Kombucha frequently asked questions
So you have just started to brew and now you are not sure what to do or where to start looking for help! Fear not we are here. Below we have complied a list of our most frequently asked questions and the answers. If you need any further assistance then do feel free to email us email@example.com or check out our blog which is full of help and advice.
KOMBUCHA + SCOBY BASICS
Q- What is Kombucha?
A-The quick answer is it is a fermented tea drink made using a scoby. It tastes a little like apple cider vinegar and is simple and easy to make at home. Kombucha contains a number of vitamins, particularly B vitamins.
If you want to learn more about kombucha please read our what is kombucha page
Q- So what does kombucha taste like?
A- Kombucha tea has a rich, earthy fruity taste which can vary greatly depending on the length of time it ferments, 7-30 days. This is one of the great things about making your own kombucha you can make it how you want it to taste.
- For a mild flavor, brew the kombucha for a shorter time at a lower temperature
- For a bolder, more vinegary taste, brew the kombucha for a longer time or at a warmer temperature.
Kombucha is very similar in taste to apple cider vinegar and can be flavoured with fresh fruits, juices or spices.
Q- How do i make kombucha?
The quick answer is you would make a batch of sweet tea (must be real tea, full instructions are provided) and then you float a kombucha scoby in the brew to ferment it.
If you want to learn how to make kombucha with our full instructions read here.
Q. Do kombucha cultures contain gluten, dairy, or animal products?
A-No our kombucha cultures contain no dairy, gluten or animal products and all ingredients used to grow the scobies are organic certified.
Q-What is a kombucha scoby made of?
You’re probably familiar with that leathery pancake we call a scoby. Scoby stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. “Symbiotic” means that the bacteria and yeast strains live together in a complex, mutually supportive community, supporting and depending on each other. The scoby is sometimes called the mushroom, because it resembles the smooth, thick body of a mushroom.The specific bacteria and yeast strains in the kombucha are what makes it act the way it does, and what produces the fizz and very distinctive flavour kombucha is known for.
All Kombucha Scobies are different but below is a list of the specific yeasts and bacteria that can typically be found found in a Kombucha Scoby*:
Acetobacter: This is an aerobic (requiring oxygen) bacteria strain that produces acetic acid and gluconic acid. This Yeast is always found in any Kombucha Scoby.
Saccharomyces: This includes a number of yeast strains that produce alcohol, and are the most common types of yeast found in kombucha.
Brettanomyces: Another type of yeast strain,commonly found in kombucha and produce alcohol or acetic acid.
Lactobacillus: A type of bacteria that is sometimes, but not always, found in kombucha. It produces lactic acid.
Pediococcus: These bacteria produce lactic acid and slime. They are sometimes, but not always, found in kombucha.
Gluconacetobacter kombuchae is a bacteria that is only found in kombucha. It feeds on nitrogen that is found in tea, and produces acetic acid and gluconic acid as well as building the scoby mushroom.
Zygosaccharomyces kombuchaensis is another yeast strain that is only found in kombucha. It produces alcohol and carbonation as well as contributing to the mushroom body.
(*We do not test for specific strains of yeasts or bacteria so make no promises or guarantee's in regards to our scobies. The above is for information only and is yeasts and bacteria that have been found in scobies not what is in our scobies.)
Kombucha also contains many other nutrients, particularly various acids and esters that give the drink its characteristic tang and fizz. Included in these components is gluconic acid, which is the primary difference between the makeup of kombucha and the makeup of apple cider vinegar!
The actual bacteria, sugar, and acid content of kombucha depends on many factors, including the culture you begin with, the type of tea used, the type of sugar used, the strength of the tea, the type of water, the length of time brewing, the temperature at which it is cultured, and more,what is common to all kombuchas is gluconic acid, acetic acid, and fructose.
Q- Are your cultures organic?
A-It is not possible for a kombucha culture to be organic as it comprises of only yeasts and bacteria. There is no such thing as an organic yeast or an organic bacteria so you cannot have an organic scoby. We do however only use organic certified ingredients to grow our scobies (certificates can be supplied), so they are organically grown but they are not "Organic".
Q. Are kombucha cultures reusable? How long will the culture last?
A-Yes, with proper care kombucha cultures can be reused many times. The cultures will multiply, and as a practical matter - you will likely recycle or compost older cultures after a few months or sooner. Each individual scoby can brew for around 6-9 months depending on how it is used but in reality you generally use the newest scoby you have so you will have switched to a new baby well before then.
