Kombucha bottles

Kombucha bottling basics

How to choose the best bottles for your brew

I’ve been bottling home-brew kombucha for years. Various bottle options exist — some better than others! Accumulating the right bottles for a good home-brew stash can take creativity and knowledge about the brewing process.

Recall in the kombucha brewing and fermentation process the first fermentation (F1) is when your sweet tea ferments and is transformed into kombucha by your SCOBY. Then, the second fermentation (F2) is when you flavor your kombucha and bottle at room temperature to create tasty flavors. Proper bottles in this stage ensures safety and quality fizz in your brews.

What to avoid

Low-quality bottles cause tainted brews, or loud, messy, potentially harmful explosions.

Plastic is avoided by nearly all kombucha brewers as the fermented tea is a living drink, and could eventually start eating away at plastic. 

Steer clear of flip-top bottles, found at homegoods stores like IKEA, which are meant to be decorative. These bottles are made of thin glass that cannot withstand the pressure produced during the home-brew kombucha process.

I also avoid square bottles, as the shape doesn’t handle pressure, making the bottle vulnerable to explosions.

What to embrace

Good-quality, food-grade glass is best.

I use both dark and clear glass bottles in my brews and keep them out of direct sunlight during the process. 

Single-Serve bottles

Second-hand stores like Goodwill are a good option to score vintage flip-top bottles. I have found old European beer bottles with nice ceramic tops. Beware of cracked and dried seals with these finds, however. They won’t hold a seal and pose a risk for becoming unsealed during F2. What this means: bottle explosions.

I prefer green glass 16-ounce Grolsch bottles for when I want to enjoy kombucha by myself or take it on the go. These bottles are durable, pressure-rated, and convenient to utilize in the flavoring stage, widely-known as F2; Fermentation Two. 

When I need bottles, I pick up a four-pack of this beer at a local liquor store. My dear husband takes care of the contents for a per-bottle cost of $2.11. We wash them up good, remove labels, and they’re ready for kombucha!

Bottles like this can also be purchased at brewery supply stores or other retailers like Northern Brewer

Decide which bottle size is best for you. Larger bottles are ideal for sharing. Typical 16-ounce bottles suit single servings.

Reusable store bottles

GT’s and Kevita offer a decent bottle option when reused for home-brew. The larger opening makes it nice for larger fruit experimentation during F2.

Make sure you retain any paper/plastic liners on the inner portion of the caps; they help keep carbonation in the bottle. 

In my opinion, the best store bottle for reuse is Health-Ade. After roughly 30 uses, the seal has given me no issue and retains a tight airlock.

A word of caution: cap quality on retail kombucha typically isn’t meant for re-use. Seals often loosen, resulting is less-fizzy kombucha. 

Sharing Size

Island Orchard Cider out of Door County makes a delicious alcoholic cider that is distributed in Wisconsin. The 750ml cider bottles are wonderful for home-brew kombucha when you want to share with a friend. Each bottle holds about 25 ounces.

Bottles like this can also be found at brewery supply stores or other retailers.

So, what about mason jars?

As a home gardener and maker of sauces, I have an impressive stash of mason jars from over the years. I really wanted these to work when I started my home brew.

But, these vessels don’t hold carbonation the right way. I haven’t been able to find a consistent fizz, and most of my efforts end up flat with black mold establishing on the lid. I just can’t recommend mason jars for your F2.

Establishing your scoby

Your patience will pay off

As I previously discussed in an earlier post and my how-to classes, you must remember it will take a while for the Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (scoby) to develop when you first get your homebrew kombucha going. Understanding the need for patience pays off, as scoby health is vital to your brew’s success. 

As you get started, you’ll notice after a few weeks your scoby will fully cover your vessel’s surface and begin to thicken. When it gets to be about a half-inch thick, it is time to exchange out most of the old sweet tea with a fresh batch. Remember to retain a couple of inches at the bottom, though. This is where all the good stuff hangs out.

Your scoby will keep growing and gaining more yeasts, which look like tentacles. This is also a good time to get into your weekly grove. Will you brew on Sundays? Wednesdays? It’s up to you and your schedule!

