Jumping into making Kombucha!

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pshankstar

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It's been on my mind to try making kombucha given I have plenty of brewing equipment on hand. I just ordered a SCOBY to start off with this weekend. Below are my thoughts on how to proceed with making a large batch along with some questions. Please chime in with any thoughts, suggestions or guidance.

My plan is to use my six gallon ported Fermonster fermenter to make between 4-5 gallon batches. I will use my 2.5 gallon keg to have some Kombucha on draft in my kegerator and then use some old Mr. Beer PET bottles to bottle the rest. I figure this way I can get some batches under my belt first before bottling in glass bottles. Depending on what I do for flavor editions I would use an old bottling bucket to place bagged fruit in and rack the Kombucha over to it before kegging and/or bottling. I would always leave some tea in the original fermenter with the SCOBY and continue to top it off. I think this will work and is a good game plan.

With making the teas I see black tea seems to be the best option to go with. I have also read that green tea is another good option too. We have several different loose leaf teas in our house, fruit blends, rooibos teas, etc from our local tea shop. Does anyone here have any suggestions or recommendations on tea blends/ratios to tinker with? What about which sugar to use when making the tea? I'm thinking about something organic and more natural than something refined would be the best option, right?

I'm excited to take this adventure with making kombucha and look forward to any and all feedback, recommendations and suggestions! Thanks in advance!
 

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I'm no expert in this, have only dabbled. I will just say that - a big batch might be a lot for starting off until you know for sure you have a recipe you like. It'd suck to get a half gallon in and wish you'd done something drastically different.
 
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I'm no expert in this, have only dabbled. I will just say that - a big batch might be a lot for starting off until you know for sure you have a recipe you like. It'd suck to get a half gallon in and wish you'd done something drastically different.
Good point, I should start small and scale up. I may do just that! Thanks!
 

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I make and keg kombucha in 2 1/2 and 3 gallon kegs. If you have the ability to keg, don't waste your time bottling OR bottle from the carbonated keg when you want to take some with you. Unlike beer which foams when bottling from a keg, kombucha does not and is easy to bottle from the keg. Also, you want the fruit to have more contact time with the kombucha -- l like 5-7 days to really get the fruity flavor and minimize alcohol (unless you're going for hard kombucha). You also need to decide if you plan to make kombucha by the batch or do "continuous brew." That can make a big difference.

Here is my current process. I have a 6 gallon stainless fermenter (Primary fermenter) in which I "continuous brew." That means that I made an original 6 gallon batch and let it ferment for a few weeks to reach the right tang. I drain 2 1/2 to 3 gallons from the Primary fermenter into a secondary 4 gallon stainless fermenter and add fruit and spices. I let that ferment for 5-7 days and then keg it. Once kegged, it immediately goes in my keezer to stop or slow the fermentation process and to carbonate via a CO2 tank. In the meantime, I refill the the Primary fermenter with 2 1/2 or 3 gallons of sweet tea for the next batch. I then continue the process from there. Because I am doing a "continuous brew" in the Primary fermenter, the sweet tea only takes about 1 week now to reach peak flavor instead of a few weeks.

Recently, we weren't drinking enough finished Kombucha to keep up with the fermentation schedule. So, I simply did not refill the Primary Fermenter and covered it for a few weeks until we were ready for more finished kombucha. I then added 2 1/2 to 3 gallons of sweet tea to the Primary fermenter and restarted the fermentation.

Also, make sure you make a SCOBY Hotel to store extra SCOBY's in. They come in handy if something goes wrong in your fermentation process and you have to dump a batch and start over.

Finally, I highly recommend buying the "Big Book of Kombucha" for tips and recipes. Good luck.
 

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With making the teas I see black tea seems to be the best option to go with. I have also read that green tea is another good option too. We have several different loose leaf teas in our house, fruit blends, rooibos teas, etc from our local tea shop. Does anyone here have any suggestions or recommendations on tea blends/ratios to tinker with? What about which sugar to use when making the tea? I'm thinking about something organic and more natural than something refined would be the best option, right?
I'd stick to black tea for a brew or two to get a nice healthy scoby. I havent used any teas that have any type of artificial fruit flavors ( I use fruit on secondary ferment for flavors), mainly because that seems like it will inhibit the ferment. I'm using up a giant box of plain ol' Lipton tea bags that my wife was gifted a few years ago at a ratio of 5-6 black bags and 1-2 green/rooibos. If you enjoy lapsing tea, I would use it in small portions because, in my opinion, it is overwhelming (and AMAZING) in kombucha. Otherwise in loose leaf, I use about 3tbsn of black tea to just under 1 of green. I think one could go higher on the non-black with a healthy robust scoby, but I had a really poor experience early on. As for sugar, I have used both and havent really noticed a difference. Though that being said, I do use organic if we have it around the house.