Q- How do i know if my scoby is ok? It doesn't look the same as when it arrived.
A- Once you start brewing your scoby will very likely significantly change its appearance. They tend to get bumpy/lumpy have holes in them etc. This is all normal, a brewing scoby is not necessarily a pretty scoby. Scobies can also get bits of yeast chains etc. attached to them or incorporated in them this is also all normal.
Want to check if your scoby is ok? click here for some pictures of what is normal and what is not.
Q- What is the difference between a dehydrated scoby and a live fresh scoby?
A- We recommend dehydrated scobies for international deliveries, if you are planning to travel with your scoby or if you are giving the scoby as a gift as they are more shelf stable and do not require any special conditions to keep them happy and healthy. The outcome will be the same with either type of scoby. You will be able to make yummy kombucha with both but the dehydrated scobies need to be activated before use so they take longer to get brewing. If you live in the UK and are planning to use your scoby straight away then go with a live fresh scoby otherwise go with a dehydrated scoby.
Q- How do i know when my baby scoby is big enough to use on its own and what do i do with it until then?
During your brew you will notice that a new scoby will start to form as a thin white layer on the top of your brew (or as a new layer on the top of your scoby if your scoby is floating on the surface of your brew).
This scoby should be gently removed when your drink is ready and stored with the mother scoby. (don’t worry if mother and baby are fused together just leave them joined and your mother scoby will get bigger and bigger!) You then gently place the new scoby in your next batch. Keep doing this until your baby scoby is about ½ to ¾ inch thick. It is then ready to be used independently to brew with. Either use it to replace the mother Scoby or start another brew and make even more delicious Kombucha.
Please be careful when you start brewing with baby scobies as if you try to brew too much Kombucha with too small a scoby you risk getting Mold. Start with small batches and work up to a bigger volume as your scoby grows.
Q- My Scoby has arrived but i am not quite ready to start it yet, do i store it in the fridge before i use it?
A- NO, we do not advise that you ever store a kombucha culture in the fridge as it can lead to mold when you start to use it. There is nothing perishable in a scoby so there is no need for it to ever be refrigerated. Simply store your scoby at room temperature for up to 4 weeks. Keep away from any direct sources of heat (radiators etc) and out of direct sunlight.
Q- Can i make my own kombucha taste like the kombucha i buy in the shops?
A- Yes, you might have to do a bit of experimentation with different tea's and ingredients, brew times and temperature but there is no reason why you cannot make your own kombucha taste like shop bought.
Q. What supplies will I need for making kombucha tea?
A- Making kombucha doesn't require anything too fancy. You will need tea, sugar and a scoby plus a container to brew in.
Want to know the best containers to use, read more about choosing the right equipment here
Q. Is there a specific type of sugar should I use to make kombucha? What type of tea? What type of water?
You need to use a real tea to brew kombucha so it must be from the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) this includes green tea, blue tea, white tea and black tea.
You need to be careful as some tea's that we consider tea are not actually from the tea plant mate or rooibos (redbush) for example and are therefore not suitable. Fruit infusions cannot be used and you should not use tea that has been flavoured during the brewing stage (Earl grey for example) although they can be used to flavour your drink after the brew.
In regards to sugar, kombucha does not like highly mineralised sugars so the lighter the sugar the better and although you can technically use coconut or rapadura sugar we find that cane sugar works best (and tastes best).
Water can be really easy or really tough it depends where you live. Good old fashioned tap water is fine to use so long as it does not have fluoride added. You can check this with the company that supplies your water. Tap water should be boiled and cooled to remove the chlorine BUT you will do this anyway in the process of making the tea.
If you have a natural water source (spring, well or bore) then do be careful as natural bacteria in the water can contaminate your brew and or scobies. We do not recommend this as a source of water.
Bottled water can be used but try to select one that is not sparkling, does not contain high amounts of minerals and look carefully to make sure there are no additives.
Q- Do you have any video's that show you how to make kombucha?
A-yes our video instructions can be viewed here
Q- What is the difference between batch method and continuous method brewing?
A- These are simply two different brewing methods. The end result will be the same in both instances. If you are a complete newbie then i would recommend starting with the batch method as it is simpler and a bit easier.
The main difference between the two methods is the equipment needed and the volume that you will be able to brew.
