FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON KOMBUCHA HOME BREWING
WHAT IS SCOBY?
Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast, SCOBY is the mother of kombucha. All the yeast and bacteria contained in the mother convert tea, sugar and water into kombucha. Essentially, the floating pellicle you see on top of a kombucha vessel is what is called a "SCOBY".
CAN I USE DIFFERENT TEAS FOR BREWING KOMBUCHA?
We strongly recommend using premium quality loose leaf teas. As handy as tea bags are, they only contain the tiniest (almost dust-like) parts of the tea leaves. This makes it possible for them to give a strong colour and flavour quickly, but they lack the structure and many of the healthy particles of tea.
Oolong tea is a great choice for brewing kombucha as it's very versatile and falls somewhere between green tea and black tea on the colour scale.
Pu'er or pu-erh is a variety of fermented tea which also makes a great kombucha, giving it a slight sweetness.
IS THAT MOLD ON MY KOMBUCHA?
Mold looks exactly like on bread or other food items. It can be blue, black, or white but most of all it has a fuzzy and/or furry surface. Mold only grows on top of the scoby or liquid. If you encounter mold, always get rid of that batch of kombucha and all scobys in that vessel. Start fresh with a new scoby from your scoby hotel.
Identifying mold from a healthy, although weird looking, scoby can be challenging for new brewers.
REASONS FOR MOLD
1. Not enough starter liquid to lower pH to a safe range. Low pH protects kombucha from other, competing organisms such as mold.
2. Too cold brewing temperature slowing down fermentation. Slower fermentation is more susceptible to mold.
3. Other factors in brewing environment such as flowering plants which may spread wild yeast and mold spores. Other moldy food you might have can also spread mold spores.
4. Damaged scoby. Frozen or dehydrated scoby may not brew correctly and is more susceptible to mold.
HOW MUCH SUGAR DO I NEED TO ADD? WHAT KIND OF SUGAR CAN I USE?
We recommend adding 60-90 grams of sugar per liter depending on how sweet you want your kombucha to be. The sweetness can also be adjusted with changing the fermentation time - a longer fermentation consumes more of the sugars and results in a more vinegary taste.
Best sugars for kombucha are cane sugar and regular white sugar. Other fermentable sugars are brown sugar and maple syrup. JUN kombucha is brewed with honey instead of sugar. Brewing JUN takes time as the scoby must be gradually cultivated to allow it's metabolism change to draw nutrients from honey.
Agave, rice syrup and dextrose are not well-suited for fermenting kombucha. Coconut sugar and other sugars are more experimental options which can be tried to substitute regular sugar but they may negatively impact scoby growth or be more susceptible to mold.
I MADE A BATCH OF KOMBUCHA BUT NOW REALISED THAT I FORGOT TO ADD SUGAR?
It's all good. Take out the scoby, add sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Put back the scoby, cover with a cloth and let it ferment.
I FORGOT TO DRAW STARTER LIQUID FROM THE PREVIOUS BATCH - WHAT NOW?
Prepare approx. 7 deciliters of tea and add sugar (60 - 90 grams / liter depending how sweet you like). Add scoby when tea + sugar liquid has cooled down to room temperature. Let ferment as usually and when kombucha is ready use that to start a bigger batch.
THE SCOBY SANK TO THE BOTTOM / WENT SIDEWAYS / FLOATS ON THE SURFACE - IS THAT AN ISSUE?
Don't panic. When starting a new batch the scoby may sink to the bottom or take any other place in the vessel depending on how it is feeling on that day. That's all good. Check on your scoby every two days or so. Either the scoby rises to the top or a new scoby forms on the surface after a few days.
WHAT IF A NEW SCOBY DOESN'T FORM?
If a new scoby doesn't start growing, it might be a sign of the surrounding temperature being too low; the recommended temperature is 22-27 degrees Celcius. You can extend the fermentation time if the temperature is on the low end of the spectrum. If the temperature is below 18 degrees, the fermentation will slow down considerably and the risk of mold growth is higher.
THERE ARE BROWN STRINGS AND STRANDS FLOATING IN MY KOMBUCHA - WHAT IS IT?
Those brown fellas are dead yeast cells. It's a perfectly normal sighting in kombucha and there's nothing to worry about. Actually, having dead yeast cells is a sign that your beverage is fermenting. For some, that may look off-putting and it's recommended to filter all brown stuff upon bottling. However, it is safe to drink those too if you're unfazed by their looks.
HOW DO I KNOW WHEN MY KOMBUCHA IS READY?
By its flavour. Kombucha should taste slightly acidic, or tart, resembling slightly mead or dry apple cider. If you find your kombucha too tart, cut down the fermentation time for next round. If it's too sweet, then let it ferment for a few extra days. Remember to check up on the flavour daily, especially when it's close to desired sweetness.
WHAT DO I DO WITH EXTRA SCOBYS?
Any extra scobys created in the fermentation can be stored in a scoby hotel. Wondering what a scoby hotel is? It's simply a glass jar with starter liquid in it. Find out more about scoby hotels in the next section "How to take a break from brewing?"
Another option is to give scobys to your friends who are into kombucha. We are sure your friends are more than happy to start brewing as they have drank your amazingly refreshing kombucha so many times. Sharing is caring!
HOW TO TAKE A BREAK FROM BREWING?
You can set up a scoby hotel, where you store all our scobys while you go on holiday or want to take a break from brewing kombucha. Setting up the hotel is easy; do exactly as you would do when starting a new batch of kombucha. Put all of your scobys in the sugary tea and cover the jar with a cloth. Leave the jar in room temperature away from a light source. Over time the kombucha will turn super vinegary, and the scobys will survive in the jar for months. Remember to add to the sugary tea every now and again to prevent the scoby from drying out.
Another good option is to lend your scoby to a friend how can brew kombucha while you're taking a break/holiday. Your friend will be over the moon for such a nice pet :) Also, at the end of your holiday your friend will have his / her own scoby. The best loan ever.