Have fun with the flavor experimenting! Its probably my favorite part of kombucha.
 

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Your six gallon ported Fermonster is not going to work well when you want to remove the pellicle. The mouth is too narrow.
 
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Your six gallon ported Fermonster is not going to work well when you want to remove the pellicle. The mouth is too narrow.
So a bottling bucket (hardly used) would be a better option then. It would also keep the light out too. I didn’t think about removing the pellicle down the road. Thanks for the suggestion!
 

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Start small on the batches. The problem with kombucha is you have to continually make batches to keep your scoby alive. You can go a month or so between batches once your scoby is big and healthy, but you have to feed it. There is only so much kombucha you can drink! Also if you are starting with a starter scoby it won’t be big enough to make a batch that big. You generally have to grow it with a few 1 or 2 gallon batches. After that you will be giving away babies!
 
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Start small on the batches. The problem with kombucha is you have to continually make batches to keep your scoby alive. You can go a month or so between batches once your scoby is big and healthy, but you have to feed it. There is only so much kombucha you can drink! Also if you are starting with a starter scoby it won’t be big enough to make a batch that big. You generally have to grow it with a few 1 or 2 gallon batches. After that you will be giving away babies!
The more reading I do it’s definitely a journey to get to larger batches, instead of jumping right into it. I’m looking forward to this adventure and experimenting with different flavors during the second fermentation.
 

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I use the organic pure cane juice sugar from costco, in the green bag. I make 2.5 gal batches and have refined my recipe to 14 grams tea per gal, and 250 grams sugar. I do a 50/50 black /green tea. I found I couldn't keep up with the speed of constant fermentation,so I clean and reuse only the top scoby(new one). +1 on the scoby hotel and Big Book. My best flavor and speed are at 74-78*
 
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Just like brewing I plan to sanitize everything with before fermenting, bottling and kegging. With that being said, do you all dunk any of the fruits in sanitizer before adding them to the booch? Or is it acidic enough that these flavoring editions don't need to be sanitized?
Also, I am thinking of dry hopping some bottles with some hops I have in my chest freezer. I've done some research on this and found that 1/4oz is all thats needed for maybe a gallon or so of booch. I do not have the notes in front of me, but I would pull them before moving forward. With that being said, has anyone dry hopped any booch lately? Again if memory serves me right, the thread here hasn't been active in some time. I may post this same question there to see if it gains any traction.
Thanks again for all of your help these last few days. I am looking forward to starting my first batch of Kombucha this weekend and hopefully scaling up in the coming weeks/months.
 

Immocles

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Also, I am thinking of dry hopping some bottles with some hops I have in my chest freezer. I've done some research on this and found that 1/4oz is all thats needed for maybe a gallon or so of booch. I do not have the notes in front of me, but I would pull them before moving forward. With that being said, has anyone dry hopped any booch lately? Again if memory serves me right, the thread here hasn't been active in some time. I may post this same question there to see if it gains any traction.
Do it. Its fantastic. If im dry hopping the entire gallon, I use about .25oz of cascade inside of a hop bag. At times, I will only dry hop a quart at a time inside of a mason jar. For those I will toss a weak measurement of .10oz (my scale only works in measurements of .05) into one of those paper tea bags. I let the hops sit on the booch for about 2 days and pull the bags. There might be a flake or two floating around but it hasn't been an issue for me to pour a bit slowly. Can't give ya much input as far as if you want to dry hop in the keg or anything like that.

Also, im pretty fast and loose about sanitization. I generally give my gear a good rinse, then a vinegar+hot water swirling and call it good. Fruits and flavor additions just get tossed into the bottom of my jars and the booch racked on top for awhile before going into bottles.
 
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These arrived today and I’m already starting to read the book. I’m looking forward to getting my first batch started this weekend.
Thanks for all the recommendations & suggestions! I’m sure I’ll have more questions along the way.
 

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Question for you booch brewers. Is there any benefit of buying a scoby vs. growing one from something like a bottle of GTs?

Last time I made Kombucha I had a hell of a time keeping it from tasting like vinegar using a home grown scoby from a GTs natural bottle, sugar and black tea.
 

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I use 210 grams per gallon.

