Why Choose the Continuous Brew Method of Making Kombucha Tea?

One of the first posts I ever shared on Food Renegade was a method of brewing flavored kombucha called the double fermentation method. It was the only method I’d ever really known about. Eventually, I heard about alternative brewing methods, including the continuous brew method. So, I asked Hannah Crum of Kombucha Kamp to tell us all about it. What follows is an interview with Hannah.

What is Kombucha?

Fermented foods are no stranger to readers of this site, but Kombucha is a ferment that is gaining notice these days, not only as a bottled beverage but also has a home brew. Simply put, Kombucha is fermented sweet tea. Like yogurt, kefir, and sourdough, some of the mother culture and starter liquid are used to make the next batch. It is important to start brewing with a full-sized, fresh (never dehydrated or refrigerated) Kombucha culture and at least 1 cup of strong starter liquid to ensure success. Once the brewing process is complete, usually 5 to 8 days later, Kombucha is best consumed in small amounts as a tonic, 4-8 ounces at a time, 1-3 times a day.

Having experienced periods of relative popularity since the 60’s, Kombucha has exploded into the collective consciousness over the past decade as young people, families and anyone concerned with their health have begun to understand the benefits of replacing soda, coffee, energy drinks and more with natural beverages. While the origins of Kombucha remain shrouded in mystery, it has been in use for at least the last 200 years (if not 2000 years!).

Of course our readers are familiar with the benefits of consuming fermented foods, what are the benefits unique to Kombucha?

First let me say that I DO NOT rely on Kombucha for all my fermented food or probiotic needs! I love it but I’m not crazy! We all need a variety of ferments, bacteria and yeasts in our diets for a truly balanced gut.

That said, as a tea based beverage, Kombucha starts with an advantage over many other ferments. Tea is the most popular prepared beverage in the world and numerous studies have linked benefits with its consumption. Once fermented with a Kombucha culture, the polyphenols, catechins and anti-oxidants found within tea and credited for those benefits become more bio-available and therefore easier for your body to use. So to start, Kombucha has even made the tea healthier.

It’s also true that a host of trace vitamins and acids are produced via the Kombucha culture, including a variety of B vitamins. However, many believe that the real kicker is gluconic acid, a powerful detoxifier and chelator that has been shown to bind to heavy metals, convert into glucuronic acid and remove them from the body. Acting specifically as a liver detox, Kombucha helps balance the mood, and may help repair the damaging effects of alcohol and prescription drugs. However keep in mind that Kombucha is not a cure all and not everyone will experience the same benefits from consumption.

Some people find the taste of Kombucha too intense, is it for everyone?

No, Kombucha is not for everyone. That is why our motto at Kombucha Kamp is “Trust YOUR Gut!” Only you can tell if Kombucha is right for you. Many people experience immediate benefits such as a mood or energy boost. For others, benefits are felt over time.

Even if your first sip of Kombucha was an intense experience (read as sour), several regular drinkers have commented that “something” impelled them to try it again and over time they found that they had acquired the taste. With home-brewing, much more control over the flavor of the KT is possible. Those who prefer it on the sweeter side will have a shorter brewing cycle than those who prefer it on the sour side.

If you are wanting to introduce Kombucha to a newbie and suspect that they may find the acetic (vinegar) flavor to be off putting, then try diluting it in juice, water or even soda pop. Over time, as their taste for KT develops, then gradually dial back the amount of mixer. You can also add sweetener to your Kombucha just as you would to a glass of iced tea. Here are some other tips for introducing it to newbies.

How is Continuous Brew different from Batch Brew?

