Thursday, January 19, 2017

Continuous Brew Kombucha

Where to even begin... life has been wonderfully full. I'm hopping on here to provide several friends with a kombucha brewing guide, as this has become an important and exciting part of my kitchen. Maybe this little blog bit will bring me back, as I miss this place and would love to return. Until then, ferment and be happy!

Supplies:

- Scoby
- Starter fermented tea (at least 1 C of kombucha that has been first-fermented but not flavored)
- Glass brewing vessel: For continuous brew, I use this Glass Jar with a Spigot, which I then replaced the spigot with a Stainless Steel Spigot
- Tea - I use loose leaf but bags would make it even simpler as you wouldn't have the added step of straining out leaves (see below)
- Filtered water - I use reverse osmosis filtered water
- 1/2 Gallon mason jar (used to cool tea after it's brewed)
- Pot, strainer, coffee filters, bamboo chopsticks (used for stirring when needed - do not use metal in brew vessel with the scoby)

Step One: Make sweetened tea (which will be added to brew vessel to replace kombucha that is bottled for second ferment - I make 1/2 gallon of sweet tea at least once per week, sometimes twice
- Bring 7-8 C filtered water to boil
- Add 3 T loose leaf tea (jasmine green is my fave)
- Remove from heat, stir (I use a bamboo chopstick), and let steep for 4 minutes
- Strain out leaves - I pour the entire contents of the pot through a strainer first into a large pyrex measuring cup
- Then I pour that through the strainer with a coffee filter in it to ensure that small tea leaves are removed
- This final tea is then poured into a 1/2 gallon mason jar, with 1/2 - 3/4 C organic cane sugar in the bottom, which I swirl as I pour to dissolve the sugar
- Allow to cool to room temp before adding to brew vessel (I often make mine in the evening and let it sit over night)



Step Two:

- Clean glass brewing vessel, rinse with vinegar, rinse with filtered water, dry.
- Rinse hands with vinegar before handling your scoby 
- Place scoby, 1 C kombucha (plain, not flavored), and 1/2 gallon cooled sweetened tea into brew vessel
- Cover top with dishcloth and secure with rubber band 
- Leave, undisturbed, for 5-7 days
- This is part of the initial, first-time set up process

Step Three:

- After 5-7 days, add another 1/2 gallon sweet tea
- Cover
- Leave, undisturbed for 5-7 days
- After a a total of 10-14 days, begin tasting for level of sweetness versus fermented taste
- This is part of the initial, first-time set up process



Step Four:

- Once first ferment has reached your preferred level of sweet versus tartness, it is ready to second ferment
- In a 16 ounce swing top bottle, add desired flavor. My favorites include:
  • 1/4 C fresh organic lemon juice (second ferment 3-4 days)
  • 1/4 C fresh organic grapefruit juice + 1/2 tsp organic cane sugar (second ferment 2 days)
  • 1/4 C fresh organic lemon juice + 1-2 organic strawberries, quartered (second ferment 3-4 days)
  • 1/4 C thinly sliced fresh organic pineapple (second ferment at least 24 hours)
- Using a bamboo chopstick, slide in beside the surface scoby and stir like crazy! Churn up all the yeast that has settled on the bottom so that some of it pours out each time you fill bottles thus ensuring that you don't get too much yeast build up in the brew vessel
- Fill bottles within 1 to 1/2 inches of top
- Seal and place in a cabinet until ready



Step Five:

- Brew sweetened tea in the amount that you removed and fill brew vessel once cool: if I fill 3 bottles, that is equal to 1/2 gallon so I pour the entire 1/2 gallon mason jar into the brew vessel. You can just pour this into the top, over the scoby. I sometimes use a bamboo chopstick and give it a stir just to incorporate
- Once your brew vessel has been going for a bit and the kombucha is strong, you can taste after 2-5 days and bottle again as soon it reaches your liking

Tips:

- Again, no metal should come in contact with scoby or the kombucha in the brew vessel (except stainless steel spigot)
- Rinse hands or containers with vinegar before handling the scoby
- Always remember to stir the kombucha in the brew vessel before bottling - really give that settled yeast a good whirl each time
- Second ferment: you can "burp" bottles by opening slowly and releasing pressure either to check if they're ready or to just know how much they're going to explode when opened! 
- Second ferment: refrigeration will stop fermentation, which means flavor will remain as is as no more sugar will be consumed by the bacteria HOWEVER refrigeration also halts carbonation because yeast activity stops. If you refrigerate, bottles will re-carbonate if removed and set at room temperature for an hour or so before opening. I rarely refrigerate - I typically drink half of a 16 ounce bottle per day and place the remaining back into the cabinet. Some flavors will build a great deal of pressure in 24 hours and some will be fine for 48 hours. The more open space in the bottle, the greater the pressure that can build because of the sheer air-space available for carbon dioxide to fill.

Once your system is up and running, it is so. simple. Brew sweetened tea and let it cool. Fill swing top bottles. Top off brew vessel. Drink after second ferment. Repeat. My continuous brew jar has been going for 6+ months now and I have not thinned the scoby or emptied/cleaned the jar - I may do that soon but everything is happy and delicious for now. 


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