I’ll admit, I may have overshot the goal with the recipes posted below. I was a very enthusiastic kombucha brewer in the beginning, determined to find an easy way to make mass quantities. I was thinking most of our New Deli customers would be thrilled to get some fresh-brewed kombucha. Alas, it didn’t catch on. However, IF you want to supply a large family or group of friends with enough daily kombucha for all, the methods below might come in handy. In that case, you’ll find that bulk tea makes more sense (otherwise, that’s a lot of tea bags!).
Typical kombucha brewing isn’t particularly efficient. In the beginning, I made an extra big batch in my two-and-a-half gallon crock, but I did it the “old-fashioned” way. I decanted all but 4 cups of the last brew, removing the scoby, cleaning the container, adding new sugar/tea mixture (plus 4 cups of the old “starter” brew), putting scoby back in…
When I found out about “continuous brew kombucha”, I realized it would be much easier. If you want to save time, below are the directions.
CONTINUOUS BREW METHOD
Ideally, use a 2 1/2 gallon crock with a spigot, as this makes the decanting easier. Add your initial starter kombucha* (directions at bottom of page).
After about 7 days, the first fermentation’s probably finished. Decant a bottle or two, straight out of the spigot. You might go 14-21 days, as this is the point when the most beneficial acids form. But take care not to go too long, or it’ll become an undrinkable vinegar concoction!
Add an equal amount of cooled, sweetened tea back into the crock. Scoby will now have new nourishment, and will grow another scoby. You can just leave the older scoby layer intact, or give to a friend! (Along with some starter tea.)
After a day or two, you can decant more kombucha. Just replenish the crock with sweetened tea- about the same amount that you took out.
The beauty of the continuous brew method is that there is so much of the fermented kombucha in the crock, that when you add a quart or two of new sweetened tea on top, it gets fermented pretty quickly. It’ll only take a couple days or so until you can decant more. (Go by taste- it’ll depend on warmth, and your preferences.)
But I have one more time-saver trick: “Sweet Tea Concentrate”. Because, of course I don’t always want to have to brew up more sweetened tea every few days! Below are directions for when I’m constantly brewing a lot of kombucha.
“SWEET TEA CONCENTRATE”
This recipe uses the same amount of sugar and tea bags (or loose tea), that I’d use for 32 cups of water. But I only use 8 cups of water, brew it up, and store it in the refrigerator after cooling. When I add it to the continuous-brew kombucha, I add one part of this to three parts water.
Bring to boil: > 8 c. filtered or spring water
Add to boiled water: > 16 black tea bags or 1/4 c. loose black tea (or substitute green or white tea bags) > Optional: > Extra tea for flavor (rooibos or yerba matte, etc., but not Earl Grey or citrus tea, as the oils in them inhibit scoby growth)
Also add: > 2 c. sugar (Not honey- that will inhibit growth, and not raw sugar either- not scoby’s favorite)
To add to the continuous-brew crock, just use: > 1 c. concentrate > 3 c. water (spring or filtered is best)
TIPS FOR KOMBUCHA SUCCESS
TEMPERATURE: If temperatures soar into the nineties for your Kombucha brew, that could potentially make it die off. In temperatures lower than the ideal 72 to 85 degrees, your scoby might just hibernate some. In that case, at least it will start regenerating once it’s brought back into a warmer climate. If your kitchen is just too cool, you might want to look into a heater strip (click on the one on the right, if you want to buy it on Amazon). I’ve put my kombucha crock on top of the fridge, using an old heating pad under several towels to warm it up some- that also works!
BLACK TEA IS BEST: The “Scoby” (“booch”, as it can be affectionately called) needs to (ideally) brew in a medium containing black tea. I have tried green and white teas (all from the same plant), but the scoby seemed to weaken after several ferments using only those teas. I’m sticking to black, which has all the right properties. Some additional rooibos or yerba mate can be added to that as well, for extra nutritional benefits, if you want. But keep adding black tea.
