Homemade Kombucha: What I’ve Learned (part 1)

From Rejuvenation Company‘s kombucha I learned how good it can be. From a Ferment Change party a few months ago I got kombucha starter. Now I have eight jars brewing kombucha. Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Hard to fail. It’s hard to kill the kombucha “mother”. After weeks in an airtight bottle (see Mistake 2), after I let air in it grew fine. You make kombucha at room temperature. You don’t have to check it. You simply wait until it’s sour enough.

2. Air needed. It’s aerobic fermentation, so it needs unlimited oxygen. I learned this after I used a sealed container and nothing happened.

3. Takes weeks. It has taken weeks for my kombucha to become really sour. Maybe I can reduce this to a week under better conditions (high surface to volume ratio, start with large kombucha mother).

4. Use a wide container. The more surface to volume, the better. The kombucha culture grows on top of the tea/sugar mixture because it needs contact with air. The wider the container, the more contact it can have.

5. Cover tightly with something air-permeable. I cover each jar with a paper towel secured with a rubber band. Before I started using a rubber band to hold down the paper towel I found a fly in one of them.

I use cheap black tea (in teabags) and ordinary sugar. Maybe I should get a pH meter to learn more about the process.

7 Replies to “Homemade Kombucha: What I’ve Learned (part 1)”

  1. I may add another piece of advice.
    Beware of potted plants nearby, mold from the pot soil will poison the kombucha and grow on the scoby.
    I never succeeded to keep a clean scoby for more than 2 or 3 runs and finally gave up.

  2. I use a Seed Starter mat (basically a lower-temperature big flat heating pad) that I got at Orchard Supply Hardware, and I set my wide-mouthed 1-gallon glass kombucha container on that. It does wonders to speed up the process!

    (Side note- it also works well to set my pot full of yogurt mix on, when I’m making homemade yogurt and leaving it to sit overnight…I use the removable crock from my crockpot, set it on the Seed mat, and then wrap it in a beach towel. Perfect temperature for yogurt-making!)

  3. I had been wondering when you would mention Kombucha. I have a wicked Kombucha habit, I literally don’t feel well unless I have at least 16 oz. a day. But I have hesitated to ferment my own. Please keep us updated on your progress, and any tips. I had good luck making sauerkraut last fall, though it turns out 30 pounds was more than my family could eat in one winter.

    (I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and have been reading your archives. Well done! I enjoy your writing a lot.)

  4. Regular heating pads are usually 1) way too warm, and 2) don’t maintain a constant temperature for hours….and aren’t designed to be left on so long. The seed mats are just about the right temperature not to bake your kombucha/yogurt to death, and maintain a very constant heat for days.

    Also, a reptile-cage heating mat works too, I bet those are more expensive than seed mats, but who knows, someone might have one lying around.

  5. As with any dietary supplement, it’s critical to do your homework before considering using Kombucha tea. First, determine the level of evidence supporting the health claims. In this case, Kombucha tea’s benefits are based on personal reports, and lab and animal studies. To date, there hasn’t been a single human trial reported in a major medical journal. This doesn’t mean that Kombucha tea can’t possibly have health benefits; it just means that at this time there’s no direct evidence that it provides the benefits it’s reported to have.

    The next question is whether there have been any reports of harm or illness caused by the product. In the case of Kombucha tea, there are reports of adverse effects such as stomach upset and allergic reactions. More worrying are the reports of toxic reactions and metabolic acidosis. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration cautions that the risk of contamination is high because Kombucha tea is often brewed in homes under nonsterile conditions. Lead poisoning also may be a risk if ceramic pots are used for brewing — the acids in the tea may leach lead from the ceramic glaze.

    In short, there’s not good evidence that Kombucha tea delivers on its health claims. At the same time, several cases of harm have been reported. Therefore, until definitive studies quantify the risks and benefits of Kombucha tea, it’s prudent to avoid it.

  6. Caragh, “not good evidence”? “No direct evidence”? I drink kombucha because I believe in the umami hypothesis, evidence for which I have posted.

    You make a good point about lead leaching from ceramics. I use glass containers.

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