As your scoby gets thicker and builds up yeast, the first couple of batches (your weekly processes) may not deliver the full fizz and flavor you desire. Don’t fret one bit; remember, this takes time. You will notice a significant difference as your scoby matures. 

Keep in mind there are lots of beneficial yeasts and bacteria retained in the strong starter liquid during the weekly process. Just like your scoby, this affects the overall flavor the more it matures.

An optimal scoby
An optimal scoby

What does a scoby actually do?

A scoby transforms your sugary, sweet tea into a healthy kombucha. The bacteria and yeast in a mature, healthy scoby break down the tea’s sugars and convert them into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and acids. The resulting fizz and slight tang is a taste kombucha lovers crave.

More specifically, the scoby consumes your sugar and tea tannins. Yes, you read that right — your scoby is living and eating! So it is important for the scoby to be as healthy and well-established as possible.

The scoby plays another role, that of a surface protector. As your scoby gets really thick, you will notice bubbles developing underneath its surface. This is a good sign the scoby has formed a type of seal, allowing your brew to do good work.

Elderberries and jar of elderberry syrup

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Elderberry syrup improves immunity

Interested in keeping happy and healthy amid the threat of COVID-19? Don’t want to dish out $20 for retail elderberry syrup? You’re in the right place.

Benefits of elderberry

During a recent how-to class, I showed the participants how to make a delicious elderberry-flavored kombucha. Elderberries pack a powerful punch in assisting your immunity.

Elderberry syrup can be made with dried elderberries, honey, and herbs for an immune-boosting syrup. They naturally contain vitamins A, B, and C and stimulate the immune system. Research has found the complex sugars in elderberries support the immune system in fighting cold and flu.

Uses throughout history

These tiny berries, most often found dried in the bulk section of any natural grocery store, have been used for generations in folk medicine for seasonal immunity. Native Americans utilized the entire elder bush, and used some parts to specifically treat fever and rheumatism. The leaves have been used as an insect repellent and insecticide. In 1993 the syrup treated victims of the Panama flu pandemic.

The bush’s root was once used as purgative but is poisonous to humans due to a cyanide-inducing chemical compound.

According to Scandinavian folklore, the elder bush is said to be sacred to Frau Holle, the feminine spirit of the woods and plants, represented in various cultural stories. Associated with fertility and rebirth, she was known to watch over children during the cold months. Holding authority over life’s end, she was a bridge between life and death.

Katie holding elderberry syrup

How to use elderberry syrup

Implement a spoonful into your daily routine to keep your defenses up. I take a tablespoon daily before bed from January – May to boost immunity.

Implement a spoonful in your daily routine to keep your defenses up. I take a tablespoon daily before bed to boost immunity from January – May. This makes for a sweet nighttime ritual during the cold Wisconsin winters and cool, damp springs. Each time you take a sip, notice how the syrup affects you and your energy levels. Feels good to take care of yourself, doesn’t it?

The timeline also aligns with times of the year that I travel for work. Spending time in airports, buses, shared-ride services, and hotels can test anyone’s immune system. I view elderberry syrup as another layer of protection, in addition to the best practices of hygiene and frequent handwashing.

As with everything, please take elderberry in moderation. Too much may have adverse, diuretic effects.

If you are lucky enough to have an elderberry shrub, you can harvest its berries. The shrub (best in Grow Zones 3-9) will produce fruit after three years and can be used in landscapes for white blossoms in addition to the dark, dramatic, beneficial berries.

My Syrup Recipe

3 cups water
2/3 cup black elderberries (dried)
6 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger (dried or minced is acceptable, but I prefer fresh)
2 tsp  cinnamon
2 tsp cloves
1 cup raw, local honey


  1. Place three cups water into a medium saucepan and add the elderberries, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.
  2. Bring to a boil and cover loosely (place a wooden spoon handle between your pot and cover for venting).
  3. Reduce to a low simmer for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half, stirring occasionally.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir in honey, let cool a bit.
  6. Pour through a strainer or cheesecloth into a glass mason jar.
  7. Discard the elderberries after you thank them for their service.
  8. Cover your jar with a lid and refrigerate.
Beautiful scoby

Early expectations

Your patience will be rewarded

Getting your scoby happy at home may take some time. Let’s talk about expectations for the first few weeks of your home-brewing kombucha.

