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Kombucha Tea – Part 2: 15 Tips For Making It Correctly

Kombucha pic

Last time in PART 1: Kombucha Tea What is it and what are the health benefits?

This time in PART 2: 15 tips for making it correctly (Note: I’ve corrected an error I made below related to Fluoride in tea…)

IMPORTANT NOTE: I’ve recommended buying scobies in the past from Betsy, mentioned below and in other posts, but can no longer recommend this company. While I enjoyed talking to her and getting to know her a little way back when I wrote these posts, I’ve since heard too many stories of people ordering and not receiving what they ordered. This also makes me wonder about the other information from her, so just keep that in mind. :(

From now on, I’d recommend only buying scobies (your kombucha ‘starter’) here, and they have GREAT customer service, by the way.

Get your free Kombucha Recipe & DIY Guide!


Betsy from Laurel Farms® said she is amazed at how many bad recipes are floating around. When talking to her, I found out that I did many things wrong in my first recipe, so I couldn’t use my Kombucha starter again. I started fresh with one from her, so I knew that I was getting a healthy Kombucha (you can’t tell by looking at it). Kombucha isn’t difficult to make by any means, it’s actually very simple, but it really does need to be done in a certain way, to be sure that toxins aren’t forming and that you are getting all the health benefits possible from drinking it.


As you read through this (warning: it’s lengthy), please try not to get frustrated or annoyed with me! I had a friend take a sneak-peak at this post yesterday and she thought these 15 tips were a bit nit-picky. I asked Betsy about this (she’s been so gracious about answering all my questions this week!) and she said that although they try to make the instructions that come with their Kombucha starter very simple to follow, this really is a scientific process that must be done correctly. The growing medium has to be consistent in order to prevent toxicity and to get all the health benefits from the broad range of B vitamins, glucuronic acid, and other beneficial nutrients.


The following information and tips are from Betsy. She has a best-selling Kombucha book out and was the first to bring the Kombucha to the U.S. in 1993 (from a remote village in Northern China). I’ve spoken to her at length in the past week. Not only is she very sweet, she’s also unbelievably knowledgeable about everything to do with the Kombucha.

15 TIPS FOR MAKING IT CORRECTLY (links to the recipe below) – DID YOU KNOW…?

  1. You really should use distilled water or you could permanently damage your Kombucha. (Unless you’re on a good well.) “Reverse Osmosis or carbon filter systems do not remove the ammonia and other small molecule chemicals added as a purifier to ALL municipal water systems. Also, home filtration systems do not remove the fungicides and other chemical protectives now being added to most municipal water systems since 9/11.”
  2. When you’re done, you can give one to a friend, so they can make Kombucha tea, too. If you get one from a friend, that’s great, just make sure they’re aware of these tips, so you’re getting a good starter.
  3. Even though you’ve heard how bad refined table sugar is for you, it is the only sugar you should use in the recipe because it produces the most vitamins and beneficial nutrients that way, as found by Russian researchers in the 1950’s. (Mineralized sugars, honey or other sweeteners can kill or cripple some of the Kombucha’s healthy bacteria.) Don’t worry; most of the sugar is gone when it’s done fermenting anyway. Update! I forgot to mention before: Use organic table sugar to avoid GMOs & pesticides though!
  4. You can use green tea, but if you do, you should use at LEAST one black tea bag “to give the Kombucha the dose of tannin it needs”.
  5. You should NOT use herbal, organic or decaffeinated tea. (And never Earl Grey tea! It contains “bergamot”, which is harmful to the Kombucha.) Betsy recommends plain Lipton black tea (“100% Natural”) – Lipton does not use tea brokers or middlemen. (They’ve owned their own plantations for over 200 years – this is important because all green and black tea is grown outside the U.S.) She tells me that Lipton tea is never sprayed with pesticides, so it is organic without the organic label. (Although they now sell black and green tea labeled “organic”, but at the store I see they are the exact same price.) Because of how most organic or decaffeinated tea comes into the U.S., it usually isn’t really organic (50% are sprayed with pesticides at customs as a precaution), and this can cause the Kombucha to mold. Herbal teas diminish the health of the Kombucha, and some can even kill it. The caffeine in the tea is mostly gone by the time the tea is ready. (Correction: originally I had said, “By the way, she assures me that Lipton tea does NOT have Fluoride in it – that was an urban myth.” I misunderstood and had that wrong. There is naturally occurring Fluoride in all tea – from the soil that it’s grown in. The urban myth was to do with a lady that supposedly died from drinking tea – that wasn’t true.)
  6. When starting your tea, if you cool for more than 2 1/2 hours (or if you don’t cool it long enough), it could cause mold. (It needs to be room temperature before adding in your starter.)
  7. It is best to make it in a bowl. The Kombucha needs the width of the container to be greater than its depth, so it has a sufficient surface supply of oxygen. You can store it in any plain glass container in the refrigerator. (We use 1 gallon glass jars.) To assure accuracy, Betsy checked over these posts, and she asked me to let you know that if you do make a bigger batch in a pickle jar, fill it only 2/3 full and cool the sugar tea water in smaller bowls before continuing the recipe, or else it will take too long to cool in the big jar and could cause mold.
  8. If you use the wrong kind of bowl, it can make your Kombucha tea toxic. Just like it works to de-toxify our body, in bowls made of plastic, some glass, ceramic, etc., it will try to detoxify the bowl! Only use PLAIN, CLEAR, UNLEADED, inexpensive, clean glass bowls. (Good brands: Pyrex, Anchor-Hocking, Libby, Ball.)
  9. You should not use cheesecloth to cover it, only thin, clean, white cotton.(Cheesecloth attracts fruit flies.) Betsy recommends flour sack towels (5 for $5 at many stores like Meijer, Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, etc.), or a clean white cotton t-shirt. (Be sure they are washed before each use – no bleach or fabric softeners.)
  10. You don’t want to use a heating tray, heating pad, or place your Kombucha near any electromagnetic fields. (To do so can destroy critical healthy bacteria in the Kombucha.) To keep it between 70*F and 90*F, try a small space heater kept a few feet from the Kombucha. (Betsy says those temps are ideal, but if your room is cooler than that it’s OK, it just takes longer.)
  11. You should never grow your Kombucha in a closet, cabinet, or pantry, even if you’ve left the door open a smidge. (“If your Kombucha doesn’t get enough oxygen, it will be thin and weak and could attract mold.”)
  12. When done fermenting, you should not strain it with a coffee filter, because it can leave particles and traces of chemicals in the Kombucha. (And you don’t have to strain it at all, if you don’t mind the “pulp”.) I just strain it with the white cotton t-shirt that I covered it with while it was fermenting.
  13. It is normal for the taste or amount of fizz to be different each time you make it, depending on the weather, the phases of the moon, seasons of the year, etc. (Isn’t that wild?)
  14. You shouldn’t store the Kombucha starter “mushroom” in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for more than 2 weeks. (It can substantially weaken or even contaminate them.) It’s better to store in a covered glass container such as a mason jar or glass bowl (see #7 above for the type of glass) up to 3 months in the frig, covered with Kombucha tea – about 6 oz. or enough to cover it, but no closer than 1″ down from the lid.
  15. Betsy recommends you don’t try to sweeten the tea after it’s done fermenting or add anything else to it, because it changes the tea. She said it’s fine for something different once in a while, but for major health benefits or if there are physical reasons why you are drinking it, just drink the original. She could only clarify by saying that additives may make it beneficial in different ways than the original tea. I spoke to someone who adds in frozen raspberries and crystallized ginger (after it’s done fermenting) and it tastes like red pop! I may try it someday, but I’m afraid to mess with it, since I know how good the original is for us and my family already loves it just how it is.

