Growing beyond home-brewing

Are you a home-brewer whose friends regularly tell you how great your ‘booch tastes? Do you give away bottles and wonder what it would take to make enough to sell? Did you know that the majority of commercial companies started, like you, by brewing in the kitchen at home?

Perhaps you know of a local yoga studio, cafe, or farmers market where potential customers are willing to pay for the product of your passion.

But how to grow?

Let’s assume you already know how to brew great-tasting kombucha at home. You have a garage or a spare room with enough space to convert it into a nano-brewery. You are willing to invest the time and money to go from brewing one or two gallons to make five, ten, or more gallons at a time.

What does it take in terms of equipment, time, and money to rise to the level of commercial production?

We looked into what it takes to produce enough kombucha that can be kept cold in a keg and served on draft to local customers.

Here’s what we found.

Scaling-Up or Scaling-Out?

The first decision you need to make is whether you are going to scale-up, from smaller fermentation containers to larger ones, or scale-out, where you multiply the number of smaller vessels. Some of the biggest ‘booch producers on the planet have scaled-out.

Health-Ade Kombucha has warehouses reputed to hold over 300,000 of the original 2.5-gallon glass jars that Daina Trout and her team started with back in 2012. Likewise, GT Dave is rumored to brew vast quantities in individual glass jars.

The Fermentation Farm in Costa Mesa California also brews in small containers.

You will probably need a larger vessel to boil water and brew tea, but since you already know the formula that works in smaller containers, fermentation should not be a challenge. If you decide to go this route, then all you need is some storage racks and a way to keep the ambient temperature of the fermentation room at 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit. Think space heater hooked to a thermostat and insulation.

But let’s say you decide to scale-up. Then you will need to source larger fermentation vessels as well as learn how fermentation changes as the container size increases.

Turnkey Systems: Keg Outlet

Keg Outlet has three videos on YouTube that show home-brewers, who already know the basics of fermentation, how to scale-up to commercial production. The cost of a system capable of fermenting five gallons and serving from a keg, starts at around $700 if you use the stove to boil water, hand filter the tea and flavorings, and dispense from a keg kit that sits inside a domestic refrigerator. It rises to $1,600 and beyond when the water is heated on a propane burner, fermented in a unit with a built-in filter, and served from a custom kegerator.

How to Make Kombucha in Large Batches to Serve on Draft

This three-minute video outlines the basics of brewing large batches of kombucha. Rather boiling and steeping tea in the typical one or two-gallon stainless steel stovetop pot that many home-brewers use, they demonstrate how to use the equipment they sell to scale-up. Options include:

How to Add Natural Fruit Flavor to Kombucha During Second Fermentation

While no additional equipment is listed, this two-minute video shows how to add fruit to the fermenting vessel for a couple of days to flavor, and how easy it is to strain the liquid by using a kettle with a built-in filter.

How to Keg Kombucha and Serve Kombucha on Draft

Once the kombucha is ready for consumption, some choose to transfer it to various sized bottles that need sanitizing, capping, and labeling before being sold. A much cheaper and easier option is to use kegs and sell it on draft by the glass. Keg Outlet show how in their final video in the series. The equipment choices are:

Turnkey Systems: Stout Tanks

We wrote about Oregon-based Stout Tanks last year. Their guest posting listed prices for the equipment they sell to scale-up a home-brewing operation. Then in May, we interviewed their President, Bill Nootenboom, about their new ‘Symbiosis’ horizontal fermenters that were announced at KKON last year.

The equipment sold by Stout Tanks starts at 7-10 gallons and goes up to over 200 gallons.

Their kombucha-specific website page lists a range of stainless-steel fermenters, boilers, and brite tanks. They note:

Our stainless steel kombucha tanks are designed with top manways or side manways that will allow you to either lift out the SCOBY from the top of the tank, or from the bottom of the tank.  This is especially important in large batches, as the SCOBY can get very heavy.

Prices for the Stout Tank equipment ranges from a low of $770 (for a 10-gallon brew kettle and seven-gallon fermenter) to $1,800 for a 66-gallon Symbiosis fermenter. The majority of their product line is more suited to the needs of brewing 100-200 gallons than an initial scale-up to 5-10 gallons.

You’ll find, however, that many companies who started selling at farmers’ markets and small cafes say their biggest problem was keeping up with demand. Designing a larger system that will still fit in a small space such as a garage saves having to do a second expansion almost as soon as you complete the first round. Indeed, our recent listing of 17 brewery videos includes a couple that specifically mention starting with 40-45 gallon capacity and scaling up from there.

Keg Dispensing

Whether you choose to scale-up or scale-out, the easiest and cheapest way to sell ‘booch is by the glass.This avoids the costs of bottling and labeling. This 14-minute video by Mark Carreno shows a home-brewer making kombucha and then flavoring it in the keg.

This four-minute video from MTO Kombucha in Virginia shows the inner workings of a kegerator.

Case Study: Mark Young of Brew Loka

As mentioned in our recent Brew Loka profile, Mark started brewing in Bend, Oregon. He built an innovative home-based solution in a spare room. He’s been kind enough to share pictures of the equipment he used and explain the minor remodeling involved. This shows what a cost-conscious approach taken by someone with average DIY skills can accomplish.

