30 Mar Homebrewing newbies: How to stop screwing up your kombucha homebrew
We’re laying out the most common homebrewing missteps:
You’ve heard how easy it is to brew kombucha, right? How tough can it really be? Just put together a few ingredients, and wait. Anyone can do that! Hey, hold on… there are some very common mistakes people make that can result in an unsuccessful kombucha brew. We don’t want you to be disappointed in your home brewing adventures, so we are going to lay out some common mistakes made by the excited new home-brewer.
- Using the wrong WATER. Don’t use municipal tap water to brew kombucha, as it contains chlorine and other chemicals that may harm the culture and affect the brew. Use filtered, distilled, or reverse osmosis water.
- Reducing the SUGAR in the recipe. That sugar is there for the culture, not for you! It’s food for the bacteria in the culture to eat and convert. Overall, sugar will reduce drastically by the end of the fermentation process. Reducing the sugar upfront will affect the fermentation.
- Using a SUGAR SUBSTITUTE in the recipe. Just avoid this. The sugar is in the recipe for a reason, and it’s not for you! Stevia and Xylitol aren’t going to ferment, and other substitutes will slow down the fermentation, create very sour or off-tasting kombucha, or introduce other bacteria into your bew (raw honey, for example). For best results, use cane sugar.
- Not following TEMPERATURE guidelines. Follow tea steeping instructions for the tea you are using. The water is too hot when it is at a full boil, the magic moment is just before boiling, when the steam is lifting up, and tiny bubbles are forming. Cool down the tea mixture sufficiently before adding the SCOBY and starter to begin fermentation. SCOBY and culture doesn’t like scalding temps!
- Using the wrong TEA. Use green or black tea, or a blend of the two, when you are new to brewing. Brewing with blends containing oils, or with herbal tisanes can be tricky and can result in weak fermentation or off-flavors.
- The SCOBY is compromised. The SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) should never be dehydrated or frozen. We suggest that SCOBY is kept at room temp for best results. The SCOBY should be white to tan in color; darker spots or strands are not a concern, but can indicate an older culture (dead yeast, for example). Mold should be taken seriously- discard the SCOBY, liquid, and thoroughly clean the jar it was in if there is mold on the SCOBY. Mold on a SCOBY looks like mold on other foods: dry, fuzzy, white.
- Starting the brew at the WRONG pH. Starter is basically strong, sour kombucha. pH must be below 4.0. pH strips can be easily purchased online or at homebrew supply stores. pH below 4.0 will inhibit potential harmful microorganisms from flourishing in your homebrew.
- Fermenting in a COLD environment. You will want to place your fermenting jar in a warm spot, and leave it alone to do it’s thing! Don’t move it frequently, you want a new SCOBY to form, creating a seal across the top, and moving the jar around will break that seal.
We encourage creativity and experimentation in brewing (and especially in flavoring) once you’ve gotten the kombucha brewing basics down! We hope these 8 tips provided at least one “Aha!” moment that will help you have more consistently successful home-brewing.