Whether it’s batch brewing or continuous brewing I love the process of making kombucha. Batch brewing involves a SCOBY, a starter and sweetened tea. Brew for 7-10 days or so, then strain and enjoy. With continuous brewing, there is no straining. Drink 25 -50% of the container and then refill. It’s as simple as that!
Why Continuous Brew?
For those just beginning this venture, I suggest going straight to continuous brewing. I find it MUCH easier and equally delicious.
Curious about kombucha? You’re not alone. Many are discovering the benefits of probiotic beverages such as kefir, kvass, and kombucha.
What is kombucha? Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic, naturally carbonated tea, combining sweetened tea with a “mushroom” consisting of active cultures of yeast and bacteria. This mushroom is better known as a SCOBY or Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.
Can kombucha be harmful? Unlikely, but possible. The trick is proper preparation and careful monitoring of the culture. As with any fermented food, beneficial microbes are given favorable conditions to “win out” over the harmful ones. Kombucha utilizes a starter along with the SCOBY to ensure your beverage goes in the right direction. If the mushroom turns black or the drink smells “off,” discard and begin again.
It’s possible to mistake a healing reaction for a harmful one. When beneficial microbes are introduced into the digestive system, the “good guys” can kill off the “bad guys.” This may result in a Herxheimer Reaction. If this occurs, back off of the ferment and try again with a small amount.
In addition, some people may be sensitive to the acetaldehydes present in kombucha. It’s always best to start small when consuming any fermented food.
Where can I find a SCOBY? Most batches will produce an extra SCOBY. If you have a friend who is brewing kombucha, ask them for their next “baby.” Be sure to ask for some of their finished beverage to add as a starter.
You can make your own SCOBY if you have access to store-bought kombucha. See How to Grow Your Own SCOBY.
Starter kits that include a SCOBY are available online. Sources include:
What type of sugar and what type of tea? Any refined organic white sugar will work. Unlike water kefir which thrives on the minerals contained in unrefined sugar, kombucha does better with refined sugar. All fermented foods need a substrate, and white sugar works great for kombucha. As for tea? Black or green tea works well, but herbal teas can hinder the process. I like Pure Puer Tea.
What type of container is best? When brewing with the batch method, any glass jar will work. For continuous brewing, glass, lead-free porcelain, or stainless steel work well. I purchased my large glass dispenser from Costco last summer. I love it because the spout is stainless steel. Most of the inexpensive dispensers utilize plastic spouts, which may work fine for you depending on your budget and preference.
With continuous brew, do I need to clean out the container? Once or twice a year is often enough to put the SCOBY aside and clean the container thoroughly. I recommend cleaning with white vinegar or raw apple cider vinegar because it cleans with no trace of chemicals. I use Vinegar of the Four Thieves.
What if my kombucha gets “off”? Because you’re dealing with live organisms, the balance can veer off rather easily. It’s not hard to get it back on course by making a few minor adjustments. This article titled Kombucha, the Balancing Act is an excellent resource for this.
You can do a second ferment by filling a glass container, tightening the lid, and letting it sit for 24 hours at room temperature. Add lemon, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon sticks, or any other favorite ingredient for enhanced flavor. The second ferment will add more fizz!
When brewing continuous batch kombucha, be sure to check the sweetness before dispensing. When you add new sweetened tea it can take a couple of days to ferment. The bigger my SCOBY, the faster it ferments. If I let the kombucha level drop to 25% or less, it takes several days at least to ferment.
Can a SCOBY get too big?
I find myself thinning my SCOBY every few weeks. I remove it with tongs and gently peel away some of the SCOBY with clean hands. I even use scissors to cut the SCOBY and it has done fine. These SCOBYs are quite resilient! I even make Band-aids with dried SCOBY! (See Incredible Edible Band-Aids.)
Since kombucha is room temperature, I keep kombucha ice cubes on hand to make the drink even more refreshing on a hot summer day!
Ready to try continuous brew kombucha? Go for it!
For more creative ways to use kombucha (especially sour kombucha), see 10 Alternative Uses for Kombucha.