Today I’m talking all about kombucha! Several people have asked questions about brewing it, and since I’ve been doing so for nearly a year, I thought I’d answer several of the most popular questions today in a FAQ. Be sure to ask any other questions that you have in the comments section, or leave your own answers if you brew kombucha too!
- Is foam on kombucha normal? — Yes. This means that your new SCOBY is growing! A whitish foam is completely normal.
- How long can I brew kombucha? — Kombucha can be brewed anywhere from 7 days to 30 days, depending on what flavor you like, the temperature of the room, etc. In a cooler room you’ll need to brew longer; in a warmer room, less time. I brew for 9 – 10 days in the summer and 14 – 18 days in the winter. You may like it less or more sour; so taste with a small spoon after a week and every couple of days afterward until you find out where you like it.
- What if I leave it too long? — If your kombucha is a bit too sour (left a few days too long), you can add a little extra sugar and/or juice and bottle it for a brief (1 – 2 days) second ferment. If you have left it way too long, and it is undrinkable, throwing it out is advisable.
- What can I do with extra SCOBYs? — Composting them is a good idea. If you can, pass them along to friends or neighbors who might like to brew their own kombucha. You can throw them in the trash if you can’t find a way to use them and don’t compost.
- How do I grow my own SCOBY? — It’s easy! Just mix 1 c. black tea, 1 tbsp. sugar, and 16 oz. of plain kombucha (unpasteurized). G.T. Dave’s plain kombucha works great. Leave it sit for a few weeks and it will grow you a new SCOBY!
- I started my kombucha and my SCOBY sank! What’s wrong? — Nothing! This happens sometimes. It will float back to the top eventually. It doesn’t mean anything if your SCOBY sinks. It doesn’t matter if it sinks when growing your own, either.
- How do I know if my SCOBY is bad? — If your SCOBY starts growing black, fuzzy mold, it is not good anymore. You may choose to throw it out if it sits unused for several weeks because it will produce “stale” kombucha.
- What do I do with my SCOBY in between brewing? How long can I leave it? — The best thing is to just start another batch! It tastes several days so you may be ready for more by the time it’s ready. But if you need to store it for any reason (like vacation), place it in a glass container with enough brewed kombucha to keep it moist and cover it. Keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to brew again.
- What is the brown stringy stuff in the kombucha or under my SCOBY? — This is just the yeasty stuff, and it is normal! Don’t worry about it.
- Why hasn’t my kombucha grown a baby yet? How long does it take? — Usually your batch will grow a new SCOBY every time you brew a batch. But sometimes it doesn’t completely grow one and it doesn’t separate from the mother. It will look like it hasn’t grown one because they haven’t separated, but it has grown some. You can check under the mother to see if there is a layer you can peel off. That is your baby! Otherwise, just use your mother in a new batch and let it keep going. Soon you will have a baby. Ordinarily it takes 7 – 10 days but it can take longer.
- Should I strain my kombucha? At what point? — No! If you really don’t like the “stuff” floating in your kombucha, you may choose to strain right before drinking. But don’t strain it before this! All that “stuff” is really good for you!
- Help! My kombucha isn’t carbonated. Why not? — A variety of reasons. You may not have brewed it long enough, or brewed at too cool a temperature. Use double fermentation and allow your kombucha to sit, bottled, at room temperature for 2 – 3 days to help ensure carbonation. You may also want to leave your kombucha in the fridge (after bottling) for a week or so to help it age. Kombucha improves with age! Although you may not like it as well without carbonation, it retains the same health benefits, so don’t worry about it. Batches can vary and sometimes they just aren’t carbonated.
- Is pasteurized kombucha the same as unpasteurized in health benefits? — No! Not at all. Pasteurization kills all the enzymes and probiotics that make kombucha so beneficial. Never buy pasteurized kombucha and never pasteurize your own!
- Is kombucha good for stomach viruses? — It can be! If you are used to drinking it, the probiotics in it will help the stomach virus go away. However, since kombucha can cause die-off because of the high levels of probiotics, you may not want to start drinking it during or right after a stomach virus in order to avoid unpleasant die-off.
- I have a headache and feel weird after drinking it, is this normal? — Yes, usually. This is typically die-off. Go slower in introducing kombucha, taking only a few ounces per day until you know how you handle it. You don’t want to cause problems. In rare cases, this could be an allergic reaction or a sign you should not drink it, but this is typically not the case.
- Is kombucha safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding? — If you have already been drinking kombucha, yes, it is perfectly safe to continue. It is not a good idea to start during pregnancy or while exclusively breastfeeding in case you have a die-off reaction. During breastfeeding, it will get to the baby, as well, and can cause fussiness. If you are breastfeeding only part time, it is safe to start very slowly. Watch both your baby and yourself for die-off.
- Is lemon juice good for kombucha? — Yes. It is good for flavoring and seems to help produce carbonation when used in the double fermentation method. Lime juice is also good. No juice needs to or should be used during the initial fermentation.
- How do I do a double ferment? — After your kombucha has initially brewed (for the 7 – 14 or so days), bottle your kombucha in glass bottles with tight lids. Add about 1 ounce of some type of juice or other flavoring (fresh ginger slices, dried fruit, etc.) and cap the bottles tightly. Allow the bottles to sit for 1 – 3 days (depending on temperature), then place them in the fridge. They are ready!
- What flavors can I use? — Anything you can dream up! Cherry, strawberry, grape, guava, mango, greens, etc. Whatever you like! Simple puree it or juice it and use about 1 ounce per 16-oz. bottle.
What are your best kombucha brewing tips? What other questions do you have?
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