To brew using the batch method you simply need a plain container/jar (To see our range of kits click here)
To see our batch method video instructions click here
To brew using the continuous method you need a vessel that contains a tap (To see our ange of kits click here)
To see our continuous method video instructions click here
You can brew more kombucha quickly using the batch method but this is only a benefit if you are actually going to drink this much kombucha. If you are not planning on drinking a lot of kombucha the batch method will likely be better. If you do not draw off from the brew often enough with the continuous method it can get very sour and mature.
Q. How long should I brew my kombucha?
A-This really depends on the temperature and personal preferance. Kombucha can be brewed from 7 to 30 days. A longer brewing time results in less sugar and a more vinegary-flavored beverage. A shorter brew will give a more fruity sweet drink. Keep in mind that temperature will play a role in how quickly the kombucha cultures.
Q. Can I use less sugar or alter any ingredients used to make kombucha?
A. We strongly recommend following the tea/sugar/water/starter tea ratios indicated in our instructions. These ratios encourage a proper balance, which discourages the growth of mold and the spoiling of the batch. It also helps ensure the SCOBY gets enough nutrients to stay happy and healthy. We are not saying that our method is the only correct method out there and you will find many different recipes online however we have successfully helped thousands and thousands of people learn to brew with this method and find that it works. We can only advise on brews that have been made following our instructions and would strongly encourage customers to only use an alternative method once they are experienced and know what problems/issues to looks out for. We would also add that most of the recipes that you will find online are designed for the American market and whilst they are not incorrect they are designed for an American audience, brewing in completely different environment to here in the UK. Due to the widely differing brewing conditions here in the UK a slightly different method is required.
Q. Can I culture my kombucha tea in a cupboard, or on a windowsill, etc.?
A-Brewing kombucha tea in a cupboard is perfectly fine (check the temperature is acceptable). However, do not put kombucha tea in direct sunlight. It is important to keep fermenting kombucha out of direct sunlight and away from excessive heat or cold. The kombucha brew does not have to be kept in the dark, so on the kitchen counter for example is fine it just should not be kept in direct sunlight.
Q. I'm brewing my first batch of kombucha using the culture. It doesn't seem to be doing anything. How can I know if it's working properly?
A-Often when brewing visibly not much happens, it sometimes bubbles, sometimes it does not. So this is not a sign of the success of a brew.
Basically the signs to look for are:
- The kombucha becoming slightly cloudy.
- The brew should start to smell vinegary
- The brew may smell a bit yeasty
- A few good signs the kombucha fermentation process is proceeding normally include the formation of a new kombucha culture over the opening of the brewing container, development of brown stringy yeast particles, and the liquid becoming less sweet and more vinegar-like.
we advise testing your kombucha around day 5-7. It should no longer taste like tea, sour and vinegary and a little like apple cider vinegar. The longer you leave the brew the less sugar will be left in it and the more sour it will taste.
Q. If I’m making other cultured foods (yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, fermented veggies etc.), how far apart do I need to keep the cultures?
A- We suggest keeping a distance of at least 4 feet between items or opposite sides of the room. When your cultured items are being stored in the refrigerator with tight-fitting lids, there is no need to keep distance between them. Yogurts are very very sensitive to cross contamination so we would advise keeping them in a different room if possible.
Q. Help, i've lost my instructions, Where can I view the instructions for making kombucha?
A- our instructions can be viewed on the website or via our app on your tablet or phone.
To view the instructions online please click here
To download our app to view them on your phone or tablet (available for android or iphone/ipad) click here
Our app is free to download and advert free.
Q- Where do i get starter tea from and is it needed?
A- All of our live fresh scobies include enough starter tea for your first brew in the batch (The procedure is different for dehydrated scobies- simply follow the instructions for those) so you do not need extra starter tea. You then use a small amount of your first brew to start off your next brew and so on.
Q- How do i flavour my Kombucha?
A-Kombucha should always be flavoured once it is brewed. You should never add extra flavours to your brew as it may damage your scoby or can cause mold.
You can change the flavour quite significantly just by changing the tea you are brewing with or by blending different teas (green and black tea for example) so experiment with different teas (must be a real tea though).
Once the kombucha is brewed and bottled then you can add flavours if you wish. Herbs, spices, fruits, fruit infusions or fruit juices can all be used to flavour.
When flavouring we suggest a ratio of 1/3 flavour (Juice, fruit tea etc) 2/3 kombucha but there are no hard and fast rules on this. Experiment and see what works best for you.