I did most of the above things wrong the first time I made it. Betsy concluded that when I was done, I no longer had a Kombucha starter, but just a plain old “vinegar-yeast patty”!


All this and more is thoroughly and simply covered in the packet from Laurel Farms that comes with their Kombucha starter. (Or if you get a starter from a friend, they will hopefully also give you this recipe with it.)

Check out the Laurel Farms website for more information and the RECIPE showing HOW TO MAKE IT correctly.


If you don’t think you’ll make it yourself, Betsy does recommend a couple brands: Synergy & Pronatura. (Remember there is that homemade difference, though.) Betsy also wanted me to tell you to be sure to save the bottles, they are great for storing your homemade Kombucha tea.


I hope not! It’s really not as complicated as all this might make it sound. Once you get your system down, it is fast and easy, and you can relax knowing that you’re making something very healthy for you and your family. If you have more questions, comment below and I’ll try to help. Remember, though, I’m very new at this; hopefully others who are more experienced will join in the conversation, too!

UPDATE 2010:

I don’t make Kombucha tea anymore, this is why: Compare Kombucha tea to Kefir Soda Pop.

2011 UPDATE on Laurel Farms’ customer service:

If you order from Laurel Farms please be aware that I’ve heard quite a few complaints about the time it takes for them to mail you your starter scoby.

Get your free Kombucha Recipe & DIY Guide!


  1. Kelly,

    I also make kombucha per Betsy’s instructions, and the only thing I fudged on at times was using a jar for fermentation rather than a bowl. But I’m back to using a bowl now and hopefully my scobies haven’t lost all their goodness.

    Betsy’s guidelines are very strict, but remember that her product is FDA-approved, and technically in order for her to sell her product as such she has to give clear, strict guidelines, otherwise what someone grows may not necessarily be what the FDA has approved. Does that make sense?

    I do get concerned when I read or hear about people who always use honey or herbal teas to make their kombuchas. That’s no good.

    And isn’t that great news about Lipton??!! Who knew! And their tea is such a good price!

    Thanks for doing this post; you motivated me to pull out my instructions from Betsy and make a batch correctly (using the bowl, not the jar).

  2. Hi Carrie,

    Yes, that does make sense! I hope others also realize there’s a reason for the specific instructions, and it’s not just to overwhelm or annoy people!

    Have a great weekend!

  3. Whew! That was a lot of instruction! I have just made my first batch of kombucha and follwed maot, but not all of those instructions. I will try to do ‘better’ next time!

    Thanks for your timely article. I have printed it out and have it ready for easy reference in my Home Management Binder.

  4. WELL Kelly, I was Harvest Health today, and I bought some Synergy Trio (raspberry, ginger and lemon) and boy is it good. I know it’s more expensive to buy it, but I’m working on so many things right now, that I just may for a time. I looked at part 1 to see if you recommended how much to drink each day, and it just said “as little or as much as you’d like”. Do you have a recommendation, or does it not really matter. Currently, I am in excellent health, with a healthy immune system, so I am mainly using the Kombucha to just keep things running smoothly, and to help any detoxification that needs to be done. (Even though we are nearly 100% converted over to Nourishing Traditions, I spent most of my lifetime eating a lot of processed junk and fast food – so I have no idea how long it will take for my body to completely detoxify from that, heal and renew itself.)


  5. Hi Shauna,

    The literature says 4 oz. 3 times a day, or as much or as little as you’d like.

    Let me know when you’re ready to try making it, and maybe when we finally meet at a local WAP meeting I can bring you once of my starters!


  6. That would be great Kelly! I have been trying to do the lacto-fermenting veggies, and I’ve got a rye sourdough starter going on my counter right now. I find with NT, if I just take ONE thing at a time and learn to do it, and incorporate it into my routine, then it makes it a more “permanent” change and it’s not so overwhelming. I would like to do the Kombucha tea, but for the next few weeks, I’m going to just buy it at Harvest. Plus, we’re at the very end of our homeschool year, so this is always a busy time for me.

