6 reasons I love continuous kombucha brewing

In my series, 52 ways to save money on a healthy diet, I have covered many different general principles. But I think it’s also important to share the very specific projects that can help you save money while eating a healthy diet. And there are few DIY projects that save you more money than brewing your own kombucha. While it takes very little money to maintain homebrewing kombucha, it is very spendy to buy at the store. I, however, didn’t really enjoy making kombucha until I tried the continuous kombucha brewing method.

If you don’t know already, kombucha is a traditional drink that is fermented with a kombucha mushroom (or scoby)  that most recently has come to us from Russia, but whose original origins are shrouded in mystery and lore. What we do know is that this traditional drink has been long revered as a health-promoting beverage. What I know is that I love it!

Like so many health products, there is a lot of “kombucha will save the world” type statements made, and ominous warnings of early death and illness by the conventional medical side. Considering the popularity of kombucha now and it’s wide spread use and the long term use of it historically, I am pretty sure that it is a safe product for the general population – just don’t brew it in a container that could contain lead. (Happy Herbalist has been really helpful in reading about the pros and cons of kombucha).

As far as its health properities, what we do know is that it is a rich source of beneficial bacteria, and certain acids that could help the body detox. Because it is acidic, many find it helpful to drink a small amount before a meal to aid in digestion (many don’t have enough stomach acid and can have trouble digesting food because of it). However, despite being acidic, my understanding is that it has an alkalizing effect on the body. Kombucha also contains d-glucaric acid, which according to one study, could help prevent cancer. (At least one kombucha company was started because the founder’s mother successfully used kombucha as part of her breast cancer fighting protocol). And, we all know that any food or beverage rich in probiotics is a good idea. Without concrete evidence, I can’t make any claims about kombucha’s health properties, but I do know plenty of people who swear by it.

All to say, I love kombucha. But I have hated making it…until recently. I felt that I was never able to get my homemade kombucha to taste like my favorite (raw) store-bought brands. So much of the homemade kombucha I, or my friends, made just didn’t taste like the bubbly, sour drink that it should be. At best, my results were pretty inconsistent. And because we have a colder house during the winter and fall, I would sometimes literally have to wait a whole month for the mixture to reach the sourness of the store-bought. Too often homemade kombucha isn’t fermented long enough, which results in a more sweet then sour brew that won’t have the same benefits (and also isn’t as safe – something I will address below)

My kombucha woes were solved however when I finally tried continuous kombucha. I am in LOVE with this method. Here are some of the reasons why.

What is continuous kombucha brewing?
Continuous kombucha, as the name suggests, is kombucha that is brewing continually. You never have to restart the brew once you have bottled your kombucha, but rather, you just draw off part of the brew (generally between 10-20% of it) and then replenish that amount. When you are only making single batches, you restart the process after every bottling of your kombucha, whereas with continuous kombucha, you never have to.

Here are some of the benefits.

Continuous kombucha tastes more like professional brewed
While kombucha is very simple to make at home, many don’t realize that professional kombucha brewers control the variables (like temperature) much more then we home brewers generally do. This is why homemade kombucha can be a little inconsistent. However, with my continuous kombucha, my kombucha is much more consistent. It is significantly more effervescent, properly sour (at a low ph), and tasty.

Continuous kombucha is safer
You have to wait until the kombucha reaches the proper low ph levels of 2.5 to 3.0 to make sure that any adverse bacteria in your kombucha brew is killed. With continuous kombucha, you are keeping your brew at a low ph the whole time, only slightly raising it when you add your 10-20%. This makes it safer.

You are much less likely to have  mold issues.
Mold most often happens during the beginning stages of the kombucha process when the ph levels are still high. It is always discouraging to have this happen. You arer unlikely to have mold issues with the continuous method once you have gotten it properly started.

It is easier to maintain
Using the method outlined in the Weston A Price Journal, I have found it much easier to maintain my kombucha. In these instructions, you brew a large amount of concentrated tea and sugar solution. With this in the refrigerator, you simply have to add a bit of it with some water each time you replenish your kombucha. I have really enjoyed the simplicity of it.

