Kombucha Brewing Guide

Kombucha Brewing GuideKombucha may be a healthful beverage in view of its anti-microbial activity against a range of pathogenic bacteria. This may promote immunity and general well being.

 

Ingredients  for one gallon-size brew:

  • Kombucha Mushroom
  • 2 cups of  “starter tea”  from the previous kombucha tea brew.  (10-25%)
  • 6-8 t-bags or 3-5 grams (one spoonful) of loose leaf tea
  • one cup sugar
  • 3 Quarts (12 cups) of fresh pure water.

Materials Needed:

  • clean cotton cloth, paper towel or coffee filter to fit over fermenting container and a large rubber band to secure
  • a warm quiet spot (it does not need to be in the dark!)
  • white distilled vinegar or alcohol to clean utensils. Do not use bleach or soap
  • It is not recommended to clean or rinse off the kombucha mushroom, but if you do so use only white distilled vinegar or alcohol.

Ready to Start:

  1. Boil Water. Do not over boil. Over boiling reduces the oxygen and carbon dioxide needed for fermenting kombucha. The purpose is to heat the water sufficiently to extract the tea and dissolve the sugar. We recommend using only good pure water. NOT tap or well water
  2. Add Sugar: stir till dissolved
  3. Add Tea: seep for recommended time dependent upon tea. Remove t-bags. Some people only seep their tea for a few minutes others allow it to stay over night. Many people choose their tea based upon the medicinal value of the tea, such as Rooibos Tea, Organic Green, Black or White Tea
  4. Cool to room temperature and pour into a brewing container
  5. Add two cups  “Starter Tea”  – Use the liquid from your previous kombucha brew or buy a bottle of kombucha from the store
  6. Add the Kombucha. Place the “mother” kombucha in the tea. Make sure that the tea is not hot ! Bring both to room temperature before adding. The kombucha will grow to fit any size container. The “mother” may float, sink or go on its side; No Problem.
  7. Cover with cloth that is tight knit, coffee paper filters, paper towels are often used depending on the size of the container various covers are options. The purpose is to prevent pathogens from contaminating the brew. IF wide mouth container: tape the bowl to prevent the cloth from sinking into the tea (X shape – 2 pcs tape)
  8. Set in a dark cool (but not too cool, ie not a super cold garage) place.
  9. Leave undisturbed for 6-8 days.

What you’ll see:

The new baby will form on the surface of the liquid. – new mushroom begins as a clear translucent film, eventually creating a uniform appearance. The brown “sludge” is spent yeast cells; it’s healthy stuff but most folks strain their brew before drinking.

Testing your brew. One way  is to stick a straw in. Place your finger over one end and pull out. Place the other end in your mouth and and then release your finger. The tea will then come out. This is usually day 6-8.

1/8 – 1/4 inch thick baby is normal and healthy.

Separate the mushrooms, save 10-25% of liquid for the next batch

Most often the baby and mother are very close and sometimes inseparable, however the baby will always form on the surface, even if the mother sinks

Either the baby or the mother may be used for your next brew. With subsequent brewing they don’t get any bigger just turn a darker brownish.

The color of the tea, as well as the kombucha is dependent upon the type of tea used as well as how long the tea was allowed to brew. Green tea being much lighter in color and favor producing a lighter color tea as well as a new baby.

Separate the mushrooms.

You may use either mushroom to start another batch. Or you may leave them together. Or you may give one to a friend. But you should always save one in case something happens to yours.

To save extra mushrooms:

  • Place the extra ones in a large glass jar. Fill only 1/2 way with the mushrooms adding some fresh sugar and tea and allowing at least 1/2 to be empty for air. You may then cap and leave at room temperature.
  • Do not refrigerate.
  • Every 2 weeks or so replace that tea with fresh sugar and tea and fresh air.
  • Save 1-2  full cups (10-25%) for a starter tea for the next batch. Save the brown sludge and squidly little things especially if your brew is short on the yeasty side. Strain or discard those if you wish to increase the bacteria side of the SCOBY.

Filtering.

Pour the KT through a filter (to catch all those brown sludge (AKA: squidlies). Use cheesecloth or any clean porous fabric. (Paper towels or coffee filters will quickly clog) Run a hot iron over the cheesecloth as a form of sanitation.

Bottling.

We suggest selecting a size bottle that you will finish within one or two days. This is prevent the brew from going flat or sour. Similar to the demise of soda, beer or wine that once has been opened loses their appeal.

Pour the filtered kombucha tea into a clean plastic bottle and fill to the brim. Squeeze slightly to remove all the air and cap. Plastic water bottles are better as they allow for expansion. Allow to mature for a few days or up to a year or more. The  activity of the bacterium is stopped because the bottling excludes the air, while the yeast continues to work the  gas produced by the yeast’s activities, is unable to escape. Thus an effervescent drink is produced. You may store your brew for years.

