Upstart Kombucha

5 Tips For The Budding Kombucha Brewer from Caleb Hanson at Upstart Kombucha

headshot2 maraMara Rose
Founder & CEO, Hatch Lab

Upstart Kombucha

Meet Caleb Hanson, he’s 33.3% of the Upstart Kombucha founding team and a self-proclaimed tech nerd and product guy who lives in Boulder, Colorado.Caleb Hanson

Upstart Kombucha is dedicated to elegant simplicity. The company launched in 2013, and even as it has grown, it continues to produce just four flavors. This deliberate choice allows Upstart to craft-brew each flavor separately, starting with choosing the right tea, sweetener, herbs, and fruit to create the perfect combo. Their Rose Bud flavor is made with white tea, their Berry Black with black tea, and both Mint Green and Lemon Ginger are made with green tea.

We asked Caleb to share a few tips for budding brewers. Here goes!

5 Tips for Brewing Delicious Kombucha

Tip #1: Experiment With Flavors First

Caleb recommends starting with a flavor experiment. First, select your base tea (black, green, white, oolong, or mate). Next, add a teaspoon (or one tea bag) of the base tea to five mugs. Now, here’s the fun part: Select five different herb and/or fruit combinations and add a different combo to each of the five mugs. For example, mix basil with strawberries, lemon with ginger, or lavender with raspberries. Add about 4 ounces of boiling water to each of the mugs, give the combo a little mix, and let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes. Take a few sips from each mug, and either pick your favorite flavor or keep tweaking the recipe until you get what you’re looking for. Keep in mind that the flavors will evolve during the fermentation process.Tea and herbs

Bonus: Look below for our tea recommendations and giveaway information.

Tip #2: Use Good Water—It Actually Matters

Caleb recommends using either spring water or tap water that you’ve allowed to off-gas for 24 hours. How do you off-gas water? Just put your water in a pot or brewers bucket, cover it with a cloth, and let it sit for 24 hours. This process removes the chlorine that’s found in most tap water. Caleb explains that chlorine can “really screw up the biological process that needs to take place” when brewing a good batch of ’booch.

Tip #3: Don’t Skimp on the Sugar

Chances are you try to limit the amount of sugar you eat. But as tempting as it may be to put in less sugar than kombucha recipes call for, Caleb says, “Don’t do it!” What happens? Too little sugar increases the chances of a moldy SCOBY (which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, the kombucha culture). How sweet your kombucha is when it’s finished is a function of when you choose to stop the fermentation process, not how much sugar is added at the beginning. That means, if you want less sugar in your end product, ferment longer.

Tip #4: Sweetener of Choice? Organic Vegan Cane Sugar

Hold up, did you know that not all sugar is vegan? Turns out, white sugar is often processed using bone char from cattle bones. Who knew? Caleb prefers organic vegan cane sugar for its consistent flavor, rate of fermentation, and because it makes for happy SCOBYs. That said, it’s great to experiment and see how different sweeteners change the process and outcomes for you.Sugar

Tip #5: Invest in a $15 Bottle Capper from your Local Homebrew Store 

This is a simple tool that’s used to put bottle caps on glass bottles (like beer bottles). Caleb says it’s cheaper to buy a bunch of reusable 80¢ beer bottles and 4¢ caps, rather than pricey flip-top bottles (though I admit I love my flip-top bottles, and there is no bottle cap waste). When you finish your primary fermentation, you’ll bottle up your kombucha, add the cap, and let it sit for a day or two before you taste it. Then pop the top on one, give it a taste, and decide if it’s ready to go in the fridge or spend a bit more time on your countertop. When it has the flavor and carbonation you’re looking for, put it in the fridge to stop fermentation. While we’re on the topic of bottles, Caleb warns against using canning jars for your kombucha because they’re designed to let pressure out, which means you’ll end up with kombucha sans that delightful fizz.Bottle Capper

Whether you want to be a kombucha brewer or an informed customer, Caleb’s expert tips can give you a good start. Want to give Upstarta try? If you’re in the western United States, look for Upstart in Whole Foods, Vitamin Cottage/Natural Grocers, and King Soopers.

We’d love to answer your kombucha questions and hear about your brewing triumphs and/or tribulations! Leave a comment below, send an email to, or find us on Facebook.

Bonus! Tea Recommendations

We’d love to recommend two kombucha-brewing teas.

Dark Roast Oolong, Organic from The Tea Spot, a Colorado tea company. Yields approximately 12 gallons of kombucha.
$16 for 2 ounces
COUPON CODE: “HATCH LAB” for 15% sitewide until 8/10/16

Hannah’s Special Tea Blend for the Perfect Kombucha from Kombucha Kamp, which is a blend of organic black, green, white, rooibos, and yerba mate teas. Yields 12 to 16 gallons of kombucha.
$16.95 for 4 ounces

Confused? If you’re new to kombucha making and just want to understand the basics, visit Kombucha Kamp and get their free Kombucha DIY Guide.


Author: Mara Rose
Editor: Maggie Wells & Joy Herbers
Photo: Upstart Kombucha, and AlexeiLogvinovichAnna Mente, and Matt Jordan via Shutterstock


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