Continuous Brew Kombucha
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Kombucha is hands down my FAVORITE beverage. There is something really thirst-quenching and reviving about a really fresh, bubbly, tart, slightly sweet, and fruity glass of kombucha. I can't live without kombucha. Like I can't. Maybe that's a problem. Right now I don't care. This yeasty, fermented, ancestral, traditional beverage also helps your liver detox AND boosts milk production - which makes this lactating mama very happy. :)
I have been brewing kombucha for almost 10 years now. I started brewing kombucha back in 2010 with my mom. We used to buy GT's kombucha by the case at Whole Foods when they first started carrying it - and our daily habit was getting a little pricey! So we got started with our first SCOBY ("symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast") from a local ancestral foodie and it started to grow from there. When Chance and I got married in 2013, we started brewing it together and Chance being the "master brewer," had lots of opinions about how we could refine the process and he helped to make it a whole lot easier!
Finding a good SCOBY:
So the best SCOBY comes from a friend. :) A SCOBY does not like to travel very far and it stays more alive and will make better tea if you don't have to resurrect it from the dead. ;) So by all means, if you have friend who brews homemade kombucha, get a SCOBY baby from them! Or if you live in my area, contact me! Once you start brewing kombucha, your mother SCOBY will make a new "baby" SCOBY on top every single batch you make, so you will have plenty to pull off and share with your friends as well!! Second best SCOBY comes from a local farm - I know Fall Line Farms has a few vendors that have sold SCOBYs before - I actually grew my current SCOBY from Farmstead Ferments from Fall Line Farms! You can also order SCOBYs online, that may work fine, but it may be dead when you get it as well. The closer to home you can get it, the better! A SCOBY needs to come with starter kombucha as well. So make sure you get some starter with your SCOBY. If your sweet tea does not get bubbly and sour, then your SCOBY isn't working. I say get a new one!! Healthy SCOBYs make healthy kombucha and they work REALLY WELL!! :D
Now what makes continuous brew kombucha "continuous" is the spigot set-up! The spigot is what allows you to bottle some of the fermented kombucha tea without disturbing the SCOBY. The good news is that you can buy the glass jars with spigots already installed. (Chance actually had to build ours himself with a diamond drill bit and some special putty stuff and running water in the bath tub as he drilled through our 2-gallon glass jar to install a spigot!;)
Brewing the Tea
First, boil 1 gallon of filtered water in a large stock pot. I have this 12 quart size which I got at Walmart and it is the perfect size for this recipe for kombucha tea!! When the water comes to a boil, add 2 cups of sugar and a heaping 1/4 cup of black tea. Stir the sugar and the tea well until the sugar mostly dissolves, turn the heat off, and cover with the lid for 20 min. Now add the other 1/2 gallon of filtered water - this helps to accelerate the cooling!
Getting the loose leaf black tea is SO much more cost effective than using tea bags - trust me!! And this sugar is by far the best deal in town! We also use our Berkey to filter the water for our kombucha.
Strain the tea into the glass jar with a spigot. You can either use a nylon mesh strainer or a stainless steel strainer. If you choose the stainless steel one, PLEASE make sure the metal does NOT touch the SCOBY or the starter tea. The metal strainer can obviously touch the sweet tea as you strain it through - but the acidic kombucha or the SCOBY will eat the metal and it is not good. If you want to be extra safe, just use the nylon strainer. I have both of them. You will also need these strainers for the flavoring puree that you add right before the second ferment. :)
Now if this is your first time brewing kombucha, carefully add your SCOBY and starter culture to the glass jar with your fresh sweet tea. Cover with a clean white flour sack towel and secure around the top with a large rubber band. Allow to sit and ferment for 5-10 days. You should start tasting it around day 5. Just take a little bit from the bottom out of the spigot and taste it for sweetness - you want it to be only very slightly sweet, but not yet vinegary. The "tea taste" should be almost completely gone and it should be slightly effervescent. If it still tastes like sweet tea, let it keep going.
Each time you brew another batch, it will ferment faster and faster. A new batch is ready to be bottled every 2 days at our house! The bigger your SCOBY, the more starter tea you have, and the warmer the temperature, the fast the sweet tea will ferment into kombucha!
Bottling the kombucha
To bottle the kombucha, you will need several sets of 12- 16os. glass jars. We have a ton of GT's kombucha bottles and tops that we use. We also have used swing top bottles in the past - they fizz up really well!!
Fill up 12 bottles, using the spigot on your glass jar, with the fermented kombucha tea. Fill each bottle about 90% up to leave room for some flavor and some air! :) Next add some FLAVOR! My favorite flavor is strawberry - hands down.
