We’ll assume that you’re using a 2 ½ -gallon vessel,the most popular size for CB home brewers,which calls for 2 gallons of sweet tea. (If you have a different-size vessel, see the chart on page 113 for the proper ratios of ingredients.) The rest of the equipment and the ingredients are the same as for batch brewing.
The initial process is basically the same as for batch brewing. We usually prepare the sweet tea concentrate in a separate bowl or vessel, or even right in the pot used to heat the water (see page 80). However, there’s nothing wrong with preparing the sweet tea in the vessel for the first batch. Just make sure it is not so cold as to crack when hot water is added.
Let the kombucha remaining in the brewing vessel continue to mature, even if the flavor gets a little tart. The CB performs best with the power of well-fermented kombucha as the base to offer the proper flavor. When your supply of bottled kombucha begins to run low, refresh the vessel with sweet tea. We’ll talk timing specifics next.
Heat 2 quarts of 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 bags or leaves.
Add the sugar to the hot tea and stir until completely dissolved.
Pour the remaining 6 quarts (1 ½ gallons)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 it seems warmer than body temperature (about 100°F [38°C]), cover with a clean cloth and set aside until lukewarm.
With clean hands, place the SCOBYs in the sweet tea solution. Pour the starter liquid on top of the SCOBYs; this acidifies the pH of the tea near the top of the vessel, offering a layer of protection from potential pathogens.
Cover the vessel with a breathable cloth cover, secured with a rubber band if necessary.Set it in a warm location (ideally 75–85°F [24–29°C]), out of direct sunlight,if not using 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.)
Allow this first batch to ferment for 10 to 28 days. After 7 days (or sooner, if you’re curious), begin tasting once a day or every few days from the spigot to determine when the kombucha reaches the flavor balance you are seeking.
Once it reaches the flavor balance you are seeking, decant some of the fermented kombucha into bottles (take no more than one-third of the total volume from this initial batch). Flavor as desired, and store at room temperature (to build flavor and carbonation) or in the fridge (to preserve the current flavor for as long as possible); see chapter 8 for details.
Refill the brewer with sweet tea, or wait and refill later, depending on your personal schedule.