Thursday, May 8, 2014

Batch #20 - Kombucha Tea

This will be a pretty big departure from my normal brewing activity.  I've decided to try my hand at brewing Kombucha.


  • 3 1/2 quarts filtered water
  • 1 cup white sugar (or organic evaporated sugar)
  • 8 bags black tea (green tea, white tea, oolong tea, or a even mix of these make good kombucha.)
  • 1-2 cups starter tea from last batch of kombucha or store-bought (unpasteurized, neutral-flavored) kombucha
  • 1 SCOBY per fermentation jar
Optional flavoring bottling: 1 to 2 cups chopped fruit, 2 to 3 cups fruit juice, 1 to 2 tablespoons flavored tea (like hibiscus or Earl Grey), 1/4 cup honey, 2 to 4 tablespoons fresh herbs or spices.
  • For this batch I am going to add 2 oz. of juice to each 12 oz. bottle. I am estimating that I will need about 20 oz.
    • 1 gallon of Kombucha or 128 oz. divided by 12 oz. (each bottle) = about 10 bottles.
    • 10 bottles at 2 oz. each = 20 oz.
  • Bottles 1, 2 & 3 - Fresh squeezed orange juice & 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
    • Note: Tasted these after various days of carbonation and they were fantastic.
  • Bottle 4 - 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
    • Note: This one was fair.  Not bad, just not a lot of flavor.
  • Bottles 5, 6, 7 & 8 - Black cherry juice (R.W. Knudsen brand)
    • Note: Opened bottle #6 on May 28th and the carbonation level was perfect.  This makes it 8 days in secondary for future reference.
  • Bottle 9 - 2 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
  • Bottle 10 - Plain kombucha with 1/2 tsp. white table sugar for carbonation
  1. Make the Tea Base: Bring the water to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Drop in the tea and allow it to steep until the water has cooled to room temperature. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the pot in an ice bath in the sink.
  2. Add the Starter Tea: Once the tea is cool, remove the tea bags. Stir in the starter tea. (The starter tea makes the liquid acidic, which prevents unfriendly bacteria from taking up residence in the first few days of fermentation.)
  3. Transfer to Jar and Add the Scoby: Pour the mixture into a 1-gallon glass jar and gently slide the scoby into the jar with clean hands. Cover the mouth of the jar with an unbleached coffee filter and secure with a rubber band.
  4. Ferment for 7 to 10 Days: Keep the jar at room temperature, out of direct sunlight, and where it won't get jostled. Ferment for 7 to 10 days, checking the kombucha and the scoby periodically.  It's not unusual for the scoby to float at the top, bottom, or even sideways. A new cream-colored layer of scoby should start forming on the surface of the kombucha within a few days. It usually attaches to the old scoby, but it's ok if they separate. You may also see brown stringy bits floating beneath the scoby, sediment collecting at the bottom, and bubbles collecting around the scoby. This is all normal and signs of healthy fermentation.  After seven days, begin tasting the kombucha daily by pouring a little out of the jar and into a cup. When it reaches a balance of sweetness and tartness that is pleasant to you, the kombucha is ready to bottle.  If using pH strips your 'buch will be ready (on the sweet side) at 3.1 or on the sour side at 2.7.
  5. Remove the Scoby: Before proceeding, prepare and cool another pot of strong tea for your next batch of kombucha, as outlined above. With clean hands, gently lift the scoby out of the kombucha and set it on a clean plate. As you do, check it over and remove the bottom layer if the scoby is getting very thick.
  6. Bottle the Finished Kombucha: Measure out your starter tea from this batch of kombucha and set it aside for the next batch. Pour the fermented kombucha (straining) into bottles using the small funnel, along with any juice, herbs, or fruit you may want to use as flavoring. Leave about a half inch of head room in each bottle.  In this case add 2 oz. of your fresh apple & ginger juice to each bottle.
  7. Carbonate and Refrigerate the Finished Kombucha: Store the bottled kombucha at room-temperature out of direct sunlight and allow 1 to 3 days for the kombucha to carbonate. Until you get a feel for how quickly your kombucha carbonates, it's helpful to keep it in plastic bottles; the kombucha is carbonated when the bottles feel rock solid. Refrigerate to stop fermentation and carbonation, and then consume your kombucha within a month.
  8. Make a Fresh Batch of Kombucha: Clean the jar being used for kombucha fermentation. Combine the starter tea from your last batch of kombucha with the fresh batch of sugary tea, and pour it into the fermentation jar. Slide the scoby on top, cover, and ferment for 7 to 10 days.
  • Brew day Saturday, May 10, 2014.
  • After nearly 3 days I still do not see any signs of fermentation.  This may be my first brewing FAIL - Ugh!
    • Possible causes:
      • Dormant or dead SCOBY?  I refrigerated the SCOBY as soon as it arrived.  This may have killed it or put it in a dormant state.  I read refrigeration is not required.
      • I used Star San to sanitize my jar.  Could this have killed the good bacteria?  Probably not as I made a small batch using the smaller SCOBY I received and did not use Star San but still no fermentation.
      • Filtered water vs. distilled water?  Perhaps the chlorine in my filtered water killed the SCOBY?  I doubt it but I will try distilled next time to be safe.
      • Note - At this point all signs seem to lead to a bad SCOBY.  On the off chance the SCOBY is just dormant I will let it continue for a week or so longer to see if anything changes.
  • Wait a minute!  I may have jumped the gun on calling this batch a failure.  It appears a SCOBY is forming on the top of my tea. Stay tuned...
  • Things are alive and well.  I have a healthy looking SCOBY forming on the top of my tea.  I tasted it on 5/19/2014 (9 days of fermentation) and it has a nice acidic taste.  I also tested the pH and it is coming in around 3.4 so I'm going to let it go for another day or so to get it in the 2.7 to 3.1 range.
  • Bottled on 5/20/2014 after 10 days in primary fermentation.  Yield was (10) twelve oz. bottles.

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