Real Fermenting: Kombucha

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Kombucha

This kombucha brewing kit from Williams-Sonoma costs $70. I am sure it would be very useful. It's also about $60 more than these instructions would cost you, including buying the glass jars.

Culturing the kombucha - 5 days in
These are the simplest instructions on the web for making kombucha from the store-bought bottled beverage, so you'll excuse the lack of prose here. I'll try to be methodical and precise and concise. There are three distinct stages: Culturing, Feeding Up, and Brewing. Do everything precisely as I write it. I can explain why things are the way they are in the comments, if you have questions, or in another post. In-line explanations cause everyone else to write an epic poem about Russian grandmothers, so stay here for the exact way to make kombucha from store-bought kombucha drink.



Culturing

We will culture this kombucha from a store-bought bottle of raw, plain kombucha. Choose a bottle from the store that has plenty of tendrils and floaty bits in it. You can drink half the bottle, but save a cup of it and all the floating matter. I used GT Dave's Original Kombucha, but I heard that High Country is the best brand to use for this.

Boil 1 cup of plain water. Add to this 1 regular black teabag and 2 tbsp sugar. Turn off the heat and wait for it to cool to room temperature. This is the tea in which we'll culture the mother from the store bought bottle.

1 cup water
1 black tea bag (organic)
2 tbsp sugar (organic)

In a clean, glass jar with a wide mouth, combine the tea and the kombucha with floating matter. Cover the jar with a piece of breathable, clean cloth and leave it.

After 5 days, the small whitish patches started to join up

The surface will slowly become covered with your new baby. If you ever see anything that looks like regular bread mold (fluffy stuff on the surface or side of the jar), trash that attempt and start again. Wait until the surface is covered and the baby is about 1/8" (3mm) deep. It took 9 days in my 80F apartment, but this will vary. Then you are ready to feed up the baby.

Nice baby trapping CO2 bubbles under the surface

Feeding Up

Make another batch of sugary tea. Boil 4 cups of water. Add to this 2 black teabags and 1/3 cup sugar. Take the water off the heat and wait for it to cool to room temperature.

Making the Feeding Up tea

4 cups water
2 black tea bags (organic)
1/3 cup sugar

Pour the tea into a gallon wide mouth glass jar. Add everything from the culturing stage. The baby will probably sink right away.

Notice how the culturing tea has lightened compared to the feeding up tea. This is normal

With clean hands, you can carefully hold the baby. Slippery!

Again, cover the jar with clean, breathable cloth and put it somewhere safe. When the baby is 1/4" to 1/2" (6-13mm) deep, you are ready to start brewing some kombucha for consumption. This took 12 days in my apartment.

A nice thick SCOBY after feeding up

Brewing

We're finally ready to start brewing a drink for our consumption. This is the stage you will repeat and repeat, maybe with different teas, but always with sugar. Brew a batch of tea with 3 quarts of boiling water and 1 cup of sugar. Use 4 teabags. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature.

3 quarts water
4 black tea bags (organic)
1 cup sugar

Once the tea is cool, pour it into a clean, wide mouth gallon jar. To this add 2 cups of the liquid from the feeding up stage. In future batches, you will always add 2 cups of kombucha at this stage.

Measuring out the acidic tea to transfer to the 1st drinking tea
Then carefully transfer the SCOBY to the new tea. Cover with breathable cloth, put in a safe place and in 7 to 10 days you will have kombucha tea ready to drink.
Clean hands and transfer SCOBY to brewing up jar
 
That's it! You've done everything you need to do. Drink and be merry (and healthy)!


Carbonation

If you want some fizzy kombucha, like at the store, then you need to bottle it. Once it has finished the brewing stage, pour your kombucha tea into bottles. To each bottle add 1tsp sugar per pint of tea. Leave the bottles out at room temperature for a day or two and then refrigerate to put the fermentation on hold. It is imperative that you do not leave bottled kombucha out for too long. It will become very highly pressurized and may explode, depending on your bottles.

