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How to make kombucha at home for less money

This delicious and healthy probiotic drink costs a pretty penny at the health food store, but you can save money by making it at home.

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SarahTewHS2012urbanSuare01.jpg

Sarah Tew

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How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Brew your own kombucha

With an initial investment in some basic equipment, like jars, bottles, tea and teabags, you too can be on your way to a lifetime supply of cheap, healthy probiotic beverages. Experimenting with your own flavorings is fun, too.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only -- brew and consume at your own risk!

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Good for your gut

If you've never tried kombucha, I recommend it. It's fizzy and refreshing, it comes in a wide array of flavor profiles, and, best of all, it's a fermented drink that includes live probiotics to enhance your gut health, which are good for your immune system.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Order a scoby

This is a kombucha "scoby," an acronym that stands for "symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast." Yes, it looks kind of slimy and gross because it's alive. 

It basically needs you to feed it tea and sugar, and, in return, it converts your sweet tea into a healthy kombucha beverage. To get started, you can order a scoby online, or ask for someone to send you one on a Facebook kombucha brewing group. 

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Move the kombucha to a bottle

At the beginning of my brewing cycle, I moved the "first ferment" into a bottle and out of the jar where it was being processed by my kombucha scoby. The first ferment can be either freshly brewed or store-bought kombucha, if this is your first brew.

Always use a plastic strainer/funnel and glass jars and bottles. The scoby can be damaged if it comes into contact with metal. 

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Leave some kombucha behind for the next brew

When transferring the kombucha from the jar to the bottle, you'll want to leave a little of the kombucha from the first ferment in the jar with the scoby. That way, you can simply add a new batch of tea and sugar to brew your next batch.

I recommend two-quart mason jars that are tinted amber so less light gets in. Fermentation is best done in darker conditions.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Pick a tea

Now it's time to select a tea. This is up for debate and people have their own suggestions. I keep it simple and use a blend of black and green tea I found on Amazon that's formulated for use with kombucha. It's loose-leaf, so you'll need some tea filter bags, too. It worked well for me, and the results tasted great.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Brew your tea

If you're starting with one scoby in one two-quart mason jar, you'll need to measure out just under two quarts of water (you don't want to fill it to the top) and boil it to make your tea.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Add sugar

Once your tea is ready (I steep it for five to six minutes after my water has boiled), you'll mix in one cup of sugar for every mason jar's worth of tea.  

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Mix, mix, mix

Make sure to mix in the sugar while the tea is hot so it dissolves completely.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Let the tea cool

The sweetened tea will be hot for hours. You don't want to burn your scoby, so it needs to cool off until it's about room temperature. 

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Combine the tea, scoby and kombucha

Add your tea to the jar with your scoby along with a splash of unflavored kombucha from your prior batch (or from a store-bought bottle if you're starting from scratch). 

To seal it for fermentation, I use these amazing little tops I found online -- they let the pressure that builds in your jar release without compromising the cleanliness inside.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Store it in a dark place

Now you'll just put that jar away in a dark place for about nine days to two weeks, or more depending on how sweet you want the brew to be. I avoid consuming sugars, so I like to let it ferment longer so the scoby can eat up all the sugar in the tea. 

If you aren't careful these can become alcoholic, so folks in recovery may want to steer clear of this hobby.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Strain the kombucha

When you're ready for the next step and you like the flavor of your kombucha, strain it through a funnel into a bottle. I've tried a few different types and the Grolsch-style bottles like the one pictured are my favorite. If you like it as is, put it in the fridge, or experiment with fruit flavorings as desired.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Add flavor

I find it easiest to flavor my kombucha with unsweetened fruit juices. My husband likes to cut up fresh fruit like strawberries, kiwis and nectarines for his brew.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Experiment with different juice combinations

My favorite combo is a splash of ginger juice with about twice as much lime juice added to the top of a bottle.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Burp the bottles

I typically let the second ferment sit for two to four days before moving the Grolsch bottles into the fridge for consumption. During that time, carbonation continues to build up and you need to keep tabs on your kombucha and "burp" the bottles to avoid too much of a pressure buildup, which can lead to an exploded bottle and a very sticky mess in your house.

How to make healthy probiotic Kombucha for cheap at home
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Start over

When your current "first ferment" is ready to move into bottles with juice or fruit for a few days, you're ready to repeat the whole process. By then you'll be done drinking the bottles in your fridge. 

If you keep going with the hobby, your scoby will eventually get thicker and separate into multiples, allowing you to start a second and third jar, or give away your extra babies. It's always smart to keep an extra backup in a jar with some unflavored kombucha in case you need to start again.

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