 It could have more health benefits
According to the Happy Herbalist, “Only Continuous Brewing of the kombucha allows the formation of the vast array of the many nutrients and  acids that are constantly being produced  and broken down throughout the active ferment time.  Kombucha Researcher Mike Roussin indicated that at 80o F and 7 days the ferment has the greatest variety of health benefits. (vitamins, oxylic acid, etc) However, he also noted that the longer the ferment was allowed to proceed the more beneficial acids will have a chance to form. Some of these acids don’t even appear until 14-21 days in the typical process.  These acids are largely responsible for the detoxifying nature of Kombucha Tea and are  the catalysts we seek in kombucha mushroom tea. Glucose content maximizes around the 8th or 9th day. This implies that gluconic acid production could not peak until after that point. Gluconic acid is the biggest single contributor to the detox effect. Where the typical Single Stage Method, in the hands of a brew master, may be able to develop a high level of a single nutrient or two, the Continuous Brew will always produce the widest  range of all the nutrients possible.”

It brews quickly
In warm weather (or if you are using some sort of heating pad), after you have feed your brew, it can be ready in 24 hours! No long waits required anymore! With our still cold house, it takes 2-3 days, sometimes. But that is still fast!

How to get started:

  • You will need a kombucha mushroom. Sometimes a local friend may have an extra to get you started. I have been happy with the ones I have gotten from my affiliate, Cultures for Health, as well.
  • Happy Herbalist has a huge amount of information on how to make kombucha, how to make sure you are using best practices, and problem solving as well.
  • You will also need a container (lead-free!) to brew with a plastic spigot. I bought one from Infused Vodka off of ebay (they sell their seconds there). They were glad to exchange the metal spigot for a plastic one for me.

Now that I have finally found a brewing method I like, I am seeing more kombucha in my near future. Like Kombucha Jello and kombucha centered beverages for the summer!

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. Michelle says

    Are you concerned at all about the plastic leaching chemicals into the kombucha, due to the high acid environment?

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Michelle,

      That was the main reason I dragged my feet to actually try this method. However, once I got my spigot I realized that it was only a very small amount of plastic in contact with it, plus, knowing that my kombucha wouldn’t have the same health benefits without being made this way, it made me feel that the benefits outweighed any risk. However, I think you could figure out a way to make the continuous method work without a spigot – it would just be a little more work, perhaps. Maybe you could ladle out the kombucha each time you needed to bottle some, rather than use the spigot?

        • KimiHarris says

          Good question. Kombucha will erode metal fairly quickly. No need for metal poisoning via kombucha! ;-) I actually don’t even like using metal screw lids for mason jars when bottling kombucha as I can taste the metal in the kombucha just from it splashing up on it.

  2. Gloria says

    I’ve been brewing kombucha for years, but haven’t tried this method. Do you ever have to take out/discard the mother scoby?

    • KimiHarris says

      Not really. The Happy Herbalist prefers a kombucha scoby that is 1-2 inches thick. Once it is past that, you can take it out to thin it out, but other then that, you just leave it in!

  3. says

    This is the method I use. Paying over $4 a bottle for someone else’s brew was getting too expensive. I just let my scoby grow. The thought of tossing it out makes me sad and no one I know is interested in drinking or making kombucha. I read somewhere that chickens love scobies, but ours don’t. The down side of letting it just grow is the space it takes up in the brewing container.

  4. mattie says

    I know this is probably addressed some where, but not sure where to look for an authoritative answer… Does the completed Kombucha “product” that is ready to drink have ANY caffeine in it? We are really sensitive to caffeine around our house and avoid it pretty carefully. Does the bacteria convert or consume it? If trace amounts are left, what levels would that be? Thanks for any answers or pointers to where to find that technical info.

