Guide to the Best Kombucha Brewing Containers
Which of these statements is true?
A. Brewing kombucha doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment.
B. Most people already own at least half the equipment already.
C. You can brew kombucha using any equipment you have on hand.
Answer: (A) and (B) are true – you don’t have to buy fancy tools to make a batch of home-brewed kombucha in your kitchen. But (C) is false – you do need to use the right type of equipment for the best, and safest, results. When it comes to the containers that you use to brew, ferment, and store your kombucha, it’s important that you know what types to choose.
NOTE: In this article, you’ll find out what type of jars are best to use during the first stage (primary fermentation) of brewing kombucha. To get more information on the other equipment used in making kombucha during this process, read The Best Equipment for Brewing Kombucha.
For information on how to bottle kombucha after brewing, read our How to Bottle Kombucha article. For more details on the containers and methods used in secondary fermentation, read our How to do a Second Ferment
There are two steps in the first stage of making kombucha: making the sweet tea, and doing the initial fermentation (brewing) of the kombucha. For smaller brews (up to 1 gallon), you may be able to use the SAME container to make the tea then use that same container to make / ferment the kombucha (depending on the size of the container and the material). However, keep in mind that most people usually use a specific container (pot or tea kettle) to boil the water and make the tea, a different container to brew the kombucha in, and another container (or bottles) to do a second ferment in.
If you want to know what the best container for boiling water and making your tea, then read our ‘best container for making tea‘ first, THEN come back to this article.
Containers to Use During Primary Fermentation Brewing
You’re going to be fermenting (brewing) your kombucha tea for at least a week, and possibly up to 30 days or even longer, so you need to be careful about the types of containers you use in this step as well. Not only do you need to think about the material the container is made out of, you need to make sure that:
• the container is easy to lift, hold, and carry
• the container is suitable for long-term storage
• the container will fit in the space you’ve planned for it
NOTE: The recommendations below are primarily for single-batch brewing. If you’re planning on setting up a continuous-brew system, you’ll want to look for a different type of jar or container to use during this step: one that has a spigot. For more information on continuous-brew methods and equipment, read this article.
Jar Container Size
You don’t need to get a two-gallon jar, of course. Most home brewers stick with one-gallon jars, half-gallon jars, or quart jars. The size you choose will depend on what type of storage space you have and how much you’re planning on making with each batch. You may find though if you want a steady supply of Kombucha, you will need to keep 2-6 batches of half gallon or 1 gallon brews going continuously. It’s easier, then, to just have a fewer large (1-2 gallon) brews going on rather than a whole lot of smaller brews going.
Personally, for single batch brews, we like the 1-2 gallon vessels. For continuous system brews, 5-7 gallon containers.
Another thing to think about is whether or not you’re going to use the same jars to store your kombucha as you do to brew it. In other words, are you going to transfer your brew from a two-gallon jar into 12-ounce bottles, or are you going to just remove the SCOBY, put the lid on, and stick your brew in the refrigerator? Ask yourself these questions before you start spending money on containers.
Container Mouth Size
Not yours – the jar’s. You need to use wide-mouthed jars so that there is enough oxygen flow to the SCOBY to keep the fermentation on track. Primary fermentation is an aerobic process (involving oxygen). During secondary fermentation, which is anaerobic (without oxygen), you can switch to things like gallon jugs or recycled wine bottles, but in this step you need a jar with an opening at least 4-6 inches across.
Also important (nearly as much as the mouth size) is the depth of the container. More shallow vessels will have your Kombucha fermenting faster than deeper vessels.
You don’t need to worry about lids for the jars during this stage of the brewing, because you’re going to be covering the top of the jars with cloth instead. However, if you’re planning on using the same jars (or the same size jars) for secondary fermentation or refrigeration, you will need non-metallic lids that fit the jars and that screw or shut tightly. Some glass jars are designed for storing cookies or candy, and have loose-fitting lids that are usually also made of glass. These will not work for long-term storage after primary fermentation is over.
