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How-To: A Beginner’s Guide to Kombucha: Continuous Brew

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Oh it’s happening! I’m making kombucha for the second time from scratch and I’ve decided I’m going to document each step to share with you.

If you read closely you’ll notice I said this is my second time. What happened the first time? I used several layers of cheese cloth to seal the top in order to allow gasses to escape. For the seasoned kombucha brewers, you already know my mistake. For the newbies, let me tell you: cheese cloth is no match for fruit flies. Those little critters got right in there and laid their eggs on the nutritious goodness that is the SCOBY.

What’s a SCOBY, you wonder? Let’s take this a step at a time. To finish my story first: I shooed away the flies and added more layers but the eggs hatched leaving baby larvae in my brew. I was sad and it was gross. But it was meant to be! Learn from my pitfalls and let’s get started.

Pro Tip: If you'd like to learn the basics about Kombucha - what it is, the history, health benefits, potential risks, cost and savings - check out this PUL article.

In the meantime, let me tell you how to prepare your own kombucha brew at home:

The Equipment & Steps

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 1: Acquire a large glass container with a spigot at the bottom and make sure the spigot is plastic and not metal (disclaimer: although mine looks metal I assure you it’s completely plastic on the inside). The size depends on how much you want to make. The container I use holds 5 litres, but I fill it with 3.5 litres of tea.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 2: Find a SCOBY and about 2 cups (500 mL) of starter tea. You can make your own SCOBY from scratch (starter kits can be found at stores such as WholeFoods), buy one off a friend who also makes kombucha, or do as I did: check out Craigslist for people selling extras in your area (this sounds sketchy and it is – be smart and purchase from someone who appears reliable and hygienic). The person I purchased mine from happened to be a friend of someone I know – small world! Yes… the SCOBY looks a little like a uterus. Let me tell you: this ugly thing makes one mean fizzy drink.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 3: Acquire organic green or black tea (pictured here is black). Loose tea works too but you’ll need to strain it before Step #8 below.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 4: Place granulated organic cane sugar and tea bags in a jar (a pot over the stove works too).

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 5: Add boiling water to the sugar and tea.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 6: Give the mixture a swirl to ensure the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture steep until the tea has cooled to room temperature.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 7: Add boiled water that has cooled to room temperature to the kombucha container. Note: this is an optional step. Alternatively you could have added more boiling water to the sugared tea mixture while steeping. I just happened to make a concentrated tea of lesser volume and needed to add extra water to total 3.5 litres.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 8: Add the sweetened tea into the kombucha container; make sure the tea is at room temperature before adding as hot liquid can kill the SCOBY.

A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.
A versatile probiotic beverage made from sweetened tea. Add fruit for flavouring and turn this brew into a healthy summery carbonated beverage.

Step 9: Add the starter tea, which serves to acidify the sweet tea to a point where bad bacteria cannot take over. Then add the SCOBY into the kombucha container using clean hands.