Flavoring

You can make the kombucha with many teas (none that will damage the SCOBY, like earl grey) for different flavors. Store kombuchas often add fruit juices to kombucha. See what you like from the store and try to recreate it at home. Start with a little juice and add more if you think you need it. You can make a very easy ginger kombucha by adding 1tsp ginger juice (either grate it and then squeeze or use a juicer) per pint of kombucha.

67 comments:

  1. Thank you for this useful guide! I am currently on the first step and my SCOBY is just about to 1/8" deep. When you get to the brewing stage and add the SCOBY to the new tea what happens to the jar and liquid used in the second stage? Is that discarded? What is the purpose of your second gallon jar?

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    1. Glad you appreciate the guide. I will edit it to clarify for your question - you add 2 cups of the Feeding Up tea to the Brewing stage along with the SCOBY.

      You can certainly use the same gallon jar throughout. Just pour your 2 cups and the SCOBY into a temporary vessel, like the measuring jug I use, and then add them back into the Brewing tea.

      The purpose of starting with a clean jar at each brew start is that at the beginning the acidity is not up to the point where it can protect itself from pathogens. The 2 cups help to lower the acidity a little, but we also want to limit the build up of bacteria or whatever on the jar interior wall which might be able to take over in the new tea.

      Does that answer your question?

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    2. Yes it does, thank you. So when the brew stage is finished, you can pour the kombucha into its own jar where it can be served from, and keep 2 cups of it and the SCOBY, to start a new brew?

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    3. Yeah, what I do it bottle it and put it in the fridge (after one day out for carbonation). If you leave it out of the fridge, it gets pretty tangy pretty fast.

      And yes, always save the SCOBY mat and 2 cups of made kombucha per gallon of total new tea.

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  2. So the remaining tea (Acidic) can be bottled for consumption or refrigerated to use for a different batch once the brewing up batch is finished?


    Also, What types of teas and juices can damage the SCOBY?

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    1. 1. Yes, you can save the acidic tea in the fridge for the next batch. I just keep the SCOBY in that last 2 cups out on the counter until I am ready to brew. I have heard that the balance of microorganisms can be disturbed by refrigeration. The bacteria may be slowed to different extents. As long as you are going to make another batch within a week or so, I would just leave the SCOBY out, covered in the tea. You will end up with a really concentrated kombucha vinegar. If it really tastes like vinegar when you are starting your next batch, then I would only add 1 cup to the next gallon of sugar tea, along with the SCOBY.

      2. You don't have to worry about damaging the SCOBY once you are flavoring the kombucha - the fermentation is mostly done, we just want the yeast to make a little CO2 for carbonation. So if you are bottling, go ahead and add whatever you want - lemon juice, ginger etc. It is when you are brewing that you should be concerned. Avoid any teas with oils added - like Earl Grey has bergamot. I have also heard that caffeine-free teas will alter the constitution of your SCOBY, so I alternate between a regular black tea or white tea and some rooibos or something decaffeinated. I am going to be trying coffee next!

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  3. Thanks! Getting ready to try this for the first time. One question, do you take the tea bags out after it has cooled to room temperature or after the normal 3-5 minutes brewing time? Also, I couldn't find just plain organic black tea so I got a box that was called Awake, which is a mixture of several black teas. Will this work?

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  4. 1. I leave the tea bags in for a long time. I have been thinking about adding more tea and brewing it for less time (like you say, the more usual 3-5 mins). However, I believe the extra astringency you get from leaving the tea in for a long time may be required in kombucha. But I am going to experiment.

    2. A mix is wonderful. I use English Breakfast (you have to have this on hand at all times as a Brit), which is a blend of different black teas.

    Let us know how your kombucha turns out!

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  5. Thanks so much! I'm starting tonight. Excited to try this!

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  6. I have another question, do you put a rubber band around the cloth covering the jar?

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    1. Yes, Anon, I do. But, it doesn't have to be a rubber band. You just need to stop actual flies etc getting in there. If your cloth is loose, put a rubber band around or tie with string.

      Also, please leave at least a nickname or short handle, so I can know which anonymous is which. Thanks!

