The Continuous Brew Kombucha Method is an easy way to ensure you always have a steady supply of this refreshing, probiotic-rich drink. All you need is a SCOBY and some sweetened black tea, and you will be well on your way to greater gut health.
Total Time Investment: 5 Minutes
*This post was originally published in February 2015. With the rise in interest in kombucha I felt it needed an update.
You must have been living under a rock if you have not heard of kombucha by now. In the two years since I originally published this post, I have seen a significant rise in the availability of kombucha commercially. And more people are now brewing it at home, which is great news for me. My friends and relatives have long stopped giving me sideways crazy-lady glances and started to come to me for advice on how to make it themselves.
Before I dive in, I want to stress that I am by no means an expert, and there are as many ways to brew kombucha as there are people brewing it. This post details the method that I use.
So What Is Kombucha & Why Should I Drink It?
Kombucha is a refreshing probiotic-rich drink produced by fermenting sugar-sweetened tea. The tea is fermented by a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), which is also referred to as the mother, a mushroom or (in my house) ‘the alien blob’. They are not pretty to look at, but a SCOBY is certainly a conversation starter.
Kombucha is purported to have significant health benefits, and is supposed to cure any number of health problems. I drink it because I like the taste, and I find it a simple way to get my daily dose of probiotics, although as an aside I do find that it does help my digestion.
What Is The Continuous Brew Kombucha Method?
I first started brewing kombucha in a large glass jar. Each new batch required me to remove the SCOBY, drain off the fermented tea, replenish the brew, then replace the SCOBY to start the next batch. It was a complete pain, and generated a lot of dishes.
Once I switched to the Continuous Brew Kombucha Method I have not looked back. The Continuous Brew method uses a large glass or ceramic drink dispenser with a tap at the bottom. Fermented tea is drawn off the bottom of the brew using the tap, and then fresh sweetened tea is poured into the top to replenish the fermentation process. It’s that simple. You can draw off as little or as much fermented tea as you like before replenishing the brew with new tea, which I find to be a significantly easier process than batch brewing.
Another major benefit of the Continuous Brew method is that the SCOBY remains in the fermentation vessel the entire time, which reduces the risk of contaminating your brew with mould and fungi
Continuous Brew Kombucha – My Method
As stated, I am no expert on this subject, and the method detailed here is the one I personally have had the most success with. Everybody has their own way of brewing kombucha, so tweak or change my method to suit your own situation. What is important here is the end result; a batch of fermented tea.
To start your Continuous Brew, you will require a SCOBY and at least one cup of fermented tea. There are three ways to obtain a SCOBY:
- Find somebody that already has a thriving brew and beg a SCOBY from them,
- Purchase a SCOBY online, or
- Make your own SCOBY from raw purchased kombucha.
I have specifically outlined the method I use in the recipe below, but the general process I use is as follows. Brew four cups of strong tea using black or green tea bags. Allow the tea bags to steep until the brew is cold, then squeeze out the tea bags and discard. Add 1/2 cup of raw sugar and 4 cups of filtered cold water, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Pour the sweetened tea into the drink dispenser, add the SCOBY and a cup of kombucha, and set the drink dispenser aside until a new SCOBY forms on top of the brew.The Continuous Brew #Kombucha Method is an easy way to ensure you always have a steady supply of this refreshing, probiotic-rich drink Click To Tweet
It is important to note here that you MUST NOT add your SCOBY to a hot tea brew, as hot water can kill your SCOBY.
When I first fill my drink dispenser, or after cleaning out the container, I repeat this process over a week until the container is full. To initially fill your dispenser, it is not necessary to wait until a new SCOBY is completely formed when adding your next batch of tea. Wait until a cloudy film forms on top of the tea (this is the start of the new SCOBY), and add your next batch of tea. This staged method of filling the dispenser allows each new batch of tea to ferment slightly before the next addition, which will speed up the complete fermentation of your brew.
After the addition of each new batch of tea, cover the mouth of the dispenser with cloth or muslin and secure with a rubber band. Do not put a lid on the jar, as Kombucha requires oxygen for fermentation. Set the drink dispenser aside somewhere it will not be disturbed, and wait for the new SCOBY to form.
Kombucha activity is very temperature dependent, so the tea will ferment faster in warmer weather. Start tasting the brew once a new SCOBY has formed and thickened. Mine takes about one week in summer and slightly longer in winter. The brew is ready when the taste is to your liking. I prefer mine to be quite acidic but The Princess likes it a little sweeter. If the brew is too sweet, allow it to ferment for a further day or two then taste again.
