A friend surprised me a few weeks ago by lending me her
continuous brew kombucha set-up. Apparently a "symbiotic colony of
bacteria and yeast" (SCOBY) isn't so appetizing to a pregnant lady.
"Sure, thanks!" I naively responded. I've had a couple of bottles
of kombucha tea over the years...kind of fizzy, kind of yeasty and
stringy, yum. I'll give it a shot!
What really excited me was how much money I could save by
brewing the kombucha at home instead of buying it at the store.
That stuff can be really expensive, and I can be really cheap. I'm
also down with anything that reduces the amount of additives,
preservatives, and other artificial baggage that comes with my
A week later, she shows up at my house and unloads the blessed
gift--the kombucha, not the baby--in my kitchen. She starts heating
up water, stirring in loose-leaf black tea, requesting all sorts of
wooden spoons, cane sugar, and glass bowls. I'm trying to keep up,
tossing things over to her so she could work her magic on a new
batch of kombucha tea for my tasting pleasure. "It's easy--here's
the directions!" Technically she stayed for another hour, but I
felt like she ran out right then. I was so less prepared than I
All week, I tried but failed to resist lifting the lid and
looking down into the brewing tea vessel. I imagined all sorts of
bacteria riding along from my exhaled breath and taking up shop in
the floating white SCOBY. It's a symbiotic colony of bacteria and
yeast, and I'm surely going to disrupt the balance in there. Sure
enough, at the end of the week, I panicked and almost threw out the
entire 2-gallon batch of tea. Relax, Juli...maybe the black spots
aren't mold...how could they not be mold? I've left a
colony of bacteria and yeast on my counter all week!
Compromise with myself: I'll pick off the top layer of SCOBY
(where suspicious black spots appeared), throw that out, and then
move on to tasting the brew out of the spigot on the bottom. Deal!
Except yuck...apparently my turbinado sugar was a big
deal, because it was all wrong. I was drinking apple cider vinegar
out of a pretty glass. Next compromise: I will bottle this product
as apple cider vinegar and use it for marinating meat, pouring in
my laundry, and catching random fruit flies in the kitchen.
With the first batch of kombucha a near failure, I pressed on.
That's the great part about a continuous brew kombucha set-up. You
get to try again. Immediately. You actually kind of have to try to
again immediately, because that SCOBY is calling out to you,
"Feeeeed meeeee!" Armed with the recipe and faced with the
challenge of having to do this all by myself this time
around, I readied the supplies. Wooden spoon, glass bowl, big
boiling kettle of water, sugar, loose-leaf black tea, and a cup of
the old batch to use as "starter liquid" for the new batch. And,
I followed directions, poured in fine evaporated cane juice this
time instead of big brown bad boy turbinado sugar crystals, and put
the lid on that thing for another week. I slept better, knowing
that black specks in the SCOBY were most likely the remnants of the
loose tea that I couldn't strain out with my low-quality kitchen
equipment. This time, I tried even harder, yet still failed daily,
to resist lifting the lid, breathing my germs inside the brew.
Despite my breath germs, Kombucha Tea Batch #2 was a huge
"Holy cow, I think I just made kombucha!" This is stuff you can
sell in a store, people!
Now to challenge myself again, I attempt what is called a
"second ferment" of the tea. I bottle up the delicious tangy tea
and dump cherries or blueberries into the jars. I leave these jars
on the counter for another three days, and then I refrigerate them
to stop the fermentation process. Success again! The result was a
super tasty, kind of fizzy, fruit infused kombucha batch that I
slurped up in the next three days. Looks like I need to squeeze
three gallons into that vessel for Batch #3....
Here's a detailed plan and recipe if you want to try this at
home: How to Make Kombucha Tea. I promise, it gets