Continuous Brew Kombucha
+ Cherry Lemonade Recipe
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Kombucha is a big part of my family's life. I started drinking the "elixir" about 4 years ago, and absolutely fell in love with it. A college student at the time, however, I was not in love with the price. I realized that at about $3-$4 per bottle, drinking it every day really was adding up fast. That's when I decided to start making it at home!
The Health Benefits
For a few years now, I've struggled with digestion issues that affect my ability to eat corn, pasteurized dairy, and grains. I notice that when I'm drinking kombucha on a regular basis, I have far less stomach cramps when I do come into contact with those foods (though I still try to avoid them as much as I can.)
If you aren't familiar with kombucha yet, it's basically sweet tea that's fermented with the use of a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), making it full of healthy probiotic bacterium. One of the most comprehensive and easy-to-read explanations of the health benefits of this drink is here, so I suggest you check that out!
My husband and I always feel more energized and just healthier in general when we're drinking kombucha regularly, so we decided to start a continuous brew system. A lot of people make kombucha in a single vessel (SCOBY and tea in a gallon/half-gallon jar), but we found that when we were on that system, there was always too much time left between batches. I would forget to start a new one, and we'd run out of our current brew way too quickly, leaving us with weeks at a time without our delicious tea.
On a continuous brew system, your kombucha is-you guessed it-continuously brewing. Forever, if you so choose! Always kombucha being made, always kombucha being enjoyed. So, here's how to do it:
- Choose your vessel
We have a 2 gallon glass beverage dispenser from Target that works well, but for a more aesthetically-pleasing brew set, I'd take a look at the ones from Kombucha Kamp. The recipe here will be for a 2 gallon system.
- Find a starter kit
When you're beginning your very first batch, you'll need some starter tea (a portion of someone else's kombucha) and a SCOBY. I've had a lot of luck with Etsy as well as Kombucha Kamp for finding a quality starter kit. Just make sure the SCOBY 1. Is the size of your vessel (1 gal. SCOBY for 1 gal. jar) and 2. Is fresh, not frozen or dehydrated.
Boil 1.5 gallons of water (filtered, as chlorine hinders the good bacterial growth we want), then take off the heat and steep 7 bags of green tea. Take the bags out, then add 2 cups of raw honey and mix well. Let the sweet tea cool to room temperature, pour into your brewing vessel (make sure that spout is closed!) add the starter tea, and lay the SCOBY on top. Finally, cover the jar with a breathable (but tightly woven) top, like the scrap of an old t-shirt or a tea towel. After a few years with towels, I discovered a very official-looking brew cap at Kombucha Kamp that has an elastic grip. So worth it.
*Note: We technically make what's called Jun, a variation on kombucha that uses green tea and honey. If you want to go more traditional, use the same measurements with black tea and raw cane sugar.
The Waiting Game
Depending on the temperature in your home, kombucha can take anywhere from 3 days to over a week to ferment (the warmer it is, the faster the fermentation.) Everyone's taste varies, so my particular kombuchas may be too vinegar-y for some, or maybe even too sweet for some more hard-core brewers! All that to say, you should be checking on your tea every few days to see how it's progressing in terms of effervescence, "vinegariness", and sugar content. When it's where you want it, use your spout to bottle the kombucha, leaving some in the vessel (at least a cup) for your next batch! Now all you need to do is start over with the formula above as soon as your first batch is ready.
Experiment with different fermentation lengths and find the balance of flavor that's right for you! Kombucha plain (how we've made it so far) is so delicious already, but once you've got that down, you should try a second ferment!
The Second Ferment: Cherry Lemonade!
A second ferment is really as simple as putting that big brew into smaller bottles with different flavorings (berries, spices, juice, citrus...) to create more fun drinks. A second ferment can also help increase the carbonation of your kombucha if you're looking for something a bit fizzier than what you got on the first round, but I've found that Jun (the kind made with green tea and honey) actually gets more carbonation on the first ferment than does the black tea and sugar variation.
For the "cherry lemonade" pictured above next to my continuous brew system:
- Fill jar 3/4 full with kombucha
- Add 1/2 cup of frozen cherries
- Juice 1 lemon into the jar
- Stir, close (air-tight top this time), and let sit again for another 2 days.
- Sip and Enjoy!
The Big Book of Kombucha
If you're hooked on kombucha brewing and want to know absolutely everything there is to know about the magic tea, I recommend reading The Big Book of Kombucha by Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory of Kombucha Kamp. Notice a trend here? Hannah has dedicated a lot of time and energy to becoming an expert on all things kombucha, and that dedication shows through the wisdom of this book and the quality of the supplies she has on her site. Definitely spend some time with this book if you want to be a kombucha expert!