Once I am happy with the taste, I draw off enough for my immediate use using the tap at the bottom of the vessel, then brew more sweetened tea as above and pour this over the top of the newly formed SCOBY.
This process can continue indefinitely, although it may be necessary to clean the vessel occasionally to prevent spent yeast cells blocking the tap.
Secondary Fermentation: How To Make Your Kombucha Fizzy.
Freshly brewed kombucha is not fizzy. To add bubbles to your kombucha it must undergo a process known as secondary fermentation. This is also the best time to add flavour to your kombucha brew.
To create unflavoured fizzy kombucha, fill a flip top glass bottle (or similar) with freshly fermented kombucha, leaving a 10cm gap at the top of the bottle. Seal the lid and set the bottle on the kitchen bench for two – five days. When you see small bubbles developing in the brew, transfer the bottle to the fridge. Open the bottle with care (to prevent the contents covering the kitchen) and enjoy your sparkling kombucha drink.
If you wish to flavour the kombucha, add any flavourings to the bottle before topping of the bottle with fresh kombucha brew. Experiment with flavourings to find something you love. My favourites to date are:
- Fruit juice, both freshly squeezed and organic commercial varieties. When using fruit juice, I fill one-third of the glass bottle with fruit juice then top up the bottle with fresh kombucha.
- Fresh or frozen berries, particularly raspberries. Drop a handful of berries in the bottom of a wide mouth jar or bottle. Top up with fresh kombucha and seal. The brew is ready when the berries float on the top of the brew, and the colour from the berries has seeped out into the kombucha.
- Pomegranate & ginger. Drop a handful of pomegranate seeds and some slivers of fresh ginger into a wide mouth jar or bottle. Proceed as with the berry brew above.
I strain my secondary ferments before drinking, although this is personal preference and certainly not necessary. I just don’t like ‘bits’ in my drinks.
Some Final Thoughts On Continuous Brew Kombucha
Use green or black tea to make your initial Kombucha brew. Herbal teas will not work for the initial brew, but can be used to flavour your secondary ferment.
I use organic raw sugar to sweeten my tea. I have heard of others using rapadura, maple syrup or honey to sweeten the tea, however I have also read anecdotal reports that this can lead to the death of the SCOBY. I prefer not to take the chance.
A new SCOBY forms every time fresh sweetened tea is added to the vessel. Initially the top of the brew will seem covered in pond scum; this is perfectly normal. Over a few days this layer will thicken into a creamy white mat on the surface of the liquid.
Over time, the new SCOBY’s will form a thick layer in the jar. At this point, I remove some of the SCOBY’s to make room for more tea. These spare SCOBY’s can be composted, stored in a SCOBY hotel, or shared with friends. If you decide to gift your SCOBY, just make sure to include at least a cup of liquid so the recipient can start a new batch.
Contamination of a batch is unlikely, but it can happen. If grey, fuzzy mould starts to form on the SCOBY, discard the entire batch, including the SCOBY, and start again with a new SCOBY. As a new SCOBY forms, patches of what looks like white mould start to appear on the surface. However, this is related to the formation of the new SCOBY and is nothing to worry about.
From time to time, brown strands can be seen hanging off the SCOBY. These strands form from spent yeast cells and are a normal part of the fermentation process. Eventually they will drop to the bottom of the vessel, and form a brown filmy layer. This will not need to be removed unless it starts to interfere with the operation of the tap.
The interest in kombucha has seen an explosion in the number of books on the subject. Some of the favourites from my personal library include:
Delicious Probiotic Drinks: 75 Recipes for Kombucha, Kefir, Ginger Beer, and Other Naturally Fermented Drinks by Julie Mueller
Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Fixers, Elixirs, and Mixers by Stephen Lee
DIY Kombucha: 60 Nourishing Tonics for Health & Happiness by Katherine Green
Kombucha is just one small aspect of a huge range of fermented foods and drinks. If you wish to try other fermented foods, try my super easy lacto-fermented mayonnaise. And if you wish to research the fabulous topic of fermented foods further, I think there is no better place to start than the following books by Sandor Ellix Katz.
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Culture Foods.
The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around The World.
Continuous Brew Kombucha
- 6 black or green tea bags preferably organic
- 1/2 cup raw sugar preferably organic
- 4 cups boiling water
- 4 cups filtered cold water
- 1 kombucha SCOBY
- 1 cup kombucha tea from a previous batch
- You will also need a drink dispenser (or similar) with a minimum capacity of 12 cups.