    Thanks for the offer though – I will probably take you up on it! 😉


  7. Thank you for this information. I have been doing a second ferment on my Komboucha, but didn’t know I was playing with the health benefits. After the first ferment I was reusing the healthfood store bottles and putting a few pieces of ginger, strawberry, or mango in for 2 to 3 days on the counter with the top securely on. The result was delightful. I was getting a very bubbly and delicious ‘pop’. I will still continue to make these, however, I will make sure I get the health benefits of the traditional drink. Thanks for doing this Kelly. Kathy

  8. Kelly,
    How do you tell if your scoby’s gone bad? I’ve broken a number of the rules, and someone told me to use ONLY organic tea, so I am happy to see this info.

  9. Hi Jody,

    You would know if your scoby had mold on it, but unfortunately, you can’t tell by looking if it has picked up toxins or become contaminated.

    If you live near Grand Rapids, MI, I can give you one of my starters (I’ve been very careful since I first learned all this when I got one of Betsy’s starters), but if not, and if you can’t find someone else who you know got their’s from Betsy and has followed all the guidelines, you may want to order one from Laurel Farms…


  10. Just wondering about giving it to children. Just before serving it to them would it be okay to add some fruit juice do you think? I cant see that it would be too much different to eating an apple and having a drink of kombucha. What do you think?

  11. Hi Tara,

    If your kids don’t like it straight (or with a little water), then giving it to them with juice is better than them not having any at all. A friend of mine gives it to her kids that way every time, otherwise they won’t drink it.

    Take care,

  12. I have a few comments and questions. First, I have been making Kombucha “wrong” for about 4 years now. Second, my 3-year-old and 6-year-old both love it; my wife sometimes drinks it.

    So, with all the stuff I am doing wrong, I have some questions that have floated through my mind:

    1. What exactly do “right” and “wrong” mean? Does “right” mean you are guaranteed success every time?
    2. Why are my batches turning out fine when I violate so many of the rules?

    – I use “Organic”-labeled tea
    – I use tap-water
    – My batch sits in a 1-gallon glass jar covered with cheesecloth in the basement closet
    – The only time I have had a “bad taste” is when I let it go longer than 7 days with the SCOBY in it
    – I have had the same SCOBY since the beginning, and have split it off and given it to many others
    – One thing I really love about Kombucha (other than the taste) is that it is so easy and forgiving to make – beer seems much more sensitive to contamination. I do absolutely no sanitation to the brew other than boiling, and a couple of times I forgot about the brew and left it out cooling for like 6 hours; the batch turned out just fine.
    – I also make Sauerkraut in the same closet as Kombucha, so I would expect the air to be anything but sterile

    Any ideas or comments?

  13. Hi Jay,

    Thank you for your great questions. I really hope this post doesn’t come off “know-it-all-ish” – I just wanted to pass on the info I learned from Betsy.

    You asked, “What exactly do ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ mean?”

    When following the instructions, then you’ll know that:

    A. You won’t get mold
    B. You won’t have a contaminated batch, which you wouldn’t know by taste or sight
    C. That you’d get the maximum health benefits from drinking it.

    If you haven’t had problems with mold before, or any other problems from drinking it, then it may be “OK”, but if your family drinks that much of it, you may want to start with a fresh one just for peace of mind, and then follow the instructions.

    I see you’re in Waterford. Where is that? Maybe I can get you one of my starters. My sister lives in Ypsilanti, is that close? E-mail me if you’d like to try to make that work:

    Hope this helps,

  14. best posting i can find on the internet. i also have some questions.

    1. is it ok to use organic sugar?

    2. why is organic tea sprayed when it comes through customs and not all tea?

    3. is spraying of the tea what causes the mold or is it that the tea is old and already has mold you cannot see?

    4. gt kombucha is certified organic, do you think that means organic procedures and not organic ingredients?

    5. can you make kombucha without a scoby? using a bottle of gt kombucha for example?

    6. did betsy ever mention if kombucha has been known to help those with candida/parasites issues?

    7. gt kombucha is so light in color compared to home brewed versions. do you think gt uses green tea instead of black tea? gt’s bottle also says the kombucha is a tea that is cultured for 30 days. i never saw anyone on the internet brewing that long. i wonder if that was a general statement.

    8. does betsy package her scoby in a plastic container? will the scoby try to detoxify the package during shipping?

    i really have an issue using lipton tea and not organic. hahaha. i know it may appear i am being stubborn but i cannot imagine non-organic tea is healthy for the scoby.

    thanks so much for this info. i will prob buy from betsy considering her scoby is fda approved.


  15. Hi Melissa,

    I’ll try to answer all your questions:

    1. is it ok to use organic sugar?

    I can’t remember now specifically what Betsy said about organic sugar, but I do know she said plain old white table sugar produces the most nutrients, so that’s what I use.

    2. why is organic tea sprayed when it comes through customs and not all tea?

    Because Lipton is such a huge well-known company who have been around so many years, everyone at customs KNOW that their tea is free of any problems, but the smaller companies are all just sprayed “to be sure”.

    3. is spraying of the tea what causes the mold or is it that the tea is old and already has mold you cannot see?

    Sorry, don’t know the specific answer to that one, but I’m sure there are all different reasons that mold might form.

    4. gt kombucha is certified organic, do you think that means organic procedures and not organic ingredients?

    Must be organic ingredients…not sure what you mean by “organic procedures”.

    5. can you make kombucha without a scoby? using a bottle of gt kombucha for example?

    I know you can make another batch of Kombucha from the Kombucha tea if needed, but I don’t know about the gt kombucha. You could try asking Betsy that one, but I’ll bet she’ll just recommend you follow the procedures given with their scobys, to be sure it comes out right.

    6. did betsy ever mention if kombucha has been known to help those with candida/parasites issues?

    You could ask her, but personally I have heard that it can be a benefit for almost any ailment. It may sound hokey, but even just the probiotic element alone can build up your body so that it can heal itself.

    (Also, have you checked out the benefits of coconut oil for candida issues?)

    7. gt kombucha is so light in color compared to home brewed versions. do you think gt uses green tea instead of black tea? gt’s bottle also says the kombucha is a tea that is cultured for 30 days. i never saw anyone on the internet brewing that long. i wonder if that was a general statement.

