-sized pieces handy for flavouring your kombucha.)

Sometimes I’ll add half a teaspoon of sugar to each jar, too, to further aid in carbonation.

adding juice and gingerThen add your kombucha to be flavoured. Fill it up almost to the top — leaving only a quarter-inch/centimeter of space at the top. The gases need to build up pressure to create the fizz.

filling kombucha

If you don’t want to flavour your kombucha but want the fizz, skip the fruit juice but do the rest — add the sugar and pour the kombucha into new jars and seal. I still recommend a little bit of ginger, though.

(Also, another tip: remember that you have to save some kombucha for your next batch. If you’re using the proportions I suggested, you’ll need to reserve 1 1/2 cups of kombucha as your “starter” for the next batch. Empty out your big fermenting jar into another vessel and measure out this amount of kombucha; then return the 1 1/2 cups to the original jar. Mark the level with a Sharpie, like this:

line mark
That line marks how much of your old kombucha you need to reserve every time you make a new batch. Saves you some time and fuss in the future.)

Going back to your flavoured kombucha: now tightly cap your jars/bottles and put them back where they were fermenting before — somewhere out of direct sunlight. They’ll have to stay there for a couple more days.

(Once your flavoured kombucha jars are all ready, you can return to the sweetened tea you started brewing when you started out. Make a new batch of kombucha using the method I described in my last post, using your new kombucha starter. All you’re doing is adding your fresh sweet tea to your new starter in your big vessel, and returning your SCOBY to float on top. Include your new, thin baby if you have it — hopefully it will grow thicker, so you have a second SCOBY as a backup or to give to a friend!)

Like I said, you want to let your flavoured kombucha jars sit for another 5 days or so, for the flavours to steep and for the carbon dioxide to build up. You might notice that the lid becomes stiff from the carbonation inside. This is a good sign.

kombucha(Here I’ve got four bottles of kombucha brewing for their second ferment; I also went a little overboard and did a double batch of new kombucha, too.)

After that, pop your jars of flavoured kombucha in the fridge to chill.

Finally: time to enjoy!

If you grew your own SCOBY, it’s probably been close to six weeks since you started your kombucha adventure. But it’ll be so worth it. Now your delightfully healthy drink should be lightly bubbly and full of complex flavour — as addictive and delightful as soda, without the deleterious effect on your body!

Future batches will be way easier to make, and you won’t be feeling so impatient because you already have some in your fridge.

Before drinking, just remember that another thin film will have formed on top of your kombucha (another tiny baby SCOBY). Just scoop it off and compost it.

If you can’t get yours to carbonate right away, don’t worry. It’s still delicious without the fizz, and you can keep experimenting. Mine still doesn’t always end up very fizzy (or even at all, sometimes.)

But sometimes, I end up with something beautiful, like this:

carbonated (fizzy) homemade kombucha

Some people talk about jars exploding and kombucha fizzing out all over the place when they open them up, but I’ve never gotten anywhere near that amount of carbonation. Just a light fizz to make it sparkle.

With my best batches, I get a little bit of a chhhhhh when I open the lid. It’s terribly satisfying.

finished kombucha

There you have it! Once you get the hang of it it’s actually very simple. Then you can start experimenting with different kinds of teas (I’m starting to explore different proportions of green and white teas in combination with black), fruits and spices.

Any questions, or tips of your own?

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  1. I just started making my own Kombucha a little while ago too and so far I’m really enjoying it. However, I have been scared of doing a second ferment because I don’t want my jars to explode. Your success and lack of exploding jars gives me some courage to try it now.

    • Ha ha — a legitimate fear! Although like I said, I’ve never even come close. I’ve heard it suggested that if you’re nervous, you can do your first couple of second ferments in plastic bottles (like a used water or soda bottle) so you can feel how the carbonation is coming along. (Once it’s rock-hard, you know it’s ready to go.) Once you have an idea how long it takes, you can start doing it in glass. That might help assuage any fears.

  2. That’s a great idea about the plastic bottle- I will defnitely try it. I really like the flavor of plain kombucha, but my husband’s not a huge fan. I’m hoping if I can add flavors and some fizziness it might get him hooked.

    • @Kathleen Great articles! Thanks so much. I plan to try growing my own scoby!

      @Vickie Thanks for asking that question because the same thing occurred to me regarding my mother. She is hugely addicted to Dr. Pepper and in terribly poor health because of it. She does like the occasional glass of peach flavored tea (from crystals)

      I like that it is possible to make fruit flavored fizzy drinks. I really do think it might help her by satisfying that need for the fizz as well as giving her flavors she is familiar with.

      Good Luck!

      • Darn sorry…I replied to the wrong post and person. My comment was directed at Michellle :( below.