    • KimiHarris says

      Mattie,

      Here is a answer to that question from the article at Westonaprice.org, “On average, one serving of kombucha will contain approximately one-third the caffeine (or more precisely, of caffeine-like substance) than a similar tea beverage of the same size. Also, is converted into other substances during the fermenting process, but this conversion is both unpredictable and highly debated. Furthermore, the caffeine reduction appears to be largely related to “starving” the culture for many days (not adding any new sweet tea mixture to the ferment), and thus would probably have a negligible effect on the caffeine content in a continuous brew that was drawn down more than twice per week.
      Thankfully, tea leaves are easy to partially decaffeinate, since caffeine is highly water-soluble, allowing removal of between 40-70 percent of the caffeine in three minutes of steeping (see side bar page 68), while the poly-phenols and many other beneficial substances in the tea leaves remain because they are less soluble. Many Internet sources claim much higher rates of caffeine reduction via this home method (as high as 80 percent in under one minute of steeping), but this is not the true. Caffeine reduction of 70-90 percent requires a second steeping with fresh, hot water after initial the steep, lasting another three minutes, which would have an uncertain, yet surely negative impact on the beneficial compounds in the final product, not to mention the taste.
      Thus, if caffeine content is a concern, lower caffeine varieties of tea can be employed or the tea leaves can be decaffeinated prior to brewing. If you need to completely avoid caffeine, then commercially decaffeinated teas are the only sure option, although these will have a negative impact on the health benefits of the finished beverage.”

  5. says

    I love brewing my kombucha ..I’m addicted to the stuff I really feel it’s helping my Lyme symptoms…I bought a 10 litre glass container with tap it’s brilliant …just turn on the tap and fill a glass or bottle when required…loved your post kimi …:) <3

  6. says

    After reading all the replies I also have a problem with caffeine myself and with drinking the kombucha I have no problems at all …I have also used the rooibos tea to make the kombucha .. my 3 sons also love it …2 adult sons aged 26 & 25 and my yougest who is at home with us has a small port glass before bed and I’ve noticed he sleeps a lot better ..I usually stop drinking it at around 3 ish in the afternoon as It can give me more energy that I don’t need at night time ..I cannot drink coffee as it will get my heart pounding and keep me from sleeping …I’m 50 and I learned I cannot have coffee because of the caffeine many years ago in my early 20′s …..it’s so much fun experimenting with different flavours of kombucha ..after brewing I bottle it up and add fresh grated ginger in the bottles it’s delicious ..love trying different herbal teas and have also used organic coconut sugar …have fun ..:) <3

  7. Julie Zilkie says

    Does this have to be refrigerated the whole time, or do you keep it on your counter. I can’t imagine finding room in my fridge for something this big. Thanks!!

  8. says

    I am getting TIRED of you reading my mind with your posting. This is getting ridiculous! :) Yesterday after I tried kombucha for the first time (a single serving for $3.50) I realized I have to figure out how to make this stuff myself and voila. Thank you!

  9. Joelle says

    I was looking at the Infused Vodka website and some people put marbles in their dispenser jars to act as a filter for the spigot–have you needed to do this, Kimi?

    • Kim says

      Thanks, Felicity!! I checked out your blog and I’m getting ready to try it. I was stressed about the whole thing and after reading your method it sounds much less stressful :-)

  10. Steffie says

    thanks for sharing your experiences!
    I just started my first brew. And now I read about the continuous brewing, which sounds very obvious.
    I just wonder: what are you doing when you are away for one or two weeks?

  11. Kim says

    I am wondering if anyone knows why kombucha hurts my tummy every time I drink it? I was buying it from whole foods until I started making my own in January of this year. My hubby and kids have no problem with it.
    thanks

  12. Victoria says

    Kombucha helped cure me of my soda addiction. I make my own now, every Sunday but perhaps I should try this continuous batch method.

    • Renee says

      Great info! About the spigot requirement- I do a continuous brew without it. I just tip the jar and pour a cup or two out. The scoby stays back and never pours out. Then I add new tea on top and I like that because it kind of bathes the scoby in fresh nourishment. Soon, the scoby is back to floating on top. This has been easy and the KT is fantastic. (I just never have extra money to spend on a spigot jar)

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