    You’d have to ask the company to be sure, but I’ve heard of longer fermenting times – it doesn’t hurt anything, it just makes it taste much stronger the longer it ferments.

    8. does betsy package her scoby in a plastic container? will the scoby try to detoxify the package during shipping?

    She sends it in a plastic ziplock(probably the best and safest way to ship), but encourages you to get it out and into a glass bowl as soon as you can, and for sure within a week.

    Hope that helps! Sorry I couldn’t be more specific in my answers, but Betsy really is a WEALTH of knowledge and is very sweet when you call, so you may want to talk to her more.

  16. thank you so much kelly. i have heard of coconut oil for candida issues but it is hard for me to incorporate it into my diet. i have made raw “lemonades” with xylitol and its my only keeper recipe. im trying to lose weight so any raw fudge recipes would be high caloric for me.

  17. Melissa,

    Have you seen the recipe for smoothies? (Under recipes/drinks) These have coconut in them and are very good, even from someone like me who doesn’t love coconut.


  18. Kelly, from my readings, the lion-share of reasons why it is hard to lose weight nowadays tends to be the amount of processed foods in the diet. Just getting our minds around what constitutes “processed” vs. “unprocessed” has been a journey that we are about 6 or 7 years into. A fantastic resource has been the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, as well as the organization Mrs. Fallon helped found, Kombucha is an excellent aid, but I think far more important is the identification of healthy fats, and obtaining those fats. We have been lucky enough to find a dairy farmer near us that we trust to provide us with fresh, unprocessed milk that we culture into Kefir, cream cheese, Fil Mjolk, and others – as Dr. Weston A. Price’s research showed, obtaining nutrients rich in X-factor from animal fats is essential to allowing the body to maintain both its weight, and its metabolic rates. Check out the book and the web site. Finding a local WA Price Foundation chapter will also help, especially if they are as active as our local Detroit chapter is.

    Proof that this information is accurate comes in the form of our kids, 3, 6, and 9. The pediatricians constantly remark how skinny, muscular, and healthy they are; their teeth are straight, and their colds and flus are over in a matter of hours or days rather than weeks. And, they eat us out of house & home. My daughter, especially, takes after my mother – and my mother’s side of the family is definitely overweight, so the genes are there. The only thing really different among our family is the diet – grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, Organic foods, avoidance of artificial sweeteners, and pure unprocessed milk products. And I encourage them to eat the fats from the chickens & beef.

  19. Great info, Jay, thank you for sharing your testimony about the power of whole foods! :)

  20. Kelly, are you familiar with or do you have any thoughts on the Continuous Brewing Method for Kombucha Tea? Thanks, Christi

  21. Hi Christi,

    No, I haven’t heard of it.

    My first thought is that I’d want to continue making it the way I am, only because that’s what Betsy recommends…

    Where can I read more on that?


  22. Kelly, I have been enjoying Kombucha on and off for a couple of years now and kept thinking that I would love to learn to make it myself, mainly because of how much I pay for each bottle at my local health food store. Recently I came across your blog and newsletter, for which I am so appreciative, and saw your article(s) on Kombucha. I was not familiar with Betsy of Laurel Farms before, but had already been doing some “research” on home brewing at (scroll down left column to library articles) and Both of these sites offer a great deal of information on Kombucha and sell brewing supplies. And, they both seem to highly recommend the continuous brewing method, which sounds much more “convenient” to me. The HappyHerbalist says they regularly have their SCOBY’s tested by an independent lab and even provide the lab name and sample reports.
    Your input is valued…thanks! — Christi

  23. Christi,

    I looked over both sites and still am not sure what to think, so instead of guessing, I’m going to try to get in touch with Betsy tomorrow and ask for her take on it. I’ll let you know here when I find out more. :)


  24. Christi,

    I heard back from Betsy tonight. (She was out of town.)

    She feels that the continuous brewing method (a Russian method) is fine if someone only wanted to drink Kombucha for a tasty beverage. But if someone was drinking it for the health benefits, this wouldn’t be the best choice. She feels this method is not as powerful.

    Hope that helps!

  25. One more thing – Christi, you mentioned the brewing supplies you found online. Keep in mind that with the Kombucha process in this post, the supplies needed are very inexpensive and you can get them at any Walmart, K-Mart, etc. Just a thought…


  26. Kelly,

    Thank you for your follow-up…that’s interesting.

    OK, I picked up a couple of large Anchor Hocking glass bowls, now where could I put them? This may sound like a silly question, but its intent is practical. Do you have glass bowls full of KT brew taking up your counter space? I’m trying to be creative in my thinking, but with Betsy’s specifics regarding location (where not to store), I’m not sure where to put these bowls. Counter space in my kitchen is at a premium. Maybe on the bit of space atop my fridge?

    How many bowls do you keep going to satisfy your family’s consumption? (Anticipating a learning curve, I would start off with one, but just curious.)


  27. Christi,

    Don’t put your Kombucha on the top of the frig because of the electro-magnetic field. I keep mine in different places, depending on the temps/time of year, etc. In the winter time, I keep it in a room downstairs with a wall heater that I can adjust for that room, and I can turn it up high. In the summer, I keep it on the kitchen counter (yes, it takes up room and gets in the way!) since it’s plenty warm.

    Regarding how much we go through, we go in streaks. My last batch came out quite strong and it’s still sitting in the frig. Other times if it comes out sweet (I think it tastes like apple pop!), then we go through it in a couple days. (It’s normal for taste to be different depending on a variety of factors.)


    • I put my kombucha on my fridge.

      Unless you live deep in the boonies, and don’t use electricity, your house is surrounded by electro-magnetic fields. The transformer on the telephone pole, radio waves, the electrical wiring in your home, the microwave, electric stove, hair dryer, TV, GPS in cars, cell phones, computer, and wireless internet (all electrical appliances actually). You can’t really get away from it.

      And putting it on the fridge gives me back my counter space.

  28. I have ordered a SCOBY from Laurel Farms and am looking forward to brewing up my first batch of KT. Thanks for all the wonderful information on the benefits of and brewing KT. Your research and reporting has certainly helped me out.


