View Full Version : Kombucha
04-23-2006, 11:48 AM
Figured I'd start a thread, since I'm sure to have questions:)
First, can I use green tea with orange peel, jasmine tea and other natural flavors plus soy lecithin?
Got a couple scobies, starting a batch with sugar to see how it goes before moving on to honey.
04-23-2006, 04:50 PM
Flavorings should be fine, as long as the base (meaning normal strength) is green or black. I don't know what soy lecithin is, so shouldn't take a shot at that one. Though when did not knowing ever stop me before :D ?
04-28-2006, 12:47 AM
I started some about a week and a half ago. I started with a bottle of commercial raw kombucha in a quart of sweet tea and am currently in the process of stepping up the starter just as I would with a yeast starter for beer.
Something is definitely growing in there but, really, it just looks kinda disgusting---strands of slime hanging down from the surface! If it was in one of my yeast starters I'd throw it out. I'll stick with it until I have it stepped up to a gallon and then decide if I really want to taste it.
Maybe I'll just have to break down and buy a SCOBY that already looks like a kombucha "mushroom".
04-28-2006, 08:27 AM
Sounds like its probably OK. It'll look like snots at first, then a clear gel on the surface with little bubbles trapped in it. Make sure it has access to air through a doubled cheesecloth cover or somesuch... oxygen is the key to helping the bugs you want to get a foothold, then their acids will supress most anything else.
You don't really have to worry about timed step-ups like with saccharomyces, just let it go until a good scoby and strong acidity is present, then use that for the full batch.
05-06-2006, 04:25 PM
Okaaaaaaaaay, just finished the first taste, should it taste like medicine? smile.gif
It wasn't too bad, I'm going to try a plain black tea for the next batch.
Didn't find a floater in it, but got a big mouthful near the bottom, I'll watch for that in the future!
Also, it didn't carbonate, should I have left it at room temp. for a few days after bottling? I put it straight into the fridge.
05-07-2006, 03:47 PM
Closer like vinegary, more on the sweet side at first with a twang (sweet lemonade from a powder), then as more suger turns into more acids progressively tarter. There really should be a floatie scoby in it, clear but unmistakable. Perhaps try sampling it every three of four days next batch so you can "watch" the change.
And yeah, room temp. The carbonation will stop when they use up the dissolved O2.
05-08-2006, 03:08 PM
Where did you guys get your cultures from? I'm interested to try Kombucha.
05-08-2006, 03:49 PM
You can go to any local food co-op, health food/granola-ey kind of place, or Whole Paycheck (er, Whole Foods) or Vitamin Cottagey places. Make sure it's unpasteurized. The price will be pretty amazing, like everything else in there, but it's a one-time purchase if you maintain your culture. There are a surprising amount of geeks who do this out there, you might try a Craig's List or other local resource to see if someone will give you a culture. I had planned on making a batch on Sunday, but after the honey-do list got filed I spent my weekend making beer, planting trees, transporting construction waste, getting tomato starts, and bringing in more topsoil. Oh, and checked my queen cell too!
If folks want, and if I get organized, we can trade viable scobies someday for those that can't find them locally. Actually you can get them online too if you dig a little.
05-08-2006, 08:38 PM
I posted on the "Barter Board" on homesteadingtoday.com, if you want I can send you one in about a week and a half for postage.
05-10-2006, 03:41 PM
That would be great! What do I need to do?
05-11-2006, 10:04 AM
PM me your info, and I'll send it out when it's ready. Mail me a check for the postage when you get it.
05-11-2006, 12:35 PM
I started mine a few weeks ago using a bottle of GT'S Organic Raw Kombucha as a starter. I've had a few concerns along the way but I think everything has worked out okay. We went through a kinda disgusting period where it looked like somebody dropped a lunger in my brew pot :eek: but now it looks more like what I had been expecting.
I took my first sip today and, by golly, it's pretty darn good! :cool:
05-11-2006, 02:53 PM
Nice work! You'll rarely ever touch soda again if you're like me. Remember that it'll keep souring with time so bottle it where you like it flavorwise (or bottle some and let the rest keep progressing for comparisons).
Just in time for a hot summer! Didja happen to use any honey?
05-12-2006, 01:25 AM
Didja happen to use any honey? Oh, I'll get around to it eventually but this time I was more interested in getting a good healthy brew going. Now that I have a good strong starter I'll be a little more interested in experimenting.
