Kombucha and milk and water kefir are amazing and delicious probiotic drinks that you can make right at home! These drinks can be so yummy and are a great way to support the health of the digestive system thus supporting other parts of the body as well. If you have never heard of these drinks you can learn more here in a short video introduction or here in a more in depth blog post. If you are interested in learning how to make them, you are in the right place!
Making your own kombucha and kefir is not expensive to get started and once you get it going it is hard to stop it! Since the scoby and kefir grains keep reproducing you can have great probiotic drinks right at your fingertips for many years to come! I will go step-by-step through how we make our kombucha, water kefir and milk kefir with a list of what you need and hopefully help get you started on making these great drinks for you and your family! I will also list some resources at the end to help get you started in finding what you need. Let’s start with kombucha!
Here is what you need to get started:
-1 one gallon glass jar
-1 small plastic strainer
-A couple quart size canning jars (if double fermenting)
-A couple more quart size canning jars or glass pop bottles for finished kombucha
-1 cup organic sugar
-4 black tea bags (or some loose leaf black tea)
-1 SCOBY (See below for resources)
- Begin by brewing a batch of tea by bringing about 1 gallon of water to a boil. Add in the tea bags or loose leaf tea and allow it to sit for 20 minutes.
- Strain off the tea or remove the tea bags. Add the sugar into the tea and mix well. Allow the tea to set until cooled to room temperature.
For first batch:
3. Pour the cooled tea into your gallon jar and add in your scoby and starter kombucha. Cover with a cloth held in place by a rubber band. You do not want to use a lid because it needs to breathe but you want to keep out dust and gnats. Gnats love kombucha!
4. Allow to ferment for 7-10 days away from direct sunlight. The longer you brew it the more sour it gets so you may have to try different time frames to figure out how you like it. The warmer it is the faster it will ferment as well so make sure you factor the temperature in as well. We typically like it at right about 7 days. Then follow the next steps for any following batches.
For second batch and beyond:
3. If doing a double ferment (see step 6 for more on double ferment) add desired fruit and/or herbs to quart jars. If you are skipping the second ferment simply prepare quart jars or pop bottles.
4. Pour off your finished kombucha into the double ferment jars or desired storage jars. leaving scoby and about 1 cup of kombucha in gallon jar.
5. Pour cooled tea into gallon jar holding reserved kombucha and scoby. Place towel and rubber band on top and start the 7-10 day cycle again.
6. A double ferment allows you to naturally flavor the kombucha with fun fruity flavors! You only need a couple tablespoons of fruit per quart jar. Once you pour your kombucha over the fruit, place a lid on the jar. You can use a lid at this point. Allow to ferment for an additional 2 days. Then strain off the fruit and place in desired storage jars.
7. Store finished kombucha in fridge or in a dark cabinet. Know that if you do not store in the fridge it may build up more fizz so be aware when you open the jar!
Notes: You may notice that as you continue switching your kombucha out that the scoby is growing more layers. These are baby scoby’s! You can gently peel these off and place them in a jar with some kombucha fluid to float in. You can then share these with a friend, start a new jar or store them to use later. You can continue adding them in to the same jar as more grow. This is called a scoby hotel. They should be good to use for quite awhile. If they begin growing mold though they have died off and you want to dispose of them.
Here is what you need to get started:
-1/4 cup water kefir grains
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
-pinch of baking soda
-purified water (some people say it has to be distilled, but I use our well water put through a Berkey filter and it has worked fine. You mainly do not want city water that contains flouride, chlorine or other chemicals.)
-a plastic strainer
1. Place the 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a pinch of baking soda into a quart size jar.
2. Fill jars with water leaving the lip as well as about 1 extra inch of headspace. You want enough room for about a 1/4 cup of kefir starter and the 1/4 cup of grains. Mix well to dissolve the sugar.
3. Pour in kefir grains and starter kefir fluid.
4. Cover with a cloth held in place with a rubber band. Allow to ferment for 2-4 days away from direct sunlight. Just like the kombucha it gets more sour the longer you ferment it and it also ferments more quickly in warmer environments. I usually do 3 days tops unless it is really warm in the house and then I strain off at 2 days.
5. When it is finished, prepare your jar or jars for your next batch. You may be surprised how quickly water kefir grains multiply! My most recent time purchasing new grains I started with 1/2 cup so made 2 jars my first batch and had to increase to 3 jars by the second straining. I now have four jars just a couple weeks later! Just make new jars for each 1/4 cup of grains you have or you may want to share with friends!
6. Pour the kefir through a strainer to seperate out the grains. Use some of this strained kefir as your starter in your new jars. Pour the rest into jars or bottles for storage and use or add to fruit or herbs for a double ferment.
