I’m going to be honest: this how-to could probably be written as a tweet rather than a blog post. It’s REALLY, REALLY easy. Anyone with access to kombucha and a f00d-safe container can do it, but here are a few tips that will help you make the most of this process.
Use the best kombucha you can find – If you only have access to grocery store kombucha, that’s probably okay (more on that next week), but kombucha from a friend who brews at home, or, barring that, kombucha from a small, local fermentation company is much, much better than the mass produced stuff in my experience.
Let it breathe – Kombucha is an aerobic ferment, which simply means that it needs to be exposed to the air if you want fermentation to work properly. This doesn’t mean leaving it open for whatever dust and buggies happen to be floating around at your place. It does mean using a fine weave cloth of some kind as a cover, and leaving your vessel relatively empty to allow for maximum airflow. Coffee filters, paper towels, cloth napkins and tightly woven cheesecloth or muslin are all good options.
Keep it cozy – Kombucha fermentation works best on the warmer end of the room temperature spectrum. My booch goes gangbusters in the summer, so I always search for the warmest spot in my home in the winter, both for brewing and for growing a SCOBY. Anything in the low 80 degrees F range will work out nicely. Don’t worry if it’s not that warm chez vous. Do try to keep it above 68 degrees though. In my experience when it hits 65ish and below, things get really sluggish in there, which is okay, but sometimes frustrating.
Don’t go shaking your jar – If your response to reading that was “I couldn’t if I tried,” then we should maybe be friends. Not the point, though. Your best bet is just to let your jar sit, undisturbed while the SCOBY is forming. When your SCOBY is just a new, thin film, you could definitely break it apart with a good shake. Then you’d have to wait for a new thin layer to form and repeating the process could start to get boring.
Grow it grand (or not) – Your SCOBY will grow to the diameter and shape of your container (and yes, you can can grow gigando SCOBYs in gigando containers), so choose an appropriate vessel. If you’re going to be using it for large, multi-gallon batches of continuous brew, you may want to use a glass or ceramic soup or mixing bowl as your container. If you’re going to be brewing a quart (1 L) or 1/5 gallon (2 L) at a time, using a quart jar and a cup of booch will do the trick nicely.
Now for the how-to!
Growing a Kombucha Tea SCOBY
- Start with a cup of the best quality kombucha* you can find and a food-grade, non-metallic vessel. If you have access to restaurant grade stainless steel, that’s fine to use. I used a quart-sized mason jar for this post.
- Pour 1 cup of finished kombucha into the jar, and then cover the jar with a coffee filter, piece of muslin or other fine cheese cloth, cloth napkin, double layer of paper towel, etc, and attach it to the jar with a rubber band or string. If you’re using a wider vessel, you should use more than 1 cup of booch. Shoot for about 2 inches of liquid in the bottom of the container.
- Move the jar to a warm spot away from direct sunlight where it won’t need to be moved for 1 to 2 weeks.
- Check in every few days. By day 4, you should see at least a thin, translucent film forming on the top of the liquid. By day 7, you’ll have an actual, small SCOBY. I like to wait until the SCOBY is about 1/2 inch thick before using it to make kombucha, but you might never get a SCOBY that thick with store-bought kombucha, so wait until at least day 11 or 12 if the SCOBY isn’t getting much thicker (again, that will only be an issue with store-bought booch).
- Once you have a nice lil SCOBY, you’re ready to make kombucha! Easy as pie!
*If you’re using grocery store kombucha, add 2 teaspoons of cane sugar per cup and stir to dissolve. This will still not give you the same quality of SCOBY as home-brew, but according to GT’s Customer Relations Supervisor, it’s the best way to grow a SCOBY from their booch. More on this topic next week.