Kombucha Part II {FAQs}

Recently we’ve shared a few of our kombucha SCOBYs and with it come 1000s of questions! Not that I don’t mind answering them.. in fact it’s quite a boost to the ego when people think you are the resident authority on something!

So after answering the same questions a few times in a row I thought maybe I had better update my kombucha post and add some of the most frequently asked questions. My first post was on the basics of what it’s good for and how to make a basic brew. After that there are so many options and alterations that affect the flavor!

So the following are some of the most common questions people ask. Please let me know if you have more questions that I could add and answer for you!

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How do you add flavor?
After it’s done the initial brew between 7-12 days you add the flavoring (if you want it) in the bottom of your bottles, divide the kombucha into the bottles and let it sit out on the counter, sealed for another 24 hours… then refrigerate and drink when you like! Some say it is better if you keep it refrigerated for 1 week before drinking it, but we’ve found it to be just fine after a good 24 hours to chill well.

What do you use for flavoring? Fruit, juice, puree?
I usually add fresh fruits… All the measurements I use are based on using old 16oz Kombucha bottles (I use empty ones I’ve garnered from friends who prefer buying it over making it or my own taste tests from the store) Purely to save time and work I just prepare the fruit enough to have the rind off and the fruit in the jar. I definitely don’t squeeze it or juice it!

I usually do a 1 gallon batch at a time and it makes about 5 of the kombucha bottles with a little left over to start a new batch or split to give away with the new SCOBY and enough for me for a new batch.

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Here are some of our favorite flavorings:
1/4 grapefruit per bottle – just remove the fruit from the rind and squeeze it in the jar.
½ clementine or ¼ orange per bottle – just remove the fruit from the rind and squeeze it in the jar.
1/2 lime per bottle – just remove the fruit from the rind and squeeze it in the jar.
1/2 lemon per bottle – just remove the fruit from the rind and squeeze it in the jar.
5 or 6 raspberries per bottle
1 TBSP of pomegranates per bottle
a few slices of ginger…
1 TBSP pomegranate and about 5-6 large blueberries per bottle
2 raspberries and a few slices of apple per bottle

The combinations are endless!

What tea do you use? Decaf?
I don’t use decaf tea. I know there are some people out there who do use it. The caffeine doesn’t bother me or the kids so I’ve just never thought about switching. Most of the time I use Pu’erh, Green or Oolong teas. Black tea is probably the most frequently recommended. And sometimes I use a bag of herbal tea with green or another type, but never 100% herbal. I change up the types of tea and often mix them as well.

Now that my brew is done I have an extra SCOBY what do I do with it?
You don’t need it. I have never thrown one away though. I’ve been able to give away most of mine and sometimes I just let them pile up and have a super thick SCOBY in my jar. It doesn’t affect the brew time although that seems contrary to common sense!

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How do I store my extra SCOBYs?

I usually save it with about ½ cup of freshly brewed unflavored kombucha in the fridge to give away to someone who needs it! Unlike kefir you don’t have to feed it while you are storing it in the fridge. Just keep it wet and covered with kombucha from a previous batch and you can keep it up to 6 months without using it.

You can also, dehydrate them and store them if you want to save a few in case your mama dies. I did that and mailed two to my sister in KY and it worked great! Don’t leave them sitting on the counter unless you have started a fresh brew. They will die if they aren’t in tea with sugar or if they are left sitting. I’ve also read that they can be frozen as well to keep as a backup in case your mama dies, but I’ve never tried it. I’ve never needed to!

Do you leave the fruit in the kombucha after you finish the second brew?
It never goes bad! 😉 Yes, I leave it in until we drink it and the kids like eating the fruit. It’s “sparkling fruit” as they say. I don’t particularly like it. Sometimes it gets covered with baby scobies, and then they don’t want to eat it, but it is still fine!DSC02281

Where can I get a gallon jar to brew in?
In one of my previous posts on finding a deal one of the things I talked about was how to get gallon jars for cheap for storing bulk food in or brewing kombucha or doing ferments. The Ball gallon jars are $10 or more EACH at Ace or online. I don’t can in them, so I don’t need that quality. I just need them for storage or my ferments. I’ve found that at Costco the pickles (although have a lot of questionable ingredients) are sold in gallon jars for under $4. I do eat the pickles.. to get the jar (good excuse right!), but definitely prefer my fermented or canned ones instead. But it’s a great cheap way to get a gallon jar for storage of bulk purchases or making ferments or brewing kombucha!

How do I know when it’s ready?
I usually let it sit for 10 days, although this month it took almost 30 because our house is so cool. The warmer the environment the faster it will ferment. I do it to taste before deciding if it’s done. For the first trial brew, you probably want to do it less time to get used it if you aren’t used to the vinegar or fermented flavor. If you are ok with the stronger flavors then let it sit longer. As it approaches the 10 days I usually stir it (not a metal spoon) and then taste it to see if it is enough. Usually it will get a little fizzy while I’m stirring it and that is a pretty good indication it’s getting close to completion as well!

How do I get it to bubbly or fizzy?
Once it’s fermented for long enough it will get fizzy as a byproduct of the fermentation. I often have to open my bottles in stages and it has taken me over 20 minutes to open a bottle before to be able to do it without it overflowing everywhere. However, if you let it brew too long and all the sugar is eaten up then it will no longer be fizzy, so you gotta find the happy medium! I rarely have a problem, though and almost every bottle is more carbonated than a soda! I have also found that the citrus fruit does best for the highest fizz factor.

How do I know if my SCOBY died?
Pretty simple… you let your brew sit for 10 days and it tastes like sweet tea and there is no new SCOBY growing on top. Unfortunately that is the only way to tell. Some people will throughout their mama every few months and just use one of the new ones. Constantly rotating them out. I don’t do that. I’ve only had my mama die once in the 3 years I’ve been doing this!

What do I do with kombucha that brewed too long and tastes like vinegar?
Use it like vinegar! I’ve used it for use in any cooking that calls for an acid like lemon juice or vinegar I will sub in the kombucha. I also use it in salad dressings, cleaning (in any homemade cleaner that uses vinegar) or you can still drink it. There is nothing wrong with it… it’s just super strong and tart!

Those have been my most common questions and emails. So hopefully you find this helpful! If you have a question to add, please let me know!

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