Batch brew is a great starting point for some Kombucha newbie’s, especially if they are not sure that homemade Kombucha is for them or if they are only wanting a few glasses of Kombucha a week. For those who really enjoy having the homebrewed booch around or have already hooked their family, Continuous Brewing streamlines the process, allowing the brewer to make a lot more Kombucha a lot more easily. Ironically, Continuous Brew is the method most akin to the ancient way of brewing Kombucha and offers several benefits to our modern way of living:

  • Reduced Mold Risk – When employing the Batch Brew method, the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) moves from batch to batch of sweet tea. The CB method eliminates almost all handling of the SCOBY culture except for the occasional cleaning of the vessel, resulting in much lower contamination risk.
  • Less Mess – One of my least favorite things about making Kombucha is lifting heavy jars to pour them into bottles, dealing with funnels and filters and spilled drops of Kombucha everywhere. Bottling directly from the CB container makes it is so much easier by just using the spigot to drain the perfectly brewed Kombucha into my bottles, already filled with flavoring. I will say it again: LESS MESS IS BEST! :)
  • Deeper, Richer Brew – Though unbottled Kombucha will tend to grow more tart by taste, Kombucha works in cycles. The first cycle completes at roughly the 15 day mark. As the Kombucha continues to ferment, other healthy acids are then expressed at the 30 day mark. In a batch brew method, waiting 30 days may yield a Kombucha too tart to drink. With CB, you have all stages of the fermentation process present but the flavor is tempered by the addition of the sweet tea.

Those who are only drinking small amounts of Kombucha may prefer the batch brew method. Or if you are like me, you might do both! However, even if you are not drinking your KT so fast, the CB is a great way to store your culture until you are ready to make more.

You can always let the Kombucha in your CB turn to vinegar – there are some great uses for KT vinegar. Then, when you are ready to start again, remove some of the vinegar and add fresh sweet tea – you will have lots of delicious Kombucha in just a couple of days.

Since the vessel only needs to be cleaned every 2-4 months, CB greatly streamlines the process of brewing Kombucha making it a more desirable method for busy households.

What has been your personal experience since incorporating Kombucha into your diet over 8 years ago? Have you noticed any differences?

When I first started drinking Kombucha nearly a decade ago, I didn’t have a specific health concern. In fact, it was quite by accident that I ever heard about it. An old friend from college showed me their mysterious jars and I was instantly intrigued. From the first sip, I knew I had to make my own! Being the one who always got yelled at for drinking right out of the pickle jar, it’s not much of a surprise that I loved the tart, mouth puckering punch.

Over time, I’ve noticed improved digestion, decreased appetite, decreased tolerance for sugar and a much stronger immune system. I hardly ever get sick and when I do, it barely develops and I’m always able to get rid of it before it blows up. I’ve also lost weight and my appetite for sweets and alcohol has diminished. And I’m not the only one who has benefited!

My husband thought I was a bit crazy when I started brewing KT at home, but over the years, it grew on him and he has since lost 40lbs! It was a gradual process and he swears by his tall, icy glass of KT followed by a glass of raw milk. This combo has transformed him!

At the Kombucha Kamp facebook group & page, people often post how KT has helped them. Laura, who has struggled with Lyme disease said, “About a year and a half ago, one of the lymph node in my neck swelled (size of a very large marble) and no doctor could explain why. This as you can imagine has been rather painful. I had ultrsound done and they said it was just enlarged and might stay that way forever. I think not…three weeks on Kombucha (lots of water after) it is almost gone and I feel GREAT! I will begin brewing my own tea as soon as your continuous brew kit comes in the mail.”

Miltra offered this, “I use Ginger Kombucha as a toner-works wonders. Grab it cold from the fridge pour it on a cotton ball then a bit of moisturizer” I also use it topically and find that my skin and hair are incredibly soft and supple. While I’ve made other changes to my diet, I do think that the Kombucha has been the main contributor to this transformation.

It has also led me to include more fermented foods into my diet. I’m now making my own milk kefir, sauerkraut and beet kvass.

Thanks, Hannah, for the interview! Be sure to check out Kombucha Kamp for even more kombucha resources. And, if you have any other questions for Hannah, be sure to ask them in the comments!