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    2. Thanks again for the info. I am starting stage 2 today! My "baby" looks great so I am thrilled. It took longer for mine (16 days) but I think that is because my house is not nearly as warm as your apt. When I put the "baby" into the large jar, do I lay it in with my hands or just dump the whole small jar into the large one? Sorry for so many questions, I just don't want to mess it up! Thanks, Vic

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    3. Also, I went to 7 different stores yesterday looking for a gallon size jar. Had no idea they were so hard to find. Best I could do was a 1/2 gallon jar. It did hold it all but is that going to work? Any suggestions where to find a gallon jar? I guess I can order one on line. Thanks again, Vic

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    4. Wow, I'm sorry they were so hard to find. I think I got mine at a hardware store (Ace in midtown Sacramento). You could use any large enough glass jar. It'll work for sure in a half-gallon jar, just half my recipe once you get to the brewing stage.

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  7. Hi! I made the SCOBY as per your instructions - I did it in the winter and it was very slow going (our house is not very warm in the winter here in Los Angeles and I generally prefer sweaters to the heating system - so it was wayyy too cold probably 60 degrees going down to the 50's at night once in awhile).

    The SCOBY took a very long time and then it stayed the same size - not much more that 3/8 thick if that. I've left it now for probably a half a year! It's in a rather large container so the SCOBY, while thin, is probably about 10" wide... and the brew in there is now quite vinegary.

    I don't see any mold and the whole thing has been left in a cabinet for most of its life:) SO...can I use it now to make my first brew or is it way too old? It's not been refrigerated and it has been rather warm in here - mostly around 77" degrees give or take a few degrees.

    ...But it looks fine --- in your opinion, is it ok to use?

    Thanks in advance for your reply!

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  8. I would probably suggest starting a new SCOBY right now before it gets too cold again. Once it gets going it'll be more resilient to cold temperatures and being left for a long time without any food. But as you say, your current SCOBY buddy is not moldy (it's too acidic in there for most of the bad molds to grow), so you may experiment. It's not too expensive to make a batch of kombucha (4 teabags and a cup of sugar), and if your SCOBY is not healthy, it just won't be able to protect itself by getting the tea acidic again, and you'll see molds.

    For the winter, you will be able to continue brewing kombucha, but it'll just take 3 weeks-ish rather than 10 days-ish.

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  9. I am finally ready for the brewing stage but I have a question. My scoby did go to the bottom when I stared the feeding stage like you said it would. However, now it has floated part way back up and one corner of it has attached to the new scoby forming on top. Is it suppose to do that? Which scoby do I use for the brewing stage? Thanks, Vic

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    1. Hi Vic. Glad to hear you are ready for brewing, as that is the best part! It's totally okay for the SCOBY "mushrooms" to join together - you can just put both in to the brewing stage. You can also use the larger, top one on its own, if you prefer and if you can bring yourself to tear them apart.


      Once you start brewing your batches, you will end up with a hodge-podge of joined-up SCOBYs in all likelihood. At any time, you can choose to separate them and just keep the top one for the next batch, or give away any of them to your buddies.

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  10. Thank you again for all of your help! Can't wait to taste my first batch!! Vic

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  11. What do I do with the other scoby and the rest of the tea in the feeding up stage? Do I keep it and if so where? Does it need to be refrigerated? How will I know when my kombucha is ready to drink? Does the scoby on the bottom of the brewing jar float back up to the top or does it form a new one? Sorry so many questions, just don't want to mess it up! Thanks, Vic

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    1. Vic, you can put all the tea from the feeding up stage into your 1st brew, along with whatever SCOBYs are present.

      If you want to drink the feeding up tea which remains (assuming you start with 4 cups and use 2 cups in the brewing stage), then you can. However, it is likely to be quite acidic. So dilute maybe. If you bottle it, then refrigerate after a day. If you leave it open, it'll just get more and more acidic as the fermentation continues, unless you refrigerate.

      Your kombucha is ready to drink when you taste it and you like it. The speed really heavily depends on the temperature of fermentation. So taste it regularly.

