After teaching several Kombucha brewing classes and answering hundreds and hundreds (Ok, maybe not quite that many, but that sure have been a lot) of questions about everyone's 'booches, I decided it was just about time to create a post dedicated to troubleshooting your brews and Kombucha FAQs. This post today will be Kombucha FAQs, and in the coming weeks, I'll post a post dedicated purely to Kombucha troubleshooting.
If you have no idea what I am talking about, have no fear! Rush out to your nearest natural foods store and pick up a bottle of Kombucha to test it out, then head over here to check out my original Kombucha how-to post with a recipe.
- "What is a 'booch?"
"'booch" is short for Kombucha, and is often used as slang. You may also see words such as boochmaster or boochy to describe someone who brews a lot of Kombucha, or as a cute (?) way to describe your brew, respectively. Contrary to how it sounds, booch it is not a dirty word. I think. Pretty sure.
- "What is a SCOBY?"
SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. Its the big pancake thing that grows on top of your tea and, in part, ferments your tea and turns it into boochy tea. (Sorry, I just had to squeeze that word in one more time.)
- "Can you use agave, coconut sugar, stevia, or Splenda to brew Kombucha?"
I'm going to pretend that you just didn't ask if you can use a chemical sweetener (aspartame) to grow a living thing. Your SCOBY will die. (This should give you insight to what chemical sweeteners are doing within your own body.) Yes. That’s right. DIE. Never use any artificial sweeteners in your Kombucha, and while you're at it, might as well throw them in your garbage.
In terms of using other types of sugars besides white sugar, I don't recommend it since its not type of food your SCOBY likes. Although it seems like you are using a lot of refined sugar in your Kombucha, the bacteria actually "eats" most of it during the fermentation process, and there is not much sugar left before it reaches your mouth.
- "I really don't want to consume any refined sugar. What can I do?"
Let your Kombucha ferment for longer. The longer it ferments, the less sugar it will have for you to consume, however, it will taste stronger and more vinegary.
- "Do I have to used organic tea and sugar?"
I highly recommend it. SCOBYs are very sensitive creatures, and possibly introducing trace pesticides or chemicals from nonorganic sugar or tea could either kill your SCOBY or leave it unable to ferment as well as it can.
- "How long does it take to ferment Kombucha?"
Between 6-30 days, depending on your tastes. The shorter the fermentation time, the sweeter your tea will taste. The longer the fermentation time, the stronger and more vinegary your tea will taste. I would experiment a little and see what taste suits you best.
- "What happens after 30 days?"
Your Kombucha slowly starts to turn into vinegar, and isn't palatable.
- "What's the longest fermentation time you've ever tried?"
45 days. It was a terrible experience.
- "How do I make my Kombucha taste sweeter?"
Try fermenting is for less time, or try adding more sugar. It could be a combination of the two, or just one of those reasons.
- "My Kombucha tastes "weak" or thin. What did I do wrong?"
Brew your initial tea with more tea bags. Aim for a dark brown color for your tea. This should fix the problem.
- "Does Kombucha have caffeine?"
If you brewed tea that had caffeine, then yes, there will still be some caffeine left in your Kombucha brew. If you brewed decaf tea initially, then I do not think so, but I would check the label of your initial tea.
- "My Kombucha is fermenting too fast/slow. What gives?"
Warmer temperatures make Kombucha ferment more rapidly. Likewise, colder temperate make for a slower ferment. I have found that temperatures between 68-74 degrees results in excellent Kombucha that isn't too sweet or too acidic in about 15 days.
- "I have GERD and can't handle foods that are too acidic. Is Kombucha safe for me to drink?
Truly, I don't know, but Kombucha is an acidic drink, so I would be cautious. Please check with your doctor.
- "Kombucha makes my stomach hurt. Should I keep drinking it?"
Ummm, again. I don't know. Please please please check with you doctor. I am not a doctor, but as a rule of thumb, I don't think anyone should eat or drink anything that makes them feel sick- even if we do love how it tastes. I do know that sometimes it takes awhile for your stomach and gut to get used to new probiotic cultures, so you could also try introducing Kombucha into your system slowly, ½ a cup at a time. But you should still consult a medical professional anyway.
- "Is Kombucha an alcoholic beverage?"
Kind of. Alcohol is a byproduct of fermentation, so there is a little alcohol in your Kombucha. Usually, it isn't even enough to notice, but some states, like Florida require that it is labeled, and that buyers are 21 and over.
