Continuous Brew ‘Booch

It’s been a year since I tried my “Kombucha Experiment” to find out what the hype was all about.  I was a little weirded out at first and thought the whole concept was just so strange.  But a year later, I’m a 100% kombucha convert.  I can’t claim that it, alone, is the miracle drink that has revolutionized my health.  But kombucha has definitely become a daily part of the overall changes I’m making to support my health naturally.  I know that all of the raw enzymes, probiotics, and antioxidants are good for my body, so I now drink 1 to 2 cups daily.

I moved to the Continuous Brew method last summer when I had grown enough SCOBY (about 12 ounces total).  This makes brewing so much easier and requires much less effort.  With a 2-gallon glass dispenser (spigot replaced), I can brew all the kombucha I could ever need.  And the fantastic thing is I don’t need to drain and clean everything every time I harvest.  I bottle what I want to use (typically about 8 cups at a time), and then add that much sweet tea back in.  If I have enough kombucha already bottled to last for awhile, I just let the continuous brew sit until I’m ready to add sweet tea again.  The other bonus is that once a continuous brew is going, it only take a couple days to ferment the next batch.  I clean out the jar maybe once every six months.  This one is just about ready with all of the spent yeast on the bottom of the jar.

This SCOBY has obviously gotten quite large over the last six months!  See all of the layers?  I have drained out my usual 8 cups and am getting ready to clean up my SCOBY, as well as pull some off to share with a friend.  I have lots to spare, so taking a little away doesn’t impact my brew at all.  I will probably go ahead and clean out the jar while I have the SCOBY out also.

So how do you get started with a Continuous Brew?  It’s super easy!  First, you’ll need two large SCOBYs (about 12 ounces total).  And the rest of the process is the same as a single batch brew.  For the following instructions, I’m assuming a pretty comfortable knowledge of kombucha brewing.  If this is your first time though, please refer to my Batch Brew instructions for extra advice.  Here goes:

  1. For a 2 gallon dispenser, save 12 ounces of SCOBY and 2 cups of strong starter liquid.  Set aside.
  2. Brew 1 1/2 gallons of sweet tea using 3-4 tbsp organic loose leaf tea and 1 1/2 cups of organic cane sugar.  To do this, boil 2 quarts of water and then steep the tea for 15 minutes.  Remove tea, add sugar, stir until dissolved.  Add the remaining 4 quarts of cool water.  Set aside until it’s about 70-80 degrees.
  3. Pour the sweet tea into the 2 gallon dispenser.  And then with clean hands, place the SCOBYs on top of the sweet tea.  Pour the starter liquid on top of the SCOBYs.  Finally, cover the dispenser with cheese cloth.
  4. Set aside, out of the sun.
  5. Brew times vary, depending on desired taste.  I would start tasting the brew at about 7 days, and test pH to make sure it’s in the 2.5-3.5 kombucha range.  I prefer a pH of about 3.0.
  6. Once the brew has fermented to where you want it, harvest up to 8 cups of kombucha to bottle (I use THESE bottles).
  7. Add 8 cups of sweet tea back into the brew once cooled.  That means 4 cups of boiling water, 2 tbsp steeped tea for 15 minutes, 1/2 cup cane sugar stirred to dissolved, 4 cups of cool water.
  8. Once the brew has matured (4-5 brew cycles), more kombucha can be harvested.  I’ve always been fine with just 8 cups at a time though.  This works nicely because it leaves a really good base of strong, fermented starter liquid.  This also makes the brew cycle incredibly fast.  I can have a completely fermented new batch in just 2 days with this method.
  9. When I have a good supply of kombucha already bottled, I just leave my brew sitting.  It can sit like that for awhile before needing any attention.  This is great, especially if I’m going to be out of town.  I usually only like to let it go about a week before I “feed” it with more sweet tea, but I know it can go longer than that if needed.
  10. If it’s been an extended time, I’ve occasionally added more sweet tea to give the SCOBY some food, and then harvested to dump it.  I probably don’t need to do that, but I do anyway.

If you are hesitant to brew your own kombucha but want to enjoy the natural health benefits, please just do it!  Once you can get to this Continuous Brew method, the effort to maintain it decreases significantly.  Not only is it so cheap to brew your own compared to buying commercially, you know exactly what you’re getting by using quality organic ingredients.  You also know how much sugar is (or is not) added after fermentation – lots of commercial brands add extra afterward.  Likewise, you know that it’s not pasteurized.  Yes, some brands do to prolong shelf life.  It totally defeats the purpose of drinking kombucha, but it happens.

If you’re looking for a good resource, I highly recommend The Big Book of Kombucha, written by Hannah Crum.  It’s chocked full of great information.

Happy brewing!

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