      The SCOBY may float up (and the new one will usually kind of attach), or it may stay at the bottom. I don't know what affects that really. The bacteria which make the cellulose need oxygen, so they can only grow right at the surface. The kombucha is filled with different bacteria and yeast, however.

      Good luck, Vic! It must nearly be drinking time. Very exciting!

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    2. I finished my first batch and it is good! I bottled it 6 days ago and set the bottles on my counter to get that fizz I love. So far, no fizz. Do I just leave it out longer or did I stop brewing too soon (12 daya)? Thx again, Vic

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    3. A couple of things:
      1) Did you have any sugar left in the tea? (i.e. does it taste sweet at all?) You may have no sugar left to ferment.
      2) Do your bottles have a good seal to hold in the pressure? You may note I mention only leaving the bottles out for 1 day - mine got extremely carbonated in 1 day, following these instructions precisely. Regular mason jars can't really hold too much pressure. I reused bottles from store-bought kombucha, as well as my flip-top bottles for brewing beer/wine.

      Let me know about these points and we'll see if we can't figure out what happened.

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    4. I added 1 teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. I am using my GT Kombucha bottles with the plastic lids. I think maybe I didn't fill them uo enough. I read where you should only leave about 1/2 inch from the top. Also I'm wondering if maybe I didn't let it brew long enough. I'm on my second batch now and today was day 11. I bought ph strips because I read that it should be around 3.0 when ready and mine is at 4. However it is tasting alittle vinegary so I think it is ready. What do you think? Thanks again for all of your help. Even though my last batch wasn't real fizzy, it still had a great taste. Couldn't have done it without your help!!

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  12. Has anyone tried this with coffee as opposed to tea? I would like to know your thoughts on making a coffee kombucha.

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    1. You know what? I have tried to make it. I had read about it and it sounded interesting, so I brewed up a batch of coffee and added SCOBY. But something went wrong, and I'm not sure what. The end result smelled really vegetable-y. Probably the coffee oils on the surface went rancid.

      From my reading, I have learned that the acidity of the coffee means you don't have to add made kombucha when starting off. Also, the oils will affect your SCOBY so you'll want to save one (i.e don't put all your SCOBYs in the coffee) if you plan to keep making tea kombucha.

      Good luck if you do decide to try it! We'd love to hear how it goes.

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  13. Thanks for the tips, I going to give it a shot. I'll let you know how it goes. Cheers

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  14. How do you store your extra kombucha scoby's?

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    1. If I really had to, I would store SCOBYs just in some made tea on the counter. That's going to have the acidic environment to protect the SCOBY. A few details about the SCOBY are important to know: A SCOBY is a particular combination of different yeasts and bacteria, right? Whenever you leave that SCOBY with no food (sugar) or if you were to put it into a fridge, that combination is going to change. The ratio of the live creatures will change.

      A SCOBY is useful to us in its rampant feeding frenzy stage. The parts which eat sugar are eating that and the parts which metabolize the alcohol have a fresh supply from the yeast. Now, if you leave your SCOBY for a while to slow down, some creatures may not come to speed as fast, or may not be able to come back at all. Constantly brewing keeps the ratio consistent.

      What I'm saying is, there may not be a good way to store a SCOBY. Of course, you might be fine, but if you're planning on not brewing for months, it's probably worth considering starting a new culture when you come back. If you have taken the effort to culture a professional store-bought SCOBY, then why bother using its distant, half-starved cousin.

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  15. Hey, your instructions are great. I have some tea brewing but I have a couple of questions. The scoby sunk to the bottom of my gallon jar when I put it in and now a new scoby has formed on the top but it has a giant bubble on the top. Is this okay? Also, today was the 10th day of brewing and I just tested with a ph tester I bought and it is still at 3.8. I read where it needs to be between 2.9 and 3.5 to be ready to bottle. Is it ok to leave it longer? Perhaps it is taking longer because I keep temp. at 65 and I live in the north. I have it on the top shelf of my closet wrapped in a towel. What do you think? LW

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    1. Hey LW, thanks for your appreciation! I'll try to answer your concerns in order.