I have this one in a sun tea jar---one gallon widemouth glass jar with a built-in spigot---do you foresee any problems with this setup? Will the spigot likely cause sanitation/contamination problems? So far there is no leakage and I haven't spotted any fruit flies :eek: hanging around the spigot!
05-12-2006, 08:37 AM
No, it should work fine. The wide mouth is great for O2 exchange if you can cover it with cheesecloth or such. You're right on to identify the stopper as a difficult-to-sanitize point. Between batches, remove the spigot by unscrewing it. Pop out the rubber stopper/button assembly from the housing. Sanitize the rubber bit, the spigot, the spring and the gasket when you sanitize the jug. Re-assemble and you're all set. As long as you don't USE the spigot, there shouldn't be anything to attract our little winged contaminators (or if they do investigate, the unused seal should keep them outta trouble). The spring may be vulnerable to the acids in kombucha over time if you do use the spigot; keep a relaxed eye out for corrosion.
If you'd like to do more than a couple batches in that vessel, you could also consider replacing the spigot with a rubber stopper, maybe a #4? Bring the jug along when you get the stopper to be sure. Insert the sanitized stopper from the inside and it won't pop out (unless you bump it).
I'm in the process of converting my old 6.5-gallon kombucha pail into a swarm catching bucket and will dedicate a new vessel to the service of scoby soon!
05-13-2006, 05:13 PM
I'm in the process of converting my old 6.5-gallon kombucha pail into a swarm catching bucket and will dedicate a new vessel to the service of scoby soon! Can I assume your kombucha pail is a plastic bucket? Can it still be used for beer brewing or do you run into vinegar flavors and weird yeast strains? I've heard that brewers have dedicated fermenters and syphons for lambics for these reasons; is this a similar situation?
05-13-2006, 09:16 PM
It is an old bottling bucket I had laying around with a stopper to close the valve hole. I do have mostly dedicated plastic equipment for kombucha for exactly that reason, though I've never been able to ascertain whether the kombucha bugs are as tenacious as the bretts. My transfer tubing, however, I've used interchangeably. A hot water rinse followed immediately by a Star San soak and I haven't had any problems yet. Metal bottling wand and aeration stone are boiled or baked occasionally. The vinegar flavors would be unlikely to cause problems as they ( acetobacter) require oxygen... no one's been able to really tell me what the other major players in Kombucha are.
If we really wanted (I've considered it, what a dork), the Siebel Institute will do an "contaminant" assay in a packaged beer for you for a good fee... at least $50 if I recall. Maybe someday White Labs'll have a tube of kombucha's major players like we get for lambic/gueuze!
I do all my beers, wines and meads in glass or occasionally stainless.
05-14-2006, 11:17 AM
Does anyone have any good informational links about Kombucha. I'm especially interested in the microbiology and the history of it.
05-14-2006, 02:26 PM
Unfortunately, none. Most of what you'll find says it'll cure cancer, replace human food as we know it, and bring about world peace. Actually just the cancer part, but you get the idea. Aside from the granolas, there's very little info I've been able to find on kombucha and certainly none that I feel is reliable, a couple quasi-scientific European studies cited selectively. Please share if you find anything!
05-14-2006, 11:56 PM
There's as much information here as I have seen anywhere. http://users.bestweb.net/~om/~kombu/PFAQ/ResearchLinks.htm
Not all of the links work and it will take a bit of surfing to find all of the information available.
05-15-2006, 09:17 AM
Good link! Thanks for sharing it.
05-16-2006, 02:58 PM
05-16-2006, 07:21 PM
It looks like Kombucha ferments at a much lower temp than does vinegar cultures. That's an great advantage for a cool weather climate like mine.
I've ordered a kombucha mushroom. Thanks for the links.
Last winter I spilled my single quart of vinegar culture on the bedroom rug while re-arranging the bedroom!
I did mention that it would cure her blood pressure problems, prevent breast cancer and cure diabetes, just in case she should develop either of those diseases. ;>)
My wife says, here we go again :>)
05-17-2006, 11:32 AM
But did she have a blood pressure problem BEFORE you spilled it? smile.gif
05-18-2006, 09:49 AM
I just got the culture in the mail. What an amazing structure. It looks like some sort of a jellyfish. How do you recommend restarting it. I have sanitized 1 gallon glass honey jars, washcloths etc. Should I just cut off a piece or use the whole thing?