Now here is my FLAVOR SECRET: make a puree with fresh or frozen fruit and some juice and strain. This puree will pack your kombucha with flavor and fizz!! The fresh or frozen fruit adds some "living" flavor to the kombucha in a way that just using pasteurized juice on its own doesn't do. Nor does adding "chunky" fresh fruit to each bottle add the same level of flavor either. The puree lets the flavor REALLY become ONE with the 'bucha!! :D
To make strawberry kombucha-- I use about a cup and a half of organic frozen strawberries and blend it in our smoothie blender with 2 cups of strawberry lemonade. Don't worry about the sugar, all the yummy kombucha bugs eat most of the sugar out during the second ferment! :D Then strain out the strawberry seeds and pulp with the same strainer you use for the tea. Add a little bit of this juice and fruit mixture to each of the bottles. Chance uses a funnel to make this easier. Put the lids on tightly and ferment at room temperature for 2 days. Refrigerate. And now your kombucha is ready to enjoy!
To make mixed berry kombucha: puree 1 1/2 cups of frozen mixed berries with 2 cups of apple juice or some other juice. Strain the puree through a mesh strainer. Divide the puree evenly between the the 12 bottles. Secure the caps on the bottles and leave at room temperature to second ferment for 2 days before refrigerating.
To make ginger berry kombucha: puree 1 1/2 cups of frozen mixed berries with 2 cups of apple juice or other juice and add a big 2-3 in chunk of fresh, peeled ginger root. Puree and strain. Add the puree to the bottles. Secure the caps on the bottles and leave at room temperature to second ferment for 2 days before refrigerating.
Brew more sweet tea to replace the kombucha you just took out. Let it cool. Place the strainer on top of your glass jar. Pour the cooled sweet tea through the strainer into the glass jar. If you are doing the continuous brew method then you just pour the tea into the jar and your SCOBY and starter will already be in the jar! :D
Place a flour sack towel on top of the glass jar and secure it with a large rubber band. Let it ferment 2-5 days. Our takes only 2 days before it is ready to be bottled again!
1 gallon + 1/2 gallon filtered water - (we filter it with our Royal Berkey!)
1/4 cup, heaping of loose leaf organic black tea
1 SCOBY* - you can get one of these from me if you are local! :D
2 cups of kombucha starter (from a previous batch)
*see notes above about finding a good SCOBY
Second Ferment Flavoring:
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen fruit - like strawberries, mixed berries, peaches, pears, or apples, ginger is good too!
2 cups juice or juice blends like strawberry lemonade, fruit punch, or apple or grape juices
Continuous Brew Kombucha Steps:
1. Brew the sweet tea according to the recipe
2. Allow the tea to cool completely - or else it will kill the SCOBY!!
3. Strain the tea into the glass jar with a spigot
4. Let the tea ferment for 2 days up to 7 days (depending on how big your SCOBY is and how warm the environment) - ours takes only 2 days for ours
5. Using the spigot, fill 12 glass bottles 90% full of plain kombucha tea
6. Leave the SCOBY and some of the kombucha tea in the glass jar
7. Add juice or a combination of juice and pureed fresh or frozen fruit to top off each bottle
8. Let the flavored kombucha tea second ferment for 2 days at room temperature
9. Go back to step 1 - brew more sweet tea, let it cool, and add it to the glass jar
10. Refrigerate the bottles of kombucha after 2 days
Keep repeating all these steps in sequence and you will always have fresh, fizzy kombucha on hand! :)
So there you have it! That's our continuous brew method. That differs from the old way we used to do it where we would take OUT the SCOBY every single time we bottled. I think the SCOBY gets stronger and stays healthier the less you handle it - so I have found this method to brew much better and fizzier kombucha!
Cleaning the Jar
You can definitely clean the jars every so often, but I would not do it more than once a month. You don't have to do it at all unless it really bugs you or your spigot get clogged with a mini SCOBY. ;)
To clean the jars, wait until you have just bottled and before you add more tea. With clean hands, carefully take out the SCOBY and put it on a ceramic plate or in another glass jar. Carefully pour you extra starter into a glass jar. Clean your glass jar and spigot with mild soapy water. Rinse really really well so as to leave NO soap residue. Dry completely and then carefully put the SCOBY and the starter tea back into the jar.
Why drink kombucha?
This great podcast from Wise Traditions- an interview with Hilda Labrada Gore and "Kombucha Mamma" talks about some of the great benefits! And check out her website at https://www.kombuchakamp.com - she has a lot of great information!!
Please let me know if you have any questions!!
Hope you enjoy!
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