Annabelle of Kombucha Fuel gives a complete run-down on teas to use, from black to green, white, yerba mate, rooibos, herbal… (article here). Someone in the comment section there mentions using Puuerh tea, but from my research, it doesn’t sound like a good idea…
NO CHEESE CLOTH: Use a towel or such for covering the kombucha as it brews- this will keep out fruit flies, mold spores, and such. (Cheesecloth isn’t a fine enough weave to work well.)
NO MOLASSES: Don’t add molasses. It’s great for kefir, but folks say it gives kombucha a weird taste.
BOTTLES: I’ve been pouring a new batch of tea right into my gallon jar, decanting some right away into one of these blue bottles with the ceramic stopper. The kombucha will finish brewing in the bottle, building up carbonation along the way. (Add fruit juices or spices for flavoring to make it like healthy soda!)
SCOBY HOTEL: You might want to house some spare scobys in their own “hotel”, in case the one you’re using goes south. (Like, gets black mold on it or something- definitely a bad sign.) The “Hotel” is just a gallon jar filled with kombucha; you add the older layers of scobys to it, and they’ll keep almost indefinitely. Eventually (every two to six months), the brew will collect an excess of yeasts- those brown tendril-like clumps floating around in the liquid. So, set the scobys aside and strain the liquid out of the jar, through cheesecloth, to catch the excess yeast. Clean the jar out well, as dead yeasts build up on the bottom of the jar. Then return the scobys to the clean jar, and fill it half with the strained kombucha, and half of some new sweet-tea brew. Good for another six months or so!
There are ideas for using extra scobys in spa applications- see this article from Kombucha Kamp. In my experience, the spa idea was horrible. Another idea: let it dry out, then give to your dog as a “jerky” of sorts. Another horrible idea, at least for my dog!
MORE TIPS: Eileen from Phoenix Helix goes into full detail on many issues in this article on tips and troubleshooting.
CROCKS ARE DISCREET! I have an old ceramic crock from the eighties which works perfectly- looks a lot like the one on the left. It allows me to brew the extra big batches which makes the whole process easier. And other family members don’t have to be too concerned about the strange “growth”…Some folks might want a stand for theirs, in which case, the model on the right, on Amazon, is decently priced, for both the crock and the stand.
DIRECTIONS FOR STARTER BREW
If you don’t have a friend with a spare scoby starter (and you don’t want to just get a bottle of unpasteurized kombucha to start some), get the scoby starter from Kombucha Kamp (pictured on left- click it to buy on Amazon). It’s the most recommended, with lots of success stories. Cheaper starters might come with white vinegar instead of real starter liquid, or they might die off during too-long shipping, etc. Kombucha Kamp has quality stuff!
Bring to a boil: > 16 c. filtered or spring water (better than chlorinated tap water)
Add to pot (or pots): > 8 black tea bags or 2 TBS. loose black tea (or substitute green or white tea bags) > Optional: > Extra tea for flavor (rooibos or yerba matte, etc., but not Earl Grey or citrus teas, as the oils in them inhibit scoby growth)
Also add: > 1 c. sugar (Not honey- that will inhibit growth. And not raw sugar either- not scoby’s favorite)
After the sweetened tea has cooled off, add to 2 1/2 gallon crock, along with 2 cups of starter tea and one scoby mushroom (either from a friend, or purchased).
Before establishing a continuous brew system (if you choose to go that route), initial brewing will take longer. Continuous brews yield finished kombucha after a few days, at which point they can be decanted into bottles for a second ferment (which will take a day or two to get bubbly). Initial brews should be ready after 7-14 days. I let mine go 14-21 days (the kitchen was somewhat cool). After that, it does need a feeding though!
Once you have your starter brew, you can use the directions closer to the top of the page, for the continuous brew method.
Below is a picture of the jar I gave to my friend. Note how bashful the SCOBY is- hiding behind the note, haha!
PS. I’ve linked this post to “Simple Lives Thursday”, hosted by my friend Diana. Stop by her blog here!