Kombucha, the new Moonshine?

It looks dangerous, doesn't it?

Kombucha with active ingredients may be an endangered species in grocery stores due to the active fermentation and slight alcohol content. Homegrown kombucha is more popular than ever. If you are not familiar with Kombucha and the continuous brew process read these posts first.

When setting up a continuous brew many people are concerned about moving and going on vacation. The advice about moving is also valid for setting up an emergency back up or for starting a new brew from a SCOBY that was shipped to you.

How to move your continuous kombucha set up:

  1. Cut two pieces of your SCOBY to size to fit two pint jars with tight sealing lids. Two jars gives you a back up in case something goes wrong.
  2. Fill your jars about two thirds full of kombucha and seal. This is a micro version of your regular kombucha operation except it is sealed instead of covered with cheesecloth.
  3. Keep refrigerated or at least cool as much as possible. A few days at room temperature are ok. The goal is to have the SCOBY go dormant so that it is not needing a supply of fresh sugar and tea.
  4. Any additional kombucha that will not be consumed can be stored at room temperature for a week or more. Refrigerated is ideal. If it is too strong to drink it can be slowly added back to your brew once you get set up in your new location. See the vacation process described below for more on this.
  5. When you get to your new location and are ready to start again use the SCOBYs and the kombucha as a starter. Add sweet tea equal to the starter and wait at least a week before tasting. If you are seeing any sign of SCOBY growth you can taste, but wait till you see growth before disturbing it.

Important Notes:

  • The sweetened tea I have used to feed the SCOBY is 1/3 black tea to 2/3 green tea. The black tea gives the final product a better taste; the green tea feeds the SCOBY. Sugar is 1 cup to a quart of tea. Use filtered water and white cane sugar only. If you heat the water to make tea, do not let it boil. Boiling drives out oxygen that the SCOBY needs. Let the tea reach room temperature before adding to the Kombucha. Update: We are now using equal amounts of black and green tea and things seem to be working fine. I would start with 1/3 black tea to 2/3 green and shift the balance over time to see what happens in your specific environment.
  • The white cane sugar is for the SCOBY, not for you. Very little will make it through into the final drink. Do not use other types of sugar or honey which are bad for the SCOBY. I have white cane sugar in the house for only two purposes, feeding the SCOBY and making sugar water for the bees if they need supplemental feeding. Do not use unfiltered tap water; the chlorine can kill the SCOBY. Update: As with anything natural you can get almost anything to work, but if you want consistency and predictability follow my advice regarding white sugar.
  • Try to always leave at least as much Kombucha with the SCOBY as you are adding sweetened tea. This keeps the PH balance correct for the SCOBY. If you need to add more sweetened tea, add tea over multiple days with at least one full day in-between each addition. Update: When you are reviving a dormant SCOBY either because of a move or because you just purchased one that had to be shipped, wait until you see growth before tasting or adding more tea.

Going on Vacation:

We have left our continuous brew sitting for up to two months at room temperature without harm. The kombucha was very strong and we simply drew off half and added new sweet tea. Brewing was back to normal within a week. You can keep the strong brew refrigerated and add it slowly back to the continuous brew or simply add water or fruit juice to thin it down a bit before consuming. There is no need to use the moving process described above if you are on a short vacation or just take a break from kombucha brewing for less than two months.

Important Notes:

  • We brew in a 1.6 Gallon container which means that there is about a Gallon of brew for the SCOBY to feed on. You may not have the ability to leave it for two months if you are brewing on a smaller scale or your room temperature is unusually high.
  • We have two containers. If you only have one brewing container, using a piece of SCOBY to create a jar as described above to leave in the refrigerator (or a friends refrigerator) is good insurance against disaster.
  • Kombucha is a living thing. It is very sensitive to your specific environment. Experiment, test, taste, and enjoy. Patience will resolve most issues.

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