If you drink kombucha, you know that those little bottles of bubbly brew that you buy at the grocery store can really start to add up. But, if you make it at home, it costs a lot less. Plus, you can flavor it with herbs and fruit to make it distinctly your own. And it's even easier when you make continuous brew kombucha.
What is continuous brew kombucha?
Continuous brew kombucha is a brewing technique that allows you to have a constant supply of kombucha. Unlike batch brewing, which is done in jars, continuous brewing uses a larger vessel equipped with a spigot. This method allows you to draw off finished kombucha when you like rather than all at once.
Since you only draw off up a little kombucha at a time, continuous brew tends to ferment faster and more efficiently. Further, this technique also significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to brew kombucha, including clean up.
Most commercial kombucha producers use the continuous brew technique because of its ease and efficiency. However, it's also well-suited to the home brewer who may only need a gallon or two a month.
How does it work?
Continuous brewing is a simple process, and tends to be easier and less time-consuming than brewing single batches. You start by making a large volume of kombucha. Most home brewers find that 2 gallons is sufficient, but others make more.
When the kombucha finishes its first brewing cycle, by producing a baby SCOBY and acquiring a pleasant sour-sweet flavor, you can draw off about ⅓ of the finished kombucha. Next, you replace that volume with fresh sweet tea, continuing this cycle indefinitely.
And just as you can use this method with kombucha, you can also use it to brew jun as well.
Benefits of Continuous Brew Kombucha
Continuous brew is an easy, efficient and low-maintenance approach to making kombucha at home. Both continuous brew and batch brewed kombucha will taste pleasant with that distinct sour-sweet flavor, and will offer the same nutritional benefits, there's some distinct practical advantages to continuous brew.
- Continuous brew ferments faster, so if you drink kombucha regularly, it's a great option.
- You can brew a large volume, so if you're brewing for a family (or drink a lot yourself), you'll save a lot of time.
- Continuous brew is more nutritionally diverse. Beneficial acids are produced late in the kombucha brewing cycle, but may make the brew too acidic to enjoy. Because a continuous brew vessel contains both young and aged kombucha, you'll get those acids paired with a lighter flavor (1).
- There's a lower risk of contamination. Since you handle the SCOBY less often with this method, there's less opportunity for contamination by mold or other microbes.
What You Need to Get Started
To get started with continuous brew kombucha, you'll need basic kombucha ingredients as well as a vessel equipped with a spigot for brewing.
Ingredients for Making Kombucha
There's three primary ingredients you need to make kombucha, wether you make it in batches or in a continuous brew container. You'll need a kombucha mother or SCOBY, tea and sugar.
- A kombucha mother or SCOBY is the culture that ferments your sweetened black tea and turns it into bubbly kombucha. Use a fresh kombucha mother from a reliable source like this one.
- You'll also need tea. Kombucha brews best with black tea; however, you can train your kombucha mother to green, oolong or other teas.
- You'll need sugar, too. Sugar feeds the beneficial bacteria and yeasts in the SCOBY that turn your tea into kombucha.
Choosing a Continuous Brew Container
Choose a continuous brew container that can hold at least 2 gallon and up to 5 gallons of liquid. Since you'll need to draw off tea as it brews, your brewer should also feature a spigot. Plastic, wooden, or high-quality stainless steel spigots work best, as kombucha's high acidity may cause spigots made from poorer quality metals to leach.
Kombucha contains a wide variety of both bacteria and yeast. And as the tea brews, the heavier yeast tend to sink to the bottom of the brewer while lighter bacteria tend to float. So, for an optimal brewing experience and for the greatest microbial diversity in your kombucha, you'll want a mix of both.
Accordingly, consider purchasing a continuous brew container that features the spigot in the center of the brewer rather than at the bottom. These specially designed brewers allow you to get the best blend of bacteria-rich and yeast-rich kombucha.
If you can't find one, remember to stir your kombucha before pouring a bottle from the continuous brewer.
Continuous Brew Kombucha Recipe
- Bring two quarts water to a boil. Turn off the heat, stir in tea and organic sugar. Continue stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the tea to sit undisturbed until it cools to room temperature.
- Strain the tea through a fine-mesh sieve into your continuous brew container. Stir in 6 quarts water. Add the kombucha mother and the kombucha tea to the container. Cover it loosely, and allow it to ferment about a week, or until you can see a new mother forming.
- After a week, draw off up to 25% of the kombucha, bottle it, and replace it with an equivalent amount of sweet tea. After the initial week of fermentation, you can draw off kombucha as frequently as you like - usually 1 to 3 times a week - as long as you replace it with an equivalent amount of sweetened tea.
- To bottle the kombucha, pour your kombucha into a flip-top bottle, adding up to ¼ cup sweet tea or fruit juice to the bottle. Close the bottle and allow it to ferment a further 2 to 3 days, then transfer to the fridge and consume when you like it.
1) Crum, H. & LaGory, A. (2016) The Big Book of Kombucha. Storey Publishing.