  29. oops.. let me try that again…

    I just wanted to say that I think it is helpful to some to have strict guidelines for such things, but honestly I don’t believe it is really necessary.

    I have been brewing KT for a long long time. I use gallon jars, in a cupboard that I fan daily by opening and closing the cupboard door very fast for 60 seconds or so.

    I even us honey sometimes and like to mix things up that way. Honey has its own super beneficial bacteria and if these compete with the kombucha bacteria then I think it is fine to get a little change from time to time.

    I also do a second fermentation in which I often add fresh or frozen organic fruit. Sometimes just in jars, but most times in a carbide with an air-stop. This technique maintains the acid and ph levels while decreasing the sugars. (It also mellows out the flavor enough for even my husband to enjoy it.) Then I strain and store in the fridge for the cold stabilization.

    If I want or need extra tannins in my KT, I just steep my green tea longer, thus drawing out the tannins. No need to add black tea. Or sometimes I just use more tea and that increases the carbonation too (more fizz.)

    My scoby babies are always thick, white and beautiful. The ph, carbonation and taste are perfect (or close to it), every time.

    I do practice healthy hygiene, but I am really not worried about bacteria or contaminants that I cannot see (i.e other than things like mold, vinegar eels, etc.) There are not very many bacteria that can grow very well below 3ph. KT itself fights toxins and poisons within the tea and removes them from the body. I just find it hard to believe that at the same time these are somehow dangerous for the KT.

    I am sure that Betsy has everyone’s best interest in mind, however it is notable that it is in her best economic interest to tell people to ‘start over’ with one of her kits, ‘just in case.’
    You just don’t hear these kinds of ambiguous frights from folks who are not selling something. (I do acknowledge you, kelly, and your willingness to give your babies to anyone nearby.) :)

    I wish you all happy brewing!

    Here are some helpful sites I have found…

    This one has lots of “fixes”:
    Good FAQ’s:
    Check out their library on the lower left column:

  30. Hi Ajna,

    Thank you for the website info and for sharing your opinion. :)

    One thing I should add, though, is that Betsy does (and often) recommend getting a starter from a friend…but one you know follows the guidelines mentioned.

    Thanks again!

  31. Hi Kelly:

    I rarely take time to read posts on other blogs due to my time schedule, but I have to commend you for a job well done by researching this with one of the Kombucha pro's. I have made it too since 2005, and did not use those exact steps, and have not noticed any mold, etc. Nevertheless, I think that I too will adopt some of her suggestions. Never hurts to improve if it doesn't sound too way out.

    Now as a further suggestion, and what I would like to see, is research with a little ole Russian Granny who makes it like they did in the old country, and maybe even today. I wonder what fun we would have where there were none of the conveniences like cheesecloth or any of the rules & regs in the 15 suggestions??

    Maria Atwood –

  32. Hi Kelly, love your site and tips. i’ve been considered making kombucha tea for a while now, but just tested positive for yeast intolerance (as well as milk, nuts and cocoa).
    Does this rule out kombucha for me?
    Also do you have experience of kefir, and does the same apply?
    Many thanks

  33. Good question on the yeast. Since I only know what I learn from Betsy, I left her a message and I’ll comment when I hear back. (Might be a while?)

    As far as the Kefir, I’ve heard of some who are intolerant to dairy, but can drink raw Kefir with no problem. You’d have to try small amounts and see. Diane ( couldn’t drink raw Kefir (not sure of why), but she knew how healthy it was for her, so she started with very small amounts and worked her way up slowly. Now she drinks it with no problems at all.


  34. Denirosdoll, Betsy called back last night and left a message with the answer to your question, and I hope I have all this right. If not, it’s my fault, not Betsy’s!

    She said that the Laurel Farms Kombucha has “budding yeast”, not “sporous yeast”, and it’s sporous yeast that causes candida. (She said their Kombucha can actually *help* people with candida problems.)

    But you have to be careful about where you got your starter and how it was grown, because if you have just a “vinegar patty” (a Kombucha starter that has gone bad or lost it’s “potency” – not sure if that is the right word), then it would have the sporous yeast. But you can’t tell by looking at it.

    Sounds like you could drink Kombucha as long as you know it was well taken care of. Hope that helps!


  35. Maria Atwood,

    Somehow I missed your comment from September and just now saw it up there for the first time.

    Very good question (how did they do it in the old days?), I’ll bet Betsy knows, but as much as I bug her, I’ll have to wait until we talk again to bring that question up! :)

    Thanks for visiting here,

  36. I’ve been wondering, Kelly, what about beet sugar? I was using “plain white sugar,” and realized a few times it has been beet sugar and not cane sugar.

  37. I doubt you’ll be surprised at my answer: I have no idea! But I’m assuming plain white sugar like Betsy suggests is the way to go.


  38. I am new to KT brewing and in the process of brewing my first batch. Here are my questions.

    How long can I leave it out in a caped bottle after brewing?

    2. Do you use a specific ph to determine doneness?

    3. Why is it that many say they feel a buzz after drinking?

    4. How long can I leave the scoby in a container before needing to begin brewing again?

    Thanks for your response

  39. Hi Skye,
    I’m sounding like a broken record here, but honestly, I just don’t know this stuff – I just do what the directions said that came with my starter from Laurel Farms. Sorry I’m not more help with this topic! I’d suggest contacting Betsy, she’s knows it ALL, and I really trust her advice. Her link is at the top of this post. If you call the number at the website, she’ll call you back, even if it takes her a while. I’ve had the best luck when faxing questions to her.

  40. Hey, just found your website. :)

    Anyway, I couldn’t find anywhere on Lipton’s website where they mention that they are pesticide-free or that they don’t use brokers. All I did see was this: “Only the best tea leaves go into LIPTON teas. We source our tea leaves from around the world and expertly blend them so you can enjoy a premium tea experience.

