Kombucha has a great taste and some super cool health benefits, however drinking it regularly can get expensive.
Store bought kombucha usually costs $3-5.00 dollars a bottle. Home brewing kombucha however, is much cheaper. After an initial investment of $30-40.00 for equipment, the price of home brewed kombucha is only $0.50-$1.00 per 16 oz bottle.
In this article, I'll go over why store bought Kombucha is so expensive, how home brewed booch compares, and whether or not kombucha is worth its high price tag. Let's get started!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
The Price of Store Bought Kombucha
Store bought kombucha usually costs from 3-5 dollars a bottle, which is a pretty hefty price when compared to most other drinks.
The reason that kombucha is so expensive is because of how unique of a beverage it is. Since it’s a fermented drink made with a living culture of bacteria, the brewing process is very specific and detail oriented, which also means more expensive.
For one, kombucha brands usually brew their booch in lots of small batches that need to be constantly monitored and adjusted by someone, which makes it a very labor intensive process. And labor is expensive.
Another reason for the high price of kombucha is that the glass bottles it comes in are much more expensive than the plastic or aluminum bottles used for other drinks. The reason kombucha has to be stored in glass is because the living bacteria and yeast culture in it is very sensitive to the chemicals and BPAs in plastic and metal.
Lastly, kombucha is technically perishable and needs to be refrigerated, which means more expensive storage at the brewing facility, and more expensive shelf space at the grocery store or gas station where it’s being sold, driving the price up for the end consumer.
The Price of Home Brewed Kombucha
Store bought kombucha is great because of its convenience and availability, but if you plan on drinking kombucha regularly and don’t want to shell out $4 a bottle, you can actually brew kombucha yourself for a fraction of the cost.
This article is all about the price of kombucha, but if you want to learn how to brew kombucha at home you should read my article How to Make Kombucha in 5 Easy Steps - The Ultimate Home Brewing Guide here.
There are two main costs when it comes to home brewing kombucha:
1. The initial investment of equipment
2. The recurring costs of ingredients every time you brew
1. Cost of the initial investment for Home Brewing Kombucha
When you first get into home brewing kombucha, there are a few items you'll need to buy before you get started. These are items you’ll only have to buy once, and will then be able to reuse for every brew after.
The SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is the bacteria culture that ferments the sweet tea that kombucha begins as into sweet and sour kombucha.
There are 3 main ways to get a SCOBY. You can:
Get one from a friend
Buy one online
Or make one yourself
I cover in detail all three of these options in my SCOBY Guide if you want to learn more about each one.
If you have a friend that brews booch, having them peel off a piece of their growing SCOBY and give it to you is the easiest option. But if you don’t know someone who brews, your next best choice is to buy a SCOBY online, since making it yourself will take at least a month.
If you do decide to buy a SCOBY online, I recommend buying one from Fermentaholics. This is the SCOBY I used to begin home-brewing kombucha and it still works great. Their SCOBYs are USDA certified organic, come delivered alive in mature starter tea, with good size, and only cost $13. You can find Fermentaholics SCOBY on Amazon here.
The brewing vessel is the container that will hold the tea and SCOBY while the kombucha is going through its first fermentation. This is usually at least 1 gallon large and made of glass, since plastic and metal have chemicals that will rub off into the acidic kombucha and hurt the bacteria culture.
If you already have a large glass jar or pitcher at home, then you won’t have to worry about this cost. But even if you don’t, 1 gallon glass jars are pretty cheap and easy to find.
You can save a trip to the store by getting your glass kombucha jar on Amazon. This pack of two 1 gallon glass jars will allow you to get started brewing kombucha quickly and for a great price (it’s Amazon Prime Eligible). You can check it out on Amazon here.
Fermenting or brewing bottles are used during the part of the brewing process known as 2nd fermentation, when the kombucha develops carbonation and flavor.
These bottles are made specifically for brewing things like beer, kefir, and kombucha. Their air tight seal allows for a build up of pressure, which creates carbonation in the kombucha. And since they’re built specifically for fermentation, they can handle pressures of up to 58 PSI without exploding like cheaper bottles can.
