For those new to making kombucha, the process can be intimidating. Every little thing is confusing. Does it matter if my kombucha SCOBY sinks? Can I cut my SCOBY in half? Why can’t I ferment the kombucha SCOBY with fruit juice? How much sugar is left in the kombucha when it’s done? How can I tell when my kombucha is done? It’s taking an unusually long time for my SCOBY to grow. How long is enough?
Today, I’m answering these and other frequently asked questions about kombucha. Hope it helps!
Does it matter if my kombucha SCOBY sinks?
If your SCOBY sinks after you put it in your sweet tea, that’s okay. A new SCOBY will grow across the top. Sometimes, if your SCOBY culture is weak, it may take a while longer to grow a new one across the top. This isn’t bad, just inconvenient. So, to prevent this inconvenience, you can ensure your SCOBY won’t sink by bringing both it and your sweetened tea to room temperature before trying to rest the SCOBY across the top. A kombucha SCOBY will sink when it is a different temperature than the sweetened tea — even a few degrees matters.
Can I cut my SCOBY in half?
Sometimes, you want to double your batch, or share a SCOBY with a friend before yours has produced a baby. You can safely cut a SCOBY in half. Just make sure your scissors or knife are completely clean before you handle it to avoid contamination. The next batch you brew with the cut SCOBY will grow a new SCOBY to grow across the top, as always.
My SCOBY is a different size than my container. Does it matter?
Nope. As with cutting the SCOBY, all that will happen is that a new kombucha mother will grow across the top of the liquid, taking on the shape of the new container.
Why can’t I ferment the kombucha SCOBY with fruit juice?
If you’re opting to use the double fermentation method to create flavored kombucha, you can’t allow the SCOBY to be in the same vessel as the fruit juice, fruit, or other flavorful additions. That’s because the fruit juice contains a different type of sugar than the one kombucha thrives on. This causes a slightly different balance of bacteria and yeast to grow in your culture. While that may be desirable for the short term results (flavored kombucha), it will ultimately weaken your SCOBY. To keep your SCOBY uncontaminated, simply make sure it is always grown in a sweetened tea with no fruit or fruit juice added.
How much sugar will be left in my kombucha when it’s done?
That’s entirely up to you! The shorter your brew time, the sweeter it will be. That’s because sugar is the food for the SCOBY. As with all cultured foods, the longer it ferments, the more sugar it consumes. For those of you who desire less sugar, just let it ferment until it is very tart. Be prepared for it to be quite sour, though.
My kombucha isn’t fizzy, how can I fix that?
There are a lot of factors that go into making a nice, fizzy kombucha. But I’ve found that if people are following my instructions for the double fermentation method, the lack of fizz is usually because they don’t leave enough air at the top of their final bottle. When decanting your kombucha into a bottle or jar that contains fruit juice for the second ferment, be sure to leave at least an inch to an inch and a half of air at the top and seal with a lid.
How can I tell when my kombucha is done?
That’s entirely up to you! So many factors affect how long it can take to get to the flavor you desire. In Texas in the summer, my kombucha fermentation takes 7 days from start to finish, including the second ferment with fruit. In the winter, when room temperature is about ten degrees cooler, my kombucha takes about 12 to 14 days to reach the same level of tartness. There are people who live in more Northern climates who let their kombucha brew for 21+ days! If you’re concerned about safety, just use a pH strip to make sure you’re drinking the brew between pH levels 2.5 and 3.0.
My SCOBY isn’t growing! HELP.
If you’re trying to grow your own SCOBY from scratch, my first response is to give it more time. Sometimes, it can take weeks for a thin layer of something to appear across the top, then it will thicken up over the course of the following week. If, however, more than a month has gone by and absolutely nothing is growing, then it means the bottle of organic, raw kombucha you purchased was weak or old. Sadly, this happens from time to time. You can try again, or you can breakdown and order a kombucha SCOBY online. (Where to buy a kombucha SCOBY.)
If you’re not trying to grow your own SCOBY, but are instead in the middle of fermenting a batch of kombucha, then you may have inadvertently killed your culture. To avoid this in the future:
- Don’t use antibacterial soap to clean your fermentation vessel.
- Make sure you’re using filtered water that’s free of chlorine and other contaminants that can harm your SCOBY. (Where to buy water filters)
- Don’t add your SCOBY to hot or even warm tea.
- Don’t add any herbs, spices, honey or anything else foreign that can harm your SCOBY.
- Keep the fermenting vessel away from any disturbing fumes such as paint or solvents.
Is kombucha safe to drink when pregnant or nursing?
Yes and no. See my post Is Kombucha Safe When Pregnant or Nursing for more detail.
I want to double my recipe and brew 2 gallons. Will it take twice as long to brew?
No. Fermentation time is affected by a lot of things from temperature to the strength of your SCOBY, but the quantity of kombucha you’re brewing is not one of those things. It doesn’t matter how big your batch is.
I don’t like sweetened teas. Can I brew kombucha without sweet tea?
No. Absolutely not. You wouldn’t be providing the SCOBY with any food, so it would die.
Where to Find a Kombucha SCOBY
If you want to eliminate a lot of the guesswork, you can buy a SCOBY online from a reputable source. I recommend these companies.
(photo by dorywithsurfs)