Big-box retailers and restaurant or brewery supply stores will be able to provide you with new glass jars in good condition. You can also take advantage of the price discounts at warehouse-style stores (especially those that cater to the restaurant trade) and buy food like pickles that’s sold in glass jars, eat the pickles, and then clean and re-use the jars. Just be sure to get jars that have plastic lids, not ones with metal lids, if you’re planning on using them for secondary fermentation or long-term storage. Second-hand stores are also good places to look, but make sure the jar is in good shape before you buy it.
First Choice Brewing Container Types (‘The Best)
Brewing Kombucha is simple, but having the RIGHT equipment can mean the difference between a tasty ‘buch’ and a poisonous one. The most important piece of equipment in the process is your brewing container — this is what your kombucha brew will sit in for days and days. You can bet you want a container that will allow your SCOBY to do it’s thing without negatively interacting with the bacteria and yeast cultures. Even more, you don’t want your container to leech stuff into the mix.
These are the best containers for brewing kombucha hands down when you factor in the cost and the easy availability of glass containers.
There are several advantages to using glass jars for brewing your kombucha. First, they’re easy to find and come in a range of sizes. You can get two-gallon glass jars for $20 or less at most large retailers, and smaller jars are even less expensive. Before you say, “But $20 is a lot of money!” think about all the money you’ll be saving by not buying bottles of kombucha in the store! A week’s worth of store-bought kombucha will buy you a good-quality glass jar (or even more, depending on the size – and how expensive your store brand is) and if you take good care of it, your two-gallon jar will last for years and years. A second advantage is that you can use jars for many things, such as setting up a SCOBY hotel. Learn more about SCOBY storage in this article.
Best Glass Jars for Kombucha
Glass is cheap and it doesn’t interact with the Kombucha. We have containers you can use with the first ferment and bottles you can use for the second ferment. You can use the same big glass container for a second ferment instead of bottles, BUT you won’t have nearly as much carbonation and frankly, it’s not as fun to drink!
First Ferment Glass Jars
If you don’t care about anything fancy (no spigot, no handle) and just want something cheap and easy to use, the Anchor 2.5 Gallon Glass Jar works. And for $19 USD, you can’t complain about the price. This is enough to brew up 2 gallons per batch, which is roughly 2 cups of Konbucha day till the next batch is done in 2 weeks.
If you want something with a spigot and a bit more tailored for Kombucha brewing, then look at the Anchor 2 gallon Heritage Jar with a spigot and replace the plastic spigot with THIS stainless steel one. You’ll be able to siphon off the Kombucha without having to remove the SCOBY/s first which is a time saver.
Second Ferment Bottles
The best are the swing-top style of glass bottles people call growlers. You can get these either in smaller 16 ounce, 32 ounce, and 64 ounce. I recommend you go with the 32 ounce which is enough to drink personally with some to spare, or to use it like a bottle of wine and share it around. If you want soda pop size, then 16 ounce will work fine too.
I recommend this size. These are big enough to store enough Kombucha for you to sip on for a while or share around and it saves you having to fill up and manage a bunch of smaller bottles. With a big batch of Kimbucha (2-3 gallons), you can fill up 6 of these, so a case of 12 should do you good.
If you want smaller, soda pop sized containers and don’t mind the extra work of filling these up, then a case of 12 sixteen ounce EX Cap bottles works.
If you are going to be filling up EZ Cap bottles, save yourself the effort of trying to pour your Kombucha into them and making a mess. Use an Auto Siphon which makes the process easy as eating pie. I recommend this mini auto siphon which works well.
Wood (specifically wood casks/wood barrels designed for brewing) make excellent brewing containers. These containers, however, are quite large and as such used mostly for larger batches or continuous brewing systems.
Oak is the most common material you’ll find used though other materials can be used as well.
Wooden casks/kegs are used to brew vinegar, wine, and beer. As such, it’s a very good choice for Kombucha as wood can impart some extra flavor into the brew. Many serious kombucha brewers do swear by wood kegs for brewing tasty kombucha.
