I was taught to make kombucha in large bowls. I know that others use pickle jars or half-gallon Mason jars, but the friend that taught me stressed to never use a jar. She was sort of a kombucha snob. But once you fill a large bowl with extra sweet tea, move it to a safe place for fermenting, and then pour and strain when it’s done, it is next to impossible without a spill. I am so grateful to Chris for writing this series on how to make continuous brew kombucha. It is opening my eyes to new possibilities—and saving my floors from all those sticky spills.
Continuous brew kombucha is simple and versatile. Once you’ve tried brewing your kombucha this way, you’ll never return to Mason jar size kombucha batches. If you’ve been buying kombucha at the store, you can make two gallons of continuous brew kombucha for less than the price of a single bottle of store bought bucha.
How to Make Continuous Brew Kombucha
- Start by making a large batch of kombucha. (See the recipe below)
- Put it in a 1 or 2-gallon vessel with a non-corrosive spigot.
- Ferment it for 2 or 3 days to a month, depending on your preferred flavor.
- Remove one third to two-thirds of the brew into bottles for a second fermentation, or just drink it straight.
- Replace the drawn off kombucha with fresh sweet tea.
Continuous brew kombucha essentials
To make continuous brew kombucha (CB) you’ll need:
- A 1 or 2-gallon vessel with a spigot,
- A SCOBY from previous successful batches of kombucha, and
- 2 or more cups of starter kombucha from a previous batch.
- Loose leaf tea (both green tea and black tea will work)
- Organic sugar
Once your CB is working, you’ll just replace the kombucha that you remove with fresh, sweet tea and you’ll have finished kombucha ready to drink in just 2 to 4 days, depending on how acidic you prefer your kombucha to be.
Basic Kombucha Recipe
Yield: 1 gallon (double for 2 gallons)
- 2 Tbs loose tea
- 1 cup of organic sugar
- 1-gallon filtered water, divided
- 1 full-size kombucha SCOBY
- 2 cups mature kombucha for starter liquid
In a two-quart glass bowl, add loose tea, sugar, and two quarts of boiling, filtered water. Stir the tea. Allow the tea to come to room temperature naturally. Pour the cooled tea directly into the continuous brew vessel, through a fine sieve to remove the tea leaves. Add the kombucha SCOBY and the kombucha starter. Fill the vessel to the top of the shoulders, leaving an inch or two in the neck of the vessel for a headspace. Cover the vessel with a clean handkerchief, secured with an elastic band.
If you are new to kombucha brewing, see this post for more detailed instructions on brewing your kombucha tea.
What size continuous brew kombucha vessel should you choose?
A one-gallon vessel will give you about eight cups of kombucha every four days, or about six 10-ounce bottles. Using this system, a fresh batch of kombucha will be ready in two to four days, once the continuous brew system is active and mature. This is enough for one or two people, enjoying one bottle of kombucha every day. If you have a larger family, a two-gallon or even two-and-a-half-gallon vessel may be more appropriate for your needs.
How often do you need to fill your continuous brew container with fresh tea?
This is the flexible part of brewing kombucha using the continuous brew system. The frequency of making fresh kombucha is up to you.
Here are some of your options:
- Take a cup out and replace it with a cup of sweet tea
- Once or twice a week, draw off half the container into flip-top bottles for a second ferment and add sweet tea to the container. How often you draw the kombucha from the container depends on how much acidity you prefer in your kombucha. Draw it off more frequently if you prefer a sweet-tart flavor. If you like it puckery sour, let it sit a little longer. If you taste it once a day you can catch it before it’s too sour for your taste.
- Whenever you think of it. Life is busy. We know some things get forgotten; especially when our calendars are full and we don’t spend our lives in the kitchen. Continuous brew kombucha will wait for you. If it gets too sour, just draw some off and replace it with fresh tea, wait a couple days and start drinking it again.
You can use the vinegary kombucha for salad dressing, mustard, and in any recipe that calls for vinegar, except for pickling. Since we can’t measure the actual acidity of kombucha without special equipment, it’s best not to trust kombucha vinegar to preserve low-acid vegetables safely.
How to take a break from continuous brew kombucha
Unlike Mason jar kombucha or bottle kombucha, continuous brew kombucha can be left unattended during vacation. Here are a few ways to manage it:
- If the container is full, leave it till you get home again. Then draw off half the kombucha and replace with sweet tea and begin again.
- If it’s half full, leave it and when you get home, add fresh sweet tea. Wait two or three days and draw off the kombucha as it reaches the flavor you prefer. Since the continuous brew container has mature bacteria, your first batch after vacation will be ready sooner than usual.
- If you will be gone for a month or more, just fill the container before you go with fresh, sweet tea. The continuous brew container will serve as a SCOBY hotel until you get back. When you get back from your trip, draw off at least half of the vinegary kombucha. Trim the SCOBY to make room in the continuous brew container for more sweet tea. Begin a fresh batch of kombucha and resume your kombucha brewing rhythm where you left off before vacation.
My continuous brew kombucha container sits on my kitchen counter right beside the desk I write at daily. Since it’s so close and usually ready to drink, it’s easy to make drinking kombucha a daily habit in my healthy lifestyle. The continuous brew system is flexible enough to work in any home, no matter how busy you are. In fact, the busier your lifestyle the more you need continuous brew kombucha and its health benefits.
At Fermentools, we take our kombucha seriously. Check out the following posts for more recipes:
Chris is a teacher, author, gardener, and herbalist with 30+ years’ of growing herbs and formulating herbal remedies, skin care products, soaps, and candles. She teaches workshops and writes extensively about gardening, crafts, scratch cooking, fermentation, medicinal herbs, and traditional skills on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com. Chris is the author of The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils, Learning to Use Your First 10 Essential Oils with Confidence and Homegrown Healing, from Seed to Apothecary. Her newest book is “The Beeswax Workshop, How to Make Your Own Natural Candles, Cosmetics, Cleaners, Soaps, Healing Balms and More” with Ulysses Press (2017). Chris is a contributing writer to The Biblical Herbal Magazine, The Fermentools Blog, and the Attainable Sustainable blog. Her books are available on Amazon. Chris lives with her husband Robin in the mountains of British Columbia on a 140-acre ranch where they raise lamb. They have 3 adult children and 3 granddaughters.