I ferment down to 3.0 pH.

Residual sugar comes back from the lab at 33 grams per liter.

I'm reformulating to reduce that by half.

It is common to hear that "kombucha is low in sugar." It is--compared with soda, but there can be a considerable amount in it. The SCOBY does not consume everything.
 
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rushpapers

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Question for you booch brewers. Is there any benefit of buying a scoby vs. growing one from something like a bottle of GTs?
Commercial breweries filter the kombucha before bottling. Filtration reduces the amount of active culture, thereby reducing the possibility of fermentation reoccurring in the bottle. Yeasts are 5-10 microns. Bacteria is much smaller. So I'd figure GTs filters down to 5 microns and leaves mostly Bacteria, making it imbalanced for a homebrew starter.
 
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Would a polyester voile cover (at least two layers) work with the first fermentation vessel? I would assume so but have no idea either.
 

rushpapers

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Should be fine as long as the weave is tight enough to keep out small critters like fruit flies, and the like.
 
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Should be fine as long as the weave is tight enough to keep out small critters like fruit flies, and the like.
Thanks!
I use it for making beer with the BIAB method and have extra material & thought it would work. The book doesn’t say one way or another.
 

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I haven't made any in a while but when I did I made 3qt batches of mostly black tea and occasionally green tea. To this I would add 10oz kombucha from the previous batch. For the first batch I used a bottle of GT brand. When done I blend in 1 quart of sweetened flavored tea then bottle. I use the flavored tea bags. I like the fruit, berry or flower flavors, sweetened with cane sugar. My favorite so far is Vanilla Rooibos. All teas are made 1qt water to 1/4 cup sugar and steeped according to the manufacturers directions. Carbonation levels are around 2 volumes I'm guessing. I never had any bottle bombs. 1, 2 and 3 year old bottles are fantastic. I'll try the 4 year old bottle soon. One thing that happened to me is that as I became a regular kombucha drinker I started liking it stronger and stronger. The last batch I did I let go for a year. The SCOBY was about 3 inches thick! A shot glass full of the kombucha was heaven.

Another thing is I became to hate the SCOBY. They would sink and another one would grow in it's place. Sometimes they were hard to remove. After 5 or 6 batches I just threw them away and never reused one again. Batches always came out fine with just my starter.

Here's a batch going on 10 weeks and a pour from a 1 year old bottle.

 
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I haven't made any in a while but when I did I made 3qt batches of mostly black tea and occasionally green tea. To this I would add 10oz kombucha from the previous batch. For the first batch I used a bottle of GT brand. When done I blend in 1 quart of sweetened flavored tea then bottle. I use the flavored tea bags. I like the fruit, berry or flower flavors, sweetened with cane sugar. My favorite so far is Vanilla Rooibos. All teas are made 1qt water to 1/4 cup sugar and steeped according to the manufacturers directions. Carbonation levels are around 2 volumes I'm guessing. I never had any bottle bombs. 1, 2 and 3 year old bottles are fantastic. I'll try the 4 year old bottle soon. One thing that happened to me is that as I became a regular kombucha drinker I started liking it stronger and stronger. The last batch I did I let go for a year. The SCOBY was about 3 inches thick! A shot glass full of the kombucha was heaven.

Another thing is I became to hate the SCOBY. They would sink and another one would grow in it's place. Sometimes they were hard to remove. After 5 or 6 batches I just threw them away and never reused one again. Batches always came out fine with just my starter.

Here's a batch going on 10 weeks and a pour from a 1 year old bottle.

Out of curiosity what kind of bottles do you use? Also, do you keep the “cellared” bottles of booch in a fridge or in the cellar? I’m worried beer bottles might be a little too thin and break but maybe I’m just over cautious. I keep reading about using flip top bottles to help purge some carbonation during second fermentation but I would love to use old beer bottles I have sitting around.
 

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Should there be any residual sweetness after the first fermentation? it's cold in my house and it's been going a few months. Grown from a small Scoby.
 

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Commercial breweries filter the kombucha before bottling. Filtration reduces the amount of active culture, thereby reducing the possibility of fermentation reoccurring in the bottle. Yeasts are 5-10 microns. Bacteria is much smaller. So I'd figure GTs filters down to 5 microns and leaves mostly Bacteria, making it imbalanced for a homebrew starter.
I used GT original and it worked great. Made my own SCOBY yeas ago. Have given away many of them.
 

shelly_belly

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Out of curiosity what kind of bottles do you use? Also, do you keep the “cellared” bottles of booch in a fridge or in the cellar? I’m worried beer bottles might be a little too thin and break but maybe I’m just over cautious. I keep reading about using flip top bottles to help purge some carbonation during second fermentation but I would love to use old beer bottles I have sitting around.
I reuse commercial beer bottles. I'm somewhat lazy about labeling so I always use short bottles for kombucha and taller bottles for beer. I store them in a bathroom closet and put them in the fridge only prior to drinking. I decant through a strainer as I don't want to drink the bottle SCOBY if there is one.
 