First, take a couple of breaths. It will take a few weeks for your scoby to grow across the surface of your brewing vessel. During my how-to classes I call this the First Timers Club!

The key to healthy and productive homebrew is a thick, yeasty, happy scoby. There’s no good way to rush this process, so enjoy watching it grow. Check on your scoby and brew every couple days, but be careful to not open the filtered top or disturb your jar much.

Slow but steady progress

Depending on the warmth of your brewing environment, after a few weeks your scoby will start to look a bit like a thick, creamy gel. Pictured below is my very first attempt, after 15 days.

Early stages of scoby
My first attempt after 15 days

Because the length of time may vary, but is usually longer than normal for a continuous brew, I recommend you start with significantly less tea than a full brew your first time. Consider your first batch your investment. It will be helping your scoby develop for weeks, but won’t produce anything delicious. 

When your scoby has spread over the surface and is getting thicker, you are ready to start over with Step 1 again. Now’s the time to pour your brew down the sink, but retain the scoby and a couple of inches of liquid in your vessel. The brew will be too vinegary to bottle your kombucha.

You’re almost there!

Below is my first attempt after 24 days. See how the scoby has spread over the surface, and has gotten thicker? I had a little air bubble pop up the scoby here, which is normal. Just gently shake a jar a bit to dislodge.

Mature scoby
My first attempt after 24 days

Depending on the temps in your brewing space, lengths differ. Expect it to be six to eight weeks before your first really good and satisfying brews.

Need some help getting started?

To get more tips and techniques, sign up for one of my how-to classes, or get a group of friends together for a private event.

The Booch Witch is happy to offer email support to those who have registered for her classes, or purchased one of her products.

Everything You Need To Begin Brewing Kombucha

Premium Starter Kit and Scoby Sets Available Now

Ready to home-brew your own kombucha? Get all the essentials to start your journey here. The Booch Witch has collected the highest-quality organic and natural ingredients. I am pleased to share them with you, along with many insights I have collected along the way.

I offer two options: a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) starter set — you provide the other ingredients and vessels; and a premium starter kit, which includes everything you’ll need to brew your first batch and beyond!

The Booch Witch Premium Starter Kit  

This kit has everything you need to get your homebrew started (you can even add a gallon-size jar!) and includes easy-to-follow instructions.

What’s included?

  • Kombucha Starter SCOBY Set
  • Raw Sugar
  • Organic Green Tea
  • Generous Filters and Bands
  • The Booch Witch one-gallon jar and a screw-top lid. 
    • A solid, quality jar made in the USA. USDA approved, dishwasher safe, and BPA-free.
    • DIMENSIONS: 10″ tall, 4″ wide mouth.
  • The Booch Witch’s special 7-step instructions sheet

Shop now!

The Booch Witch Starter Scoby Set 

Ready to brew kombucha at home, but are in need of a SCOBY? This hand-raised scoby set from The Booch Witch will jumpstart the process. 

With no artificial flavors or vinegar added, these special babies are raised on green and hibiscus teas, natural sugars, and a whole lot of love. Each starter set is strong, ready to go, and will get you started in your own brewing vessel. Includes the Booch Witch’s special instructions.

Shop now!

Get everything you need, plus a class to learn the craft

If you’re one of those people who likes to know all the steps of a process before beginning it yourself, you’re in luck! The Booch Witch includes a starter scoby set with every paid admission to Booch Witch how-to class registrations. Learn more about our events and view the upcoming schedule.

Don’t see an event near you? Use the contact form to shoot me an email and let’s see what we can do.

Final disclaimer

The Booch Witch cannot guarantee your home-brew success. Please keep me posted on your success along the way. I am always happy to help customers troubleshoot and provide guidance!