However, wood casks are large, heavy, and expensive. As such, we only recommend you buy one after you have some experience with brewing Kombucha and are looking to improve your flavor, move to a continuous brewing system, or want to brew in much large quantities. And did we mention they are expensive. For example, you can buy a 2.5 gallon toasted oak barrel online for about 150 USD. The same size glass vessel can be found for about 30 bucks. And a plastic container for less than 20 bucks.
Advantages of Wood Casks for Brewing Kombucha: Some will argued Kombucha aged/fermented in wood barrels has a superior flavor profile. These are also very large and are suitable for large scale continuous brewing systems.
Disadvantages: Expensive and very big. Not easy to obtain outside of ordering online.
Best Wood Casket
American Oak Barrel with Steel Hoops- 5 Liter or 1.32 Gallons ($72 USD on Amazon).
This one is good for 1 gallon brews — basically a small oak barrel. 1 Gallon, I will warn you, won’t be enough though, If you first start out with a Kombucha, you’ll probably start with a 1 Gallon brew, but you’ll quickly realize that it’s a lot of work (2 weeks) for a minimal result. You’ll want to up your batches to 2 or 3 gallons to give you a steady supply of Kombucha on demand. As such, I recommend getting at least 2 or 3 of these 1 gallon barrels if you want to do batch type brews OR looking at the bigger size one below (4x the size) if you want a single big brew or a continue brewing system setup. Buy it on Amazon.
American Oak Barrel with Steel Hoops- 20 Liter or 5.28 Gallons ($132 USD on Amazon)
IF you want to step up your efforts and truly master Kombucha, well, this is the best brewing container hands down. At 5 gallons, you’ll be able to keep a family in serious supply. You can use this as a continuous brewing system with the spigot Buy it for $132 on Amazon.
Second Choice Containers Types (Good)
If you can’t get your hands on a quality glass container or wood one, any one of these containers will do the job right. Keep in mind that after glass or wood, it comes down to personal preference from the next list. The main thing to keep in mind is that you want a container designed for food / liquid. You can find specific containers in these material types made just for Kombucha brewing — at that point, it just comes down the price point — all will do their job. But if you can’t buy a food grade or specific container designed just for Kombucha brewing, you will need to be very selective to make sure your container is SAFE for your brewing.
Porcelain / Ceramic Containers
A good alternative to glass for brewing Kombucha if the porcelain or ceramic if it does not have any lead-based glazes on them. You’ll find a number of specialty porcelain containers designed for Kombucha out there that are quite large and reasonably priced. Next to glass and wood, porcelain is our next recommendation for brewing.
Note, FYI porcelain and ceramic are, for all practical purposes, one and the same thing. So don’t get confused and think these refer to different materials.
If you want to use porcelain, make sure it’s a food grade porcelain container (this won’t have lead glaze).
The risk here with porcelain is that scratches or chips in the finish may leech chemicals. This should be a problem IF you treat your vessels with care, but keep in mind it is a risk.
Advantages of Porcelain for Brewing: Easy to find, comes in a variety of sizes, and cheaper than wood, stoneware, and stainless steel containers
Disadvantages of Porcelain for Brewing: Fragile like glass, a bit harder to find, and you must have FOOD-GRADE porcelain (no lead-based glaze). As such, you really need to buy a specific porcelain container made just for Kombucha brewing to be safe.
Best Porcelain Containers
New Wave Enviro Porelain Dispenser with Wood Counter Stand ($46 USD on Amazon).
This is good if you’ve got the space and my recommendation for a CHEAP Kombucha container that will do 2.5 gallon brews — enough for 1 person. With the Spigot, you can easily siphon off the Kombucha during the process OR when it’s done (then pour the sweat tea + sugar back in and your next brew is good to go). I’ve seen this SAME model sold by ‘kombucha companies and websites online’ for over 150 bucks. WHY pay 3 times the price? Just buy it on amazon for 40 bucks!
If you want to save 10 bucks and you don’t need the wooden stand, then get this. Same size, same company, same container, minus the wooden stand. Still though, the wooden stand is pretty useful so I’d opt for that one personally. This one costs $34 on Amazon.
