You Don’t Need a “Mother” to Make Kombucha

You make kombucha by brewing tea, adding sugar, and adding a starter of some sort. Usually the starter is part of the “mother” (SCOBY) from a previous batch of kombucha but I have just found that adding a little bit of store-bought kombucha also works. I added two tablespoons of GT’s kombucha and two tablespoons of Revive kombucha to sugared tea. Two weeks later there was a perfectly good mother on top of the tea. This is useful to know even if you have a mother if you want to make kombucha slowly. In The Art of Fermentation, Sandor Katz advocates adding a bottle of kombucha into your sugared tea if you don’t have a mother.



10 Replies to “You Don’t Need a “Mother” to Make Kombucha”

  1. I’ve been making kombucha for over two years now, and what’s interesting to me is the large amount of variability from batch to batch. I use the same mother, same recipe, same fermentation jars, etc. — and yet, the results are quite variable. Sometimes the kombucha is fizzy right out of the fermentation jar; sometimes it’s flat. Sometimes it has a pleasant yeasty taste to it (almost like beer), sometimes it’s bland. I wonder why that is.

    I like to do a second fermentation inside sealed, glass bottles. I pour about two or three ounces of apple juice (or other type of juice) into an empty bottle that originally held GT Dave’s-brand kombucha. Then I top it off with my own kombucha (that’s been fermented for 8 – 10 days), seal the bottle tightly, and let it ferment for two or three days. The result is a nicely carbonated beverage. You have to be careful to use juice that’s free of preservatives — otherwise, there is no fermentation.

  2. Thanks for that Alex. I’ve had very variable results and figured I was somehow messing something up. I’m going to try your apple juice hack with my next harvest.

  3. I tried using store bought kombucha to ferment a jug of tea, and I got mold only a couple days in. I threw it out, but would it have been ok? Just skim off the mold like with kraut? Some possible factors: temperature was staying around 90 F, I drank directly out of the bottle of kombucha before using it, lastly I was unsure how much sugar to use and used only about 1/4 cup to a gallon tea.

    Seth: That’s not enough sugar. See my answer to another comment for a reasonable amount.

  4. More details please: How much tea – a quart, a pint, a gallon? How much sugar?
    Where do you put it to ferment – on the counter, in a cupboard? What did you do with the “mother”? Not through her from a train, hopefully.


    Seth: Here are the quantities I use: 1.8 L water, 180 g white sugar, 10 g high quality black tea. I put the jar on the counter. I put spare mothers in the refrigerator.

  5. Twice I tried creating my own mother this way and it didn’t work. I brewed some tea, added sugar, and then added a bottle of GT’s. I then waited 3 weeks — nothing. Maybe there was too much/not enough sugar?

    Seth: Maybe the problem was the GTs. You might try Revive or another brand. Or try 2 T each of several brands. I think there is wide latitude on the sugar.

  6. I have had better luck with bottled water than tap. I believe that not having chlorine from the water treatment inhibits fermentation. Sandor Katz mentions this in his book.

  7. i’ve been brewing kombucha for about 10 years now. i imagine kombucha as a bacteria bath. if you are lucky, the right bacteria congregate and take over. i have had many batches that didn’t work out well–where mold or another unhealthy life form dominated over the brew.

    initially, a few T of kombucha will work to ferment a batch of sweet tea into kombucha, but i do not think that the batch can be used to create new batches of kombucha, if only because of the variability of the bacteria that the brew will come into contact with. there are so many bad bacteria that can thrive in an acidic environment, that i would be afraid of creating a self-sustaining kombucha brew without a scoby. perhaps you weren’t referring to a self-sustaining batch of kombucha in your post. if so, then carry on!

    just my personal hunches here.

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