      1. A giant bubble is fine, and has happened to me. Your only concern is if that bubble forces some of the SCOBY out of the acidic tea. If the SCOBY drys out, bad mold can grow on the surface. Just make sure your SCOBY is kept moist.

      2. Absolutely, colder temperatures are going to slow down the fermentation process. Don't panic. If you want to leave it until you hit that pH range, do that.

      Using the pH to tell when your kombucha ready sounds really interesting. I wonder if there will be a certain pH level which will correspond to how sour you like your kombucha, or if maybe it'll vary from the type of tea you are brewing with. Having a lower pH means you'll have fermented more of your initial sugar, right? So I can see that as a reason for having a target pH, but really I think just tasting it daily at this point to see if it is drinkable to you is the way to go.
      I don't know if you remember (or have taken) high school chemistry, but pH is a logarithmic scale, so moving one point lower means increasing acidity by 10 times. So your 0.6 range of values (2.9-3.5) corresponds to about a 4 times difference. That seems like it might be quite a range on the tongue. All I'm saying is, don't rely on the pH tester alone. Trust your tongue!

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    2. Thanks so much for your quick reply! I thought ph levels were for safety reasons so now I won't worry so much about that. I also noticed that you add more sugar during bottling stage, I haven't read about anyone else doing that. Do you just like your teas sweeter or is there benefit to continuing to feed it? Thank you, LW

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    3. All I add at the bottling stage is a teaspoon to help carbonation along. That said, I wouldn't really say that it was necessary in many cases. Especially if you are adding any kind of fruit juice. Mostly it is out of habit from brewing alcoholic drinks like beer, which have been fermented until they are completely dry.

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  16. If I add wine yeast to the brew at the bottling stage will this compromise the Kombucha.

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    1. This would be an interesting experiment. You'd be aiming to help the carbonation process along? Certain wine yeasts (I'm thinking champagne here) are extremely tolerant to bad conditions and could probably live in a mature kombucha. Your problem in a bottle would be making what is called a bottle bomb. There is plenty of sugar left at bottling for a professional yeast to explode a bottle with pressure.

      If you wanted to make kombucha wine, then you need a secondary fermentation (like this guy: http://www.happyherbalist.com/second%20stage%20fermentation.htm). Make kombucha as above, but then put the kombucha into an airlocked container - this is supposed to minimize the additional acetic and gluconic acids made as that process requires oxygen. At this point, you want to make sugar into alcohol. The problem with this is just using cane sugar to make alcohol is not a very tasty experience. Think prison hooch. There could be some funky anaerobic bacteria which ruin wines and beers because what you have now is basically a cane sugar wine made with really poor sanitation :) The link above also mentions pasteurizing as a means to burn off the alcohol content, but you'd need to do it for much longer than the 10-20 mins he mentioned. Also, that'd do away with the probiotic effect.

      Let us know how your experiment goes!

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  17. Thank you for the best instructions I've seen online. After the second stage, I ended up with two scobys and I started using them separately. I brewed twice, one scoby grows a lot, and another hasn't changed at all since the feeding stage and is still about 4mm thick. Should I repeat feeding stage? Or should I continue brewing it adding more liquid from the previous stage and hope it will grow?

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    1. You are absolutely welcome.

      Interesting about the two SCOBYs. Sounds like the smaller one after the feeding up stage would probably be the SCOBY that formed in the culturing stage, right? I would advise only splitting once you have two SCOBYs that are mature, so yeah, you could try feeding up again with the smaller SCOBY.

      Each time you brew a new layer forms. If your old SCOBY sinks to the bottom, it won't attach to the new SCOBY. The SCOBY is just a way of transporting the culture between generations of kombucha.

      What I'm trying to say is, it doesn't matter too much if the smaller SCOBY stays small. It's never going to 'grow' unless it is at the surface and gets attached to the new layer. Your concern should be if no new SCOBY mat is forming at the top of the kombucha.