Mark used two 120L Speidel fermenters he bought from More Beer for $150 each. These are available in a range of sizes, starting at 12 liters for $45.

He controlled the fermentation temperature with two heating belts per container. The Beverage Factory sells these for $25 each. The lower one stayed on permanently, and the upper ones turned on or off depending on the temperature of the fermenter, as indicated by the stick on thermometers.

Mark started out keeping his kegs and freshly-brewed kombucha cool in a modified freezer that used a $39 Inkbird temperature controller to set the temperature a couple of degrees above freezing. This was far cheaper than an equivalent-sized refrigerator. This 28-minute video shows how a typical home freezer converts into a ‘keezer’ that dispenses multiple flavors of kombucha.

When Mark outgrew the freezer, he built a small walk-in cold room. He made this out of foam insulation panels (shown to the left of the middle picture below), where the fermented ‘booch is stored in kegs. This uses a window A/C unit with a $349 Coolbot controller that cycles the AC unit to keep the cold room just above freezing. The flexible tubing vents the warmed air to the outside. The A/C unit and other materials can be sourced from any home improvement store for around $500.

More Cost-Conscious Solutions

This 12-minute video gives clear instructions on how to covert a mini-fridge fridge into storage for two 5-gallon kegs with dispensing taps mounted on top. You’ll find a good supply of used mini-fridges for sale on craigslist for under $100.

Learning from Craft Beer Brewers

There’s a host of online resources for scaling up a home-based craft beer operation which can be adapted for kombucha brewing, Here’s a detailed description of how to convert a garage for home beer brewing. This shows how another beer enthusiast built a home brewery in a detached garage. This shows how to build an all-electric brewing system. Here’s another basement-based electric system.

Consulting Resources

There’s a lot more to launching a commercial operation than acquiring equipment.

From recipe formulation to product testing and consistency as well as sales and marketing and securing the necessary licensing, anyone looking at commercial production needs to consider all the angles.

There are also time and labor costs to consider in any larger-scale production. This blog post by the Happy Herbalist discusses how to estimate annual costs. It uses the example of a six-barrel (186-gallon) nano-brewery, but the formulas would work for smaller volumes. He offers to consult with potential brewers and nets it out:

We can design and install a Kombucha Brew House to fit your budget.  Starting at a basic $9,000 bare bones to a 6 BBL semi-automatic Kombucha Brew House typically runs $20,000 and a 9 BBL automatic (labor-saving) Kombucha Brew House for about $49,000. Training, setup, and Turn-Key operation is also available.

Hannah Crum, the author of The Big Book of Kombucha, offers flexible consulting services for anyone interested in getting started or in upgrading their current operations.

From home brewers exploring a potential business opportunity to established Kombucha bottlers seeking to take it to the next level, we offer a full range of services that are tailored to fit your brand’s needs. We offer a variety of ways to tackle issues to allow you, the brewer, to find the solution that fits with your ethos, style, and company budget.

Hannah helps launch commercial brewers by advising on a food safety monitoring (HACCP) plan, sanitation standards, DNA Sequencing, as well as providing wholesale quantities of cultures and starter liquid along with husband and partner, Alex LaGory.

Full Disclosure

I started my home-brewing adventure with a porcelain continuous-brew kit I bought from Hannah Crum’s Kombucha Kamp eight years ago. I now have five of these 2.5-gallon containers. I’ve daisy-chained a series of wrap-around heating pads controlled with a mechanical timer. It’s not pretty, but I get five gallons every 7-10 days, which is more than the two pints a day I drink. The rest I put into recycled commercial bottles to give away to friends. I’m guessing this is the upper limit for any home-brewer, and the next step would be to start commercial production.


The content of this article is accurate to the best of our knowledge and is presented for general informational purposes only. Check with local food and beverage licensing authorities before proceeding. The opinions are those of the editor. Please send suggestions or questions to Comments are welcome.

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5 Responses

  1. the_editor says:

    Here’s the way Floater Joe down in San Clemente keeps their ‘booch warm in winter:

    Moving the brewery has taken twice as long as expected only to be way too cold to ferment kombucha properly. The Solution: my temperature controlled “fermentation station”, “hotbox”, “Kombucha Kavern” whatever you wanna call it. Will be pumping out kombucha faster than ever with higher quality and consistency. Fresh kegs will be available next week.

    Floater Joe Warming Cabinet

  2. the_editor says:

    Here’s advice on dispensing kegs that Rupert Hoffschmidt shared at the recent Kombucha Summit:

    Most small Kombucha brewers use Kegerators (fridges with a tap on top) and you usually use so-called corny kegs (or soda kegs) in them. These kegs you just fill from the top and they have a gas in and liquid out connection. The nice thing about them is that you can force carbonate in them if you want to. You can of course also do natural carbonation in them. They hold up to 6 Bars of pressure. These kegs then get connected to the tap and they need CO2 from a bottle connected to them to push out the liquid. If you youtube for “kegerator setup”, “corny kegs” etc. you will find a lot of good videos from beer homebrewers.

