Have you heard of this kombucha stuff yet? It’s pretty awesome stuff. (And if you’re more interested in my method of brewing it rather than all of the information about it, skip down to the bottom where there are lots of pictures.) One day probably around a year and a half ago when we were picking up eggs from my mom’s friend, she offered us some. I hadn’t ever heard of it, but I thought it tasted pretty alright mixed with juice (that’s how she drinks it). She said that if I ever wanted a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) that she would be happy to give me one, so when I got home I started to research it. Then I immediately asked her for one.
You see, kombucha is a probiotic drink. You know, those probiotic pills that cost an arm and a leg and are all the rage? Well you can make that stuff right at home! Probiotics have many health benefits and I’m sure that we’re only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to knowing all the wonderful things that probiotics do for our bodies. What are probiotics, you say? Beneficial bacteria. No, that’s not an oxymoron. Did you know you actually have more bacterial cells in your body than you have human cells? And there are a whole host of processes that simply cannot work in your body without these bacteria (I loved my physiology class last semester, in case you couldn’t tell). Bacteria is often associated with being bad, but it’s really not! Bacteria is so good and, as proven by this drink, pretty yummy!
Anyway, back to kombucha.
I started making it after getting my first SCOBY/mother/mushroom (yeah there are a lot of names for that thing) from my friend. Here’s a picture of mine:
I think it looks kind of like brains. And to be fair, this is not the same one I got from my mom’s friend. My mom also got one at the same time and, given my busy school year, my kombucha fell to the wayside and my mother was probably still okay, but maybe a tad questionable, so I chucked her. When I started back up again a few months ago, I got a new one from my mom. The mother may look a tad intimidating (it was for me and my friends have also said it was for them), she’s not difficult at all to take care of. Just feed her and she’ll be a happy camper.
When I first started doing kombucha, I did the traditional brewing method. The idea is that you put the mother with some tea and sugar and tuck it away for a week, then when it’s done fermenting, you take the mother out to start a new one (along with some tea from the last batch, at least 1/2 a cup) and you drink what’s left while waiting for the next one to ferment. At this point, you can bottle it (that’s what makes it fizzy like soda) and put it in the fridge. For me, I usually just left it on the counter. My problem is that I would have issues with having too much (and it will continue to ferment, though at a slower rate without the mother present and at an even slower rate if you put it in the fridge) and it would get all vinegary or I’d have too little and find myself waiting until the next batch was done. Plus my friend showed me this post about the benefits of continuous brewing. You’re less likely to contaminate batches (which is still really unlikely) because you’re not constantly moving the mother back and forth. I find it to be much lower maintenance and, huge benefit for me, it never gets to that super tart stage where I’m choking it down. So, while I find that post I just linked to be super helpful, I think that the internet is in need of a very simple and straight-forward method of continuous brewing. Since I’m all about the simple and straight-forward, that’s what I present to you today.
The Lactating Girl Method for Continuous Brew Kombucha
Step 1- Get a mother! Chances are, you can find someone near you with a mother to spare. These things replicate every time you do a batch (though I think it goes a tad more slowly with continuous brewing, from my experience), so if you never chop any off you’ll end up with a huge mother pretty quickly. Ask around, and if you can’t find one, you can buy them online. And keep that juice that comes with her, because it’s important to keep some of the last batch in every new batch to help keep away things like mold.
Step 2- Make some sweet tea. Above is the tea I use, but whenever I run out (this box is taking forever to get through!), I plan on looking for organic. It’s pretty easy to find a tea that will work and combinations are good too. I just do one type at the moment because I’m lazy. I may look into adding some green tea into the mix to lower the caffeine content (which is higher in continuous brew because you always have a mixture of new tea and old tea) since I give it to my kids. At this point though, they don’t drink enough and I don’t give it to them late at night or anything, so I’m not horribly concerned with the small amount they get.
Anyway, back to making the tea. It’s important to leave the water for the tea out for at least 12 hours on your counter before making the tea so the chlorine can evaporate off (chlorine will kill your mother. Am I the only one who finds that phrase hilarious?). In case you don’t already make sweet tea, the ratio I use is 5 bags of tea to one cup of sugar (I use raw cane sugar, but white will do too. Don’t use honey!) to about 3 quarts of water give or take (I wish I could go back in time five years and tell myself I’d become one of those people who couldn’t be bothered to take measurements. I think it would have given me a heart attack. Well, maybe I don’t want to go back after all). Just heat the water to a boil, seep the tea bags for a bit, take out the tea bags, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Put it in the fridge to cool to at least room temperature before adding it to the kombucha or you’ll kill your mother (Ha! I’m so immature). Maybe drink some too while you’re at it, because sweet tea is tasty.
Step 3- Add tea to the mother. You need a large jar that’s glass. It can have absolutely no metal touching the tea, because it will corrode. Avoid plastic touching the tea because it can leech chemicals, but the little spigot I have on mine has some plastic on the inside and I don’t worry about it. You’ll want the top to be breathable, but not allow flies in. As you can see, I just have a little square of fabric held on by a rubber band on top. It works great. Pour that cooled tea onto the mother and let it sit, anywhere from a few days to a week, until it stops tasting like tea and tastes more like a bit fizzy apple cider-ish drink. Trust me, you’ll know the change. You’ll also probably want to make another batch of tea that you can just store in your fridge (and pour straight from the fridge into the kombucha) as you used that first one up.
Step 4- Add more tea as needed. This is where this method differs from a regular brewing method. Rather than drinking it down and starting a new batch, you’re adding tea to this same batch as you go. I try to add tea every time I take any out (as I generally take out quite a bit), but I don’t always get to it. I add it at least by the time that the liquid is down to 2/3 of the jar because I don’t want to sit through the fermenting stage again. By adding tea continuously, you get a tangy, but still sweet flavor. I quite enjoy it. I do prefer to add the extra tea after getting mine out though, as the fresh tea mixed makes it a bit too sweet to work with the tangy in my opinion. Having it sit in there for a day though changes it enough that it’s still sweet, but not so sweet.
So there’s my super simple method of continuous brew kombucha. Really, it’s ridiculous easy. And tasty. And good for you. It’s like the trifecta of beverages. Go try it. Mmm.
A quite side note: first off, I’m not a doctor. I’m not any sort of fancy health professional that should be advising you about drinking certain beverages for your health. I’m sure you already knew this though, so I’m not too worried. Ya’ll are smart peoples. Main note though, if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant, start small on the kombucha and work your way up. Actually, it’s a good idea for anyone. This stuff detoxes you, which means not only will toxins go out of your body (and potentially to the things you feed with your body), but also can give you nasty side effects like headaches and bloating. Not a big deal, but also best if you can avoid it. I started off small and worked up (starting around a shot a day and slowly increasing for a week or so until I was at the glass I normally drink) both when I started drinking it at first and when I started drinking it again and I had zero issues. Have fun!