How Surface Area Affects Kombucha Brew Time
Some cultured foods, like yogurt, kefir, and sourdough, require daily maintenance. They need to be fed or “harvested” every day in order to keep the cultures alive.
Kombucha, on the other hand, takes much longer to culture. You can keep it on a 7- to 14-day rotation when you create a culturing “rhythm” because it takes a bit longer for the kombucha scoby to turn the tea and sugar into the delicious beverage we know of as kombucha.
This can be good or bad. On the one hand, kombucha is more hands-off in that you don’t have to worry about it on a daily basis as you would a kefir or sourdough starter. On the other hand, you might wish for your kombucha to brew faster so you can enjoy more of it!
Temperature has a large effect on how fast your kombucha will brew. A warmer temperature means a quicker brew; a cooler temperature means a slower brew. But temperature is not the only factor in brewing time.
Consider Your Brewing Vessel
One element of the brewing process that you might not think to manipulate to achieve a faster brew time is the shape of the vessel you are using to brew your kombucha.
Many people brew their kombucha in half-gallon mason jars. When you’re making a lot of kombucha, you can go through a lot of these in a 2- to 3-week brewing cycle!
However, the narrow-mouth opening at the top of a typical half-gallon jar also slows the process down substantially, and you can shorten the brew time with a differently shaped container.
Why Surface Area Matters
Cultures like yogurt are made up mostly of bacteria. It is the probiotics in this culture that eat up the lactose in your milk to produce more probiotics. And the cycle repeats when you use that latest yogurt batch to make another quart of tangy yogurt.
There are other cultures, like milk kefir and kombucha, that culture through bacteria and yeasts together. And while you would culture vegetables by keeping them under brine, in an anaerobic environment, yeast-based cultures need air to breathe in order to survive and perpetuate the culture as it ought to be.
When you put a kombucha scoby in sugar and tea, you are giving the bacteria and yeast food to thrive on and those bacteria and yeast produce kombucha tea. When you use a vessel that gives the scoby more access to oxygen, you are making it possible for the yeasts to eat more efficiently, which in turn keeps them healthy and strong.
If you increase the oxygen available to the culture you increase the rate at which it converts that tea and sugar to kombucha tea. This means that a half-gallon glass crock with a 10-inch diameter is going to make kombucha tea more quickly than a half-gallon jar with a 4-inch diameter.
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