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.
- Instructions for the method I used are found here.
- 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!