Flavoring Ideas

  • one or two raisins
  • sliver of ginger
  • Stevia
  • 1/4 tsp fructose per quart
  • Herbal additives include ginger, cayenne, elderberries, ginseng, goji berries, or any combination of dried or fresh herbs.
  • Cherries
  • dash of vanilla extract
  • couple tablespoons of fruit or juice. Passion fruit puree, sliced strawberries and sliced dried apricots are fabulous.

Add before bottling to sweeten and for a second fermentation.

Secondary Bottling. Allow the bottles to sit at room temperature for 1-2 days for a secondary anaerobic (without oxygen) fermentation. This fermentation will continue until the remaining sugars are used and then refrigerate to stop the process and the ferment go dormant. Refrigeration is not needed for long term storage but KT should be maintained in a cool dry place similar to storing fine wine.

Be sure to mark the date and type of kombucha you’ve prepared.

How to Begin Continuous Kombucha Brewing

You Need

  • Two gallon (or larger) glass or ceramic container
    • food grade plastic may be used. These may be identified with the number 1 or 2 inside a triangle on the bottom. Or a Oak Wood (vinegar) cask.
  • Clean cotton cloth, paper towel or coffee filter to fit over fermenting container and a large rubber band to secure
  • Select a distinctive and easily accessible home for your Continuous Brewing Container. Be sure that the spigot is accessible. You’ll want to easily fit a cup under the spigot.
  • Clean everything with white distilled vinegar or alcohol  –  DO NOT USE SOAP.
  • Just about any water is OK except for water that has chlorine or harmful chemicals (fluorine).
  • Decide how much kombucha tea you want to maintain. ( 2 gallons, 3 gallons, etc)
    • As a  rule of thumb  figure you will be producing 12 – 25 ounces of Kombucha Mushroom Tea per gallon of ferment per day. Therefore a 2 gallon ferment will produce twice that or 24-50 fluid ounces of kombucha tea every day, and 3 gallon ferment will produce 3 times that or 12 x 3 = 36 – 60 fl ounces a day. You don’t have to personally drink it all by yourself you can share with friends or even bottle for latter.
  • Never fill the container to the brim. Only fill about 3/4 or so, leaving room for the mushroom to grow and for the exchange of gases.
    • Evaporating gases may condense on a low hanging cover  causing dampness on the cover and thereby possibly contamination.

 

Feeder Solution: adding fresh sugar and tea to the ferment as you draw off and drink the fermented kombucha mushroom tea

  • As a guide maintain these ratios to the volume  of water – (one quart water/3 ounces sugar/3 grams tea)
  • water: one quart (1 litre) of water  – 1 liter = 34 ounces
  • sugar: 1/4 cup sugar
  • tea  3-5 grams or 2-3 t-bags
  • Boil Water: Do not over boil. Over boiling reduces the oxygen and carbon dioxide needed for fermenting kombucha. The purpose is to heat the water sufficiently to extract the tea and dissolve the sugar.
  • Add Tea: steep for recommended time dependent upon tea. Remove t-bags. Some people only seep their tea for a few minutes others allow it to stay over night.
  • Add Sugar: No need to boil just hot enough to dissolve the sugar
  • Cool down: Do not add Hot feeder solution to the fermenting Kombucha. Best to add at room or same temperature.
  • Stir the brew when adding feeder solution
  • note:  The feeder solution may be made in larger batches and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Fresh Sugar and Tea should last a few days refrigerated
  • note:  First Draw off the fermented kombucha tea and then add the Feeder Solution. This allows the fresh sugar and tea to be processed.

Stir the brew when adding fresh Feeder Solution – Do not worry about disturbing the kombucha mushroom. Kombucha Tea needs oxygen to ferment properly. This also mixes the old ferment with the fresh solution. Of course every time you disturb the brewing process the mushroom or SCOBY has to start forming all over again. But here we are after the liquid tea not the cellulose which forms the SCOBY or mushroom. Creamy smooth SCOBY usually seen in the single stage method do not form as well in the

Continuous Method.

The key to Continuous Brewing is maintaining the level of Kombucha tea that in character and taste is just right for you. There may be times when you have extra and want to bottle some for latter. You may also decide to do a Secondary Ferment  and get more creative with your brew, even making up different flavors and spices. Your ferment taste and character will stay just about the same for 3-4 days but beyond that begins to age and sour noticeably.  That may be a good opportunity to bottle off most of your brew and to start a fresh full batch the day you leave. Plan on a 8-14 day day cycle before the new batch is ready.  Now if you find the batch is way too sour, get a large pot and pour off 1/2 of the sour batch into a clean pot and set aside. Boil up a new batch of sugar and tea equal to what you just removed. When cooled begin slowing adding the fresh sugar and tea back into your sour ferment until the taste begins just slightly too sweet. If you over sweeten you ferment then put back in some of the sour stuff you set aside. The next day your ferment should be back to your taste and character. The really sour stuff has many benefits so don’t throw it away. It makes an excellent foot soak, skin splash and hair rinse.