Stainless steel is a solid choice for brewing Kombucha — stainless steel does not interact with your culture and your SCOBY will grow fine. Keep in mind you want to get a high grade stainless steel that’s NON MAGNETIC. If your stainless steel can attract a magnet, it’s not suitable and the kombucha during fermentation will leech metal out of it. Keep in mind that beer is sometimes brewed in Stainless Steel, so you can get by quite fine with stainless steel, but you need to buy a container suitable for brewing kombucha. We recommend, if you want stainless steel, to buy a stainless steel container designed for kombucha or beer brewing.
Stainless steel containers work for secondary fermentation as well, but be absolutely sure that the pot is not scratched, and that it is high-grade stainless steel and not a lower-quality alloy.
Advantages of Stainless Steel for Kombucha Brewing: Steel won’t break, so if you drop your container there is no risk of a catastrophe or breakage. Keep in mind though, the steel must be scratch free. You can find stainless steel jars / containers of all sizes. Many of the specialty stainless steel kombucha containers are for larger batches of brewing (3 to 5 gallons) which make them good for continuous brewing systems.
Disadvantages of Stainless Steel for Kombucha Brewing: These containers are heavy and they are often larger (2-5 gallons), which make them too big and bulky for single brew batches, unless you want to brew a LOT in one go. You also need a non-magnetic grade of stainless steel, or you may have stuff leach into your ‘buuch.’
Best Stainless Steel Brewing Containers for Kombucha
Bayou Classic 1064 Stainless 16-Gallon Stockpot with Spigot and Vented Lid ($140 USD on Amazon)
If you want a MASSIVE kombucha brewing continuous brewing setup, you won’t find anything else as big and as reasonably priced as this $140 USD stainless steel, 16 gallon stockpot. Buy this baby and you can keep a household of 8 drinking Kombucha all day, every day. Buy it on Amazon.
Bayou Classic 1036, 36-Qt. Stainless Fryer/Steamer ($55 USD on Amazon)
This is a cheaper alternative to the one above and more reasonably sized. It’s 9 Gallons and has no spigot. So if you want a large stainless steel brewing container that’s not the size of a car, this should do it.
And at around 55 USD, it’s not a bad buy considering how big it is. Buy it on Amazon.
5 gallon Stainless Steel Pot with Lid ($31 USD on Amazon)
If you just want a reliable container to keep you and a few people in good stead with Kombucha every two weeks, this is the best bang for your buck in terms of SIZE vs PRICE.
For most of you just looking to start out with a few batches, I recommend this one. I prefer glass (you can see the brew), but people do use Stainless Steel just fine. Buy it on Amazon.
Stoneware / clay crocks are good containers to use for fermenting kombucha, because they’ve got wide mouths, they’re well made, and they’re thick and opaque, which helps keep your SCOBY at the same temperature over time. The stone/clay won’t react with the Kombucha.
These containers, because of their weight, tend to be on the bigger side. You’ll often find them in 3 to 5 gallon sizes which make them good for continuous brew systems (thought you can just do one-off batches). Like porcelain, it’s important that your stoneware vessel has a non-lead based glaze. As such, we only recommend stoneware made specifically for brewing or to hold drinkable liquids. Don’t just use a random stoneware vessel you have lying around unless you know it’s for holding drinkable liquids.
Be sure that the glaze, if there is any, is not lead-based or you will poison yourself.
Disadvantages: stoneware may contain lead-based glazes (common in imported) and may leech chemicals if chipped or scratched. It’s also more expensive than Porcelain, typically.
Best Stonewear Containers
Look, I think there are better options out there, like glass, ceramic, or stainless steel. The steel won’t break, the glass you can see the brew, the ceramic is cheap. Stoneware has that old school ‘you’re doing things pre-civilization’ aura about it and these containers look pretty sweet. Still, besides the cool factor, I’d opt for one of the other materials.
If you are dead set, here’s my picks:
This is only 30 bucks and is 2 gallons — enough for a batch of Kombucha. It’s food grade, so you can use it just fine to brew your Kombucha. This is a plain design that pretty much looks just like a Ceramic vase. If you want a more traditional looking actual VASE style that’s hand made from a potter, you can find these by looking online, but expect to pay over $150 USD for one.