05-18-2006, 11:00 AM
Rinse briefly and use the whole thing. Add a bit of pasteurized vinegar to lower the pH a tad if you want, gives the scoby a head start. SWMBO just threatened to banish my kombuchery to the shed for the smell of my newest batch smile.gif .
05-20-2006, 12:41 PM
Alright, I'm all set to do it today. Unfortunately work got all crazy on me and the scoby spent 3 days in the fridge, but it still seems OK. Thanks again dcross. Look for a letter in the mail.
05-20-2006, 04:56 PM
Received my scoby today. Have a question about water. Our city water has chloromines in it. What kind of water should be used?
05-20-2006, 07:48 PM
I've just boiled 10 mins (to drive off chlorine) before knockout and adding tea and not worried about chloramines. They can be readily addressed by a tiny addition of sulfite, but I don't bother for kombucha and the sulfite might potentially inhibit the scoby bugs, even at that tiny dosage (like 5 ppm).
My $.02 is to not worry 'bout them, brew on!
06-06-2006, 08:12 PM
Well, it's been almost two weeks since I started my Kombucha and I sampled it today.
Very nice. Refreshing. Unique.
I ordered a kombucha mushroom over the internet from www.happyherbalist.com (http://www.happyherbalist.com)
It arrived after a couple of days and did the job even in my chloromined water.
I used the standard recipe with sugar for a one gallon batch. And let it ferment at about 68 to 74 degrees. It's been cold here.
If anyone wants a fermented product without the alcohol content, I would recommend trying Kombucha. It's fast, easy and tasty. It some ways, I like it better than my mead.
Now I've got to find a vessle larger than my one gallon ice tea jar.
[ June 06, 2006, 10:14 PM: Message edited by: B Wrangler ]
06-07-2006, 08:07 AM
Glad to hear it Dennis! It's been bleedin' hot here and my consumption will already require another batch! Better keg that mild too...
06-07-2006, 06:02 PM
I have a mild skin condition. The cause is unknown and there is no cure. Areas will become puffy, inflamed and burn or itch. Steroids will take the sting out of it, but only offer short term relief.
I've noticed that some wines will take some of the sting out and reduce the swelling.
But after a single dose of Kombucha, all of the swelling, burning and itching are gone. Only a little pale redness remains. My wife, a nurse, has never seen those areas of my skin like this. She is amazed!
Initially, I tried to get her to taste some and she didn't like the fermented smell. But after seeing these results, shes ready to try it as a medicine for her high blood pressure.
Could it be true? Kombucha could be the key to world peace? ;>) Don't know about those claims, but I know what it did to my skin.
01-06-2007, 01:01 PM
Just an update on the Kombucha.
My wife tried Kombucha and experienced some good health benefits. She now drinks a glass or two per day. And I'm continuously brewing 2 1/2 gallons.
This stuff is amazing and I sure want to thank you Ben, and all of you for introducing it to me.
I could make quite a list of health benefits I've experienced since using Kombucha on a regular basis. Some of them weren't apparent until about a month after steady consumption.
My mead making has taken a back seat to the Kombucha. And I haven't consumed much mead. I've got about 24 gallons aging in better bottles. And expect they will get a chance to age alot longer than I thought, before Kombucha.
01-06-2007, 04:53 PM
That's great news Dennis, glad to hear you and yours are feeling well. Just not drinking soda is benefit enough for me! Though after a serious bout of, er, "gastrointestinal distress" recently I was glad to have had kombucha around to repopulate the area with the good guys... never been a big yogurt fan.
01-15-2007, 08:20 AM
Just a note on the effects of chloramines on kombucha.
I didn't initially notice any negative effects of cloramines when brewing kombucha. But, over time, the scoby decreased in size. And the kombucha, although still tasting great, lost much of its medicinal potency.
So, I decided to treat the water and feed the yeast, much as I do when making mead. I take a campden table and divide it into about 20 parts. I add one of those small flecks to a gallon of water before I brew the tea. And I added one granule of yeast nutrient. I continuous brew a 2 1/2 gallon batch and refill when its down a gallon.
Amazing results!. There's been more scoby growth in 48 hours, than during months of continuous brewing.
I'm sure the yeast nutrient had a positive effect on the yeast. But the most noticeable difference was in the cellulose producing bacteria. I think taking the chloramines out had the most effect.
