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Kombucha Equipment, Cleanliness & Sanitation

We may like it raw here at RBC, but getting down dirty isn’t really how you want to go about making kombucha. While hard kombucha has its charm, you certainly wouldn’t want to venture into making “trashcan booch.” Ensuring a clean environment and using the right equipment are non-negotiables in kombucha production. Understanding proper cleaning techniques and maintaining a well-equipped kombucha toolbox are fundamental to the brewing process. So, let’s gear you up, but first, it’s time to clean up.

Hand Washing

We’re not suggesting a surgical level of hand hygiene, but a thorough wash, preferably with antibacterial soap, is essential. This is a point we emphasize repeatedly at the RBC brewery, where handwashing is a regular activity throughout the brewing process, and gloves are a constant companion. While gloves aren’t mandatory for home brewing, they are a beneficial addition, especially for those with long fingernails, a notorious hiding place for dirt. Given that brewing involves handling various items, we recommend emulating our practice at the brewery by washing hands at different stages of the process. Now that you’re all cleaned up, let’s delve into the essential brewing tools.

Brewing Tools

To kickstart your brewing journey, here’s a handy shopping list, unless you’re fortunate enough to have these items already. If not, our shop is stocked with almost everything you need. Securing the right vessel, utensils, and bottles is crucial if you aim to brew quality, consistent kombucha.


Choosing the right vessel for fermenting your brew is crucial—it’s a matter of respecting the brew. When selecting the perfect vessel, consider both its size and material.

Clear Glass Vessels:

Glass is a popular choice among homebrewers due to its availability, affordability, and ease of cleaning. It’s a non-reactive material, ensuring a safe fermentation process. The transparency of glass allows brewers to observe the fermentation, which is particularly exciting for enthusiasts. However, glass vessels have a downside—they let in light, which can be detrimental to the brew. While storing in a cupboard is ideal, if left on a countertop, it should be kept out of direct sunlight.

Ceramic and Stoneware Vessels (Fermentation Crocks):

Ceramic and stoneware vessels, often family heirlooms, are easy to clean and non-reactive. They are typically used by experienced brewers who are familiar with the fermentation process and don’t feel the need to constantly monitor it. If opting for this type, ensure it is food-grade, as many decorative ceramics are not suitable for fermentation.

Stainless Steel Vessels:

At RBC, we prefer stainless steel vessels for large-scale, commercial production. Contrary to some beliefs, stainless steel is not harmful to your SCOBY. It is a widely used material in the fermentation of beer, wine, kombucha, and spirits. For beginners, however, we recommend transparent vessels for easy observation without uncovering the brew.

HDPE Plastic Vessels:

The only acceptable plastic for brewing kombucha is HDPE (high-density polyethylene), commonly found in 5-gallon food grain pails. While not our top recommendation, it is used successfully by many small breweries and homebrewers globally. HDPE can withstand strong acids, making it suitable for kombucha’s low pH. Proper brewing in an HDPE vessel should yield quality kombucha comparable to that from preferred materials. Note that HDPE can leach if left in sunlight, but kombucha should not be exposed to direct sunlight anyway. Avoid using any plastics other than HDPE.

Materials to Avoid:

Steer clear of crystal/colored glass, inferior stainless steel, brass, aluminum, cast iron, consumer-grade plastics, rubbers, and any materials not listed in the approved section above. These are unsuitable for kombucha production.

Size Matters:

The diameter and depth of your vessel affects the brew’s fermentation capacity. Generally, larger vessels take a bit longer to finish. Balancing these factors is especially important in production.


When it comes to brewing kombucha, being discerning about your utensils is just as important as choosing the right brewing vessel. The utensils you use to interact with your brew can significantly impact the brewing process and the quality of your kombucha.

Tongs and Spoon:

The quintessential tools for any kombucha homebrewer are a pair of tongs and a spoon. These should ideally be made of hard plastic or metal. Since they won’t be in constant contact with your brew or SCOBY, they don’t need to adhere to the same stringent guidelines as the vessel. However, it’s advisable to avoid utensils made from absorbent materials such as wood, rubber, or silicone, as these are harder to clean and can harbor unwanted contaminants like bacteria, yeast, and mold spores.

Handling SCOBY:

Tongs are essential for handling your SCOBY. It’s not recommended to handle a SCOBY with your hands, even if they are freshly washed, as tongs can be cleaned more thoroughly, reducing the risk of contamination.

Choosing the Right Spoon:

If you decide to invest in a kombucha-dedicated spoon, ensure it’s long enough to reach the bottom of your vessel. That way you can stir your kombucha effectively (if so desired) before the second ferment, ensuring that the yeasty bits, which contribute the most to carbonation, are evenly distributed in the liquid.

Hingeless Tongs:

When choosing tongs, opt for stainless steel hingeless ones. A hinge can create crevices where contaminants might hide, posing a risk to your brew. Being meticulous about the cleanliness and quality of your utensils is a small step that can make a big difference in brewing kombucha successfully.

Brewing Station Cleanliness

Maintaining cleanliness is non-negotiable when it comes to brewing kombucha. A clean workstation and utensils are the foundation of a healthy and successful brew. Thankfully, in a home setting, achieving this doesn’t require anything more than some hot, soapy water.

Cleaning Utensils:

Utensils such as spoons, bottles, and tongs must be cleaned diligently before and after every brew, without exception. While some might advise against using antibacterial soap, we firmly believe in its efficacy. At the brewery, we use specialized chemicals and ensure that all our utensils are sanitized before each use. We recommend using antibacterial soap for cleaning both your vessel and utensils. However, it’s crucial to rinse them thoroughly to avoid any soap residue that could affect your brew. Neglecting to clean your brewing tools adequately can lead to mold and culture contamination.

Cleaning Your Vessel:

Your brewing vessel should be washed with antibacterial soap before its first use. However, it doesn’t require washing after every brew. Once you have a brew going, your vessel becomes “seasoned” much like an iron skillet, fostering a thriving community of beneficial yeast and bacteria. If necessary, you can wipe down the outside of your vessel, but extensive cleaning isn’t typically required unless a batch goes bad. In cases of contamination such as mold or kahm yeast, the affected batch should be discarded, and the vessel must be cleaned and sanitized thoroughly.

The Importance of Cleanliness:

Cleanliness is paramount in kombucha brewing. It’s akin to achieving kombucha godliness. Establishing and adhering to a strict cleaning routine is essential. Your brew’s quality and safety depend on it. So, keep things clean, stick to your routine, and happy brewing, booches!

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