As I mentioned in a previous kombucha post, until I got an awesome, hearty SCOBY from A-Kray (aka Allyson Kramer), I wasn’t so intensely into kombucha. I’d have a SCOBY, make kombucha on the regular, neglect a SCOBY, kill a SCOBY, get/grow/borrow/steal a new SCOBY, repeat. But the SCOBY Allyson gave me is just amazing and it makes lively, happy baby Mommas, so I’ve been going much more gangbusters with the stuff for the last year. Even before my best-ever SCOBY, I had heard about continuous brew, but I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought, despite the its many, loud proponents. The list of claims made on the behalf of continuous brew includes:
- It’s less work
- It’s bubblier, even before/without secondary fermentation
- It yields a healthier SCOBY
- It yields a prettier SCOBY
- It reduces the risk contamination
- It tastes better
The list is way longer than that, and after having done it this way for the past several months, I have to say that I agree with just about everything I’ve read. Normally my husband is the big booch guy in our house, but since we started the ol’ CB, I actually had to double up our brew to support my own habit.
I held off on trying this for a while partially because I thought I would have a hard time finding an appropriate vessel. Turns out there was an $8 lemonade container at my local kitchen supply store that totally fit the bill! The key things are that it needs to be large enough to make it worth your while (I wouldn’t go smaller than a half-gallon container) and it should to have a fairly wide diameter, at least three inches, to make for happy SCOBY growth. It needs to have a spigot at the bottom, and said spigot must have no metal parts on the inside of the container. I’ve mentioned before that the SCOBY-hates-metal thing is definitely true. I tried it. Apparently restaurant-grade stainless steel is okay, but anything else and you’re risking your Mother’s life.
I had initially intended to do a batch of continuous brew with sencha and supplement with single batch as my tea preferences dictated. However, I’ve found all the hype about continuous brew to be true, so I’ve switched all my brews over! I make a gallon batch of fresh, sweet tea about once a week. I store it in the fridge and use it to top off my continuous batch as needed. Instead of cleaning out my container every week, separating the SCOBYs, and doing the whole process again, I just pour out as much booch as we want to drink and add the same amount of fresh, sweet tea back in. We draw some off every day, but you can choose to do it every 2 days or more, depending on your acidity preference. When I want a flavored booch, I do secondary fermentation using the same method I used when making single batch brews.
EASY CONTINUOUS BREW KOMBUCHA
I changed my booch ratio to the Cultures For Health recommendations a while ago. I tried a whole bunch of different levels recommended by different booch experts, and I found the CFH one to be the tastiest to my palate. Feel free to experiment and find your own, but if you don’t wanna, the CFH one is good.
The instructions below assume a gallon-sized fermentation vessel. Adjust proportionally for the size of your vessel.
- A container as described above (please read carefully)
- A large container, or several small containers for storing tea in the refrigerator
- A food-suitable cloth
- A rubber band that will tightly attach said cloth to the the container
- 6.5 cups finished kombucha
- ~1 gallon freshly-brewed, sweet tea, made using:
- 14 cups filtered water
- 2 T tea of your choice (or 9 tea bags), but it must be from the camellia sinensis plant, so unflavored black, green, white or oolong
- 1 cup of sugar
- Heat 6 cups of water on the stove, bring to a boil
- Remove from heat and stir in sugar to dissolve. Add tea.
- Add remaining 8 cups of room temperature water, stir to combine.
- With a clean finger or spoon, test the water temperature. If it’s room temp, proceed to the next step. If it’s still warm, cover your pot and wait until it has cooled to room temperature. You can put it in the fridge if you’d like.
- Once tea is room temperature, strain it into some kind of storage vessel, making sure to get the tea leaves outta there. I put my tea into two half gallon Ball jars. That makes storage in my refrigerator easy.
- In your continuous brew vessel, place a not-too-thick SCOBY and all of the finished kombucha. Add in 6.5 cups of fresh, room-temperature or refrigerated sweet tea.
- Cover your vessel securely, using the kitchen cloth and rubber band.
- Let it sit away from direct sunlight and preferably away from other ferments for two days.
- Using the spigot, taste the booch to see if it has a good balance of acidity and sweetness. If it’s too sweet, give it 10-12 hours. Not sweet enough, add more sweet tea and give it 10-12 hours before testing again.
- Once your ideal acidity/sweetness balance has been reached, draw off what you want to drink (we do two cups a day). If you like to do secondary fermentation with fruit, ginger, or other fun flavor combos, you can do that as you normally would. Otherwise, go ahead and drink it or seal it in a jar in the fridge to chill. I find that the continuous brew makes for a naturally very bubbly brew, so I usually just drink it straight.
- Keep track of how much you’re taking out, and add the same amount of fresh, sweetened tea into the jar after you’ve pulled off your drinking booch for the day. You don’t have to be exact. I generally eyeball it by looking at the lemons on my container. (see photo)
A few tips:
- If you need to draw off larger amounts, go for it! You just might have to wait an extra day for your next ready-to-drink brew.
- PLEASE, please, please heed my warning about no metal fixtures inside your vessel.
- Feel free to add other types of tea. No need to keep your CB to just sencha or oolong (or whatever). Sometimes combinations are tasty, or if you want to switch over, just only add fresh tea from the tea you want to switch to. It will just take a few days before the old brew taste is out and the new brew taste is in.
- I cleaned my container out after about 3 months. Everything was still working fine, but I was pulling out some of the SCOBY layers to give away so I though why not. I also took that opportunity to discard some of the slimy, extra yeast threads. It was a precautionary method for keeping them out of the spigot, where they can clog things, according to the internets.
- Make sure you’re peeling off SCOBY layers every so often (give this a check visually). I usually let mine go until I notice that the booch gets acidic too quickly. Then, I use very clean hands to pull out the SCOBY and remove all but one layer.
- Don’t overfill your brew container, you want some airspace for this aerobic ferment.