**This post has been entered in Frugal Fridays at Life as MOM!**
When I first wrote about Kombucha, I had only just started brewing it. I had been drinking it for a few months and was so intrigued with it that I just couldn’t wait to share! Of course, telling all of you how to brew it when I’d only made a couple of batches is basically the blind leading the blind…not the best idea, right?
Anyway, now I’ve brewed countless batches. In fact, I brew 5 gallons about every two weeks, and have done so for almost 6 months! I have a better idea of what I’m doing now, that’s for sure. I thought it was time for an update, time to share with you what I have learned.
Kombucha is a bit finicky. One batch can be excellent, and the next batch only so-so. I always love it and drink it, regardless. But I’ve figured out a few things that help to keep the kombucha pretty tasty, week after week.
First, let’s go over the basic procedure again:
- 1 gallon filtered water
- 8 tea bags (individual)
- 1 cup sugar (white is fine)
- 1/2 – 1 cup plain kombucha
- 1 SCOBY
- 1 gallon-sized glass jar
- 1 tea towel
- 1 rubberband
First, boil some of the water. Add the tea bags and steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. Pour the tea into the glass jar and add the remaining water (this is to cool it quickly; you can boil all the water and just wait for it cool down on its own; it just takes longer). Once it is cool, add the brewed kombucha to the jar, too (this is so the pH is lowered and mold doesn’t grow). With clean hands, place the SCOBY on top of the tea. It may sink down in; this is fine. Put a towel over the top of the jar and secure it with a rubberband. Kombucha requires oxygen to brew but you want to keep the bugs out (if you put an air-tight cover on it, it will turn to alcohol!).
Leave the kombucha for 5 – 14 days, depending on the strength you like, the ambient temperature, etc. We like 9 – 12 days the best, and I usually bottle at either 11 or 12 days.
So now I have a few tips for you! And then I’ll get to the bottling part.
1) Use a “fresh” SCOBY
For my first couple of batches, I had the SCOBY sitting in the fridge for a week or two before use. This seemed to produce a bitter, yeasty kombucha. I have not had this problem since I began doing my brews consistently, always starting either immediately or within a couple days.
2) Brew for the shorter lengths of time at first; then extend it as you adjust
You may find that, if you choose to leave your brew for 12 days the first time out, that it is too strong in both flavor and potency (effects) for you. Try leaving it only 5 – 7 days at first, and slowly increasing the time as you get used to both drinking and brewing. Kombucha can cause powerful detox in new drinkers. Even though I’d been drinking it several weeks when I began brewing, I still sometimes had headaches and stomachaches when I tried to brew mine too long initially.
3) Add up to 2 cups of brewed kombucha to each new batch; the more you use, the more consistent your brew
The more kombucha you use from your previous batch, the more consistent your brew will be. This means solid flavor, good carbonation, and more. I found my brews were frequently lacking flavor and carbonation when I used only a small amount (the required 1/2 cup) of brewed kombucha in my new batch.
4) When bottling, leave a bit of space at the top so that carbonation can form
Carbonation was also lacking when I completely filled my bottles. Leaving a tiny bit of head room for the gases to expand in helped this problem.
5) Bottled kombucha should, ideally, “age” about 3 days at room temperature and an additional week in a cool place.
We also noted that the best flavor and carbonation were developed after 3 days sitting at room temperature and an additional week in the fridge. We always found that the “early” bottles we drank were disappointing, but by the time we reached the end of the batch they were pretty good! In an ideal world I’d get ahead of it so I’d always have “old” bottles to drink, but we just drink too much of it for this to happen!
6) Kombucha seems to really like lemon juice.
I’ve noted lately with some of my new flavor experiments that the kombucha seems to really like lemon juice. In the flavors which used the lemon juice, the baby SCOBYs (the gelatinous side, not the brown stringy side) grew very quickly and very large once bottled. 5 – 10 times as large as in other flavors!
7) Don’t strain your kombucha before bottling
Removing all those beneficial floaties can leave you with fewer benefits and less carbonation, so don’t do that!! You can remove some of the floaties at the time you’re ready to drink it, if they bother you.
Bottling the Kombucha
I have made several different flavors of kombucha now: grape, strawberry, cranberry, lemon-lime, and “gingerale.” Our favorites are grape and gingerale! The strawberry and cranberry flavors were actually really underwhelming. The flavors were so faint it was hardly even worth it. I definitely didn’t notice the overpowering, bitter cranberry flavor when I used that, even though it was 100% cranberry juice.
To bottle, you need to do these things:
- Set up a workspace with all your tools, realizing it’s going to get messy. I put a towel down before I set my stuff up (picture below).
- Set the SCOBY in a small container and cover it with some kombucha.
- Pour 1 ounce of juice into each 16-oz. bottle (or, if you bottle in larger containers, a proportionate amount). You can skip this step if you want plain.
- Fill the bottles almost all the way with kombucha.
- Screw the caps on tightly.
- Set the bottles aside to age 2 – 3 days before placing in the fridge.
- Restart your new batches.
Done! This process should take you approximately 10 minutes per gallon.
Grape: 1 ounce 100% organic grape juice
Strawberry: 1 ounce pureed strawberries (can use frozen, but thaw first)
Lemon-lime: 1 tbsp. EACH lemon and lime juices, freshly squeezed
Gingerale: 1 tbsp. EACH lemon and lime juices OR 2 tbsp. lemon juice + 2 – 3 slices fresh ginger
Cranberry: 1 ounce 100% organic cranberry juice
You can use 1 ounce of any fruit juice you’d like. These amounts are all for 16-oz. bottles.
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