7. Rinse the grains in some purified water and then add them into your new jars of sugar water and kefir starter. Cover with cloth and begin the next ferment.
8. If double fermenting simply pour into jars with a couple tablespoons of fruit and/or herbs, place lid on jars and allow to sit for 2 more days before straining off and using. Store extra kefir in the refrigerator or on dark shelf. It can continue to get more bubbly if not placed in fridge so watch for pressure when opening!
Fruit Juice Kefir:
There are 3 different ways you can use fruit juice with your kefir. The first 2 are our favorite ways, but here are the 3 ways and how to do them.
1. Ferment the juice. Simply fill your quart jar with 100% fruit juice (we like to try and get organic). Add in 1/4 cup of grains. Ferment for 2-4 days. Strain off and repeat. This method makes amazing juice kefir that tastes incredible! It can get pricey to keep up with buying that much juice but is very easy since it flavors it without double fermenting and even skips having to mix up the water. Plus it is really good!
2. Half and Half. Fill your quart jar about half way full with juice. Fill the rest of the way with a half batch of sugar water adding a little bit of kefir from your last batch of water kefir. Add in your 1/4 cup of grains and ferment for 2-4 days. Strain off and repeat. This is probably our favorite! There is something about the combination of the juice and sugar water that makes it delicious and so fizzy! It also incorporates the great flavor of the juice but is a little easier on the budget since it spreads it out a little.
3. Double ferment with juice. With this way simply make water kefir as described above. Then when you are ready for your double ferment you add in a little juice instead of fruit. When I have done this I have added in probably about 1/2 a cup of juice into a 1/2 gallon of kefir, but you can adjust according to the strength of flavor you desire. Now let it ferment an additional 2 days and it is then ready to go. This way is very tasty too and makes it nice and fizzy. You still have to double brew so it takes a little longer but is still a great way to get delicious kefir!
I actually don’t have any milk kefir going right now so I don’t have any pictures to share. We have made it though and enjoyed it and making milk kefir is very similar to water kefir.
Here is what you need:
-Milk (preferably raw or organic whole milk)
-1/4 cup milk kefir grains
1. Place milk kefir grains into a quart size jar.
2. Fill jar with milk covering the grains.
3. Cover with a cloth and allow to ferment in a dark spot for 2-4 days.
4. Once complete simply pour the kefir through a plastic strainer to remove the grains. Remember that milk kefir will be thicker than water kefir or kombucha so it may take a few minutes to strain through.
5. Add your grains to a new quart jar, fill with milk, cover and start the next ferment! Milk kefir grains multiply rapidly as well so you can start new jars for each 1/4 cup of grains you have or you can always share the extra!
A few notes for all three:
-You do not want to use metal with any of these! There is a reason for the glass and plastic as the metal can kill the grains and scoby.
-If your water kefir seems to be struggling you can also add a little bit of molasses to each jar which adds in more minerals to help feed it.
-If sharing any baby scoby’s or grains, just make sure to transport in a jar or ziploc and include about 1/4-1/2 cup of the water kefir or kombucha to help them get started!
You may have many of these things around your house or possibly find them less expensively in your local store or other online sources, but here are a few links if you need a source or want an example of what to get. Also, if you have a friend that makes these, you may want to ask if they have extra scoby’s or grains because speaking from experience, it is likely they will!
Quart Jars: I have definitely seen quart jars at many stores and they are typically less expensive there. Here is link for an online source if you need one.
Ball Quart Jar, Wide Mouth, Set of 12
Plastic Strainer: You can probably just find this at your local store as well, but here is a link if you want an example or to order here is one link.
Culina Nylon Mesh Strainer Set of 3 – 4 in., 5½ in. and 7 in.
Kombucha Kit: If you prefer to just buy a whole kit here is an option:
Eva’s Herbucha Organic Kombucha Starter Kit (Traditional)
Kombucha Scoby: Eva’s Herbucha Organic Kombucha Starter Kit (Traditional) (I have used this brand and done well with it!)
Kombucha Starter Culture (This is a well known brand)
Water Kefir Grains: 1/4 Cup Live Organic Water Kefir Grains (Tibicos) Natural Probiotics (This is the brand I purchased for my most recent round and they are doing very well!)
Cultures for Health Water Kefir Grains – Heirloom Organic non-GMO Live Dehydrated Starter – Makes Carbonated Probiotic Soda Replacement – Can Be Used With Coconut Water, Perfect For Grolsch Bottles (This is a well known brand for grains)
Milk Kefir Grains: LIVE Healthy Organic Raw Milk Kefir Grains from Grass-Fed Cows, Family Farm
Milk Kefir Grains (This is a well known brand for grains)