|Sweet magical elixir of goodness|
I love kombucha. My friends know this. My family knows this. My patients know this. Strangers at the YMCA know this. I love it love it love it. I find I like both single and continuous batch ferments and need the extra around sometimes so I am often found with both types of science experiments rolling around my kitchen. There are advantages for either but I think there are many greater advantages to the continuous brew based primarily on incredible convenience. Continuous brew essentially makes it a low maintenance operation. The flavor is a little stronger, but no big deal. Also with continuous brew, instead of brewing pretty new SCOBY babies each time, you will grow one mammoth SCOBY-zilla that must be paired down due to both space occupying and aesthetic reasons.
If you plan to second ferment (which is where the personality and fizzy part comes in) you will need several jars- so either start saving your GT glass jars now or use any grolsch-style jar that has a well sealed lid.
I like to brew a big batch of sweet tea in a heavily concentrated amount so that when I am ready to pour off the delicious and fabulous brew, it is a total cinch to refill the batch and keep the love going. This will save much time in brewing each time and waiting for the fresh tea to come down to a safe temp.
Also, and this is an important note: I briefly/partially decaffeinate my tea so therefore the ratios you see below are stronger than elsewhere. If you don’t want to decaffeinate, you can surely try my recipe or enjoy any number of other recipes available online. A favorite website is www.culturesforhealth.com. Here you will find all sorts of curious uses for extra booch or extra SCOBYs. Please do tell if you go for the facial mask option.
Getting Started - You will need:
- 1-gallon jar (single batch) or 2-gallon jar with plastic lined spigot (continuous brew)
- Black tea (I use Tetley's British blend from QFC)
- Sugar (I use organic turbinado)
- 2c starter liquid (Plain kombucha)
- Cloth cover and rubber band
To Start (making your sweet tea concentrate)
- 4c filtered water
- 6 large tea bags
- 3c/24oz sugar
Bring 4c water to a boil, add the tea bags, turn off heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes then strain out bags.
**If you are decaffeinating your tea**
Before you add your tea in the step above please pour separately boiled water over your tea bags, let steep for 30-60 seconds, discard this water and add the tea bags in the above noted pot. I typically do in a glass measuring cup.
To add this concentrate to your brew, simply dilute
Making the Kombucha
- Clean out your container without using soap or other cleansers- white vinegar works well
- Make sure your hands are clean, of course
- Fill your container with sweet tea (make sure to dilute if using the concentrate above) leaving enough room to add your starter kombucha and SCOBY to the top
- Gently and lovingly add in your starter and SCOBY floater
- Cover with cloth and put a rubber band around it. This protects from fruit flies, etc. Gross.
- Wait 7-14 days or so. This will depend entirely on your kitchen temp, taste preferences and the constellations above.
- Begin pouring off a taste of the brew after a week or so to see if you like the flavor. Technically, it is considered kombucha if it has a pH of 3.5 or under (I geekily test this)
- When you dig the flavor, you are ready! If you like plain kombucha, you are ready to enjoy.
- Keep your kombucha between 70-85deg for brewing. I actually lovingly wrap my vessel in an electronic seed mat from the local plant nursery during the winter as my kitchen is freezing. You can buy cheap thermometer sticker to keep on your jar.
- DO NOT pour hot tea over your SCOBY. You must love your SCOBY and this means gentle handling.
- Please also do not keep your SCOBY in the fridge. Brrrrr.
Decanting your brew (single batch)
- There are two ways. Typically you are instructed to (with surgically clean hands) pick out the SCOBY and place it in a glass container. Set it aside and cover it with 2c of your kombucha – this will start your next batch
- Now pour the ready kombucha into your other jars to you wish to keep it in. Here is where the “second ferment” happens for those who want to add fizz and personality. More details below on this....
- Clean/rinse your gallon jar, add back the SCOBY and reserved kombucha, and fill the jar with sweet tea or tea concentrate/water as above and repeat the process
- I think handling the SCOBY is pretty gross, so I totally short cut this and simply use a ladle to get out the kombucha and pour it into my jars (using a funnel). I make sure to leave enough liquid in the bottom and just add my tea/water to the top and it’s all good. I go through the handling process about every 6 batches or so depending on my level of motivation. If I am grossed out by the jar, I just cover it :) - I find a kombucha cozy makes me happy.
- Once your batch is set again, it will be about 7-14 days for your brew to be ready, repeat!
Decanting your brew (continuous batch)
- So easy! Just put your jar under the spigot and fill your bottles.
- Make sure to leave about 40% of your container full (only pour off about 60% max)
- Refill your jar with tea or tea concentrate/water to replace the amount you pulled off
- Your next batch will be ready in 2-5 days roughly. This is much faster than the single so I love it.
Second fermentation (where the creativity and fun come in)
- Here is where you will add flavor of any kind into your small jars, then cap tightly and wait again
- This second 3-10 day period is when the second fermentation takes place but since you have the air locked in, the fizz stays in the bottle. This also helps to develop more delicious flavors in the fermentation process.
- These will be fine at room temp during second ferment. Transfer them to the fridge when you are ready to stop the fermentation process.
- Everywhere on the internet you hear scary stories of exploding bottles (lots of pressure can build up in your bottles). I have never actually read a story of anyone having this happen. Everyone says they hear about it happening but have never experienced it. My strategy is to keep my jars in a large foil baking pan since a jar will typically break at the bottom where it is the weakest. Or maybe out of the top. Anyway, I imagine my pan helping to contain the mess.
- You can add anything in here! I find a little goes a long way and make sure there is sugar in it or the beast cannot feed. I typically use 20ml/16oz jar. Not much.
- Some ideas include (but are not at all limited to)
Blueberries – fresh or frozen. About 5-8 are plenty
o Other berries – black, cran, rasp, etc
o Chopped peach (girls only, according to my husband)
o Cranberry juice
o Pomegranate juice or seeds
o Fresh ginger
o Grape juice
o Strawberry lemonade
o Copycat trilogy (see next bullet)
- I like to make a magical elixir trio combining lemon juice, unsweetened cranberry juice and ginger simple syrup. I keep the ginger I use to make the simple syrup and add it in the bottles for added flavor and immunity boost. What doesn’t benefit from candied ginger? I make up a big batch of this and its ready to add in my bottles. Seems to last for ages.
Keeping your SCOBY hotel
Here is where your friends and family will start to worry about you going off the rails. With each batch of single brew or every few times you refill your continuous brew, you will make a new SCOBY. It is highly recommended to keep several of these in a separate jar covered with plain kombucha in case. In case of what? Well, in case you find yourself in a cult-like trance trying to start every friend or stranger in the store who will listen how to brew their own. In case you need to start a second jar when you are out-drinking your first. In case your jar gets moldy. In case you think your kid’s bookcase looks too plain with only books in it and just needs a jar full of slimy pancakes with yeasty tendrils dangling down. Just good in case.
|SCOBY hotel, in situ|
|Booch nestled lovingly in warming blanket|