Q- How can i get more fizz in my Kombucha?
It is not unusual for the first couple of batches to not be very fizzy, this is due to the scoby settling in. If after a few batches you are still not getting much fizz then it may simply be that you need to tweak how you are brewing or how you are storing your kombucha.
Please note kombucha brewed using the continuous method is often much less fizzy than the batch method.
The fizziness of Kombucha has no affect on the nutrient or pro-biotic content of the drink.
Q. Will kombucha scobies multiply?
A- Each time you brew a batch of Kombucha tea a new starter culture will form on the surface of the brew. The original starter culture ("the mother") and the new starter culture ("the baby") can each be used to brew a new batch of kombucha tea. See above for how to look after and use baby scobies.
Please note if you are using a dehydrated Scoby it can take a few brews to start forming baby scobies.
Q. My kombucha has been fermenting for a few days and is developing a cloudy layer/film on top. Is this normal?
A. Yes. The cloudy white layer is the beginning of a new baby kombucha culture. The formation of a new culture is one sign that your batch of kombucha is fermenting properly. It will start off looking like a film on the top of the brew and will get thicker. The speed at which the baby scoby starts to form and grow depends on temperature. Not all baby scobies form in a uniform manner so it can grow in patches. This is also normal.
Q. My kombucha tea has been fermenting for a little while and is developing brown stringy particles (some look like tentacles coming off my scoby!). Is this normal?A- The brown stringy particles are yeast particles and are harmless and will form in all brews. They are a natural byproduct of the fermentation process. You can strain/filter them out of the finished kombucha if desired but can be consumed.
Q- My Kombucha Scoby is not floating/it has sank to the bottom/is floating in the middle. Is this normal?
A- The culture may sink, float or sit sideways. Any of these is normal and will not affect the brewing process. It is possible for a scoby to do all of the above during a single brew.
Q- I had to fold my scoby to fit in the jar will this affect the brew?
A- No it does not matter, so long as the scoby is in the sweet tea, its position in the tea does not matter.
Q. One of my Scobies has a hole in it or is split into pieces because I had to separate it from mother culture after they fused. Can I still use it?
A- Yes, Kombucha scobies will still work even if they have holes, tears or are in pieces.
Q- My scoby is now huge and my kombucha is getting very vinegary, do i need to trim my scoby and how do i trim it?
A- Yes, your kombucha getting off the charts sour/vinegary very quickly is generally a sign that you have too much scoby and is usually an issue with continuous brewing (where you can grow some monster scobies!)
Q. Does the size of the kombucha culture matter in relation to how much kombucha I will be brewing?
A- Yes, especially here in the UK where you are brewing at the lower end of the kombucha temperature scale. In theory you can brew many litres of Kombucha from a tiny scoby BUT only if the scoby is powerful enough and only in the right environment. As the brewing temperatures here in the UK are quite low the reality is you will simply get mold.
Basically if you do not have enough scoby for the volume of tea you are trying to brew their is high risk of mold. If you have too much scoby the brew will simply go faster and may be a little vinegary so always best to be safe.
We recommend that you do not brew more than 2L per brew with one of our large scobies and 1L per brew with one of our medium scobies (we cannot offer advise on scobies purchased elsewhere).
Q. I've been brewing my kombucha for a while and now have more scobies than i need. What can I do with them?
A- There are lots of things you can do with your left over scobies but really it depends on how adventurous you are feeling.
BOTTLING STORING AND SECOND FERMENTATION
Q-How do i store my Kombucha once it is ready?
A-Kombucha should be stored in an airtight glass fermenting bottle ideally. Plastic PET bottles can be used but are not advisable for long term storage. When using glass bottles we cannot stress the importance of using bottles designed for fermentation enough. Fermentation bottles are made of thicker glass and are specifically designed to be able to withstand the pressure of second fermentation. Please be aware that Kilners range of Fermentation bottles are blue/brown (see below) if you have a clear glass bottle from Kilner , IT IS NOT SUITABLE FOR CARBONATED DRINKS only kilner bottles that are like the one below are suitable for kombucha (or water kefir).
Please note our bottles are clear but this is because they are not made by kilner. It is only clear Kilner branded bottles that are not suitable, if they are fermenting bottles that are pressure tested (ours are) then they are suitable. It is not the colour per say that is important it is the type of glass they are made from and non of the clear glass swing lids bottles that are manufactured by kilner are suitable for carbonated drinks.
