Kombucha Brewing Tips + Q&A
Suggestions for Brewing Better Kombucha
It’s Important to wait to add any flavours until after your primary brew (steps above) is complete. This is because the Kombucha SCOBY is quite specific about what it likes to eat. Tea and sugar give the SCOBY the nutrients it needs to grow, while other nutrients from various ingredients (Honey, agave, earl grey tea, berries, etc) can actually get in the way of a healthy kombucha brew.
We also suggest always using organic tea and sugar, so as not to pollute or degrade the SCOBY with harmful pesticides and toxins.
Once you have made your primary brew above, we recommend getting wild & creative with your own recipes. You can literally flavour with anything you think would taste amazing, from fresh watermelon juice to cinnamon tea.
If you’re keen on making a very effervescent kombucha like the Tonica you get in the store, you will need to do a secondary fermentation like we do here in our kitchen, this takes a little extra time but creates a lovely champagne like bubble. Or if you have a soda stream, you can use that shortcut. In fact many other kombuchas that you purchase in the store just add CO2 to give their kombucha that strong bubble. However if you’re into the natural method, as we are, here’s what you do:
After removing your SCOBY from your 3.5 litres of kombucha, add 15 grams of dissolved sugar or 20 MLs of sweet juice to your kombucha and seal jar with lid. Let sit for 4-5 days or until desired bubble has been achieved.
Ferment and store kombucha & cultures in glass, avoiding plastics, metal and painted ceramics. Kombucha is a living culture and as such will eventually absorb the material it is kept in, especially if it is at room temperature.
The top of the fridge is a great place to keep your fermenting brew cozy in the winter, as the heat from the back of the fridge drifts up and keeps your brew warm. Just be sure there is at least 3 inches of space above mouth of jar so your kombucha is well ventilated.
As Kombucha is known to be a detoxifying beverage, it is recommended that pregnant women who have not been drinking kombucha regularly prior to pregnancy avoid kombucha until after breast feeding. Often the commercial kombucha’s bought in stores are less potent than the home brews, so please be cautious and consult your doctor if in doubt.
Common Q & A
Q: Can I use agave or coconut sugar for the primary fermentation?
A: It is recommended to use a simple organic sugar as other sweeteners will have many additional nutrients which can slow down and interfere with the kombucha’s ability to metabolize the sugar it needs to grow.
After the primary fermentation is done, feel free to sweeten and play with recipe.
Q: Can I use a herbal tea instead of black tea to avoid caffeine?
A: No. The Caffeine in the tea is essential to provide the SCOBY with the nutrient solution it needs to grow. By the time the kombucha is fully fermented there is a minute amount of caffeine remaining in the brew, less than a decaf coffee.
After the primary fermentation is done, feel free to add any flavour of tea to flavour.
Q: Can I use green or white tea instead of black tea since they are all caffeinated?
A: Yes. Although green and white tea have less caffeine than black tea so they should be used in larger quantities in the primary brew. These teas can produce delicious brews. We recommend starting off with black tea, and if you want to experiment with green or white teas wait until you’ve made a couple delicious brews before transitioning.
Q: Do I brew my second batch with the “baby” SCOBY (which is tiny), or the “mother” culture?
Should I use the new SCOBY each time, or what should I do when they start to multiply?
My “baby” SCOBY has not fully formed, is it okay to use it along with the “mother” in the next brew?
Do the ratios change if I use them both in the same brew?
A: Some “mother” SCOBYs produce “baby” SCOBYs faster than others.
Because the temperature and air pressure affect the rate of SCOBY growth there will be a varied spectrum of SCOBY growth for each brewer. Whether you use one “mother” SCOBY or a “baby” and “mother” SCOBY per jar does not affect the recipe.
The most important part of brewing kombucha is actually the ratio of starter aka “ripe kombucha tea” to the nutrient tea solution (tea, sugar, water) amount.
The SCOBY – although very fun to say – the SCOBY isn’t actually essential to the fermentation process. It aids it, by sealing the surface of the tea from the air so that the yeasts and bacteria in the “starter” can begin the fermentation of the nutrient tea solution more rapidly, but does little more than that.
If the “baby” SCOBY is not thick enough to easily pull away from the “mother” it may need 1 or 2 more brews before it is big enough to become it’s own “mother”, i.e. to use it in a second brew by itself where it will produce a “baby”.
In the meantime, go ahead and use both the “mother” and the slowly forming “baby” in your next brew.
At this point you should have enough ripe kombucha from your first successful brew to double the recipe, multiplying everything in the recipe by two.
Example: the amount from the initial recipe of starter doubles from 1/2 cup to 1 cup and the nutrient tea solution recipe doubles from 3.5 litres to 7 litres, etc. for all the ingredients.
If you don’t have a big enough jar to hold all 7 + litres along with your 1 SCOBY and you want to portion the 7 litres into 2 separate jars but you still only have the 1 SCOBY simply take a clean, sterilized knife and cut the “mother” in half, using each 1/2 SCOBY in a separate jar.
We recommend using each SCOBY for several rounds of brews. Once you have fermented for a few months, you should have enough SCOBYs that you can compost the older ‘mothers’, and brew ahead with the newer “babies” but that is really up to you. At Tonica we keep our “mother” SCOBYs for at least 5 generations ( or brews) before composting them. Some people dehydrate them and turn them into SCOBY snacks (insert Scream emoji).
Q: I have been brewing for over 10 days and my kombucha has not formed a strong SCOBY and is not bubbly, is something wrong?
A: As kombucha is a living, fermenting beverage it will vary in time and consistency depending on certain factors such as the temperature and air pressure (not to mention the energy!). If the kombucha is fermenting in a colder room, it will likely take up to 3 weeks to get a nice strong ferment. The SCOBY “baby” may not have formed completely, but this does not mean it is not a perfect brew (please see Question above this for more on SCOBY growth).
If your brew is taking longer than you had anticipated not to worry! Time to chill and let nature take its course. We recommend you sample your kombucha along the way and when it reaches the perfect ratio of tart to sweet that you love its ready to harvest! Don’t be pressured by the constraints of time, there’s enough of that floating around already!
Bubbles do occur naturally in some brews of kombucha, however they are mild and far between for the most part. While many of us are accustomed to the bubbly effervescence in store bought kombuchas, these bubbles are often created by a secondary fermentation (see our tips here and on youtube) while some other companies will add CO2 to their final product.
Let us know how your journey goes at: email@example.com