    If they were organic, you would think that they would want to state that on the label. Sales would increase exponentially, one would think. Alternatively, you’d think that even if they chose not to pursue organic certification, they’d put something about their lack of pesticide use on their website. One has to wonder why that info seems to be missing…

    Also, I’d be curious as to whether there’s some documentation on the idea that teas are sprayed with pesticides at customs. I can’t find anything about that online.

    Anyway, awesome site, keep up the great work. :)

  41. Hi Aimee,

    I agree, you’d think they’d say that on their website, but I know that Betsy spoke to someone at Lipton (after a few phone calls to track down the right person) who told her that the tea is never sprayed. If you (or anyone else) calls them and finds out differently, please let us know!

    She also spoke to someone at customs who told her that because they never know for sure what’s coming into the country, they often just give it all a good spray of something to be sure.

    Again, all this is coming from Betsy to me via our phone calls… (which were now months ago.)


  42. I’ve been slowly going through your postings over time. Late last night I thought I would scroll through to see if you had anything on Kombucha. I just did a reposting of Kombucha on my blog with instructions of how I do it yesterday, since I’ve had so many searching for the written on my blog and I hadn’t put them there. Last Fall I did a step by step slide show and that is what I posted then. I also have postings on how drinking it has helped me….under kombucha / toothpaste postings. But I must say the info you posted tossed me for a loop on where to keep it while it brews, the teas, and so forth. I keep mine behind doors, her info says not to, I’ve been doing this for a whole year now and have had excellent results and never any problems at all. I’m going to have to go to her site and do a lot more studying up. A lot of what she says contradicts everything I’ve researched on it……..and I find it interesting in all my research her site or name never once came up on google. So I’m off to learn some more and see what I may change or not….I’ll be posting her as a link for more information. THANKS!


  43. Hi Pamela, I’m glad this was helpful! If you have more questions not answered here, be sure to give Betsy a call. It’s not always easy to get in touch with her, but once you connect she’s VERY sweet and helpful. :)

  44. Is it best to take the tea before or after a meal?

    Is there any chance of contamination if there’s no mould?
    How would we know if it is contaminated if everything looks fine?


  45. I love the guidelines, they are just that, guidelines. Not hard, set in stone rules. Although at first when I read through this (as a first timer), I got nervous thinking “Oh man I’m going to have to throw it out now.” Good thing I came to grip with reality and realized that it will be okay in the end.

    Anyways, I just got done bottling (for a second ferment) my very first batch of Kombucha and have all ready strayed from some of them LOL. I think I will still flavor some and keep some plain. Which is what I did this time anyways. So it’s a good compromise. Sometimes it’s nice to have that pop-like treat.

    I will change where I had it fermenting. I had heard from others to use the top of the fridge because it’s warm and out of the way. I’m not sure where else I can put it though, I think once my office is done that will be a nice out of the place spot.

    I also used a coffee filter to strain it because the little mucous like strands give me the heebie-jebbies lol! I can’t stand it in my Kombucha. I even thought about using a t-shirt because that’s what I used to cover the kombucha lol!

    Mine took almost a month to ferment, mostly because our house is just not warm enough in the colder months lol. I kept tasting it and it would still taste like sweet tea. I know they say there is nothing horribly wrong with a longer ferment, but it kind of bothered me. I think I just want to make sure I get it right because I do have a little fear inside still about the process that it goes through and the few stories I have heard of people brewing bad batches.


  46. JK,
    Sorry, but I don’t know if it’s better before or after a meal, I’m not sure if it matters. Maybe someone else could answer that. To answer your other questions, yes I believe there could be contamination without mold, or at least a very weakened kombucha mushroom, without you knowing it. That’s just it, you can’t always tell by looking, that’s why (according to Betsy), it’s important to make it correctly.

    Erica, I do just what you said, I use the t-shirt I cover it with and just strain it with that as I put it into my jar – works great!

  47. Here are my thoughts about whether it is good to drink before or after a meal. Our personal experience is you eventually find when it works best for you. My husband because of his digestive health issues drinks it with his meals and this has greatly helped him. He has Ulcerative Colitis and Celiac’s. He also will drink it at other times of the day because it is a great thirst quencher for him. I don’t have a preference as to when I drink it, I just don’t drink it to close to bed time just like any other beverage, even water – eliminates those multiple bathroom runs. Our son in law is type one diabetic – he drinks only 8 oz. in the morning with his breakfast. He spent more than 2 months finding a balance for himself – even though the sugar is eaten up in the culture period – a diabetic has to monitor everything that goes into their bodies which he does. What he has found is that for him drinking kombucha has brought a balance into his body that has allowed reduction of his insulin use. PLEASE DO NOT THINK that this will work for you if you are diabetic…you must take all precautions with kombucha just as you would with everything else you eat. Like I said my husbands digestive health is improving and as for myself after months of drinking kombucha I personally had all the headaches I suffered from completely go away….gas / diesel exhausts, household chemicals, perfumes, etc. don’t give me headaches anymore – Gone are my excederine use days!
    All in all……I don’t think there are any hard set rules as to how much or when to drink Kombucha. Over time you will find what works best for you. There is one other thing I want to say about Kombucha…’s not a cure all like some sites claim – it brings a healthy balance to your body so your cellular system works right and this in it’s self then enables your body to heal over time……..but you to really bring about a complete turn around in ones self you need to completely change your whole Food Life Style and move on over to a Nutrient Dense ( Nourishing Traditions ) eating and rid your cupboards / freezers / refrigerators of all the foods that are damaging to your body.
    To end…..toss out soda pops in your life….replace it with Kombucha!


  48. Okay, this might seem a little weird. I haven’t heard it mentioned anywhere, though. I started drinking Kombucha about a month ago and love it. What is available here is GT’s and I’ve tried all the varieties my health food store carries.

    But when I’ve drunk about two ounces, I have a deep relaxation response in the muscles of my neck and shoulders, the same as when I drink about four ounces of wine. Kombucha isn’t an alcoholic drink is it? I’m not anti-alcohol, but I might want to avoid drinking it at certain times if there is an alcohol content.