Tea type: Many people choose their tea based upon the medicinal value of the tea. Research indicates Pu-erh Tea is beneficial in intestinal disorders. White Tea is higher in anti-oxidants. Rooibos caffeine free. Black tea is traditional for kombucha

To review. The key is to maintain what you have. You accomplish this by removing some (drinking it or bottling it) and by adding some fresh sugar and tea back (feeder solution). If it gets too sour simply remove more and add fresh Feeder Solution. Now if you overly sweeten the ferment you have to wait a bit until the taste is again to your liking. Or add some sour kombucha that you may have stashed away earlier.

Cleaning:

At some point you may decide its time to clean out your brew. It may be that the the yeast are over populated, the taste is thicker, yeastier, and/or the spigot is clogged. Sometimes you can use a small tube and hold it to the spigot and remembering to open the spigot, as you blow and unblock the spigot.

You can clean with soap and water, but just washing with boiling water and/or white vinegar is sufficient, too.  Boiling water and white vinegar are sanitary and won’t affect the conditions for the mushroom when you continue brewing.

The Mushroom:

At some point the mushroom may just become too large or too scary! The mushroom itself is important to a kombucha ferment as it contains more of the bacteria and serves as protection and direction for the bacteria. So up to a point, more mushroom is better. In my opinion a one to two inch thick mushroom is good. I routinely reduce anything over that amount.

You can cut, slice or dice the mushroom with any instrument or even with your hands (but avoid having the mushroom come into contact with metal). The mushroom is not adversely affected with only a brief encounter.

Filtering:

To clean or filter your brew. You only need a large container and some cheesecloth. Use any large container that you normally use in your cooking. Fold some cheesecloth over several times to get the degree of filtering you need. Run a hot iron first over the cheesecloth to help with sanitation and avoid possible contamination. Using a strainer (metal or plastic) helps hold the cheesecloth in place. Using the cheesecloth, strain the ferment. Leave some ferment in the dirty container and use that liquid to clean the inside. Toss out the dirty ferment.

Pour some of the filter kombucha tea back into the original container to use as a final rinse. Swirl around and toss out. Return the ferment to the container using another piece of cheesecloth to again filter the ferment.  Secure the cover and you’re ready.

Filtering Kombucha Tea.  

Filtering before bottling increases the carbonation level as oxygen is added. Filtering also removes bacteria and yeasts. Filtering will weaken or improve the taste depending upon your preferences

Going on Vacation:

Good time to bottle and preserve your brew for latter. Leave about 1/2 a gallon (2 quarts/2 liters) in the container. This will continue to ferment and be nice and ready to use as the starter for your new brew when you come back from vacation and are ready to resume brewing. Simply follow the Basic Recipe. Alternatively if you’ll be gone between 1-2 weeks the you may decide to go ahead and draw off and bottle and begin a fresh new batch. Depending upon temperatures the typical ferment will take 8-14 days, so you can plan to have a nice brew when you get home. note- for safety reasons I do not recommend leaving any heating pads on when you are on vacation as it may pose a potential fire risk. (as is true with coffee makers, etc)  If the weather is hot, leave enough liquid in the container to account for any evaporation.

Typically a continuous brewing ferment remains relatively constant for about 2-3 days and slowly changes towards the sour side steadily thereafter. Whenever the brew becomes too sour, simply pour off more of the sour brew replacing with sweet feeder solution. note- one idea is to pour off a quantity of the sour tea into another container. This way in case you take out too much you can pour back in some to balance the brew.

Why Continuous Brewing

Taste & Benefit – The Optimum Kombucha Brew.  Continuous Brewing is the easiest and simplest way to make Kombucha Tea. All one needs is a 2 gallon or larger container.

Follow the basic Kombucha Recipe. Once you have fermented your Kombucha tea to its proper level, all you have to do is to replace that which you drink with fresh sugar & tea mix. Adding new sugar and tea may be done each day, or every other day and sometimes on the third day.

Advantage of the Continuous Brewing Method is that the optimum health benefit of all the nutrients are readily available. There is no need to do weekly cleaning, no need to remove or worry about the kombucha mushroom, and mold is far less likely to form. Since you are simply maintaining a consistent established ferment, your brew is far less likely to be influenced by wild or airborne bacteria and yeasts. In kombucha fermenting, as in beer, wine or vinegar, the initial phrase, is the most critical and the most likely time a batch may go off in a unwanted direction.  Only Continuous Brewing of the kombucha allows the formation of the vast array of the many nutrients and  acids that are constantly being produced  and broken down throughout the active ferment time.  Continuous Brew will always produce the widest  range of all the nutrients possible.

The tea and sugar used will be a major influence but the temperature has a significant influence on the overall character of a kombucha tea.

Kombucha Mushroom Tea is ready when you are. That is to say that as a tasty beverage

you may drink it anytime. So brew it to your taste. The longer it ferments the more sour/vinegary it becomes. So if its too sweet allow a few more days to ferment. The health benefits may be a different reason for establishing the taste (sweet/sour balance). Fortunately those are typically at the semi-sweet taste that appeals to most people.

The same safe food rules apply. Looks Good (no fuzzy or dry powdery growth), Smells Good (pleasant, slightly vinegary no medicineny or nail polish aroma)  taste Good.

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