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  18. Yes, it stays small while the new SCOBY mat is forming on the top and that one is actually growing a lot. Thank you sooooo much for clarification and such a quick response!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  19. Since studying all this wonderful information above - I'm gonna give it a shot. I sure do appreciate all the feed back & questions. Thank you all so much! God Bless You All!

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  20. Hi! I was just gifted with a SCOBY from a friend who is away for 6 months from her home. She gave me about 1/2 cup of kombucha tea from the frig to transport it in... and I did not make the fresh kombucha tea for brewing until one or two weeks later. There were two SCOBY's, so I put them in each their separate bowls. I brewed 7 cups water, 1/2 cup sugar, two green tea bags, one rosehip tea bag, and one tangerine tea bag. I am only just learning what to look for, and after reading much of the information here and on other sites I am concerned that I may have ruined both SCOBY's. Why do I say that? 1 - because I used herbal tea bags, and 2, because I didn't have much liquid to transfer from the last batch of tea. In fact, I put ALL of the liquid in with one SCOBY and the fresh tea, and the other SCOBY only had the fresh tea. What do you think?

    Dawn

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    1. also, when I handled the two SCOBY's, one had a jelly like disc forming on half of it... is that a new baby SCOBY?

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  21. Oh, and also am concerned that I didn't make fresh tea right away and they sat in the 1/2 cup for one to two weeks (prob two weeks is more apt)... did I starve them? They did look more white on the surface that was out of the water... is that mold or just the beginnings of drying out?

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    1. Just compared it to other images of SCOBY's on the web and it is definitely not the green or white small moldy clumps that I am seeing. I am thinking it just dried out a little to create that look where it was out of the liquid... ideas?

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    2. Hi Dawn,

      Sorry for the delay in replying. You're right, those paler patches don't sound like mold really. The mold would look like the typical bread mold - fluffy, white, green or even black stuff on the surface of the SCOBY.

      As for ruining the SCOBY with herbal tea, it's possible. And I don't really know any way to tell for certain. If you are really attached to using those SCOBYs, just keep an eye on them, and taste regularly.

      My real advice would be to start from scratch. It's kind of the point of this whole guide - don't use friend's SCOBYs of unknown history, culture your own from a professional strain. Then if you want to experiment with herbal teas, you can split your SCOBY so you don't loose all your hard work.

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  22. Is it okay to use coconut sugar?

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    1. As far as I know, absolutely. Coconut sugar is mostly sucrose, just like plain ol' cane sugar, but obviously it has all those fantastic minerals and even vitamins. I buy mine in a can from our local Asian food market - cheaper than the health food store stuff.

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  23. I have been experimenting by using barley water (instead of tea) to brew Kombucha. however, sometimes the brew comes out tasting alcoholic. Do you have any tips on how to avoid this?

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    1. Hi Anon,

      Well, I don't think the barley water would be more alcoholic than regular tea kombucha, right? As long as you are letting the kombucha be open to the air during the fermentation. We expect a little ethanol in our kombucha, which will increase the less aerobic the fermentation is.
      To avoid the flavor of alcohol, you could try flavoring the kombucha with juices or ginger, which is my personal favorite. We Brits often drink lemon flavored barley water. Delicious!

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  24. Thanks, I will try adding more juice to mask the taste.
    I wanted to ask you another question. As it seems you are quite learned on the subject of fermenting these functional beverages. I have tried several ways to brew kombucha, and following your directions has given me the most success. the home-made stuff I have been making with your direction puts the store bought booch to shame! So, thank you for that.
    Okay so back to my question. A gave some of this home brew to a Russian friend of mine and he said that it is similar to a a drink called "Kvass" that his mother used to make. He does not recall how it was made. I was wondering if you have heard of it and know how to make it?

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    1. I am so glad you have found my instructions useful.

      As for kvass, yes! It is very similar. In fact, another name for kombucha is tea kvass. Kvass is usually made with bread providing the sugars for fermentation. I have never made it, and I can't really recommend any recipe. The instructions in Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz mention a thick, milky consistency, which doesn't sound like what I have read about Russians drinking. So good luck if you try any recipe, and please let us know if you have any success!

