After deciding that you’re going to brew your own kombucha, next comes the research phase. What kind of brewing vessel should you use, how do you brew kombucha, what kind of tea or sugar to use, should you use the continuous brew method or the batch brewing method? While it seems like there is a lot to figure out and decide, it doesn’t need to be too complicated. In this post I’m going to dissect the continuous brewing method to hopefully help simplify this part of the process.
What is continuous brew kombucha?
Continuous brewing is a popular brewing style among home brewers where you continuously draw off kombucha from the brew vessel and replenish it with fresh sweet tea as needed in a continuous fashion. It is typically done in larger vessels with a spigot so it can remain in place. It is praised as a lower maintenance way to always have fresh kombucha on tap.
What’s the alternative method to continuous brewing?
Batch brewing. It is named after the idea that you begin a fresh new batch with each brew (as opposed to drawing off a certain amount and replenishing it often). For batch brewing, you reserve 1-2 cups starter from a finished batch of kombucha, then transfer it to a new freshly brewed gallon of sweet tea and let it ferment.
What’s the difference between continuous brewing and batch brewing?
Honestly, not all that much. There’s a lot of information out there advising that one method is better than the other, when the reality is, they’re kind of the same thing.
The biggest difference between continuous brewing and batch brewing is the ratio of starter tea to sweet tea with each batch. For me, this isn’t enough to call it a different method, rather more like a different recipe.
With continuous brewing, it is advised to keep about 30% kombucha in the vessel as your starter tea, as opposed to 10% for the batch method.
When brewing with a higher percentage of starter tea, it generally brews faster and starts off with a lower pH. If you live in colder climates, using more starter tea is a great way to help protect your kombucha from mold. If you live in a warmer climate, you might want to stick with less starter so that you kombucha doesn’t ferment faster than you want it to.
What kind of vessel should you use for a continuous brew?
Continuous brewing vessels tend to be at least 2 gallons, equipped with a spigot. As the brewing vessels get larger, it becomes more difficult to move and handle the vessel, so they often sit on a stand with a spigot for easy bottling. Many different vessel options are available glass, ceramic or stainless steel (See this article for information on using metal with kombucha).
Can you use this same vessel for batch brewing? Yes. Even if you’re using it for continuous brewing, the only difference is the ratio of starter tea that you’re using.
How do you decide which “method” to use?
There are three things to consider when choosing a method.
- Do you want a spigot? If you want to use a spigot to bottle your kombucha, be sure to only purchase stainless steel or wooden spigots. Most spigots that come with larger vessels are cheap plastic and can leech chemicals into your kombucha over time.
- How much kombucha will you consume each week? More than one gallon? If so, you may want try a continuous brew vessel that is between two and three gallons, (with a spigot because it will be too heavy to handle).
- Do you live in a cold or warm climate? If you live in a cold climate and struggle to keep your kombucha
Kombucha Continuous Brewing Method – Pros vs Cons
Brewing Ratios for continuous brewing
For batch method, the recipe is set (1 cup sugar, 2 tbsp tea, 1.5 cups starter tea), but what about for continuous brewing? How do you know how much sugar or tea to add?
You basically want to replace the amount of liquid that you removed with sweet tea. So if you have a 2-gallon crock and bottle your kombucha, leaving 30% starter in the crock, that leaves you with about 1.37 gallons to brew and fill it up.
You can make it easier and do 1.25 gallons, leaving a little room at the top. The ratios are relatively flexible, so don’t worry too much about getting it perfect. With time, you’ll get used to the process and figure out what works best for you.
To make the brewing process go faster, you can brew a tea concentrate and dilute it with cool water. This will bring the temperature down to a safe level before adding it to your crock.
To brew 1.25 gallons of sweet tea:
-Bring about 4 cups of water to a boil.
-Steep 2.5 tbsp of tea or 8 tea bags for 10 minutes
-Stir in 1.25 cups sugar
-Dilute with 1 gallon of cool water. You’ll want the tea to be below 85F before adding it into your brewing vessel with your starter tea.
-Carefully pour the tea into the vessel, cover, and let ferment.
-Begin tasting in about 7 days to test how the progression is going.
See this post for a more complete instructions on how to brew kombucha. This goes over the batch method. But as I described earlier, they are really the same thing except one has more starter.