Our family has been making kombucha for years and this health-boosting drink is a favorite in our house. Many of my friends and family have been gifted a â€śbaby kombuchaâ€ť as my kids call the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast).
From a previous article:
Kombucha is a fermented sweetened tea that has been around for centuries. It is slightly tangy and slightly sweet, and a great treat on a summer day. Just as with water kefir, kombucha can be double fermented into a fizzy soda with a slight fruit taste.
Kombucha contains high levels of antioxidants, b-vitamins, probiotics, and glucaric acid. It has been reported to have a variety of health benefits including:
- liver detoxification
- improved pancreas function
- increased energy
- better digestion
- improved mood (helps with anxiety/depression)
- kills candida (yeast)
- helps nutrient assimilation
Kombucha has gained popularity in recent years and there are some pre-made commercial versions available. While they taste great, homemade versions are a much more frugal alternative (and equally delicious in my opinion).
For years I had been brewing with the batch system for making kombucha and while I still really like that method, Iâ€™ve found that the continuous brew method is easier to fit into our schedule now. As the names suggest, the batch method is where kombucha is brewed in batches and re-started with each batch by using the SCOBY â€śbabyâ€ť and some of the liquid from the previous batch.
The continuous brew kombucha method involves removing only some of the liquid each time and replacing with the same amount of fresh brewed sweetened tea. Leaving at least 30% of the brew after each decant is ideal, but you can drink a little at a time and add tea when the level gets low.
This yields a fresher brew (in my opinion), helps it brew faster (good when there are 6 people consuming it each day) and takes up less room on the counter. This article from the Weston A. Price foundation talks about the benefits of continuous brew.
From that article:
The benefits of continuous brewing are both practical and nutritional. They include:
- Less risk of mold and other contamination in kombucha batches, as once established, the liquid maintains a far more acidic environment, more hostile to outside invaders because of smaller amounts of free sugar and a greater population of good bacteria and yeast.
- Less overall work to produce more overall volume.
- More consistent supply of kombucha (a few bottles every day or every few days rather than having a large batch all at once).
- A broader array of bacteria and other beneficial compounds in the final product.
The main difference in the methods is that continuous brew uses a larger container with a spigot so some of the brewed kombucha can be removed, leaving enough mature brew to start again. This means the container, spigot, and other materials must be of proper quality for kombucha production.
I have several friends who use a two gallon mason-type jar with a spigot or any of the fermentation crocks here. Really any glass or ceramic jar with a spigot works as long as the spigot is safe. Or, you can take the guesswork out by getting a complete brew package from here.
SCOBYs are living and thriving colonies of bacteria and unfortunately, you canâ€™t just pick up a high quality one at your grocery store. There are a couple of ways to acquire a SCOBY.
Once you have a SCOBY, the actual process of making kombucha is very easy! Youâ€™ll also want to make sure you have the correct amounts of tea and sugar for your container size.
Courtesy of The Big Book of Kombucha, here is a handy chart for batch and container size:
How to Make Continuous Brew Kombucha
Itâ€™s easy to get started, and if you are a regular kombucha drinker, youâ€™ll save so much money!
Thereâ€™s a few things youâ€™ll need before making a continuous brew, including:
A great way to brew kombucha so you have a continuous supply without the need to constantly re-make and clean containers.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 64 oz
Once tea is completely cool, pour into glass jar, leaving about 20% of the room at the top.
Pour in the correct amount of liquid from a previous batch of kombucha or if starting from a dehydrated SCOBY, pour in Â˝ cup from a store-bought bottle of kombucha. If you don’t have starter liquid, vinegar can be used instead.
With very clean hands, add the SCOBY. The SCOBY may sink or float, it makes no difference, as the new SCOBY will eventually form on the top.
Let sit to ferment for around 7-21 days, though the length of time may vary depending on your temperature and batch size. You can taste test the kombucha to see if it is done. It should taste tart but still very slightly sweet also.
At this point, kombucha is ready for a second ferment to add carbonation. If you arenâ€™t doing the second ferment, just pour the kombucha into another jar or jars with airtight lids and seal until ready to drink.
Serving: 8oz | Calories: 240kcal | Carbohydrates: 56.3g | Sodium: 80mg | Sugar: 16.3g
For more specifics, here is a helpful video from my friend Hannah (the Kombucha Mamma) and you can watch the full series of tutorial videos here:
Kombucha can be consumed as soon as it is done brewing, but adding fruit juice or fruit can make kombucha carbonated and slightly sweeter, which is often more appealing to kids. It is an easy second step too!
Continuous brew can be even easier than the batch method and is my method of choice. It just requires a few small tweaks for best flavor:
You can add it right away after decanting, or wait until you are ready for more kombucha. After adding the tea, wait at least 2 days and then begin tasting. The more mature the brew is, the faster it will turn that sweet tea into kombucha, so when you first start the continuous brew, it may take a little longer to be ready. The longer it ferments, the more tart the brew will be, so harvest when you like the flavor.
The brew is ready when you like the flavor, that is the most important factor. If you donâ€™t like the taste, you wonâ€™t drink it! Of course, the longer it brews, the less sugar is present, so those who are concerned with keeping sugar content low should ferment a few extra days until the flavor is more sour. Trust your taste buds to let you know.
One of the great things about continuous brew is not having to clean the vessel between each brew. However, every couple of months it will be time to clean out the vessel, remove excess yeast from the spigot, and even cut down the SCOBY so that it doesnâ€™t take up too much room in the vessel.
To clean, remove the large SCOBY and remaining liquid to another vessel or bowl, then remove the spigot and rinse all elements clean. If soap is used, rinse again very well to prevent any residue from causing issues with the brew. Then trim down the SCOBY as needed (you can use a knife or scissors as brief contact wonâ€™t be a problem) and re-start just as before.
If you would like more detailed instructions, I highly recommend The Big Book of Kombucha as the ideal resource for all your kombucha questions. Or you could choose to get an online kit that includes the book, videos, and complete instructions, as well as the supplies. They have taken out all the guesswork!
For even more on the science and lore of kombucha, check out my podcasts with Hannah Krum:
Do you make kombucha? Ever tried this method? Share below!