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  25. Hi. Thanks for the terrific instructions. My SCOBY from the black tea and sugar fermenting stage never really floated but instead stayed along the bottom. When I made the feeding up stage, the newly forming SCOBY floated for a while then has remained at the bottom like the original. The SCOBY is also not very thick, maybe 1-2mm. Temps in our apartment are 65 - 75 degrees. Should I let it go longer or start from scratch?

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    1. Hi R(alph Waldo?) Emerson! I'm glad you like the instructions.

      New SCOBY growth only ever happens just below the surface of the liquid. So if your feeding up SCOBY mat has sunk (which is fine), then new, normal-looking growth will only be a new mat on the surface. This could all be fine, as long as you are getting a decent amount of new growth.

      Is your kombucha brewing happening in a nice out-of-the-way place? I'm a little concerned about your sinking SCOBYs.

      How long have each of your stages taken so far?

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    2. Not Waldo...but I do get that a lot. The last few days have been warmer inside and have been good for new SCOBY growth at the surface. I am encouraged just a little at this point that it might pull through given more time. Culturing stage was about 2 weeks, and feeding has been about 2.5.

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    3. Great, yes it definitely sounds like things are going in the right direction. As long as everything is looking healthy, you can leave it as it is for another week or so, I would say. Just transfer all the solid matter across when you start brewing.

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  26. Hi! I grew my own SCOBY from a baby in a store-bought bottle of kombucha. It grew like mad during the feeding up stage, and I just bottled my brewed kombucha. I have now read some other instructions that make me think I did some things wrong. I used water from my tap, and now I read it should be filtered, distilled, or boiled for 10 mins. I put the SCOBY in a mason jar in a cabinet for feeding up, and although it seemed to do well, now I read that you shouldn't put it in a cabinet because it won't get enough air. For brewing, I put it in a glass suntea jar, but now I have read that it should not be put in a cylindrical jar, only in a wide bowl, also so it gets enough air. I also stored the SCOBY in kombucha in a glass vessel in the fridge for about 18 hours after I finished brewing one batch before I started brewing another. I now read that can destroy the balance of the bacteria and yeast. I am worried that these mistakes may have ruined my SCOBY, and I am wondering if I should throw it out and start over? It seems to have stopped growing (grew like crazy during feeding, but not during brewing) and is fairly brown, not very white. My kombucha smells, looks, and tastes good, although it does seem to burn a bit on the way down, which I have not experienced with store-bought kombucha. Any advice is much appreciated! Thanks for taking the time to write this guide and answer questions!

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    1. Wow Kathy, a lot of issues here. I'll try to deal with them in order.
      1. Tap water: Should be okay, considering your SCOBY grew prolifically at first. The concern here is fluoride. Boiling the water to make the tea and then letting it cool uncovered is probably enough to let that fluoride evaporate off.
      2. I'm sure the cabinet is fine. Unless it's hermetically sealed, there would be plentiful airflow and gas exchange from the rest of your house. It doesn't need a breeze on it.
      3. Cylindrical is fine, and it's what I use. Maybe it would be faster if you had a wider surface area because the bacteria is most active right at the surface.
      4. The fridge is probably fine, but the concern is that the bacteria and fungi go into and come out of hibernation at different speeds, which might upset the balance of the SCOBY. You can just store the SCOBY in your cabinet with enough kombucha to cover it, at least for a few days. The old SCOBY won't grow on the second feed, unless it gets attached to the new one which always grows at the surface. The old one can end up kind of brown.
      5. Kombucha burning on the way down means it is strong. It is a vinegary kind of burn, yeah? You can water it down with juice or some of that suntea. Next time, just leave it to brew a little less time, if you don't want the burn. Those acidic compounds are a massive part of the health benefits from kombucha, so I say enjoy the burn!

