My first exposure to Kombucha was about four years ago. A neighbor had gotten a scoby (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast also known as a “mother”) from a cafe owner up the street from us. She fell in love with it and wanted to share, so she brought me a scoby complete with a fermenting jar and hand-written instructions on how to brew it. So awesome! I’m sad to say, that the scoby gave me the creeps. I had never heard about Kombucha, so I didn’t know all the amazing health benefits contained in that weird mushroom-looking thing floating on top of the tea. I did a little google search and found out that I shouldn’t start drinking Kombucha since I was just finishing nursing my daughter and had recently found out I was pregnant with my son. This is because of the powerful detox effect of the Kombucha. (You don’t want to start any detox program while pregnant or nursing in case the toxins are released from you and then pass through your placenta/umbilical cord or into your milk.) I read that if I had been drinking Kombucha regularly before pregnancy and nursing, it is generally considered safe since you will have already detoxed significantly. That poor scoby sat in my cupboard for months and then I finally threw it out. By the time I had had my son and finished nursing him, I had read so much about Kombucha that I couldn’t wait to get another scoby from my neighbor!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea. The scoby (or mother) and starter tea ferment fresh tea and sugar. As the bacteria and yeast “eat” the sugar, they produce some amazing nutrients.
The Benefits of Drinking Kombucha:
- Helps with digestions
- Full of probiotics
- Boosts energy
- Contains antioxidants
- Contains beneficial acids (Glucuronic, Lactic, and Uric)
- Contains with B vitamins (B-vitamins and great for stress and immunity)
- Contains vitamin C (also great for immunity)
- Helps with anxiety and depression
- improves pancreas function (the pancreas controls your blood sugar and releases your digestive enzymes)
- Reduces Candida (a harmful yeast if allowed to proliferate)
- Helps your body assimilate nutrients
Wow! Just listing all of this makes me want to pour myself a delicious bubbly glass of Kombucha! Okay. I’m back. So tasty! It is great plain, but my favorite flavor to make is ginger The possibilities, however, are endless. See a list of some at the end of the post.
How and Why to do a Continuous Brew of Kombucha
You can brew Kombucha in batches or do a continuous brew. I do a continuous brew of Kombucha because I find it is less work, I get a constant supply of Kombucha, and it varies the nutritive properties contained in the Kombucha because it contains tea in various stages of fermentation. To do a continuous brew you will of course need a scoby. You can buy them live online with starter tea from here, or dehydrated from here. I recommend live. These are both reputable sources, but I got mine from my neighbor, as I stated above. There are Facebook groups dedicated to giving away fermentation starters of all kinds, so that is another option. You will also need a large container for brewing. I use a 2.5 gallon glass container with a plastic spigot. Here is one that is similar to mine. Don’t use a plastic or metal container. You will need a cloth and rubber bands to fasten it on. I use cut up receiving blankets, but you could use cloth napkins or other thinner cloths (don’t use cheesecloth). I use a loose, bulk organic Oolong tea in my Kombucha. It is a blend of black and green tea. I like it because it has less caffeine than black tea (I am sensitive to caffeine) and a milder taste. The milder taste is nice because I do a second fermentation to flavor my Kombucha. (See below for instructions.) You can use decaf tea, but pay attention to how it was decaffeinated. I use plain organic sugar. This is one instance that the other more nutritive sweeteners like maple syrup and honey won’t work. (Unless you are brewing Jun which uses green tea and honey. One of my favorite blogs, Nourished Kitchen, has an excellent how-to post on Jun. Brewing Jun is on my to-do list and as soon as I do it, you can expect a post about it from me as well.
Basic Kombucha Ratio for one gallon of tea:
- 1 cup of sugar
- 8 bags of tea or 2 tablespoons of loose leaf tea
- 2 cups of starter tea
First you need to brew your tea. I do two gallons at a time. For each gallon of tea, you need one cup of sugar. (Don’t worry. The sugar gets fermented out.) I fill a stainless steel tea ball with my tea. Bring a clean pot to a boil with filtered water. Don’t let it boil too much because the kombucha does better when there is more oxygen in the water. Turn off the heat and add your sugar. Use 2 cups of sugar for 2 gallons of tea. Stir until dissolved. Add your tea ball or tea bags. (16 bags for 2 gallons). Allow the tea to cool to room temperature. Do NOT add it to your scoby and starter tea until it has cooled!! Once your tea has cooled, add it to your clean brewing container.
Next, add your starter tea and scoby. For two gallons, use at least 4 cups of starter tea. The starter tea keeps the PH of your brew in a place where bad bacteria shouldn’t grow. As you can see from my photo, I measured out percentages on masking tape and put it on my brewing container. I drain my kombucha until it reaches 30% and then add my fresh tea. If there is a daughter, I will take either the daughter or mother out and put it in my scoby “hotel”. This is just another container for extra starter tea and extra scobys either to give away or just in case disaster strikes my brew. (This has actually happened once before, and I didn’t have a scoby hotel set up, but luckily I still had the same generous neighbor). It usually takes about a month to brew it to the tartness that I like. You can start testing it after about two weeks or so.
Generally people prefer kombucha sweeter when they first start drinking it and then later they prefer it more fermented or tart. Don’t worry if you brew it and it tastes too tart. Usually you do a second fermentation to flavor your kombucha and you can add some sugar at that point.
How to do a second fermentation
Once your kombucha is done brewing, drain it out into your bottles. (Or if you don’t have a container with a spigot, take your mother/daughter out and put it in a clean glass bowl or jar along with enough starter tea for your brew.) Use glass flip-top bottles if you want carbonation and regular glass bottles if you don’t. I use a funnel with a strainer inside to filter out yeast bits that sometimes make it through the spigot. I like to fill my bottles 1/2 to 3/4 of the way with kombucha and then add either fresh tea with a teaspoon or so of sugar (the sugar creates carbonation as the kombucha ferments it) or fruit juice (which has fructose, so no sugar is needed). You can add more or less sugar, juice, fruit, etc. to taste. If I am adding fresh tea, I usually flavor it with ginger. See below for other options. Ginger helps with intestinal issues, boost immune function, has anti-cancer properties, and is anti-inflammatory. Did I mention that it is delicious? Oh, and it also helps to create carbonation.
Speaking of carbonation, if you use flip tops, be sure to open them every couple of days (or every day) to let the gasses escape. If you forget for a few days, open over your sink or outside with a towel over it just in case. They can be quite explosive!
Possible Kombucha Flavors: (this is not an exhaustive list by any means!)
- Ginger (my favorite)
- Berry (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry..You get the idea)
- Elderberry (great for fighting off that cold or flu)
- Goji Berry
- Herbal tea
- Sliced ginger with skin on
- 1 teaspoon sugar (or more to taste)
- 1-2 cups of black or herbal tea
- Glass bottle (either flip-tops for carbonation or regular for not carbonated)
- Pour your finished kombucha into your bottle. Fill it 1/2 to 3/4 full.
- Add sugar
- Add ginger
- Pour freshly brewed tea in the rest of the way. (Be sure to leave an inch or two of head space)
- Leave on your counter for one week or 10 days. (It will ferment faster the more kombucha you have added.)
- If you use flip tops, be sure to open them every couple of days (or every day) to let the gasses escape. If you forget for a few days, open over your sink or outside with a towel over it just in case. They can be quite explosive!