I think kombucha brewing is similar to mothering. There is new-mom style, for the woman with her first baby, treating her newborn ever so delicately, trying to keep everything perfect… And then there’s the seasoned mom (or grandma), whose mothering has become much more relaxed over the years.
After doing this for a few years, I’ve developed a simple method. I don’t worry about it for weeks at a time (or even months), but I always have a cup or so to drink every day, carbonated and delicious, out of my blue bottle.
If you want more detailed directions, check out “Kombucha Continuous Brew Method”. But if you want to make this as easy as possible, check out the ideas below.
Brew your new starter tea right in a new glass gallon jar. One caveat: It needs to be a canning-style jar (“Ball” is a good one). A cheap dollar-store jar will not work! (It might break…). Run some hot water into the jar first, so it can take the heat from the boiling water.
Add sugar to the empty jar. For those of us drinking a modest quantity of Kombucha (a cup or less per day), this amount works well: 1/4 c. sugar to 8 c. boiling water. Add boiling water to the sugar in the (pre-warmed) jar, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Add 4 tea bags (or 1 TBS. black tea in a tea-strainer ball or cheese cloth “pouch”).
After tea has cooled, remove the bags (or strainer ball/cheese cloth). Set aside the scoby from your old batch, onto a plate. Pour all of the older kombucha into the new batch. (If the liquid has developed brown tendrils or sediment, you might want to strain that out as you pour it into the new batch.) Stir up the mix of old and new, then decant some of that straight into a carbonating-style bottle that has the spring-clamp and rubber gasket. This will allow the kombucha enough air to process. (I don’t think bottle-cap style will work well here, as it seals out so much air).
Put scoby back into the new jar, covered with a paper towel (or a napkin or towel), held in place with a rubber band.
To the bottled kombucha, also add a cup or two of a favorite organic juice, if desired, or ginger or other flavorings. I’m a stickler for using organic- a lot of produce, like apples, are on the dirty dozen list, full of pesticides. Some of my favorites for flavoring kombucha (and kefir) are POM pomegranate juice, organic apple juice, or this Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate. (The concentrated cherry juice might seem expensive, but it takes 53 lbs. of produce to yield 1 lb. of juice!). This black cherry juice concentrate is also a good one.
I used to use fresh ginger, sliced into match-sized strips, laid out on foil, rolled up, and frozen, to be used as needed. (If I didn’t do this, the chunk of ginger would often get too dried and/or moldy, sitting out…) I don’t seem to have much time these days, and have resorted to using this organic ginger extract for flavoring instead. It is VERY convenient!
So, you add your mix of kombucha and fresh sweet tea to the blue bottle, plus the flavoring. Even though this is technically the “first ferment”, your bottled kombucha will go through the same process as the stuff in the jar. It will even grown a little scoby, right in the bottle!
Techie talk: Like the jar of kombucha, enzymes in the yeasts in the bottled kombucha will use the minerals from the tea to break down the sugar into glucose and fructose. So, after a week or so, the sugar’s still there, but in an easier-to-digest form. But it’s still pretty sweet! Give it another week or two- beneficial acids will start forming as the yeasts start eating the sugars up. There will still be some sweetness, for up to 30 days or so.
All this to give just a few time-saving pointers:
- You can brew your tea right in a sturdy, preheated glass canning jar
- You can strain the old kombucha into the new jar of cooled sweet tea (saving steps)
- You can put some of this mix straight into a carbonating bottle along with some fruit juices, to do its first ferment and finishing carbonation all in one place. (This will take at least 2 weeks, so stay ahead of the game!)
Give kombucha about 7 days to get the first fermentation going, after adding more sweet tea. Then, decant (or perhaps it’s already decanted), and give it another 14-21 days to finish. It should get nice and carbonated, and will have the most beneficial acids at this point.