If you’re interested in learning more about exactly how to make a continuous brew, check out this article by John Moody, author of Food Clubs & Co-Ops. I personally haven’t tried this method yet, but I must confess that the more I read about it, the more it seems like an excellent fit for my kombucha loving family!

Want to know more about kombucha tea?

Here are some more posts I’ve written on kombucha:

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I am a passionate advocate for REAL FOOD -- food that's sustainable, organic, local, and traditionally-prepared according to the wisdom of our ancestors. I'm also an author and a nutrition educator. I enjoy playing in the rain, a good bottle of Caol Ila scotch, curling up with a page-turning book, sunbathing on my hammock, and watching my three children explore their world.
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17 Responses to Why Choose the Continuous Brew Method of Making Kombucha Tea?
  1. Sarah L
    April 24, 2012 | 8:08 pm

    So here is my question…..I keep finding different answers: is kombucha safe to drink while pregnant and nursing? I’m mainly concerned about the detoxifying effects, especially because I only drink it occasionally right now but would like to start brewing it myself and drinking it regularly. I would love any insight on this, thanks!!!

  2. KristenM
    April 24, 2012 | 8:11 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I wrote a whole post about it. You can read it here:
    http://www.foodrenegade.com/is-kombucha-safe-when-pregnant-or-nursing/

  3. Shady Lady
    April 24, 2012 | 8:56 pm

    I started a continuous brew about 6 weeks ago. I normally do batch brewing for 4 weeks. I tested the CB at 4 weeks and it was still too sweet, 5 weeks was still too sweet, 6 weeks was still too sweet but I didn’t want to wait any more so I drained off a majority and added more sugared tea. My question is, how long does it take to lose the sweetness? I like a very, very tart kombucha. I’m about ready to give up and go back to batch brewing. Help!

    • Mexie
      November 17, 2012 | 5:22 pm

      While my first continuous brew was fermenting, I was confused and concerned when long after the “normal” time period, it was still super-sweet. My new SCOBY grew well, and everything looked good, but it just wasn’t ready when all the literature said it should be… It ended up taking 9-1/2 weeks for my first batch to be “ready” according to my taste buds (at which point I drew off two large bottles for secondary fermentation with ginger and lemon juice). I know that is much longer than any of the recommended time frames.

      It’s been two weeks since I drew off and refreshed the brew, and I now find it pleasant to drink what I draw off every day – it is fizzy and delicious! The taste reminds me of ginger ale, although I did not add any flavoring to my brew.

      Strangely, I have not been able to find any information at all online regarding a batch taking so long to ferment. I live in Phoenix, AZ, so my house temperatures are not very low. I can only surmise that it was due to the large brewing vessel – I got a 3 gallon glass beverage dispenser (with stainless steel spigot) from Costco. I only fill it about 2/3 full, so there’s plenty of room for gas exchange, and I keep it covered with a cloth table napkin secured with a rubber band. I made my tea mixture with 1/2 black tea, 1/4 green tea, and 1/4 white tea, for the greatest possible variation in healthy bacteria; I used plain white sugar,as I read this is the best and easiest food for the culture to utilize.

      So far, I’m finding this continuous brewing method super easy. Other than the initial preparation, periodic refreshing with the tea/sugar solution, and regularly observing the culture for signs of problems, it has required no other maintenance. In order to avoid negative symptoms, I’ve started drinking it slowly, only about 2 oz. a day. I haven’t noticed any health benefits yet, but I have high hopes that as I increase how much I drink it may help somewhat with my numerous health problems.

  4. maggie
    April 25, 2012 | 10:27 am

    Hi to all, I’m new here, I haven’t start yet to the idea of making Kambucha, ,but I would love to do it,but I’m afraidthinking it will come not good, the same happen the first time with my kefir, but I alraedy goog ain my kefir, yogurt, I also do my fermented cabbage.should I start soon with the Kombucha,please help me in decision,thanks Maggie

  5. Katherine
    April 25, 2012 | 1:45 pm

    Thanks for this post, it answered a number of my questions…I am wondering if this batch brewing method would increase our consumption of sugar though…I know the SCOBY will eventually eat up the sugar in batch brewing, does continuous brewing allow time for this to happen?

