A reader recently asked me about the color of my kombucha and how many tea bags I use to brew the tea so I thought it was time for another kombucha report.
Something kinda weird happened this past week. It wasn’t weird . . it was caused totally by neglecting a few bottles on their second ferment. With the kitchen being warmer and the garden taking up too much of my time, I totally let a whole batch of kombucha go to waste. I ended up pouring the tea from the big jar down the drain, just saving enough to use as starter for the next batch. It was way too vinegary tasting so I was careful not to let that next batch sit too long.
The bottles that were sitting on the counter, I opened one of them and it had way, way too much fizz/pressure. Scared the heck out of me, and the ta was also more vinegary than I like. I drank that bottle but I meant to ask Vince to take the rest of the bottles outside, open them and pour the tea out. It was several days before I remembered to ask him and when he took them out, he said it sounded like a gun going off outside. In fact, it blew those lightning toggle type closures completely off the bottles. Some of them, he never did find . . they ended up out in the woods somewhere. He said those could have flown off and broken windows in the house! I always open the flapper thing with one hand while holding down on the top with the other hand. Vince just flips it open so I think my way may have stopped them from flying off unless there was so much pressure I couldn’t hold it down but the moral of this story is .. don’t let them sit too long and over ferment!
Back to the correct way to make kombucha . .
The tea that I brewed last week is what I bottled this week. The SCOBY had gotten huge and I divided it several weeks ago but it had gotten huge again so I divided it again last week and the piece I peeled off had a hole in the middle but I used it anyway. It wouldn’t stay floating on top and at first, it sank to the bottom but somewhat began to upright itself as the week went on. After a few days, I realized a whole new SCOBY was forming at the top of the jar.
They’re so nice and white when they’re young! I tossed the older one and am using the new one for today’s batch of tea.
Here’s how I brew all my tea, whether it’s going to be sweet tea for dinner or the beginning of a new batch of kombucha.
- Start with cold water and add about 4 cups of water to a very clean pot. I have one pot that I use for making tea so I don’t end up getting a bit of leftover grease in my tea.
- Bring the water to the point where bubbles are starting to form on the side of the pot but the water is not boiling. Turn the fire off. If using an electric stove, remove the pot so it doesn’t continue to heat.
- Add tea bags. If I’m using family size tea bags and making 2 quarts of tea, I’ll use 2 tea bags. If I’m using individual tea bags, I’ll use 6 to 8. For one gallon of tea (kombucha), I’ll use 4 family size and 12 – 14 individual bags. I use green tea. I normally use Great Value (Walmart) brand. I don’t use decaf. If I can find family size bags, I use those but mostly, I have to get the individual size because the family size are not always available.
- Cover the pot. I usually use a plate because long ago I lost the lid to the pot I use.
- Let the tea step for 5 or 6 minutes.
- Remove the tea bags.
- Add sugar if desired. While the tea is hot, pour the sugar in and stir til dissolved. When making sweet tea for myself, for a half gallon, I add about 1 cup of sugar. This is too much sugar for Vince so if he’s going to be drinking tea, I just make two batches and only put 1/2 cup sugar in his or I leave his unsweetened and mix his with mine. When we’re out and he orders tea, he asks for his tea to be half sweet and half unsweetened. NOTE: For kombucha, I add 1 cup of sugar for the gallon of tea.
- I use a half gallon glass Mason jar so I fill it about half full of cold water, then dump the tea from the pot into the jar. That way, I’m not pouring hot tea directly into a jar.
- I don’t usually save leftover tea for the next day but make it fresh every morning.
For kombucha, once the tea is brewed, pour it into the gallon container and allow to cool totally and completely to room temp. Next add 2 to 2-1/2 cups of starter from the previous batch. Add water as needed to get the jar close to full. Gently add the SCOBY. Cover with something that allows air to pass through but protects the brew from dust and bugs. I use a coffee filter secured by a rubber band.
The tea on the left (fresh) is much darker than the tea on the right that has been sitting for about 5 days.
With the previous batch, once the SCOBY and 2 to 2-1/2 cups of starter for the new batch has been removed, that tea can be bottled.
For this batch, since we have LOTS of peaches, I used a couple of peaches and some ginger. If using fruit, when cutting it into pieces, think about how you’re going to get it out of the bottles. Smaller is better! I add a bit less than a teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. This aids in the fermentation and production of fizz (CO2).
Here’s a batch that’s almost done. The 2 cups of starter, along with the SCOBY are waiting for the fresh brew to cool down. The bottles are sitting out for a few days doing their second fermention. I made this batch this morning (Friday) so by Monday, I’ll start testing it for fizz, which after this week’s incident, I think I’ll start calling it “explosiveness”. Once they have the right amount of fizz (right = how I like them), I’ll put them in the fridge and that will slow down the fermentation and keep them from getting explosive.
Always open those bottles with caution. I can have bottles from the same batch . . everything exactly the same, and some of them will have lots of fizz and some will have hardly any. I haven’t figured out the reason for that yet but we do love our kombucha!