Third Choice Container Types (Acceptable):
If you can choose glass, wood, porcelain, stainless steel, stoneware vessels to brew, you can look at food grade plastic. We feel it’s not the best choice, but it’s likely safe if it’s high quality enough (for now anyways).
Plastic containers are easy to find, but not the best jars (choose glass, porcelain, stainless steel, or wood first).
The most important consideration for plastic containers is that they are made out of food-safe plastic. This is a tough, thick plastic that resists warping; it’s not the same thing as the clear plastic containers you get in some fast-food and takeaway shops, which also may contain high levels of Bisphenol A (BPA). Furthermore, there are several grades of plastic, but only two are suitable for acidic liquids, which is what kombucha will be after the first few days of fermenting.
Our concern with plastic, even high quality food grade, is that there may be yet undiscovered chemicals that leech into your mix. This was certainly the case with BPA a few years ago — everyone thought plastic was safe UNTIL it was discovered BPA / petrochemicals were secretly leeching into the contained liquids.
Keep in mind (beside yet undiscovered potential health risks) that while you can brew kombucha in food-grade plastic just fine for basic kombucha brewing, for long term use you may find unacceptable flavors imparted to your brew. This is why we don’t recommend plastic as a long term kombucha brewing container.
Look For the Logo: The most important thing to look for on a plastic container is the international “food-grade plastic” logo, a stylized cup and fork. When you see this symbol, you’ll know that you can safely use that container for brewing and storing kombucha.
Look For the Number: The two types of plastic you can use when making kombucha are grade #1 (PET or PETE) and grade #2 (HDPE). In general, it’s the second type you’ll find more useful during primary fermentation, because most large containers are made out of HDPE and are heavier and thicker. In addition, these large containers usually have the wide mouth you need during this step in the process. There are seven grades of plastic, so you’ll also see the number through 7 on containers. DO NOT USE THESE CONTAINERS.
Where to Find Plastic Containers: This is a good time to check in with your local kombucha community. There’s bound to be someone out there who has done the research and found sources in your area for larger plastic containers suitable for kombucha. If you can’t find an online forum, look for a restaurant supply company in your town, or see if there’s a brewery or brewing supply company. In fact, you can go to your nearest restaurant to see where they get their supplies – every restaurant uses this type of container. Don’t ask at a fast-food or chain restaurant, however; all of their supplies will probably come from a central corporate source that you won’t have access to.
Advantages of Plastic Containers: the cheapest option available. You can easily get plastic containers in large, small, or medium sizes in a variety of shapes from practically any department store.
Disadvantages of Plastic Containers: must ensure your plastic if FOOD GRADE. While food grade is considered safe, we still don’t know if yet-undiscovered chemicals will leech from it. Plastic when used continually as brewing vessel may give your Kombucha undesirable flavors.
You can find any Food Grade plastic container at your local Wallmart. So you are on your own for smaller plastic container recommendations. However, if you are going to use Plastic (I don’t see why you would want to though since you can just as easily use glass or stainless steel which don’t affect the flavor), then this FOOD GRADE 5 Gallon bucket will do ok for brewing Kombucha in larger quantities. The big benefit here is this container is CHEAP at 9 bucks, so plastic gives you the best SIZE for PRICE ratio over all the other materials hands down. Buy it on Amazon.
If you want more recommendations, I suggest looking at our Best Equipment for Brewing Kombucha article.
Unacceptable Materials (Don’t Use)
Don’t think about using the materials below if you value your health.
Non-Stainless Steel Metals
Don’t use any other metal container besides stainless steel to ferment your Kombucha. These metals can leak toxins into your brew that can harm you. This means no to regular steel, aluminum, cooper, bronze, or iron containers.
Don’t use rubber. It will leak chemicals into your brew.
Painted Ceramic Containers
Often painted with a lead-based glaze. Never use these.
Tends to have lead in it or other chemicals that will leech into your brew.. Don’t.