        • Hi Dim2035! I recently tried a few batches that tasted somewhat like Dr. Pepper/Root Beer. In a one-litre jar of kombucha I added two prunes, a teaspoon of vanilla, and a tiny slice of ginger, and let that ferment for a few days. We loved it! I am currently trying a batch just like that but with a few fennel seeds added as well — I read that it should taste more like A&W root beer. Looking forward to seeing how that turns out!

  3. You have me fascinated. I really want to try this. My husband is addicted to sodas. I wonder if there is a way to make a flavor similar to Pepsi, Sprite, etc?
    Michele recently posted..Motherhood with a Toddler – Life in GeneralMy Profile

  4. Do you use the metal mason jar lids when you store your kombucha, or do you buy the plastic ones? Do you use them for the 2nd fermentation process? Thanks for the articles, by the way! I have successfully grown my own SCOBY from store-bought kombucha – now I’m ready to brew!!

    • Hooray for homegrown SCOBYs! Yes, I used the metal mason jar lids. I’ve read that you shouldn’t use metal with kombucha, but I find the plastic ones don’t seal well enough. Well, actually, I just bought proper plastic mason jar lids yesterday and plan to try them, but so far I have just used metal lids with rings.

  5. Nicole Kern says

    Hello – I just purchased my first scoby and can’t wait for it to arrive! I’m prepping in advance so I’m prepared when it does get here. I feel like I understand the process, as I’ve made homemade wine before and it seems very similar (minus the scoby). My question is in regards to using 1.5 cups of finished Kombucha to start the next batch. Why do you need this if you didn’t need it the first time and you still use the scoby and a new sweet tea brew? Does it allow the fermentation process to go more quickly? So confused. Thanks!

    • Hi Nicole! I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “since you didn’t need it the first time.” Do you mean while growing your own SCOBY? Because I grew my own SCOBY in 100% pure kombucha!

      The way I’ve heard it explained is that you need some kombucha in your sweetened tea to raise the acidity level, the prevent bad bacteria from setting up camp in your sweetened tea before the ferment gets going. You need that kombucha in there to get things started. If you just put a SCOBY in pure sweetened tea, the SCOBY wouldn’t be able to work fast enough all by itself to consume those sugars and convert it into kombucha. Does that make sense?

  6. Is the temperature of the storage area critical? I tried to ferment sauerkraut and it failed as the ambient temp in the house is about 68 – 70 degrees. I have also tasted ginger kombucha from a commercial product and love that the best of all. Is there a recipe to make ginger kombucha ?

    • Hi Wayne! Temperature can vary quite a bit, it will just affect how long it takes for your kombucha to ferment — at warmer temperatures, it will ferment faster, and at cooler ones it will be slower. Our house is about 68-70 right now, too, and so it takes a little longer than a week to fully ferment.

      I agree — ginger kombucha is great! To do that, you just pour some finished kombucha into a jar with a small piece of ginger, seal it, and let it steep for a couple of days. That should also help to carbonate it.

      Good luck!

  7. Thank you for ALL this great information!! I can’t wait to get started!! How much Kombucha do you drink/day?? Any GI side effects? Is it safe for kids?

    • Hi Gloria! You’re very welcome! :) I probably drink about 3/4 cup (6oz) a day. I didn’t notice and GI side effects, but I’ve been consuming a lot of probiotics for a while (plenty of yogurt, kefir, fermented cole slaw, etc. every day), so I don’t think it was as big an adjustment as it might be for someone who doesn’t.

      I personally feel safe giving it to kids — my two-year-old daughter loves the stuff, and probably drinks about quarter or half a cup (2-4 oz) a day, several days a week. There is a negligible amount of alcohol in it (like 1%), but kids have been drinking small amounts of alcohol all over the world for centuries, so I’m not too worried. Others might disagree. I would never give her much at a time, anyway.

  8. Melissa says

    I’ve been very eager to brew my own Kombucha and your blogs seem very helpful. I’m concerned about the black tea. I’m ridiculously sensitive to caffeine. Is black tea my only option for the first batch?

    • I can’t say for sure, Melissa, but green tea might work. I have transitioned to using all green tea in my kombucha, and I think I prefer the flavour. But I’ve read that black tea is ideal for feeding a new scoby. I didn’t want to take any risks, so that’s what I started with. If you don’t mind experimenting, you could give it a try!

      • I have read that you can’t continually use all green tea or it will eventually kill the scoby. Also, you can use decaf black tea, I brewed successfully for over a year with it. Or, I’ve read but not tried, you can steep the tea for 10-15 minutes in a cup or 2 of plain boiling water and then put it in the water to brew your sweetened tea for kombucha. The pre-steep is supposed to remove most of the caffeine.
        Thanks for all of your tips Kathleen, I can’t wait to try some of your flavor combinations. I let my scoby go about a year ago, so now I’m waiting (not so patiently) trying to grow a new one. Time will tell :)

  9. Hi Kathleen,

    I posted a comment on the wrong page and apologize.