The brewing bottles I use are a set of 6, 16oz high pressure bottles with ceramic lids and stainless steel closures.
A fun and unique thing about this set is that it comes with a dry erase marker which you can use to write or draw whatever you want on the bottles and then easily erase it after. I use it to write the flavor and date before I begin my second fermentation.
These bottles have served me well over dozens of home-brews and can serve you well too. If you’re interested you can find them on Amazon here.
2. Recurring cost of ingredients for home brewing kombucha
These are items that you'll use up and need more of every time you brew booch.
Sugar is used every time you brew kombucha. It serves as food for the bacteria and yeast culture, which processes it into alcohols, acids, and gases
I’ve written an entire article about the best sugar for brewing kombucha which you can check out here. But the gist of it is that using organic cane sugar is best for your kombucha's flavor and your SCOBYs health.
If you don't have any at home, you can get a 3lb bag of Anthony's Premium Organic Cane Sugar for only $10.99 on Amazon here.
The general rule is to use a cup of sugar per gallon of booch. So if we base it off of the price of the bag above, the cost of sugar to make 16oz or 1 bottle of home brewed kombucha is $0.22
Whether you choose to use black, green, white or oolong tea for your kombucha doesn’t really matter, what does matter is that the tea you use is caffeinated. Since the SCOBY needs caffeine as a nutrient to stay healthy.
The price of the tea you use can vary a lot based on its color, quality, and whether it’s in bags or is loose leaf.
A $9 Pack of Lipton Black Tea comes with 312 bags. This is of course not the highest quality tea available, but it’ll work and is affordable. The cost of making 16oz or 1 bottle of kombucha with them is only $0.03
Although tea bags work for making kombucha, using a higher quality loose leaf tea will give your brew a better taste, more health benefits, and extra nutrients for you and your SCOBY.
The reason for this is because loose leaf tea has larger and higher quality tea leaves. Their larger surface area and the extra space around them allows them to absorb more water and expand as they infuse, which leads to more water flowing through the leaves, bringing out extra nutrients, minerals, aromas, and flavors from the tea.
My favorite loose leaf black tea is Vahdams 100% Pure Loose Leaf Darjeeling Black Tea. This tea, grown in the Himalayas, makes strong kombucha with a lot of flavor and will give your SCOBY all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. You can find large bags of Vahdams black tea for a bargain on Amazon here.
The cost of making 16oz or 1 bottle of kombucha with Vahdams loose leaf black tea is $0.33
Is Kombucha Worth the Price?
As you can see, the price of home brewed kombucha is significantly less than store bought.
While a bottle of store bought kombucha on average costs $4, home brewed kombucha, after an initial investment of up to $40, can be brewed for a recurring cost of only $0.50-$1 a bottle.
This large difference in price of store bought and home brewed kombucha really makes you question whether or not store bought kombucha is worth it.
I do still think that store bought kombucha, although expensive, has its place. Home brewing takes time and effort, while buying it at the store is super easy and convenient. If you don’t have the time to brew it yourself and have the budget for it, I don't see a problem with regularly buying kombucha from the store.
If however, you’re like me and can’t regularly shell out $4 for a bottle of booch, home brewing is the way to go.
Looking at the numbers, if you want to drink 1 bottle of kombucha a week for a year, buying it at the store is going to cost you $208. While making it yourself, including the initial investment in equipment, will cost you less than $75. That’s a savings of $133
And the more often you drink kombucha, the more money you save. If you drink a bottle of kombucha every day for a year, buying it from the store is going to cost you around $1460, while brewing it yourself, including the initial investment, will cost you less than $300. That’s over $1000 saved.
And there are other reasons to home brew kombucha besides saving money. It’s a really fun and easy hobby, plus it allows you to know exactly what is in your kombucha and make and flavor it exactly how you want to.
Although kombucha is an expensive drink, I still buy it from the store when I'm away from home or see a really yummy flavor I want to try. However, since I can make gallons of the stuff for almost no cost at home, it doesn't really make sense for me to buy it for $4 at the store very often.
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, be sure to check out the rest of my website!