Guest Post: Continuous Kombucha from Cultured Palate

January 27, 2013 · 27 comments

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I am thrilled to be a part of Jill’s Kombucha Challenge here at Real Food Forager to share my method with you – the kombucha continuous brew method!

First, let me introduce myself. I am Dina-Marie, the author of Cultured Palate blog, mother of 10 children (7 of whom are still at home!), wife to the same man for almost 29 years (and I still love him!) and a kombucha enthusiast. As you can probably guess, with 7 children still at home, we go through a lot of kombucha at our house!

So, if you are up to step 2 in the Kombucha Challenge, then you are probably already hooked, not only on the health benefits of kombucha, but also the taste. Now, it is time to begin making it at home. At $3 to $4+ per bottle, if for no other reason than economics, it is time to learn the art of making kombucha!

Continuous Brew Kombucha Gives Better Quality

When I began making kombucha a couple of years ago, I used 1 gallon glass jars and covered them with cheesecloth which I secured with a rubber band. The problem was, there is only so much room on the top of a refrigerator for jars and I had reached my limit! So, I began researching the continuous brew method of making kombucha. I found that not only was it more time efficient, but it also makes better quality kombucha!

Some benefits to a Continuous brew system include:

  • Less maintenance is required. You simply add new sweetened tea to begin a new batch. Cleaning is required only when the spigot is clogged with yeast sediment or too much sediment is on the bottom.
  • Increased chance of successful brewing. Since the ecosystem is not disturbed, there is little chance of contamination with mold and bacteria.
  • A healthier scoby is maintained. The ecosystem developed during the fermentation process is not disturbed when beginning a new batch. The yeast and bacteria are allowed to ferment undisturbed.
  • Consistency in supply is achieved. You may choose to take off small amounts of kombucha at more frequent intervals or do it all at once.

As I will show you shortly in my step by step tutorial, the continuous brewing method requires no direct contact with the scoby. This means you avoid contamination of the scoby. Remember the scoby (also called starter or mushroom) is reused from one batch to the next and consists of yeast and bacteria which live together in a symbiotic relationship. SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast.

2 Methods of Continuous Brew Kombucha

There are two ways to do a continuous brew.

  1. Removing small amounts at more frequent intervals – this can be removing enough kombucha for one day or for one week.
  2. Allowing the kombucha to ferment for 2 – 4 weeks (depending on the quanitity and taste desired) then removing 80% of the container contents and beginning a new batch.

I do the latter. While kombucha is naturally slightly fizzy, we put ours in a kegerator and have it on tap for the children to enjoy at will. Don’t worry though, if you do not keg your kombucha, simply put it in the refrigerator and enjoy!

A couple of notes to insure success:

  • Make sure to use non-chlorinated water as chlorine will kill the scoby.
  • The scoby needs sugar to live on – honey, rapadura or sugar substitutes will not work.

Equipment Needed:

1. Container - For continuous brewing, the container should be between 1 – 5 gallons in capacity – this should be glass or porcelain. Do not use ceramic, plastic, crystal or metal which are detrimental to the scoby.

2. Spigot - The spigot should be near the bottom of the container. The purpose is to draw off kombucha from the bottom without disturbing the contents at the top and the scoby which floats on top. Be sure to check for a tight seal – you don’t want your kombucha leaking!

3. Cover - The cover should fit snug to keep dust, bacteria (such as, yeast) and critters (like fruit flies) out while allowing the gas of fermentation to escape. If the container does not have a cover, use a tightly woven towel and secure with a rubber band.

My Continuously Brewing Kombucha

I use two 4.75 gallon glass beverage dispensers – that’s right, I have over 8 gallons of kombucha brewing at a time! I also use a tea towels secured with a rubber band as lids. When I started the continuous brewing system, I used two 3 gallon plastic tea dispensers. Not only were they plastic (which lile metal are not healthy for the scoby!), the lids popped up during the fermentation process. This allowed fruit flies in which contaminated my scobies – YUCK – don’t make the same mistake – choose your equipment carefully!

I will give the basic kombucha recipe which can be multiplied to fit any quantity and then show you how I do subsequent batches.

Kombucha Tutorial – Getting Started:

Kombucha Recipe for 1 gallon

  • 13 cups water (non-chlorinated)
  • 2 Tbsp. loose organic tea or 8 tea bags
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 c kombucha from a previous batch
  • 1 kombucha scoby

Preparation:

  • Be sure all equipment is clean and rinse thoroughly so no traces of soap remain – you may also use vinegar to clean your equipment.
  • Brew the tea by bringing water to a boil and adding the tea bags. Allow the tea to steep until cool and remove the tea bags.
  • Add sugar to the tea and stir until dissolved.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature. This is very important as hot tea will kill the scoby.
  • Place the kombucha from a previous batch and the sweetened tea into the continuous brew container.
  • Add the scoby.
  • Put a piece of cheesecloth over the top of the jar and secure with a rubber band – this allows air in but keeps bugs and dust out.
  • Place the jar in an out of the way place and allow to ferment
  • If your kitchen is warm, the kombucha will ferment more quickly, so for the first batch, taste it after a few days. Once the taste is to your liking, follow the steps below.