- Place the tea bags in an 8 cup jug and add the boiling water.
- Allow the tea bags to steep until the brew is cold, then squeeze out the tea bags and discard.
- Add the raw sugar and filtered cold water to the jug.
- Stir to dissolve the sugar, then pour the sweetened tea into the drink dispenser.
- Add the cup of kombucha to the drink dispenser, and slide in the kombucha SCOBY.
- Cover the mouth of the vessel with cloth or muslin, and secure with a rubber band. Do not put a lid on the jar, as kombucha requires oxygen for fermentation.
- Set the drink dispenser aside somewhere it will not be disturbed, and wait for a new SCOBY to form on the top of the brew. You will also see small bubbles start to develop in the brew.
- Start tasting the brew once a new SCOBY has formed on the top of the liquid. The brew is ready when the taste is to your liking. I prefer mine to be quite acidic but other family members prefer a sweeter brew. If the brew is too sweet, allow it to ferment for a further day or two then taste again.
- Once the kombucha is to your liking, draw off enough of the brew to either drink or secondary ferment using the tap at the bottom of your drink dispenser and then repeat the process.
* This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
Great post Tania. I love buchi and have also been making water kefir with ginger and sultanas, turns out a bit like old fashioned ginger beer. My 4yo son drinks the Kombucha and it has helped decrease the number and severity of viruses he picks up from daycare.
Good on you for maintaining water kefir and Kombucha Jo. I couldn’t keep up with both, and found the Kombucha easier to handle once I started the Continuous Brew so I gave my water kefir away.
Lizzy (Good Things)
This is really interesting! Many thanks.
Pleasure Liz. If you decide you want to try it, I do know someone in Canberra with a SCOBY 😉
Hi Tania, It is a lot like making vinegar. Same principles, I guess. I am interested, very interested.
Kombucha and vinegar mothers are very, very similar Glenda. So much so that it was originally thought they were one and the same. However tests have shown they are different cultures. Let me know if you want a SCOBY to try 🙂
hi I have heard a lot lately about eating the Scoby, people have rolled it in bread crumbs and fried it. They say it tastes like vegetarian calamari.
Have you tried this before?
I have heard of people eating the SCOBY but haven’t done so myself. I’m not too sure why you would bother. Once you heat the SCOBY you will kill the probiotics, and I don’t know anything about the nutritional benefits of consuming it. Most of my spare SCOBY’s go to other people or the compost.
I am interested in learning to make kombucha. Is there somewhere in Canberra (prefer Tuggs) that I can get a SCOBY? what else do I need to start?
All you need to start Michelle is a SCOBY and a little bit of kombucha, and a large glass jar to put it in. I started with a 2L jar but now brew in larger quantities. I’m sorry I don’t know Canberra at all so can’t really help you there. Sometimes people advertise spare cultures in Gumtree. You could also try Pinkfarm; they may be able to put you in touch with someone. If you get really stuck, I did send one of my SCOBY’s to my friend in Canberra. She may not have killed it yet 🙂 and may have one to share. Drop me an email directly at [email protected]
Great information! I’m a beginner brewer and I can’t wait to try the first batch!
Thanks Cilda. I love my kombucha, so I hope yours goes well.
I have been making kombucha since March of this year. I want to also do the continuous brew. I have a few questions. I have a gallon jar of kombucha ready for Second fermentation–so do I pour it in my new vessel with a spout and drink it as it is-warm, as it sits on counter or should I rrerefridgerate? And if it is ready to drink do I add another Scoby? How far empty do I let the vessel empty until I add more? Thank you, Sally
Hi Sally. Once I draw off the kombucha from my continuous brew jar, I either refrigerate it and drink it as is, or I do a second fermentation before I drink it. You don’t need to add an additional scoby once the kombucha is ready to drink.
As to how far to empty your initial container, I just draw off the majority of the liquid until I reach the spigot and I can’t get any more out of my container. Then I refill it for the next brew.
Hope that all makes sense, but let me know if you need further clarification.
Enjoy your posts on kombucha, I’m just starting to brew my first batch. I have read that it is not good to expose the brew to plastic, so am wondering about the spigot on the continuous brew jar, Any comments?
I haven’t had any issues at all with mine Sally, and I have been using the same spigot for a couple of years now.
