[Hi! Look! A food-related post – what a concept!]
We fell off the kombucha train a few months ago – it is by no means difficult to make, just time consuming. We recently got back in the groove of making it every week, and we realized how much we missed it. I love this continuous brew method because it isn’t as fussy as some of the other methods I try (meaning if I leave it on the counter for say two months without touching it, nothing much happens except that it gets more fermenty-tasting) and because it makes a lot of kombucha. Turns out there are some additional health benefits of continuous brew over the batch method, as well.
I found two glass sun tea jars at Goodwill (the glass ones are hard to find at regular stores!), and we typically have two batches going at once, which is fun because then we can have two different flavors to drink every week. The container needs to 1) be a glass jar that can hold at least one gallon (preferably two) and 2) have a spigot at the bottom so you can easily drain out the kombucha. Something like this would be prettier than my versions.
I wrote down the directions and taped it inside our cabinet, so that it is easy for whoever is making it to find the ratios (and because math and me are not a good combination).
So breaking it down into steps if you’re just starting this method for a new batch, you would start by:
- Finding a SCOBY. I originally bought mine because I couldn’t find anybody close that had one (I think it’s about seven years old at this point!), but ask around because I bet you could find someone that has one. I end up having to compost some of mine because this continuous brew method means that I always have a few extras. You will also need some starter liquid for your SCOBY. If you get one from a friend, they will give you some starter liquid from their batch to transport the SCOBY, or you can use unflavored kombucha from the store as your starter liquid too. You need about 1/4 – 1/2 cup.
- Brewing one gallon of tea. I like to use organic black or oolong teas for my kombucha, but here is some additional information if you want to experiment. You just have to be careful with using some tea varieties because they could harm the SCOBY. I typically prefer loose leaf tea for drinking, but I buy bagged tea for kombucha making because it makes the process much easier with this much tea.
- After several minutes of letting the tea brew according to the package instructions (as you can see in my notes above, the tea we use calls for 8-10 tea bags per gallon), remove the tea bags* and add one cup of organic sugar. I use organic cane sugar that I buy in bulk from Costco. I have experimented with using honey (half the amount of honey as sugar), but I wasn’t a big fan – it didn’t have that “fermenty taste,” for reasons explained more here. The bacteria eats up the sugar, so the final product, while sweet, doesn’t have a high amount of sugar. The longer you let it ferment, the less sugar is in the final product.
- Stir in the sugar until completely dissolved and let cool to room temperature. High temperatures can ruin your SCOBY, so it is important to be patient and let the tea cool. This is where I get in trouble because I’m usually making kombucha in the midst of six other things going on, so I often completely forget about it after this step and come back to find it on the counter hours later…
- Once the tea has cooled, pour the tea-sugar mixture in your large glass vessel with the SCOBY. Cover with a loose-fitting lid or none at all – the kombucha needs oxygen to ferment. I have a loose lid and then add a cloth on top as well because fruit flies love this stuff. Let sit in a dark spot for at least seven days (or longer if you’re like me and forget about it frequently).
- After seven days, drain off about half of the kombucha into a glass jar or jars, depending on whether or not you want different flavors. At this point, you’re ready for the second fermentation.
- If you prefer plain kombucha, just seal your jar with a plastic lid and put it in the fridge until you’re ready to drink.
- If you want flavored kombucha, you have to do the second fermentation. The second fermentation is what gives kombucha that fizziness. We like to add about 1/3 cup berries, citrus, or ginger to ours, but feel free to experiment. One-third cup of one hundred percent juices work great as well. Here are some of our favorites depending on what is in season or in the freezer:
- Berries of any kind: strawberries are the kids’ favorite, but Grant and I prefer blueberries or raspberries
- Orange slices and a tablespoon or so of fresh ginger
- Pomegranate juice
- Apple slices and a tablespoon or so of fresh ginger
- Grapefruit slices
- Seal jar with your add-ins and leave on the counter for 2-3 days. Then strain out add-ins, replace lid, and store in the fridge until ready to drink.
- Once you have your second fermentation going, you need to replenish the batch, so half the original recipe and begin again at step one. If you started with a gallon, you will brew a half gallon of tea and use a half cup of sugar to replenish your batch. In this way, you can keep your kombucha going indefinitely. I do clean out our jars every few months, but since I’m only adding new tea to the jar and draining it off via the spigot, it makes things very sanitary.
For further reading on the benefits of kombucha, check out this post.
Method barely adapted from Wellness Mama.
*I typically use these again in a half gallon of water to make some iced tea for drinking later in the day to get an extra life out of the tea before I compost it.