  6. Laura
    April 28, 2012 | 10:59 pm

    I love my continuous batch Kombucha. I do a second bottle ferment about every 2 weeks or so which produces a very tart bubbly drink. On Kombucha bottling day I usually have one glass of k-tea from the continuous batch and I’m always surprised how mellow and smooth it is. Doesn’t matter if I want to bottle a little or a lot I just adjust the amount of sweet tea I add.

  7. Melanie
    May 2, 2012 | 6:44 pm

    This is on my list to do!! I can’t stop drinking this stuff and know it can get expensive. The continuous method sounds freaking awesome!!

  8. Heike
    March 10, 2013 | 4:18 pm

    Sorry, maybe I didn’t read every word of your long and informative article here – but I am still not clear how the continuous brew works. Let’s say you take 2 cups out (or 500 ml or something), you replace that amount with fresh tea – but how much sugar? And how long until you can take something out again?

  9. Liz
    April 11, 2013 | 9:51 am

    A bit concerned about the pics showing fruit suspended in the brew. That’s a very bad idea, as you’re introducing all kinds of mold and fungi. If you want raspberry-flavored kombucha, add raspeberries to your glass, not the jar!

    • Rachel
      February 21, 2014 | 9:38 pm

      You can clearly see those are second ferment jars and there is no scoby :)

  10. Cindy
    October 9, 2013 | 10:25 am

    I was wondering if someone can reccomend a good brand or store where I can find a good quality continuous brew vessel? I know it must be glass and either have a stianles steel spigot or a food grade plastic spigot. I have been researching and seem to find mostly aluminum spigots. anyway, I thought I’d ask

  11. Bree
    November 9, 2013 | 11:49 pm

    actaully i have a question that I have been fishing for a while, do you know if i can do a continous brew system in a 2gallon jar without a spigot;by just pouring it out of the jar into somthing to bottle it, while leaving some remaining scoby juice in the 2gallon jar, toping it off with fresh kumbucha tea to keep it going. thank you.

  12. Linda Wagner
    December 16, 2013 | 3:09 am

    Why can you only drink a small amount per day. I’ve seen this before but can’t remember if there was a reason listed or not. I remember that it sounded dangerous. If I’m not fond of the taste, a little bit will be OK, but if I like it I don’t want to be so limited it it isn’t necessary. How much should I start out with and how do I increase it?

  13. Danielle F
    March 2, 2014 | 10:11 pm

    Hi, I am interested in making a continuous brew kombucha, but had a question. If it isn’t safe to use a plastic container to brew kombucha due to the plastic leeching into the kombucha.. why is it all right to use a container with a plastic spigot? Won’t the chemicals from the plastic spigot leech into the kombucha that way also?
    Thanks

  14. Lori
    April 1, 2014 | 12:06 pm

    ok I read this in hopes of finding out how to do a continuous brew, I read how to make a batch and that sounds a little hard for me, I have severe arthritis in my hands, exactly how do you do this start to finish, or is there another post about this and what do I need, do I need to buy any special items besides like the starter, or can I use things that I might have around the house I tried some kombucha the other day, it takes awhile to acquire the taste, like the idea of mixing with juice or something, but the cost is definitely out there, so I’m really interested, so if you could point me in the right direction I’d love it. Also can you use herbal teas in addition to or with the regular sweet tea.

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Who Am I?

My name is Kristen Michaelis. I'm a nutrition educator, author, and mother of three. I adore hats, happy skirts, horizons full of storm clouds, the full-bodied feel of wind as I ride motorcylces, reading in my hammock, and a hearty shot of Caol Ila scotch. I'm also a rebel with a cause.
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