8 Zero-Waste Tips for Kombucha Homebrewers
There are soooo many great guides out there for folks just starting out brewing kombucha. While it can seem daunting at first, brewing kombucha at home is actually relatively easy to get started doing, and surprisingly cheap, especially when compared to the price for a single bottle of kombucha at a store (I’m not proud to admit that I recently paid seven dollars for a bottle — yikes).
For me, what really drew me to start brewing my own kombucha at home was the potential to produce less waste. Waste from a kombucha habit is already relatively low in comparison to plastic soda or seltzer bottles, since most kombucha is bottled in glass (an infinitely recyclable material). But, there are still the plastic tops, wrapping, master packaging and energy from transportation, and energy to recycle the bottles to consider (ahh, the rabbit hole of trying to go zero waste).
In this post, I’ll share eight tips for keeping your kombucha home-brewing operation zero waste.
Note — this post may not make sense if you don’t have a basic familiarity with the brewing process for kombucha. For a quick guide, check this out.
(psst — If you’re looking to get started brewing kombucha, I’d recommend either begging a friend who already brews to share some SCOBY (kombucha’s starter culture) and teach you their ways, or using a starter kit. I used this one from The Kombucha Shop and it’s really comprehensive.)
Now, without further ado, my eight tips:
Get a supply of bottles and keep reusing them. If you’ve had a bit of a kombucha habit in the past, you can reuse bottles from commercially sold kombucha — just keep in mind you won’t get as much carbonation using this method since the seal on these bottles is usually not great after they've been used once. If buying new bottles, choose something thats totally reusable. A great option that can be reused again and again are swing top bottles — you can get these from most beer brewing supply stores.
Use loose leaf tea in reusable cloth tea bags, or skip the tea bag and strain the tea after brewing. While some commercially made tea bags are compostable, many are not, as they contain plastic fibers in the tea bag material. Ew.
Brew the tea you use more than once before composting (or should I say, komposting? sorry not sorry). Depending on the tea you use, you can usually brew two or three times before you start to really lose the flavor of the tea.
4. Use real, clean cotton cloths, not paper towels, to cover your brew containers.
5. Save rubber bands you get with produce at the grocery store or farmers market and use them to affix your cloth to the top of your brew containers.
6. Use real fruit — not bottled fruit juices, to flavor your kombucha during your second ferment. You can blend your fruits and strain the juice out at home or put whole fruit pieces into your brews to infuse them with flavor during your second ferment.
7. Don’t create labels. You can mark glass bottles and brew jars with essential information like the brew date and the flavor with a dry erase marker. Even better, you can make notes on your phone about what you currently have brewing.
8. Use your SCOBYs to the fullest. After a while of brewing kombucha, you will become truly overrun with SCOBY — it just keeps growing. Share these with friends who want to start brewing (this is a great re-use for clean, old takeout containers), or even get into cooking with your SCOBY. I hear you can make SCOBY beef jerky and fruit leather — and I’m dying to try it. I’m sure you’ll see a post about this on my blog soon!
I hope you all enjoyed this post! Let me know any questions you may have in the comments. If you liked this post, you may be interested in my bottling kombucha story on instagram — you can see that under my featured stories. I’m @slowandsteadman. Happy brewing!