    Eric Sponseller, Head Brewer at Laesk Kombucha added

    If you are carbonating naturally, you can start by filling Cornelius kegs, which can be done manually. If you have a brite tank and are filling force-carbonated kombucha, you can also fill Key Kegs (or something similar), which is done with a simple filling set (found on their website). Dispensing from both of these kegs can be done with a kegerator or something like a chiller/dispenser from Lindr.

  3. the_editor says:

    Here’s a great video from Kombucha Kev who reviews options to scale up to 6-7 gallon brewing vessels to produce enough kombucha to fill a 5 gallon keg.

    He covers the advantages and disadvantages of glass, ceramic, and stainless steel containers. His preference is for the 7.5 gallon Brewers Edge Mash and Boil stainless steel container.

    A follow-on video walks through the fermentation process using the Brewers Edge

    Kev has a channel with 19 videos on YouTube — check them out!

  4. the_editor says:

    Jess Ralston is a top contributor to the Kombucha Home Brewing Group on Facebook. He shared these notes on Feb 12, 2023

    Hello. I thought I would share where I am on my scaling up with continuous brew journey. As many here, I started with batch brewing in a 4-liter glass vessel. It did not take long until I was brewing 3 times that amount in 3 vessels. After some time, I found this to be cumbersome and it was difficult to keep up with demand. Just adding more vessels did not seem to be the practical way to go.

    So, I started to consider other options and decided on the continuous brew method in a larger vessel. I looked around a bit and settled on a 55 liter vessel with a 40 cm diameter (the wider the better). I needed the vessel to be mobile. All the sturdy stainless-steel tables I could find were at working height and I wanted a height of 50 cm. I found a metal shop to shorten the legs and weld fittings on the bottoms to screw in wheels to carry the load. I also had supportive stainless-steel “feet” with a rubber base built at the shop to stabilize the vessel on the table when rolling around (top heavy with up to 55 kilos of booch).

    I prepared the stainless-steel vessel as follows.

    1. Deep clean with Trisodium Phosphate and rinse to remove any oil and residue from the manufacturing process. (I also had had the vessel in the metal shop)
    2. Then passivate with citric acid at 7% by weight. Let the citric solution sit in the tank for about 45 minutes, then drain and airdry.
    3. Afterwards a clean with PBW and rinse and airdry.
    4. Just before the first brew sanitized with SaniClean and let dry.
    Where I live in Germany it is currently winter and I keep my place pretty cool, between 16 to 19 C. I purchased a heat belt, temperature regulator and neoprene insulating jacket. I am using the thermometer well in the vessel for the temperature probe, that seems to work out. Clever cabling keeps it tidy. A new small beverage fridge will add space for storage.

    Yesterday I started the first brew of 30 liters with 6 liters of strong starter (4 liters of which I had brewed 7 weeks ago, plus 2 liters even stronger starter from the mother). According to my calculations, this is 1.7 liters more than the recommended quantity for 30 liters.

    This is where I am. It has been exciting to research this and set it up. I am thankful for all the advice and tips that I have found here. Really looking forward to the next steps once this first brew is ready for decanting. I will be taking out 10 liters and replacing with sweet tea accordingly. The 55 liter vessel will provide head room to scale up from 30 liters when needed. I am thinking about introducing F2 and F3 in my process. I could flavor F2 in my former 4 liter vessels… The journey continues!

    Jess Ralston Home Brew -1
    Jess Ralston Home Brew -2

  5. the_editor says:

    Nicole Daniels is one of the top contributors to the Kickass Kombucha Brewers Group on Facebook.

    She posted these notes on scaling up her operation:

    Originally I began my scoby using locally sourced kombucha in a 1.5L jar. My first batch of Kombucha was in a 4L jar. My next was in a 2 gallon jar, then later a second 2 gallon jar. From there I expanded I to using my 16L tea boiler (304 stainless) for a 4 gallon standalone run on top of my 2 glass jars (8 gallons total).

    Honestly when I got the 16L (100 cup) boiler it seemed very large to me. Now having it next to my digiboil 65L (17 gallon) beheamoth, I can’t wait to see what’s next in my Kombucha adventure. The 16L looks so small! I was rather shocked to see the size of the 220v plug on the new boiler – the same size you see on a dryer or oven in your house. A plug like that didn’t exist in this house, so I went to Home Depot and bought the wire, then found the outlet at a specialty electrical store (not a common outlet in Mexico) and my friend and I did the install today.

    Knowing my house fridge cannot be filled 3/4 for my habit/hobby/passion, I went ahead and bought myself a new fridge that will be devoted 100% to my kombucha. This expansion was my birthday present to myself for 2024. I can’t imagine a better gift than being able to drink as much kombucha as I want, whenever I want, and have plenty to share with friends and neighbors. Now I just gotta wait for my next trip to Florida to bring my kegerator and kegs!

    This photo shows her original F1 4L jar compared to her 16L boiler (most recent F1 jar) and her new semi-commercial Digiboil 65L F1 container.

    Nicole Daniels Scaling Up

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