Subsequent Batches:

Prepare the tea as above, sweeten and allow to cool completely.

Drain the fermented kombucha into the desired container. Since we keg ours, we use clean tubing and drain it directly into the keg. My containers are on top of the refrigerator and this allows them to be emptied without moving. The tubing used is food grade and does not come into contact with the scoby.

 

Leave about 20% of the batch in the container to use for the next batch. You can see the layers of the scoby, as well as, the yeast sediment in the bottom.

Now you are ready to refill the container with new sweetened tea to feed the scoby. Add the tea gently. I pour it right on top of the scoby which may sink or be pushed down during this process but always rises to the top again. There is no need to mix the new tea mixture with the amount left from the previous batch, the fermentation process takes care of this!

Cover the top with a lid or tightly woven cloth and secure with a rubber band. Allow the fresh batch 10 days to 3 weeks to ferment. The time will depend on the batch size and the size of your scoby. Taste the kombucha every week or so until the desired taste is acquired.

Enjoy!

 

Dina-Marie is the author of Cultured Palate blog and the mom of 10 children, 7 of whom are still at home. Moving to West Texas to begin a vineyard has brought many changes among them being a return to health through the GAPS diet, learning about “real” food and becoming a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation. Dina-Marie began Cultured Palate because of her passion to spread the healing potential of real traditional food and to encourage others with a nutrient dense diet and simple family life.

Where to Buy Organic Kombucha and Kombucha Making Supplies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This post is share at: My Meatless Monday, Melt in Mouth Monday, Barnyard Hop, Meatless Monday, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Hearth & Soul Hop, Real Food Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Mommy Club, Healthy 2 Day, Party WaveWednesday, Wild Crafting Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Seasonal Celebration, Creative Juice Thursday, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Keep it Real Thursday, Gluten Free Friday, Fight Back Friday, Foodie Friday, Small Footprint Friday

 

 

 

 

 

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MommySetFree January 27, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Where did you find those fabulous 5 gallon jars? I have been looking ALL OVER.

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2 MommySetFree January 27, 2013 at 10:21 pm

P.S. I would love to learn more about your keg system! We have 15 in our home right now (counting the baby) :-) We have to use gallon glass jars and we second ferment in flip top jars. It works well..but it is labor intensive from the production, to space and even dishes!

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3 Allie January 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

My scoby has numerous full grown layers, about 6 – 8 deep. Do I need to separate these? What do I do with them?
I have given at least four babies away that were not full size like these layers.

Thanks.

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4 Jill January 29, 2013 at 1:48 pm

These answers are from Dina-Marie who is having some technical difficulties at the moment:

To MommySetFree: I bought the beverage dispensers at our local Sam’s club back in the summer – I think they are a seasonal item so you might have to wait until summer. Kegging the kombucha after fermenting has saved tons of time! We use my husband’s kegerator which looks like a dorm fridge and it sits in our pantry which is very accessible.

To Allie: I would separate them and share them if you can. I did see a recipe for scoby jerky somewhere but never tried it – maybe you could google it?

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5 Tracey January 29, 2013 at 10:01 am

I have just started the continuous brew method using a 2 1/2 gallon jar but am on the lookout now for a spigot jar! Would love to hear suggestions on where to find them well priced! Is the plastic spigot a problem or so minute it doesn’t influence the outcome? Also, like Allie mentioned, my scoby is about 3 inches thick…I notice the Kumbucha ferments more quickly now and the flavor is delicious. Just wondering if it’s okay for the scoby to be so large?
Thanks for all the great information!
Warmly,
Tracey

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6 Jill January 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm

from Dina-Marie:
Tracee, I did a lot of searching online and found the best price at Sam’s Club. The plastic spigot is not a problem especially since it never comes into contact with the scoby. If you are pleased with the kombucha taste, there is no problem with leaving it thick. You can always separate it and share when you find someone.

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7 Pamela @ TraditionalFNH January 30, 2013 at 11:42 am

I have one of those 4.75 gallon beverage dispensers. The one with bubble glass design. I did continuous brew for around 5 months in it. Major issue with it was little mini scoby’s grew in the spigot and plugged. It defeated the whole purpose of a continuous brew, because it caused emptying the whole vessel every 2 weeks, dismantling the spigot, using an air compressor and tweezers to unclog. Then start the whole process over.
Are you not having clogged spigot troubles.
I have discussed this issue with others and they have said the same thing that it’s a problem.
Then main reason I went to continuous brew was for the consistency of brew but also the need for less work in the need of cleaning out the vessel as one does with just jars.
I went back to my old method with 8 – 1 gallon jars I’ve been brewing in for almost 5 years.
If you have spigot tips please share.