If you use an incorrect bottle they can explode.
Q. Is there any danger of the glass container exploding under the carbonation pressure when bottling kombucha?
A. While it is possible for bottles to explode, it is more common for lids to fly off, or the kombucha to come spray out particularly when being opened. We recommend keeping your whole hand over the lid of the container as you open it. Check bottles for cracks or imperfections before use AND ALWAYS USE A SUITABLE BOTTLE.
Q- How should i store my kombucha and for how long?
A-Kombucha and water kefir can be kept either refrigerated or at room temperature for up to 2 years (consume within 10 days of opening), although watch out for the build up of naturally occurring carbonation if kept at room temperature! beware exploding bottles. The naturally acidic pH of ripe Kombucha means conditions are favourable for the growth of the kombucha culture, and inhibit the growth of molds and bacteria. In fact, as long as your Kombucha/kefir has been kept in an appropriate container (glass is best) it will just continue to mature and will eventually become like vinegar which has a multitude of uses of its own: use it in salad dressings, as a hair tonic / rinse to de-toxify and get rid of product build-up, as a non toxic cleaner or as a marinade.
Q. How can I reduce the amount of sugar in the finished kombucha?
A-The longer you leave your kombucha (either brewing or conditioning in the bottle) the less sugar it will contain (but also the more sour/vinegary it will taste). At the end of a18- 30 day fermentation period, there is generally very little sugar remaining. Do not reduce the amount of sugar that you initially put into the brew as this can actually mean more sugar ending up in the final drink if the fermentation process does not fully complete. For lower sugar in your final brew or second ferment for longer and do not flavour with ingredients that will add to the sugar content.
Q. Does finished kombucha contain alcohol?
A. Yes, as with all cultured and fermented foods, a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol is typically present in the finished product. Although the amount containted in kombucha will vary from batch to batch, the amount should be quite small, worth considering in regards to giving it to children.
Q-I am going on holiday, help what do I do with my scoby while I am away?
A-Scobies are actually very hardy cultures so just keep culturing. One of the few downsides to kombucha is that as they are live and natural there is no off switch. Scobies do not do well in the fridge so the best thing to so is just carry on brewing. while the normal brewing time for a batch of kombucha is 7-30 days, it is possible to allow a batch of kombucha to brew for up to 6 weeks, as long as the culturing area is not too warm. Ensure that if you are using any heat trays etc they are switched off and we would recommend changing the sweet tea in your brew just before you go so they have the maximum nutrients to keep them going while you are away. The kombucha that is brewed while you are away may be too vinegary to be palatable but can still be used as starter tea to start off you next batch. Kombucha can be left for up to 6 weeks before it needs to be fed again.
Q-What about my stored kombucha while i am away, as i won't be able to burp it?
A- This can be tricky as you do not want to come back to a cupboard full of leaky bottles. I find that removing the lid and covering either with cling film secured with an elastic band works. Then if the pressure gets too high in any of the bottles it should simply burst the cling film. I also find the chiller bags that you can get at the supermarket (the kind you are supposed to use to take your chilled food home in) works really well as if you do get any leaky bottles while you are away in contains the mess. Simply pop the bottles in the bag and seal it shut. Keeping the bottles stored somewhere cool will help.
Q- Is Kombucha safe to drink?
A-Kombucha tea is safe to drink and even the American Federal Drug Administration has indicated it is safe provided it is prepared in a clean manner (this is the same for any other food or beverage you are planning to consume). Like other food it is possible that the tea can become spoiled. But the risk of this happening is no greater than for any other food or beverage probably even less for Kombucha because it is a fermented beverage which contains some alcohol and is highly acidic. Alcohol helps to inhibit contamination. Millions of people all over the world drink Kombucha daily and only see positive benefits from doing so. (unfortunatley we are not allowed to make any specific health claims but we suggest researching Kombucha further to learn more about its purported benefits, you will be amazed by what you find). A lot of people pose the safety question about Kombucha because they mistakenly believe it to be a mushroom and they are aware that some mushrooms are poisonous. Kombucha is not a mushroom; it is something more like lichen, a simple plant. Please be aware if you are on any kind of medication that Kombucha may not mix well with your medication so consult your doctor before you start drinking Kombucha and if you are diabetic we suggest you speak to your GP before drinking. This is because during the fermentation the glucose that you initially put in the brew is turned into Fructose and this can be problematic for those with diabetes therefore seek the advice of your GP before you consume.