Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Homebrew Recipe: Strawberry Kombucha

If I have one regret in writing True Brews, it's that I didn't discover the magical duo of ripe summer strawberries + kombucha until it was too late in the game to add it to the book. This combination is like kismet — it's just meant to be. It's fizzy and tart and sweet and juicy all at the same time. This is drink that (I'm convinced) will make kombucha drinkers out of the kombucha dubious.

Ever since strawberries started showing up again at our markets here in Northern California (the real ones), I've been making batches of strawberry kombucha nonstop. It's the perfect thing to do with those few over-ripe or slightly squished strawberries that inevitably come with every pint basket. Kombucha doesn't care if the strawberries aren't the prettiest in the bunch, and once you take a sip, you won't either.

Kombucha and ginger are old bffs, so I throw some into the jar when I have it. The ginger adds a warm, spicy note that, if possible, makes the strawberries shine even more. Try it both ways and see which you like better.

Also, I don't know how the weather is where you are, but my scobys are loving the warm weather — which at least makes one of us. I can see streams of bubbles filtering up through the layers of scoby and the sweet/tart/fruity flavor is spot on. My bottled kombucha is also fizzy to the max. Love.

Strawberry Kombucha
Makes 1 gallon

3 1/2 quarts water
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 bags black tea (or 1 tablespoons loose tea)
4 bags green tea (or 1 tablespoon loose tea)
2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha
1 scoby
1 pint strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons minced ginger (optional)

Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled.

Remove the tea bags or strain out the loose tea. Stir in the starter tea. Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar and gently place the scoby on top. Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band.

Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won’t get jostled. Ferment for 7 to 10 days. Check the kombucha and the scoby periodically.

After seven days, begin tasting the kombucha. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle.

With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate. Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for your next.

Combine the fermented kombucha, diced strawberries, and ginger (if using) in a clean 1-gallon jar (or divide among smaller jars). Cover the mouth of the jar with a few layers of cheese cloth or paper towels secured with a rubber band. Keep the jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight for two days. Strain the strawberries and ginger from the kombucha and bottle. Leave about a half inch of head room in the bottles.

Store the bottled kombucha at room-temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Refrigerate to stop carbonation and then consume within a month.


  1. Hi Emma,

    Just picked up your book today and I am really enjoying it! I got it for 4 reasons - small batch size brewing, Kombucha, Mead and Beer. I had brewed beer before but the big batch size gets old. One question on your beer mashing technique, have you tried the Brew In A Bag (BIAB) approach? It seems like with BIAB you can just use one pot. Thoughts?

    Best regards
    Dan Matyja
    Garden Grove, CA

  2. Hi, Dan! I've heard of BIAB brewing, but haven't tried it out yet. It sounds like a great option, especially for 5-gallon brewers who want to move from extract to all-grain without investing in lots of new equipment. The only disadvantage seems to be that you don't sparge the grains after removing them -- though like I said, I haven't done a ton of research yet, so I could be wrong on that! Personally, I think with 1-gallon brewing, it's just as easy to mash the grains in a stockpot, empty them into a large strainer, and sparge from there.

    1. Thanks Emma,

      I may try both ways with one of your receipts and see how the turn out, with the batch size it is easier to do. Thanks again for the book and inspiration.


  3. any thoughts on where to get the scoby? I see them for sale on Amazon; Sandor Katz has a list in his book. Also, can the tea be decaf? Husband and I don't drink caffenated drinks.Thanks! Going to buy your book. Camille

  4. Camille - If you don't have any kombucha-brewing friends off of whom you can beg a new scoby, try Cultures for Health ( They sell dehydrated cultures -- they can take a few batches to get going, but are strong once they're fully hydrated and active again. You can also grow your own! The method for it is in my book, or if you're patient enough with my slow posting ability, I'm hoping to have a tutorial for it up on the blog here sometime soon.

  5. Oh, how I also wish I saw this way before summer started. I might give this the next year around. I've never heard about kombucha but I sure love the idea. I might have to just look at it and enjoy the flavors for now.

  6. What do you think about frozen strawberries? Do you think they would work after dethawing?

    I have been using your kombucha recipe from Kitchn for a bit...Three batches in and it's working wonderfully. I just ran an experiment where I doubled the tea. The batch was almost opaque, but still tasted alright. I think your amounts of tea are better. My favorite batch so far is a rasperry-lemon-yerba tea added to black tea bags for flavor addition during fermentation. The liquid is a beautiful pink and is very balanced between sweet and acidic.
    I am thinking the cold weather is changing the composition a bit too...My black tea batch i just processed was the most vinegar-y of all them.

    Thanks for the great advice :)

  7. Hi, Olivia,

    Frozen strawberries work great! In fact, no need to thaw them before using -- I just add them to the jar and top with the kombucha. Their frozen-ness won't hurt the kombucha and they'll thaw gradually.

    Your kombucha experiments sound delicious!

  8. Hi. My wife and I brewed some booch using yerba mate, white, and oolong teas. It fermented for 15 days and second fermented for 5. We flavored it with strawberry (1/4 cup per 16 oz hottle) and ginger (6 coin sized pieces). The problem is the carbonation. We let it sit for 5 days and the end result was a bit flat. is there maybe a trick?

    1. Hi there! My first instinct is that it sounds like the fermentation period might have been a little long -- I've noticed that if I let the kombucha ferment for more than about 10 days and don't bottle it right away, it tends to be a bit flat (even if I add fruit, which gives the yeast another shot of sugar). If it's winter where you live and your house is a bit chilly, that is also a factor -- I never seem to get quite the same super-fizz in the winter! One other factor is if you've just started making kombucha -- it can sometimes take a few batches before things really get going. My advice: make another batch and see if it works better!

  9. Hi just wondering what to use as tea starter if you have never made kombocha before.

    1. Hi, James! You can just pick up a bottle of commercial kombucha at the store. Just make sure it's raw (not pasteurized) and unflavored. I like GT's Original a lot!

  10. Hi Emma,

    Thanks for posting this recipe! I'm brewing for the first time and am super excited to try it. I have two questions though;

    I'm using a scoby my friend passed to me, but I only have about one cup of original tea; how can I expand this to 2 or more cups to use in this recipe?

    I was also wondering if I could double the recipe's proportions directly with an average-sized scoby (I'm using a large container). Will this affect the taste at all?

    1. Hi, Noelle! For the starter tea in this batch, you can use the 1 cup you have and then some store-bought kombucha -- just make sure you pick up a bottle that is raw (not pasteurized) and not flavored. And yes, you can double the batch size and still use your single scoby. The fermentation time may be longer.

  11. Emma, I adore this recipe! My first attempt was practically vinegar, but I let it ferment 13 days...too long. I let the SCOBY freak me out because it was bubbly and science project-looking. But I didn't give up...My second attempt is heaven! 7 days for the tea, 2 days with the berries, 2 days bottled in good strong bottles from Midwest Supplies. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge! I dang near cried when I saw that fizziness bubble up. :)

    1. Angie - Hooray! Glad you stuck with it! Congrats on making some awesome kombucha. Now that strawberries are in season again, I can't wait to make a few batches of strawberry kombucha, myself. :)