Kombucha can be made one container at a time or using a continuous-brew system.
WHY Set up a KOMBUCHA CONTINUOUS-BREW SYSTEM?
Continuous-brew systems are easy to set up and maintain. They have a number of benefits:
1. They are low maintenance.
While live cultures will always require some attention, continuous brew systems require less maintenance then consistently changing brewing containers.
2. They can help protect the SCOBY against mold.
Maintaining the ecosystem created during the fermentation process provides the best defense against the development of mold and invasion by transient yeasts and bacteria.
3. They can help keep your SCOBY healthy.
Continuous brew systems provide the healthiest environment for the SCOBY and allow the yeast and bacteria to develop relatively undisturbed with a consistent supply of new food.
4. Endless Kombucha!
Continuously brewing kombucha means a more consistent supply of kombucha for you and your family.
How to Set UP A CONTINUOUS BREWING SYSTEM
1. Choose Your Equipment
You will need a brewing vessel and cover for a continuous brew system. Our article Choosing Equipment for Making Kombucha describes what materials to avoid when selecting a brewing container and what materials work best for the cover.
A continuous brew container should hold between 1 and 5 gallons. You will also want to container to include a spigot near the bottom. This is necessary for drawing off kombucha without disturbing the contents. Do not use a spigot that has metal on the inside of the container. Continuous brew containers can often be found at a local home brew supply store.
Clean everything thoroughly prior to setting up the brew system. Avoid antibacterial soap, and rinse with vinegar to remove soap residue.
2. Prepare the Kombucha Mixture
Prepare the sweet tea mixture according to this chart of ingredients, ratios, and instructions. Pour the mixture into the continuous-brew container and add the SCOBY. Do not overfill the container. Be sure to allow space for the mother SCOBY and development of the new SCOBY. Once the tea mixture and SCOBY are in the container, cover the container for fermenting.
3. Ferment the Kombucha
Ferment the kombucha for 7-30 days based on your flavor preferences. The longer the kombucha ferments the less sweet and more vinegary it will taste. Keep in mind that the best way to check the progress of your kombucha is to taste it periodically. Click here for more information on kombucha fermentation periods.
4. Harvest the Kombucha
There are two methods for harvesting kombucha:
- Option 1: Once the kombucha has fermented to your liking, use the spigot to drain off the kombucha you wish to consume for the week and bottle it. Leave at least 20% of the kombucha in the vessel to act as starter tea for the next batch.
- Option 2: Drain off the kombucha as you drink it. At the end of a week, add more sweetened tea.
5. Feed the Brewing System
Prepare new sweet tea using the appropriate ratios of water, tea, and sugar for the batch size you are adding to your vessel. Allow the tea to cool thoroughly, then slowly pour the solution into the top of the container to feed the system.
Timing Harvesting and Feeding
Harvesting and feeding can be done every 7 to 30 days. If you wish to draw off kombucha to drink daily but only feed the mixture weekly, be aware that kombucha drawn off at the beginning of the week is likely to be sweeter than kombucha drawn off later in the week.
Controlling the Sugar Content
If low sugar content is an important factor for you, allow the fresh sweet tea an adequate fermentation period prior to the next draw. Remember, a longer brewing time results in less sugar and a more vinegary-flavored kombucha.
Cleaning the Brewing Vessel and Spigot
Cleaning the vessel and spigot is required only if the spigot becomes clogged with yeast particles or if too much yeast builds up in the bottom of the container.
To clean the system, remove the kombucha, SCOBY, and enough starter tea for the next batch; set aside in a safe container. Clean the container using white vinegar and warm water. Once the system is clean, add the kombucha, SCOBY, and starter tea back to the vessel, add fresh sweet tea, and resume the process.
The Large SCOBY
Keep in mind, continuous brewing systems produce large SCOBYs. The primary issue with a large SCOBY is that after some time they grow very thick, taking up valuable space in the container. Reduce the large SCOBY's size periodically, to allow more efficient fermenting. The SCOBY can be torn or cut up using a non-metal utensil. Check out our list of ideas for using extra SCOBYs.