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I reuse commercial beer bottles. I'm somewhat lazy about labeling so I always use short bottles for kombucha and taller bottles for beer. I store them in a bathroom closet and put them in the fridge only prior to drinking. I decant through a strainer as I don't want to drink the bottle SCOBY if there is one.
Do you cap then a few days later release some pressure before recapping and placing in the fridge? Or does straining it help enough to not need to do this?
 

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In the beginning I would fill a soda bottle to judge how the carbonation was progressing but quit after I had 6 month old bottles at room temps. I've never vented the pressure on any nor did I store them in the fridge. The straining was just to catch the bottle SCOBY because the thought of it being in my mouth kind of disgusts me!
 
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Started a two gallon batch in my slightly used old bottling bucket with a spigot on Sunday. I knew my wife wouldn’t like having this large “ugly” bucket on the kitchen counter so it’s in the basement with a reptile heater strapped around the bucket. It appears it’s staying around 73 degrees Fahrenheit, on the low end but staying consistent. Looking forward to leaving it alone all week and pulling a small sample this weekend or sometime next week.
 

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The straining was just to catch the bottle SCOBY because the thought of it being in my mouth kind of disgusts me!
+1 I tried kombucha some years ago on a lark. I think you had to be 21 to buy it at the time due to its 0.5% abv. Took a few sips, thought “this is pretty good” before taking a swig and catching a baby scoby. Wondered if I was drinking someones nasal lavage water and spit it out.
Retold the story to a local brewer over a pint a few weeks later. She started laughing so hard she almost tipped over her pint. After being schooled I gave the booch another try...hooked.
 
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Well that small scoby grew a lot over 10 days. Pulled a sample last night and it was still pretty sweet. I’ll give it more time before packaging.
 
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What do you experienced Kombucha makers think? I have some questions about adding to my continuous brew for the first time.

I set up my continuous brew back on 4/18 with 2 gallons. I’ve tasted a sample here and there this last week and it’s tasting pretty good right now. I figured I would bottle some in the next day or two.

With that being said, reading the “Big Book of Kombucha” it says to give it a few days before adding more tea to the fermenter. Letting it ferment more without new tea to build the “Sour Power” of the kombucha. That makes sense and I’m good with that, I would like it to have a sourness to it too. It also says “add up to 1 gallon of sweet tea (depending on vessel size)” from page 120. Couldn’t I add more than one gallon since the fermenter is 6 gallons in size?

I was thinking I would add 2 gallons. Then maybe the next time go to 3 gallons and then maybe 4. Or could I add more than 2 gallons? Will it “shock” the SCOBY or have a negative impact by adding too much this early on?

What do you fine folks think? Any help and suggestions is always appreciated. Cheers!
 

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You should have a batch consist of 20-25% starter. Starter is previously fermented kombucha that has a low pH. Somewhere in the area of 3.0-3.5 pH. When you add the sweet tea, you should take a reading and the new born batch should be around 4.0 pH.
 

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Yes, as long as you are leaving enough fermented kombucha in the fermenter, you can add more new, sweet tea than you took out. That is how you can increase the volume in your fermenter over time or start a second batch in another fermenter, create a SCOBY hotel or share a SCOBY and starter tea with others.

Just be careful not to make too much kombucha. I learned the hard way when I ended up with two 2 1/2 gallon kegs of kombucha but not enough room in the keezer to cool them down. Because they were not cold, they kept fermenting in the kegs until they were too sour to drink.

Now I try to balance what I am fermenting with what I can store cold and how much I actually drink. It can be a tricky balance.
 
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Bottled eight 12oz bottles of booch for the first time tonight. Half has strawberries & kiwis and the other half have mangos & pineapple. I measured out 0.5oz of purée I made of each (fresh fruit in the food processor) and placed it in the bottle then filled them off the spigot.
I have them sitting in a small cooler just in case they become over carbonated. I’ll report back with the results later this week.
Now I’m brewing more tea to add back to the bucket with the scoby.
 

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