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8 Jill January 30, 2013 at 2:57 pm

From Dina-Marie,

Pamela, I am sorry you have had that trouble – what a pain! Like you said the continuous brew method is suppose to minimize work and if you are having to completely clean it every couple of weeks, that defeats the purpose! I have not had that problem at all, in fact, I have not cleaned my jars since beginning their use in May – almost 9 months! I did read some reviews before I purchased them that the spigot drained slowly but it has not caused a problem for me and I have not had any baby scobys clog them. I hope you will not give up on the method and keep looking until you find a dispenser that will work for you.

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9 Laura February 2, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I do the continuous method with a 2.5 gallon jar without a spigot. It’s light enough for me to tip and pour off the gallon or so I drink every 2 weeks. You don’t need a spigot to brew continuously.
Also, although I do use organic sugar in the main brewing jar I use small amounts of fruit, molasses, ginger, hibiscus, tumeric, honey, coconut sugar etc. to do a second ferment in smaller bottles if I want a more fizzy beverage. Molasses and ginger made the fizziest batch I’ve ever had. If you want more fizz and don’t have a carbonation system you can experiment with a second ferment in smaller bottles.

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10 Chris February 11, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Fizzy would be great! You add Molasses and ginger to the second ferment in smaller jars, for how long? I would like it sweeter too, is this sweeter?
thanks for sharing this tip,

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11 Dedriann January 30, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I have tried brewing for over a year with limited success. I am the only one in the house that will drink it. I had a few questions…is it possible to brew in a smaller batch 7 cups?
Am I correct in thinking that is what method 1 for continuous brew is
” Removing small amounts at more frequent intervals – this can be removing enough kombucha for one day or for one week.”
So could I decant 8oz of kombuca, make a cup (8oz) of sweet tea and let cool then pour on top. Could I do that daily with a 7oz container or would it be better to use a gallon container?
I have not been drinking my kombuca for a while because by the time I remember about it, it is over fermented so I just dump and feed. It is still producing baby scoby and this winter the Mother has been getting nice and thick.

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12 Jill January 30, 2013 at 9:18 pm

From Dina-marie,

Dedriann, you could do that (method 1) which would probably work better for you since you want smaller quantities I would use at least a 1 gallon container and you could take out 8 oz at a time.!

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13 Dedriann January 30, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I am excited to give it a try. I would love to get kombuca back in my daily diet! Thank you!

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14 Kristen @ Smithspirations January 30, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Kombucha is something that’s always been “brewing” in the back of my mind, but I’ve never dove into it. This is the first time I’ve seen a picture of the scoby! Woah! I’ve heard such good things about it, but haven’t tried it myself yet. This was really interesting to read (and see)!

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15 Kathy @ Mind Body and Sole January 31, 2013 at 3:40 am

Hmmm, I wonder if I could do something similar with my water kefir???? Thanks for sharing this on Wildcrafting Wednesday, this really gives me something to think about. :)

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16 April @ The 21st Century Housewife January 31, 2013 at 7:33 am

Thank you for sharing this comprehensive tutorial with the Hearth and Soul hop. The continuous brew method looks very interesting. I know many folks who are discovering the health benefits of Kombucha and will find this post very helpful.

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17 Miz Helen February 2, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Hi Jill,
Your recipe is awesome and thank you so much for sharing it with Full Plate Thursday.
Have a great weekend and come back soon!
Miz Helen

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18 Cindy (Vegetarian Mamma) February 7, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! :)

Thanks for linking back to the Gluten Free Fridays post!

We had a ton of great looking entries for our Namaste sponsored party last week! Stop by this week to check out the winner that was randomly selected!

Cindy from vegetarianmamma.com

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19 Heather February 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Sam’s club has those jars back in stock now. I just picked one up for $30.

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20 Becca February 11, 2013 at 11:23 am

I also tried continuous brew for 6 or more months. I had trouble with the spigot getting clogged and then I got a fruit fly infestation that ended it for me. I have a ceramic crock with spout. There isn’t much of a lip on the top of the crock to band my towel covering to, so that is how the flies got in. I’m back to using two clear glass jars for brewing. I like to be able to see my brew, which I couldn’t in the crock. I do like your large CB jars, though.

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21 greg April 17, 2013 at 3:38 pm

hi,

if you are doing a first time batch in lets say a 5-gallon spigoted container, and you previously were working with 1/2 gallon ball jars, would you recommend transferring the smaller in diameter scobys to start off your new continuous brewing system or would you recommend starting over and creating a new giant scoby in the 5 gallon container from scratch? thanks!

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22 Jill April 17, 2013 at 5:47 pm

Put all your SCOBYs in and a new one will grow as well.

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