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  27. Hi, Peter....I am a total newbee at this and started with a flavored Kombuka from the store...so only the plain will work??

    thanks,

    Shoshana

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    1. Shoshana, we are all learning! I have only ever used plain or ginger kombucha from the store. I have read that the kombuchas flavored with juice or other stuff are not what you want. I haven't experimented with them, but why not start with the best possible chance of success? You could let us know how your experiment goes.

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    2. Shoshana, I've used both plain and flavored (Trilogy, among others) GT's kombucha from the store to grow my own mothers in the past. I have not noticed any difference in the ability to grow a healthy culture, but there may be some variation in the taste of your finished kombucha. Good luck!

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  28. Hello Mr. Reed!
    I have been researching how to make/brew Kombucha for a few weeks now and I always come back to your instructions. They seem to be the best I've found, so thank you! I started my very first attempt to grow a SCOBY 6 days ago and am thrilled to say I have a thin SCOBY now, which I grew from a store bought bottle as you suggested. I am going to do the feed up stage this weekend or early next week when it gets thick enough to transfer. I know you said it will most likely sink to the bottom, so my question is will a new SCOBY form in the feed up stage at the top of my larger jar during this feed up stage? Or will I use that same "baby" SCOBY for my first batch of Kombucha? I have a smaller jar right now which the baby SCOBY started in, and I have a 1 gallon glass cookie jar to use for the feed up stage and the brewing stage.
    Also, I know a new SCOBY is supposed to form with each batch. Should I always use the "newest" SCOBY that grows for the next batches I make or do I toss/gift the new SCOBY and always use the original that I first created? I'm not sure if they get old or lose their "oomf" and if the new ones have all the same good bacteria? Or do you put both (the old and new) SCOBY's in the future batches of Kombucha?
    Thanks for your help!
    Shelly

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    1. Shelly, we don't stand on formality here! Plain ol' Sir, or My Liege will do. Joke! Peter, please.

      Going from feeding up to brewing, I would transfer all the SCOBY mats in your feeding up stage. Including the likely sunken little one from the 1st stage. After that, when you have a nice large SCOBY on the top of your gallon jar, you can just use that. A new SCOBY mat will always grow on the surface, because the bacteria which make the mat need plenty of air. You can just use the new mat, plus 2 cups of the brewed kombucha.

      As for gifting the SCOBY, I am kind of opposed to that. The point of this guide is for everyone to be able to use the professional quality culture. If you don't trust Craigslist to get your SCOBY, why should someone else trust you! If you've got a friend who wants to start brewing their own kombucha, buy them a bottle of plain kombucha, and give them the URL for this guide.

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  29. Thanks so much for posting these instructions! But I did have a question about the Brewing stage.. you had mentioned this as the stage you repeat and repeat, and can experiment with different teas.

    But how do I repeat the process? After bottling up the last batch, do I just brew up a new batch of sweet tea and (repeat) adding the scoby (original and baby), and let that sit for another "Brewing" stage? Or do I purchase another store-bought kombucha and have to repeat from step 1?

    I was also wondering, during the carbonation stage, if/how the bottles get covered, just left open, of if we seal it completely before refrigeration.
    --Guada

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    1. Guada, sorry for the confusion. You repeat from the beginning of the brewing stage. So you take two cups of your already-made kombucha from your old batch and the SCOBY from your old batch and add these to your new gallon of sweet tea.

      As for carbonation, yes, the bottles need to be airtight if they are to carbonate. The SCOBY produces CO2 all the time, but only when it is trapped will the pressure cause the gas to dissolve into the liquid.

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  30. Peter-
    I just wanted to thank you, I have used this recipe to great success for months. After our scoby grew sufficiently, we split it and now have black tea and green tea batchs each producing 7 pints every 10 days. Our favorite flavoring combinations have been green tea kombucha with 2tbs of green juice per pint and black tea kombucha with 2bs of ginger and lemon juice per pint.

    Thanks again and best regards,
    Christian

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    1. Very cool! I'm going to try lemon-ginger for my current batch of black tea kombucha.

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  31. Hi Peter, what kind of sugar do you use? I just bought some Trader Joe's private label organic evaporated cane juice, wondering if that will work? ~Jackie

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