I'm going to try a few batches using bottled water without the chloramines.
Check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chloramine for a neat picture of a swimming pool filled with cloramine treated water. It is surprising! I doubt a thirsty man would take a drink from a bulk water supply treated with chloramine if he could see the water.
Having seen water that looks just like chloramine treated water when reclaiming uranium milling/mining sites
[ January 15, 2007, 10:29 AM: Message edited by: D. Murrell ]
02-09-2007, 12:43 PM
I bought some boysenberry flavor extract to use in a wheat beer and have decided that I really don't care for it. Two ounces of extract was overwhelming in five gallons of beer. I still have one bottle of extract and was considering trying some in my kombucha but I'm a little concerned about 1) ruining an entire batch of kombucha, or 2) how do I measure a miniscule amount of extract for a single serving of kombucha?
Has anybody tried flavor extracts of the sort sold by homebrew stores (2 or 4 oz. bottle per 5 gal.)?
02-10-2007, 06:56 AM
Well you gots a couple options. For flavoring the whole batch if you don't want to commit to just adding it "to taste": you can dilute a sample of the extract say 1:10 with distilled water, then add that drop by drop to a measured glass of kombucha. Taste after each addition. Note when it is perceptible, then balanced, then assertive. If anywhere on that spectrum is pleasing to your taste, it's simple math to scale up extract to the volume of the whole batch.
For single-glass doctoring, you could dilute extract with a bit of the kombucha and keep that in the fridge. Then use this "concentrate" to dribble into your 'bucha. Or get a pipette, a laboratory straw of sorts for measuring tiny amounts or liquids (it's all about the toys ;) ).
I've used the flavor extracts a good bit over the years. I find them great for tweaking, but pretty one-dimensional and just not quite the same for meads and delicate beers. IMO where they really are useful is for
1) bringing that mead with real blueberries that just isn't quite assertive enough up to where you want it (and adjust your recipe for next time).
2) adding fruit character that won't be subjected to strong scrutiny. For example a hint of raspberry in a big ole braggot, or an uninspiring Chianti that some cherry or passionfruit makes more interesting or drinkable. My wife and I entertain often and enthusiastically. I brew beer in 10 to 15 gallon batches, and I will occasionally "cheat" and raspberry one keg of stout for example, or cherry a keg of the cream ale for the ladies. They invariably are HUGE hits. The serious geeks may taste the difference (while enjoying nonetheless), but I make no apologies for using extracts.
If I may re-ascend my soapbox for a moment (I know some have strong feelings about extracts and wouldn't let one near their mead with a ten-foot racking cane, so I'll try to forestall the flames). The whole point of making home beverages IMO is to make something you and your guests will enjoy, and to enjoy the learning process. If that's a month-old gallon jug of mead made with bread yeast, enjoy and serve with pride! If you send samples to Weihenstephan for expert taste, laboratory and chromatograhic analysis before offering it to your sommelier friends in crystal glassware, good on you!
Do it the way you dig it, that's the whole idea. When I was in the homebrew shop business, I used a "winemaker" vs. "winer" comparison to prevent people from apologizing for their wine or mead before I even tasted it.
Ahem. Sorry smile.gif . My $.02 is to experiment with the fruit extracts. I'd say used as I describe above, about 95% of my customers were very satisfied. Used to make a delicate varietal mead into a delicate boysenberry mead, perhaps 50%.
04-18-2007, 06:48 PM
Just another update on the update :>)
My wife is sold on kombucha. Her hair has returned to the luster, thickness and volume she had 20 years ago. And her skin has lost at least a decade of wear. She had some arthritis in her knees that made getting up, without holding onto something, difficult. No more problem there. She can get up, from any position, without the pain or stiffness.
Her relatives, who questioned my sanity and thought I might poison myself and others by making kombucha, took one look at my wife and they're all drinking it.
And her nursing friends are doing the same and are reporting some very beneficial results.
Now I could list a least a half dozen ways my health has improved since drinking kombucha, but won't because you wouldn't believe it.
But I would suggest trying it for yourself and making your own list. Then we could compare lists.
Who had never heard of kombucha until reading about it here. Thanks guys.
04-19-2007, 09:05 AM
Great to hear about someone doing well Dennis! Hope good health continue for you and yours.
12-07-2009, 09:42 PM
Could someone give reference to more precise description for making drinkable kombucha, something of kind “Making kombucha for dummies”.
