So, you’re ready to start making your own kombucha because…
- you need more probiotics in your life,
- you like a healthy alternative to soda, and
- hello!–it costs an arm and a leg at the store!
But no sooner do you start researching how to make kombucha, then you get a google’s worth of recipes and instructions and come to the terrifying conclusion: everyone does it different! How do you figure out which system will work for you? What set up can you afford, which will get you the flavor you want, what style will help you fit kombucha into your busy life?
This post will help you understand the two main styles of kombucha brewing, and help you figure out which is right for you.
First, an intro to kombucha is in order.
Kombucha is a cultured drink made by adding a starter to sweetened, black tea* and letting it ferment until the desired flavor has been achieved. The starter has two parts:
- the SCOBY which is a rubbery mat of bacteria and yeast, and
- starter liquid, which is leftover tea from the last mature batch of kombucha.
Every time you make a batch of kombucha, it involves making a new batch of tea and combining it with the SCOBY and starter liquid. And each time you make a batch, another layer of SCOBY grows in your brew.
(*Note: there are ways to make kombucha with other teas, but black tea creates the best environment for the SCOBY to thrive so I recommend it for beginners.)
Now we can explain the two different brewing styles.
Continuous Brewing Kombucha
Continuous Brew is done in a glass or ceramic container with a spigot at the base so you can draw off finished kombucha from the bottom, and pour fresh tea to feed the SCOBY into the top. The containers are 1 to 5 gallons in size, and the SCOBY lives undisturbed in the brewing vessel for months at a time.
The main advantage with a continuous brew container is how simple and quick it is to pour off the finished kombucha straight from the brew container.
The disadvantages are that 1) you have to buy a special container–before you even know if you like kombucha or enjoy the process of making it yourself. The container must be ceramic or glass, and have a plastic (not metallic) spigot and they range from $15 to $50. 2) Every few months you have to completely empty and clean it out so trim your SCOBY down, and this is a bit of a chore. Also, occasionally the spigot gets clogged with small bits of SCOBY and that also means an complete empty and clean. I’ve had to do this twice in the last two months with mine, making me realize that it’s not quite as convenient as I thought.
Batch Brewing Kombucha
Batch Brewing is usually done in large glass jars or bowl and each time you make a new batch, you transfer the SCOBY and some starter liquid to a fresh, clean jar. The jars are usually 1/2 to 3 gallons, and the SCOBY is handled every week to 10 days.
The main advantage is that you don’t need any special equipment to get started–most people have a glass bowl or jar that is big enough so there is no upfront cost. Batch brewing means you simply start over each time you make a new batch–transferring your SCOBY to a bowl or jar while you prepare the new batch of tea in your brewing container. What some people don’t like about the batch brew method is that they have to handle the SCOBY every time they make a batch.
Timing is Everything
The final difference between Continuous Brew and Batch Brew is timing. With continuous brew, the kombucha tends to ferment faster, because you start out with a larger amount of starter tea, and the window of time in which the kombucha is ‘just right’ and ready for bottling is smaller. If you miss bottling day because you’re busy, your kombucha may be over-ripe, too vinegar-y and you may have to dump that week’s brew and start over.
With batch brewing, the kombucha matures more slowly, giving you a wider window in which to bottle. In other words, if you miss bottling day by a day, or two, or even three days!–the kombucha will still be good, patiently waiting for you to get around to it. My batch brew kombucha is usually ready by the 9th day of fermenting, but I’ve let it go 14 days and it’s still tasty.
What’s your Kombucha Personality?
- If you’re curious about kombucha and just want to try it without spending money on special equipment, start with the batch brew method.
- If you’re the spontaneous type and don’t want to be tied down to a strict bottling schedule, batch brewing will fit your lifestyle.
- If you like having the right tool for the job, and don’t mind spending money upfront on a new hobby, you’ll probably enjoy a continuous brew set up.
- If you can picture yourself faithfully bottling your kombucha the same day every week without fail, continuous brew is your thing.
How I brew my booch
I learned to brew kombucha by the batch method, and had my system down to a science. Then I got curious as to why someone would need any special equipment for brewing because it seemed like such a simple process to me. A friend of mine had a continuous brew crock (she had quit brewing because she couldn’t seem to fit it into her lifestyle) and she offered to let me try it out.
I was a little intimidated by the size and where to put a 3 gallon crock in my kitchen, but I gave it a try to compare it to my batch brewing. It makes wonderful booch, and I love the simplicity of just filling my kombucha bottles from the spigot. But I don’t like that if I miss bottling day, I have to dump it. Last month life got crazy and I neglected my booch for a few days. By the time I got around to checking on my crock, it was way past edible and I had to dump 2 gallons of booch.
This has happened several times to me, and I realize it’s just my personality and season of life. With 5 children, I can’t handle something in my life that requires a strict schedule! I’m using both methods right now because there are advantages to both (and I’m a crazy booch fanatic!), but I have to say my heart is in my batch brewing because it’s more forgiving of my busy days.
Now you’re ready to start!
If you want to get started today and try batch brewing, I walk you through my simple system here. After I taught my friend Rachel, she said,
“I always felt like keeping my kombucha happy was be too big of a commitment, but since learning your method I’ve streamlined my process to about 20 minutes a week, which is MUCH faster than before. With your instructions, someone could go from knowing nothing to having the perfect brew in a week to 10 days, with a streamlined process to incorporate tasty probiotics into their diet easily and painlessly.”
If you already make kombucha, tell us which brewing system you use, and why?