    Local Nourishment

  49. LN,
    You know, people keep telling me that there isn’t much alcohol left when it’s done fermenting (about the same as apple cider vinegar is what I’ve heard/read), but I do know that with my kefir soda I noticed a definite alcohol taste – enough to make me wonder how much I should give the kids! When I make that again (soon), I purchased a tool so I could check the alcohol content. I’ll let you know what I find!

  50. Hi! So I was looking at informationa bout kombucha because my friends have been brewing it where I was at in california but I am moving to michigan and was looking for it there and saw that you long time ago in the post you offered a mother… any chance that offer still stands if I am going to be near grand rapids? Thank you so much…

  51. Hi Curtis,
    Yes, of course the offer would still stand IF I still had a good mother. We made kombucha a lot last summer, then got out of the habit for a while. After a couple months of my scoby sitting in the frig, I noticed my glad wrap had been sitting RIGHT on top of it! So when I start making it again, I’ll buy a new one, just to be safe. (Right now I’m playing around with Kefir sodas, though.)

  52. Awesome tips for kombucha! I’d like to start some again. I’m wondering if I could use the GTS Kombucha as a starter. I wonder how they make that version with fruit?

    I’ve witnessed some pretty bad batches of the stuff — my ex bombed a few with lack of sterility amoung other things, lol! I’ve done a few batches myself, but neglected them as I was working wayy too many hours and never at home to tend it! Since then I’ve been leery, and just get the prebottled GTS from the health food store, but think that with the right dedication I could wind up making some pretty good batches, thanks to your good instructions! I’m going to bookmark this page so I have it as reference!



  53. Hi Kelly,

    I got a question. I have been bottling my homemade kombucha. But forgot to put the last batch in the refridgerator after 2 days. I now have a very nice size scoby somewhere between 1/8 in height. and the width of the bottle about 2 and 1/2 inches in diameter. My question is can I use to make a new batch or add it to one of my other batches???? I usually get a few little squiggles in my bottled kombucha but have never gotten a scoby???

  54. Sabrina, was it warmer than normal when you left it out?

    I’m no expert for sure, but I think that when you get a scoby, no matter where, then you can use it to make more. Sounds like it’s small-ish, though…maybe you could use more than one in a batch to make more…? Sorry I’m not more help.

  55. I thought I’d read everything on kombucha when I first got started about 5 years ago, but some of this info was new to me.
    I am not convinced that Lipton is the way to go. I only use organic tea and organic sugar, following Sally Fallon’s advice, though it would certainly be cheaper to go with conventional. The issue for me, though, is much bigger than just what does it do for the kombucha (organic white sugar and organic tea make great kombucha, btw), but what it does for the planet. Conventional agriculture is so destructive of the environment, and the farm workers who have to handle pesticides etc.
    Also, I use black tea as a base with every batch but I also usually throw in an additional herbal tea blend for taste variety and it’s never been a problem. Some experiments have been tastier than others, true! And then I go back to the basic recipe to make sure the mother is happy.
    I agree with keeping it out of closets, away from electrical gear, and in general in a clean, airy environment, away from direct sun or heat sources. I have just experimented for the first time with the double-fermentation method (from using guava juice for the second fermentation. I used way too much juice, doing it from memory without reviewing the recipe, but it turned out great. I’ll use less next time to keep the sugar down, but it tastes much less sweet than straight juice.
    I find kombucha scobys to be pretty darned hardy if you give them the right environment and food. They are amazing colonies.
    I’ve never had mold or any contamination that I’m aware of (and I often let my brewed tea and sugar mixture cool down overnight, because I used to make one double batch at a time and it takes a long time for 6 quarts of boiled water to cool off; it’s never hurt my kombucha). However, it did give me pause a few months ago when I read an essay by the mycologist Paul Stamets blasting kombucha and warning that people are brewing toxic stuff. But I am quite sure from my experience that making and drinking kombucha has been good for me and has helped me with systemic candida. I also like KT’s/Synergy if I’m out and about and need something to drink. I’m never tempted to buy soda (I wouldn’t anyway) or even water in a plastic bottle, and I do reuse their bottles for my own kombucha and water kefir drinks. I usually take my own bottle of kombucha or water kefir with me. You could say I’m a little crazy for the good bacteria!
    Thanks for the info.

  56. My curiosity has been peeked as one would say. I’ve got a couple of questions about kombucha tea.

    1) I usually take around 3 teaspoons of cayenne pepper a day, I usually mix it with vegetable juice. Cayenne pepper is another one of God’s wonderful medicinal creations. Any known side effects with drinking kombucha tea when taking cayenne pepper? I would think not but one can never be too sure.

    2) is there a strong smell to kombucha when it’s fermenting? If so, this would probably limit where I would want to put it.

    Thank you.

  57. Hi Kryliss,
    #1: sorry, no idea, but I doubt it would be a problem…
    #2: sometimes I might get a whiff of the fermentation smell, but it’s not right out loud or anything. My son does complain of the “vinegar” smell once in a while.

    Take care,

  58. Readers, Ann Marie (Cheeseslave) has some good scoop on the Lipton tea issue that she’ll be posting soon, I’ll add a link to the post above as soon as it’s live.


  59. I’m in the dusty desert so I put my first batches (2) in 2 different cabinets. Just tasted my first one (over the fridge which I now read on the balancing site is a real bad idea.) It tastes great! It is so dusty here that I would never use the t-shirt I protected with for filtering and because of the dust and the sunlight (skylights) I am concerned about where to keep it. My only non-cabinet option subjects the brew to extreme temperature fluctuations whenever the doors are opened. Also because we have lots of critters I of course do not wish to place the ferment near a fish tank or cat litter box. However, I am concerned because I do not wish to make us ill with a bad ferment like that inconclusive Iowa ’95 case the naysayers keep harping on.

    Also thanks for the info. Now I know that I need to get some bowls instead of more glass jars however storing that size SCOBY in a “hotel” or in the refrigerator would take up a lot of space. So is it OK if part of the SCOBY is folded over on itself during storage? (Always trying to keep backup if I have an accident, for gifting and because the lady that gave me mine and I promised each other to always keep extra in case one of us needs it.) And lastly, if I have a bowl size SCOBY and only have a gallon container for brewing (which is much smaller in diameter) do I just push the extra down into the jar or tear it off somehow?