Hi I am in the process of doing continuous brewing and I am worried about the spout part of the glass jar, being metal and all?! Have you had any issues? Min is stainless steel but I am a rookie and am wanting to check and be confident!! Thank you!!!
Hi Kimmy, stainless steel should be fine, but only if you are confident that it is a high grade stainless stell. Otherwise I would be concerned that the acidity of the kombucha would rust the steel. If you are unsure, I would probably replace your spout with one purchased from a brewing supply shop, just to be safe.
Hi there, I recently grew my own scoby using store bought kombucha. I’m at the stage where I am about to transfer my brand new scoby into a beverage dispenser. If I grew my scoby using premade kombucha, and there is a fair amount of liquid left, is it necessary to add another cup of store bought ‘starter’ kombucha?
Hi Allison, if you have at least a cup of liquid from growing your starter, you should be fine. Otherwise I would probably add a bit more of the starter kombucha just to get things bubbling along (so to speak 😉 )
Thanks so much for this post! This is my first time making kombucha and your help has definitely contributed to my success so far. I am just about to try a second fermentation with my new batch and wonder about you straining “the bits” after it has gone through that second fermentation process. Do you then let it sit on the counter for a few days to carbonate? Or does it carbonate during that process. I feel as though straining would significantly decrease its’ carbonation, no? TIA 🙂
Thanks Rebecca 🙂 Glad to hear my post was helpful. The kombucha will carbonate during the second fermentation, and I only strain out the bits as I drink the kombucha. What I usually do is put a small strainer over my glass, and pour the kombucha into the glass. I try to keep as many of the “bits” in the bottle as possible so it continues to flavour the brew.
Leave your secondary fermentation to sit on the bench for a few days initially, which should carbonate your brew. Then shift it to the fridge and only strain as needed, and you should have a nice fizzy drink. Do bear in mind though that the carbonation of the second brew will be linked to the sugar content of your flavourings. So if you use a few herbs and spices, and no extra sugar for your secondary fermentation, you wont really get any extra carbonation. If you want to make it fizzy, either use juices, fruit with sugar or add a little sugar or maple syrup to your brew to boost carbonation.
I hope that makes sense. If not, please let me know and I’ll try to explain better 🙂
I’ve always wanted to do a continuous brew of kombucha but I’ve been worried about managing a SCOBY.. thanks for sharing this! It is a very helpful guide and I can’t wait to get into it finally.
Thanks Billy, I am glad you found it helpful. The worst that can happen is that you don’t add new tea for a while (thinks a month or so here) and the SCOBY top dries out. This will allow mould to grow on the SCOBY, and contaminate your entire brew. So just make sure the SCOBY is moist at all times, even if you are not adding extra tea. If you don’t want to add extra tea for a while, just poke the SCOBY under the liquid occasionally to keep it moist. And if you are really concerned about your ability to manage the SCOBY, just set up a SCOBY hotel so you have extras on hand if anything goes wrong :D.
Great post Tania, quite interesting…thanks for sharing
Thanks ROC. Pleasure 🙂
This is SUCH a helpful post, and has made me excited to get home and restart my brew! I had a really successful initial few batches and then over Winter lost steam a bit because it was always somehow both too sweet and too vinegary. I’m hoping it was just the temperature drop!
Thanks for this 🙂
I’m so glad you found it helpful Caoimhe 🙂 I would say it was definitely the temperature drop over winter that affected your brew. Kombucha definitely brews a lot better with a little warmth.
Thanks for the information been reading all that I can to start my first Brew. I’m wondering I live up in the north end of the states and winter is long and cold in the house is usually in the low 70s would it be beneficial to get a kombucha warmer or would that create more problems
I think that equates to around 20/21C Mardi. I wouldn’t worry about heating it. It gets colder than that in my house in winter and I can still brew kombucha. It will just take a little longer than it does in the summer months. Just keep it in a warmer part pf the house and it should be fine.
Hi Tania thank you for your post, it is very easy to follow. I’m a first-time brewer. I have two brews going, one green tea and the other black. When I first put the sobies in the respective brews they both sank to the bottom. It has been 8 days now and still at the bottom. New scobies have formed on the surface, a grey film. My question is does it matter that the scoby sinks? And do you know why?
So long as new scobies are forming on the surface Linn I wouldn’t worry about it. Sometimes my scobies sink, sometimes they float. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it. I wouldn’t only start to worry if new scobies aren’t forming.
Good luck with the brews!