I know sufficiently enough about making mead or wine, but making beer or particularly drinkable kombucha is a kind of “digital technology” for me.
Does it have something to do with honey?
12-07-2009, 11:21 PM
I found what I was looking for.
It seems to be sufficient for a beginner like me for a beginning.
Remaining question is : sugar versus honey?
Other hints, practical and general , certainly are welcome, probably for others too.
12-08-2009, 07:26 AM
I found Dennis post and enthusiasm on kombucha and I have got interested. Then I found that this enthusiasm is dated April 2007and after that, quiet. Was this something so unique?
Save me a bit of time for searching literature in all over a world on this subject. May be Dennis changed his mind and we don’t know about it.
12-12-2009, 09:32 AM
I believe that some of the same elements of honey that make it antimicrobial (such as pH and the release of H2O2) are the reasons honey is less suitable for kombucha, it alters the balance of critters (microflora).
SWMBO is now so into kombucha, after hating it all these years, that she needs me to do fruit-flavored 5-gallon batches to meet her demand. Otherwise it's $4.50 a 16-ozer at the natural food store in town. I'm in the wrong racket!
12-16-2009, 08:27 PM
Just thought I'd add my thoughts on honey in place of sugar (started using honey after a few batches because I didn't like the syrup taste), yes it does alter the critters, but I don't think in a harmful way. In fact I think it's better as I can get a 5 gal batch in a little more than a week, the people I know using sugar have to let theirs go two or longer to ferment the sugar out.
Going into drinking the stuff approx 3 mo now and I'm starting to notice the things that are talked about, course that might be I got off the diet Dew LOL.
Wojtek, check out the posts in the bio beekeeping section here and his website , I think you'll find that Dennis is far from being bored w/ KBC.
As far as hints go, just be sanitary between batches and if you want to try honey I use approx 2 lbs (raw unfiltered) for a five gal batch, if you brew by the gal I'd start w a half lb per gal and go from there.
12-17-2009, 12:02 AM
Thank you, rwlaw, and Ben Brewcat
05-30-2010, 10:08 AM
For anyone interested in a data point, I'm kegging the kombucha now. MUCH easier. I just keg and wait a week at room temp, then chill. About half a keg will dispense under its own pressure without having to push it with CO2 (though I do have to bleed off some pressure for smooth dispensing), then about 8 to 10 pounds seems to serve perfectly. That's at the beer fridge's temp of 48 to 50F.
09-20-2010, 01:58 PM
I'm still brewing kombucha and enjoying the benefits. I don't drink the quantity that I did several years ago. But I do a glass of it each day. And if a batch gets ahead of me, I'll add it to a large glass of water somewhat like lemonade.
When I started, I'd brew gallon jar batches and bottle them for the natural effervescence. Although it produced the best tasting beverage, it took a lot of time and attention.
Now, I continuous brew 2 1/2 gallons in a water jar and don't attempt to develop any effervescence. It's fast, easy, and just requires a empty glass under the spigot. :-) It does occasionally get ahead of me. Then, I'll dilute the kombucha in a glass of water about like one does with lemon juice for lemonade.
Health benefits? I've written a little about what happened when I ran out of kombucha:
And my old kombucha page now rests at:
My wife? She found that drinking my homemade, batched kombucha was too strong for her. It greatly exacerbated some of the side effects of her drug medication. And she retreated to a small daily amount of the store bought variety. Now she's in a quandary with retail kombucha being pulled off the shelves.
Honey? My kombucha brewed with honey wasn't a good experience. I think there are just way too many different kinds of sugar tolerant yeasts in honey that out pace those found in kombucha. And, with my honey, they imparted a sour, off taste/smell that reminds me of the worst mead batch gone very bad.
Maybe honeys from other areas would do better? I've tried a different scoby reared on honey. But got the same terrible results.
Additions? They work great when added in moderation to the green or black tea. Start with mostly green/black tea and add a few of bags of the other stuff. My favorite is Earl Grey.
2006? Has it been that long ago. And it's been that long since I did my first batch of mead. I've still got a few cases of that original run. Haven't tasted any since moving back from Florida. Hummm.... See you guys later. :-)
Regards - Dennis
09-21-2010, 05:51 PM
Could try pasteurizing the honey before introducing the scoby... should allow the scoby to metabolize the sugars while protecting it from osmophilic yeasts et. al.