- "Why do you have to use a glass brewing container?"
Kombucha is acidic, so it can slowly break down materials over time, and those materials can get into your brew. For that reason, plastics are not appropriate, and don't even ever think about brewing your Kombucha in something like a soft plastic bag. Metal too can be absorbed into your tea, so glass is your best bet.
- "What is wild fermentation?"
Wild fermentation is how probiotics develop in your ferment. Wild means that these probiotic strains grow naturally, or "wildly". They appear on their own, through fermenting, without you physically adding specific strains. Think of how wildflowers appear in a prairie: no one put them there, they just grow.
- "Can I determine what probiotic cultures are in my Kombucha?"
Its hard to determine exactly which cultures are in your own brew. If you grew a SCOBY from scratch using an unflavored bottle of Kombucha, you can look at the bottle and see what cultures are listed; these strains may have continued to grow in your own brew. If you used an already formed SCOBY to brew your first batch, the cultures may be similar to that SCOBY. It is very hard to determine strains of probiotics due to wild fermentation (see above), however there are labs that do testing, if you really need to know.
- "Are there more probiotics in Kombucha you brew than the bottled ones in the store?"
Generally, yes. Depending on different states laws, some store-bought Kombucha will have to be pasteurized, which kills most everything. Even if it is "lightly" pasteurized.
- "I don't like Kombucha."
That isn't a question. Regardless, my answer is don't drink it? IDK, my BFF Jill?
- "What is a continuous brew system?"
A continuous brew system is when you consistently take out Kombucha and then immediately put prepared tea back in to ensure you always have brewed Kombucha on hand without having to drain, bottle, and prepare new tea all at once.
- "Is a continuous brew system better?"
To each their own. Do what works best for you. I don’t think one is inherently better, its more a question of the time you are willing to dedicate to brewing.
- "My Kombucha isn't fizzy. What can I do?"
Make sure that you use a first AND second fermentation. Make sure that you give the second fermentation a few days to make sure gases build up nicely for that fizz. If it is still not fizzy enough, try adding 1/2 tsp.-1 tsp. white sugar in each bottle before you cap it for the second fermentation. You can also try adding fruit with a higher sugar content, like pineapple, to get that extra fizz going. Also make sure that you store your Kombucha in a warm spot, but not hot. If that still doesn't work, email me. (See end of post.) I'm happy to help.
- "How long have you been brewing your own Kombucha?"
About 2 years, continuously.
- "Have you ever had it go bad?"
Yes, but only once. I'll go over that a little more in my next Kombucha troubleshooting post.
- "So how many bottles of Kombucha have you brewed?"
Its hard to tell, but at this point, I estimate it somewhere around 800 bottles.
- "Wow! That's a lot!"
Yes. Yes it is.
- "How much does it cost to brew your own Kombucha?"
I estimate that is costs me about 30 cents per bottle to make at home. That's like a 1000% savings- its like making money! (You might want to check my math on that. I was never good with numbers.)
- "I'm not comfortable growing my own SCOBY and don't know anyone near me who can give me one. Where can I find one?"
I recommend purchasing from reputable sellers on Amazon or online fermenting stores. You can get a SCOBY that costs anywhere from $10-$25.
- "What if I don't want to do a second fermentation?"
You don't have to! Your Kombucha just won't be fizzy.
- "My SCOBY is so big its taking up almost my whole brewing container! What do I do?"
With clean hands, gently pull apart the layers of your big SCOBY. You can save some for backup SCOBYs just in case, discard them, give them to friends, or use them as fertilizer in your garden.
- "What else can I do with extra SCOBYs?"
Make your own organic clothes.
- "I'm sick of brewing Kombucha at the moment. Can I stick my SCOBY in the fridge or freezer and defrost it later to brew more Kombucha."
Sorry, but no. Your SCOBY isn't equipped for arctic temperatures and will die. He can't be revived.
- "I love fermented foods! Can I ferment more drinks or foods?"
Yes! I'm not much of an expert on fermenting anything else other than tea, pickles, or cabbage, but Jill Ciciarelli is a great reference. Her book, Fermented, is also a great resource and a great addition to your cookbook library.
- "When are you teaching another Kombucha class?"
At this time, I am not sure, but I will keep my events page updated, and will also send out an email when I have new ones scheduled. Are you subscribed to receive updates? If so, you'll get dates straight to your inbox.
- "Can I reach out to you for help with my Kombucha?"