Jars of kombucha flavor examples

Kombucha recipes and flavor inspiration

Where do I get my ideas?

I suspect those who make kombucha at home love to experiment with different flavors.  Drinking a few customized blends during the week is a fun way to use the fruits you love based on your tastes.

I regularly use hibiscus and lavender syrups in addition to fresh and frozen fruit. The easiest thing I regularly use is thawed, frozen organic fruit like cherries, blueberries. However, the best booch I’ve made uses all-natural, organic fruit available at your local natural grocery stores and co-ops like Basics Co-op in Janesville.

Make Your Own Seasonal Varieties

Pomegranates come into the stores in southern Wisconsin in the early winter. I’ve heard poms are called Nature’s Most Laborious fruit, which is true. But they are a treasured addition to your ferments. I like eating them at the end of a bottle. They make for a delicious little burst in your mouth and they are full of vitamin C and antioxidants

Fresh strawberries in June, along with a leaf of basil from your garden or pot is never a bad choice. Feeling frisky? Throw some cilantro in with a hunk of fresh tomato. And then, when you pop that bottle open, look to a shot of good-quality vodka for an adult version of your booch.

Have some leftover watermelon or honeydew from your family picnic? See a good special on pineapples or grapes? Buy a variety you’d like to copycat? Want to see what happens to a marshmallow? The fun of home-brew is that there truly are no limits to your creativity.

I’ll Be Making This Again!

But it isn’t just about the added fruit. Good booch has to be more complex than a straight single flavor. Like a little spice and zest? Throw a hunk of ginger into a bottle. Like some heat? Try a slice of fresh jalapeno with some pineapple. Feel cold season coming on? Use an orange, honey, lemon, and cayenne to your advantage. Miss soda? Throw in some vanilla bean with a tasty peach. 

Some of the best mixtures my friends and I have enjoyed the most include:

  • Ginger Cherry
  • Peach Pear Honey
  • Apple Mint
  • Orange Rosemary
  • Cranberry Orange Ginger
  • Raspberry Chia
  • Peppermint Mocha
  • Blackberry Ginger
  • Strawberry Lemon Mint

Have a question on a flavor or fruit? Would you like to share an idea or favorite recipe? Drop me a line!

Pouring kombucha into a handled pouring bowl

New Year, New Habits

Happy New Year!

As you look to your new healthy habits and resolutions, remember The Booch Witch can help you sustain and maintain your goals. Kombucha isn’t just about weight loss; this is about being kind to yourself. 

The regular intake of kombucha has benefits which can:

  • Detoxify, helping you maintain a weight loss
  • Decrease inflammation, riding you of stubborn fat 
  • Help you cut back on alcohol and high-sugar drinks

Here’s my story

A handful of years ago, after losing a couple of pounds the old fashioned way, with diet and exercise, I stumbled upon kombucha in the store. I was looking to maintain my weight loss by paying better attention to what I put in my body. And, I knew the diet sodas had to go. I picked a bottle of retail booch and brought it to work. I was hooked on what would become my new, healthier afternoon pick-me-up instantly. I liked the natural flavors of the sweet, tart and fizzy drink. But, the $3 here and there were starting to add up.

I looked into brewing my own kombucha, did the math, and talked with some long-time brewers for advice on how to best get myself started. In May of 2017, I plopped my first starter kit into a jar and off I went! I’ve incorporated this healthy habit into a weekly routine and incorporating my own creative, bold flair and personal taste as much as I can. 

Taking the next step

As I’ve shared booch with friends throughout the year I’ve found many are interested in starting this process for themselves, and just need some guidance. This is where The Booch Witch comes in, offering educational classes and the tools you need to get started in one place.

Sign up to receive my newsletter to hear stories, news, and answers to class questions. Be sure to register for my Feb. 22 class at Basics Co-op in Janesville, and check back soon for info on how you can order your very own Booch Witch starter kit!

Thanks for swinging through, and stay tuned! I’ve got oodles of plans.