|The Brewing Operation|
Here is my complete guide to making kombucha using a continuous brew system.
To learn more about the health benefits of kombucha, visit Kombucha Kamp.
Pictured from left to right:
I experimented with growing a scoby from commercial KT in a mason jar (See my article on how to grow your own.) Behind it are the empty Celestial Seasonings bottles I cleaned and reuse. Next to my developing scoby is a small jar for making sweet tea. I have added 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tea bag to “feed” the developing scoby.
Next to my DIY scoby is my continuous brew container, my electric kettle, wooden spoon, plastic pitcher full of sweet tea, and plastic measuring cup.
1 starter scoby (mother culture) with 1 cup of starter kombucha tea
1 lb of organic vegan cane sugar ($5)
1 package of bagged green tea ($2-6)
1 glass beverage dispenser with plastic spigot, 1.5-2 gallons ($12-25)
1 white flour sack towel ($2)
1 fat rubber band ($0.50)
1 wooden spoon ($2)
1 glass mason jar to use as a spoon rest ($2-5)
1 qt distilled white vinegar for cleaning ($2)
1 plastic measuring cup set ($2-6)
1 gallon-size plastic pitcher ($2-4)
1 electric kettle, or other means of safely boiling water ($20)
6 pack of glass bottles (I saved, washed, and reused ones from Celestial Seasonings kombucha, so it cost me about $18.)
Recipe for 1 Gallon
12 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
8 tea bags
|The Continuous Brew System|
A simple $25 two-gallon glass beverage dispenser from Bed Bath and Beyond or a $12 one and a half-gallon one from Wal-Mart will get you started making KT. The container should have a spigot made from food-grade plastic. Never use metal, and don’t fall in the trap of buying gimicky, overpriced kombucha kits!
Replace the included glass lid with a flour sack towel, because glass will keep air out and prevent the KT from fermenting. Cut the large towel in half, fold it in half again, and secure it to the top of the container with a thick rubber band. (The ones from broccoli stems work great.) Be sure to recycle the glass lid!
Before we brew, let’s talk about supplies.
This cane sugar is organic, vegan and made by Florida Crystals. Wal-Mart sells it for about $5. I make my tea with a dollar brand of green tea, which makes for a very light and very flavorful KT. You can also use black tea (pictured), white tea, or oolong. Don’t use flavored teas like chai or Earl Grey, as the oil will kill the scoby.
This is the gorgeous scoby (or mother culture) that Faith sent me. It was about 6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick, large enough to make a full gallon of KT.Always inspect a new starter scoby for signs of mold or infection.Never use a dehydrated scoby. Your fresh scoby should come with 1/2 to 1 cup of starter kombucha tea. Don’t toss a scoby into new sweet tea without including already fermented kombucha tea.Now that I have my own system going, I am happy to share my scobys. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need one!A new scoby will grow on top of the KT each time you brew. You can keep 1-3 scobys in your container to speed up the fermentation process, but know that they do take up a lot of space and you may not be able to get a full gallon (or two gallons) in the container. I usually keep two scobys in each of my two continuous brew containers, and it cuts the fermentation time down to 1.5 weeks.
Keep your starter scoby in its packaging until you’re ready to use it. Don’t leave it out on the counter for long periods of time, and don’t handle it unless you have thoroughly washed your hands with vineger. Never use soap on any of your KT supplies, as it will contaminate and/or kill the scoby!
|The Sweet Tea|
|The Waiting Game|
Finally, once the sweet tea has cooled, pour it into the clean continuous brew container. Add your scoby with 1/2-1 cup of starter tea on top of the sweet tea. New scobys will form at the top of the KT, but scobys from previous brews may sink or flounder. This is completely normal. As long as the scoby is healthy (and shows no signs of mold), you’ll be fine.
Cover the spigot on the beverage dispenser with a plastic bag in case it drips, and save your receipt in case the container leaks.
Your kombucha will be ready for bottling in one to two weeks. Test the KT after one week by using the spigot to dispense a small amount into a glass. Some people like their KT sweeter than others, but I prefer mine pretty sour. If you’re using more than one scoby, it will take less time to ferment.
You can carbonate kombucha by storing it under pressure in clean, air-tight bottles such as grolsch bottles, or by sealing it with a bottle capper in beer bottles. Do this after about a week and a half of fermentation, and allow the kombucha to undergo secondary fermentation in the bottles. Read this article for more about carbonating.
Some people really enjoy the fresh fizz of carbonated kombucha, but it’s neither here nor there to me, so I save myself a lot of effort by skipping the bottling process altogether. I siphon off as much KT as I want using the plastic spigot, and sometimes store it in glass bottles I saved from commercial Celestial Seasonings KT. Six of these bottles will hold a gallon, but be sure to leave a little wiggle room in each in case the KT starts to expand and carbonate. You don’t want your bottles to explode!
If you can’t store it in a pantry or a closet, cover your continuous system with an old t-shirt to keep out light. KT needs to be stored in dark dry, warm places like a pantry, a shelf in the laundry room, or a closet. I keep mine above my dryer, and it does extremely well. Fermentation is a snap in these conditions!
|After 1.5 Weeks|
My articles on kombucha: