1. Heat 1 quart of the water to just below boiling. Combine the tea and hot water in the pot, a separate bowl, or in the brewing vessel. Let steep for 5 to 15 minutes, then remove the tea leaves.
2. Add the sugar to the hot tea, and stir until completely dissolved.
3. Pour the remaining 3 quarts of cool water into the brewing vessel. If prepared separately, add the sweet tea. Dip a clean finger into the mixture to gauge its temperature.If warmer than body temperature(about 100°F [38°C]), cover with a clean cloth and set aside until lukewarm.
4. With clean hands, place the SCOBY in the sweet tea solution. Pour the starter liquid on top of the SCOBY; this acidifies the pH of the tea near the top of the vessel, where the culture is most vulnerable, offering a layer of protection from potential pathogens.
5. Cover the vessel with breathable cloth,secured with a rubber band if necessary.Set it in a warm location (ideally 75–85°F[24–29°C]), out of direct sunlight, unless brewing in an opaque vessel. (At this stage you have the option to say a prayer,send good vibes, or otherwise commune with your new brew. It is a culture of living organisms and responds to energy —positive and negative.)
6. Allow the sweet tea to ferment for 7 to 21 days. After 5 days (or sooner, if you’re curious), it’s okay to begin tasting once a day. To taste, remove the cloth cover,gently insert a straw beneath the SCOBY,and take a sip. Or dip a shot glass or other small cup past the new layer of SCOBY into the brew.
7. Once the brew reaches the flavor you prefer, it is ready to harvest. Before bottling or flavoring, collect at least 1 cup of starter liquid for the next batch from the top of the brew (2 cups if you can spare itor if the brew is young) and pour it into a clean bowl. Then remove the SCOBYs to the bowl, cover with a clean towel, and set aside. (We take the liquid first because removing the cultures can kick the yeast off the bottom, which is fine for drinking but not for starter liquid.)
8. The rest of the kombucha is now available for drinking, either straight from the vessel or, more commonly, after bottling with or without flavors. For tips on flavoring,filtering, bottle-aging (to further develop the flavor and carbonation), and other advanced techniques, see chapter 8.
9. To start the next batch, use one or both of the SCOBYs, either the original and/or the new one from the previous batch, with the starter liquid. The extra culture may be used to start another batch or placed in a SCOBY Hotel. Enjoy the first batch while the second brew is in progress!
Tips and Substitutions
When prepping the vessel, utensils, and counter, avoid antibacterial soaps, which may have a negative effect on the culture. Instead,opt for very hot water or a 1:1 dilution of distilled/pasteurized vinegar (never use raw vinegar, as it will alter and potentially contaminate the brew). You may also choose to“cure” the inside of the vessel by rinsing with distilled vinegar or kombucha vinegar immediately prior to adding the sweet tea, but this is optional.
Brewing a full gallon of kombucha requires a fermenting vessel that holds at least 1.25 gallons to accommodate the SCOBY and starter liquid and give adequate headroom for air circulation. If all that is available is a 1-gallon vessel, never fear — simply reduce the tea, sugar, and water by 25 percent.
We usually prepare a 1-gallon batch right in the glass vessel. However, one must use caution when doing so because pouring hot liquid into a cold jar could cause the glass to crack,creating a dangerous mess. Most of the time this is not an issue and precautions can betaken to prevent an accident from happening.
One way to avoid the issue altogether is to prepare the quart of hot sweet tea concentrate in a separate container than the fermentation vessel; it could even be the pot used to heat the water. (It doesn’t matter what material that container is made out of because there’s no acid content to worry about.)
A benefit to adding the cool water to the brewing vessel first, then adding the hot sweet tea concentrate is that it evenly distributes the heat and prevents the bottom of the vessel from warming up. This means the temperature of the liquid will drop faster and you can brew sooner. In fact, waiting is usually unnecessary as the temperature is already under 100°F (38°C) with this technique.
However, there’s nothing wrong with preparing the sweet tea in the brew vessel and adding the water afterward. Just make sure the glass is not so cold as to crack when hot water is added.
Source and Credits
Excerpted from The Big Book of Kombucha © Hannah Crum and Alex LaGory, 2016. Photographs © Matt Armendariz. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.