Hi! I'm reviving this thread in hope of getting some advice. I set up my first attempt at brewing kombucha about 3 weeks ago, and I'm not sure whether I need to adjust things or if I'm simply being impatient.
I am new to brewing, but have experience with other culinary microbiology efforts such as yogurt and bread baking. I think I've been sufficiently fastidious, but I know these things also have a mysterious feel, an "art" to getting it right and I'm trying to teach myself from the internet.
I have a stainless steel 2 gallon continuous brew container, similar to ones marketed on kombucha enthusiast websites. We had been using it to dispense water. I washed it carefully, dried, and then rinsed with distilled vinegar to remove soap or chlorine or wild organisms. I do not have a SCOBY, so I bought 2 half-gallon jugs of locally made, raw, kombucha to use as my mother. Katalyst Kombucha (their Ginger Devotion flavor which is really lovely).
[argh, accidentally posted a fragment and as it's my first post, had to wait for mod approval, now editing in the rest.]
So. I bought two lovely half-gallon jugs of raw kombucha, drank about a pint glass off the top of each leaving all the nice sludgy stuff in the bottom. I boiled a gallon of water to sterilize, dissolved 1.5 cups of granulated sugar in it by simmering for about 5 minutes, turned off the heat and tossed about 6 packets of black tea in. Let it steep while cooling. Brought that down to 94 degrees by my (sterilized) cooking thermometer, and the kombucha up to room temp. I mixed about a pint from each of the cooled sweet tea and the commercial kombucha, noted the temp was in the high 80's, and then added the rest of each for a final volume of nearly 2 gallons, half each.
I topped it with a clean kitchen cloth and put a little warming pad under it, meant to help start seedlings indoors. Our house fluctuates between 63-68 degrees and with the benefit of the constant warming pad, when I measured the temp of the brew later on it was 72 degrees.
The Early Results
At ten days, a decanted sample was fizzier and sweeter than the commercial product. My brother was visiting and so despite its prematurity I decanted 25% of the total and replaced it with cooled sweet black tea.
At 18 days, it is tasting much more sour. It's near to drinking straight apple cider vinegar and no longer fizzy. There is an odd lopsided crumpled film over about 1/3 of the surface, a pale tan color. Not nearly as uniform or thick as I had expected a SCOBY mother to be. I do still enjoy tasting it (I have a taste for sour things) and from tonight's sample, I strongly suspect it is alcoholic as I'm feeling a bit of a buzz and I don't think it's placebo.
Reading up, I suspect that I favored the yeast component too strongly at first, then let it rather overmature without feeding it bit by bit as a continuous brew ought to be fed. Some of the internet stuff suggests that letting it get too "sour" and sit a while might let the mother mature by favoring the bacteria, which synthesize the cellulose that forms the matrix of the SCOBY matts. Anyhow, if anyone has insight or tips about this, or guidance about how many weeks it takes for form a good solid SCOBY when starting from zero, or any other thoughts, I would appreciate your posts!