  60. Sarum,
    I know I keep saying this, but I’m really no expert on Kombucha at all. However, I’m pretty sure that folding it over for storage, or when you’re brewing, is OK.
    Sorry I’m not more confident in my advice for you!

  61. Sarum, I highly recommend the gallon-size Burken jar with lid from Ikea, if you live near one. It’s as wide as it is deep, which is supposed to be good for the scoby. It can spread out and there’s more surface area exposed. Plus it’s very sturdy and more stable than a bowl would be. It also has a lid, so if you need to temporarily stow your scoby in the refrigerator, you just pop on the lid. I do that from time to time if I get too much kombucha and can’t keep up with drinking it fast enough. (This is happening now that I’m also make sodas from water kefir grains.) It doesn’t hurt the scoby at all to be refrigerated for a few days as the colder temperature slows down its metabolism and growth.
    In my experience, scobies are very hardy as long as you don’t expose them to something that will hurt them, such as chlorinated water, or put them in a spot that’s too hot or in direct sunlight.

    As to keeping out dust, I use a clean, folded kitchen towel across the top of the jar, secured by a giant rubber band (the kind you get to hold kitchen garbage bags in place). I then place another clean, folded towel on top of that to keep out flies and dust. No dust can get in unless you’re in a windy spot, which you obviously wouldn’t put your scoby jar in anyway.

  62. Hello. I’ve been drinking GT’s Kombucha & Synergy for 3 or 4 years now. I love it and could drink 2 or 3 a day if I could afford it. At this point I can’t afford one a day. I’ve always wanted to make my own kombucha but never had access to a starter. I live in Grand Rapids, MI. Does anyone know anyone with starter babies who might be willing to share?

  63. Danielle,
    You probably read above that I no longer have my starter. Hopefully someone else nearby will see this, otherwise it would be worth it to just get a new one from Betsy.

  64. I like the comment about how it seems that you’ll need to buy a new batch from “Betsy”, if you haven’t followed these very stringent guidelines.

    I guess pretty much everyone who has ever made KT has made it wrong.

  65. Hi, I have a question.I made my first batch of Kombucha the one thing I did not do after I bottled it was let it sit out for a few days I put it right in the fridge.
    It tastes great but I don’t think I’m getting all the benefits since I skipped this step. I have started my second brew and this one will be done step by step.
    Just wanted to ask if I should keep what I have in my fridge and did I totally mess it up?
    Thank you and your blog is great.

  66. Hi Allison,

    It’s fine, but probably just not as fizzy as it might be if you’d left it out longer. :)


  67. Hi Kelly ,
    Thanks for posting all of this info. How was your experience ordering through Laurel Farms? I ordered my kombucha kit over 3 months ago..and I’m still waiting. I’ve talked to Betsy…but still nothing has shipped.
    I’m wondering if this is normal.

    • Hi Sarah,

      I got mine right away, but you’re not the first one complaining about their customer service. As a matter of fact, I’m going to make note of that in the post… 3 months is unacceptable.


  68. Kelly,

    Where do you get distilled water for brewing KT? Do you distill it yourself? I just HATE the idea of buying bottled water–it goes against so many of my principles.


  69. thank you for the wealth of info here and the encouragement to all that can read to join us and enjoy the kombucha experience.

    however, the statment i will quote below kinda lit my fuse, so here goes….

    “”The following information and tips are from Betsy. She has a best-selling Kombucha book out and was the first to bring the Kombucha to the U.S. in 1993 (from a remote village in Northern China). “”

    1993 ??? REALLY ? ? ? ?

    well now my friends, that quoted statement is the epitome of SOUTHERN-FRIED-HORSE-$$HIT, i was drinking this swill in the mid 1960’s, and yes making it in recycled gallon glass pickle jars then too, “recycled” wasn’t even a word then, with lipton tea, yes lipton tea was around even way back then, and we had rubberbands too,

    just for grins let me ask all of you what was the earliest date you were exposed to kombucha ??

    “first to bring it to the USA in 1993” ain’t even poetic liscense, it’s an outright LI_. yeah and al gore invented the internet….

    ok thanx for letting me get that off my chest
    brew and drink kombucha, live well and bee happy.
    mark j.

    • Maybe she meant she was the first to make it more popular here, but even that seems like a silly statement now, so yeah, I tend to agree with you now that I’m older and wiser. I should go back and edit some of this post when I get a chance… Or maybe write a whole new post about it…

      Thanks for the nudge. :)


    read some of your other blogs, top notch stuff there, like the beef tallow, keep up the good work ! ! !

    oh yeah, betsy and her “fda” , it wasnt that many years ago, a federal agency took over a legal house of prostitution in nevada for some tax offense, couldnt even get that right, went belly up…… i’ll stick with the old russian or asian instructions, try to incorporate a bit of good sense, an listen to my body.

    here’s todays chuckle, an god said man would find good and obedient wives in all corners of the world. then she made the earth round. and laughed and laughed and laughed…..

    thanx again an keep up the good work.
    mark j

  71. Hi Kelly,

    I haven’t read through all the comments so I’m sorry if this question has been asked, but is it possible to revive your “vinegar patty?” If I start following the suggestions now? Also why is double fermentation bad? Isn’t it better than not drinking the vinegar tea at all? What was the exact reason again?


  72. I know this post is very old but I take umbrage at this comment: “The following information and tips are from Betsy. She has a best-selling Kombucha book out and was the first to bring the Kombucha to the U.S. in 1993 (from a remote village in Northern China).”

    That’s BS. I was making Kombucha in the 70s and it didn’t come from China at all. It all started in Russia first of all and if she first brought it in 1993 what were we doing back then? Making real Kombucha! Get the facts straight and if this ‘Betsy” says this is true she is very much incorrect.
    Just wanted to set that straight.

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