    Thanks for your posts. I grew my own scoby and have a batch working. My question is, do you
    continuous brew and what would your recommendations be?

    Love your site and thank you…

  10. One more. When I add the fruit and the ginger, this is to the kombucha I just got, no? I don’t need to put the SCOBY here? I just add the fruit and ginger and let it sit one more week, correct? Will try that next time.


  11. I sent u a post previously and don’t see a reply as of yet…my kombucha is smelling a little bad. It tastes great, but is the smell normal? The store bought doesn’t smell bad to me, but mine does.h


    • Hi Edna. It’s hard to say without smelling it myself . . . what do you mean by “bad”? Like, rotten? Moldy? If it smells spoiled in any way, I would probably chuck it and start over. It could be a sign of bad bacteria contaminating it. Kombucha should smell a little tart, but it shouldn’t make you wrinkle your nose.

  12. Detroit Al says

    Maybe if someone is concerned about bottles exploding they could make the tea in the garage or other safe area.

  13. Leanne Massey says

    Hi there,
    Thanks so much for your posts, they’re excellent! I have successfully grown my first scoby from store bought Kombucha and have just bottled my second batch of Kombucha. My question is, do you clean your brewing jar out between brews? There is a lot of sediment sitting in the bottom of my jar as it has a spigot and I just drain my brew directly into my bottles, so now I’ve got lots of sediment, should I remove it and sterilise my brewing jar and then continue on as normal?
    Thanks so much,
    Sydney Australia

  14. Alice Connor says

    Using your method I’ve brewed several great batches so far. My scoby has gotten rather thick (so I separated it and gave some to a friend!). However recent batches look much more cloudy, less amber-translucent than before. Thoughts on why and how to change it if needed? Still smells/tastes/fizzes fine. Suppose I could run it through cheesecloth or something for aesthetic reasons…

  15. Thanks so much for these instructions! Thanks to your sharing I now have my first scoby and am on my way. Chiming in to share re exploding kombucha– my housemate makes kombucha all the time… one night about 1am a bottle she was fermenting for fizzles did indeed explode in her kitchen, sending glass shrapnel and kombucha all over. So glad it was when they were gone for the weekend so nobody was hurt! She uses those fancy pressure- relief bottles you referred to, too. Her theory is it had been warmer than usual, and she should have had it fermenting for a shorter period of time. Being a home-brewed kombucha newbie myself, I don’t know, but thought I’d share. :)

  16. I don’t think two gallons of kombucha is overboard. I make around four gallons each week so I can drinka quart every day and still have enough to feed to my littles and husband.

  17. Thank you for posting your instructions, they are quite easy to follow. I watched several youtube videos and was frustrated by some stuff not explained well or left out, for example amount of sugar, etc. I will be purchasing my bottle of kombucha today and starting my scoby.

  18. Hi Kathleen! I’ve been successfully making kombucha all summer thanks to these posts, thank you! I have a few questions:

    — How long does a SCOBY last? How do you know when to retire it or start a new one? I’ve made a batch every week for the past 8 weeks, and my SCOBY is now a 3/4″ thick mass with 4-5 thinner ones attached. Do I just keep using it?

    — I get great carbonation on my second ferment/flavor step. It actually bends and warps the metal lids of my 1 qt mason jars. Before I put the flavored/carbonated kombucha in the fridge, I strain it through a fine metal mesh into a new quart jar, and that kills the carbonation. Do you leave the ginger chunks and residue in there and just chill in the same vessel after flavoring/carbonating?

    Thanks for the great posts!

    • Hi Jim! Good to hear from you!

      A SCOBY can last indefinitely. I only retire the top layers once it gets too thick and starts taking up too much space in my jar.

      I do just leave the ginger chunks and residue in the vessel and chill it, for the exact reason you express. The residue usually stays at the bottom, and I just discard the last little bit. The ginger chunks can be fished or strained out just before drinking.

      Happy brewing!

  19. Shari Savage says

    Well Kathleen, I see there hasn’t been a post here for some time, but I just found you 2 months ago and am now a very happy kombucha brewer! I grew my SCOBY from a bit in the bottom of a bottle of store-bought kombucha (took only 3 weeks) and now I am up to brewing a gallon at a time with a new SCOBY doing well in the SCOBY nursery. Your instructions are all spot on and the comments have given me even more terrific flavor combinations. One comment: my husband is on antibiotics for life (no other option), so loading up on natural probiotics (anything fermented) is critical to his health. I feel really good about making this for him to keep him healthy.

  20. Enzo Snyman says

    Thank you @kathleen for the awesome articles.

    I started my Scoby from scratch about 10 days ago (from what I could remember from a book I read), with store bought (flavoured but raw) kombucha. It had a baby ontop already and we couldn’t resist attempting it. Now I already have a decent sized young scoby about 6mm thick.

    Can’t wait to start my official first batch though!

    Might just post an update before the end of the year…

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