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Brew your own kombucha
We think that brewing kombucha at home is an easy, fun activity that results in a delicious, healthy beverage. Brewing your own kombucha is also much less expensive than buying it in a store. Plus, you have the advantage of tailoring the finished beverage to your own taste buds and creating interesting flavors.
Home brewing does not take a lot of fancy equipment, and if you do any kind of cooking, you are likely to have a lot of the equipment already. One of the main things you do need is a large jar in which to brew the kombucha. This is the jar to which you will add water, tea, sugar and the SCOBY and in which the first fermentation takes place.
Kombucha brewing jar requirements
The kombucha brewing container needs to be:
- large enough to produce a reasonable size batch of kombucha
- made of a material that is safe for brewing
- of a size that fits into your kombucha brewing space
- easy to keep clean
- able to be moved easily
Kombucha brewing jar size recommendations
Most folks starting out to brew kombucha at home, start fairly small, and that is probably a good idea. It does take a little while to get the hang of home brewing. You also want to discover whether brewing kombucha is something that you enjoy enough to put in the time and effort that it takes.
Brewing a one gallon batch of kombucha is a good quantity to begin with. So, we recommend starting with a one gallon glass jar. Fortunately, these are easy to find for no cost, or at very little cost.
One gallon jars are often called pickle jars, because for a long time pickles came in this size jar for use in stores and restaurants.
One gallon size glass jars are still used at restaurants who buy mayonnaise, salad dressings and other food products in that quantity, including of course, pickles. You may also find food products in one gallon jars at the big box stores.
To get one for free, you can ask at your local restaurant, or decide if you need a gallon of something that comes in that size jar, buy it and keep the jar for brewing kombucha.
Sometimes a bigger kombucha brewing vessel is better
You will bottle your one gallon of brewed kombucha into about eight sixteen ounce bottles. So, if your brewing cycle takes about a week, that is how much kombucha you can drink each week. That is probably enough for one person’s daily consumption.
Once you are on the kombucha home brewing train, you will likely begin to drink kombucha regularly and want to share it with family and friends. Pretty soon, you may find that those folks are using any excuse to drop by and drink some of your delicious, nutritious, home brewed booch.
At this point, you will want to brew a larger quantity of kombucha at a time. It doesn’t really take much more time to brew a larger batch of kombucha—you just need to get a larger fermentation jar. Or you could just get another one gallon jar and brew two jars at once.
Most brewers will need a heat mat to maintain their fermentation at the right temperature, especially in colder weather, so if you have two brewing vessels, you will need two heat mats—something to consider when the time comes.
Ultimately, we found that a two and one half gallon brewing vessel was just about right for us. But each brewer has their own needs, so of course, it is up to you.
Why wider kombucha brewing jars work better
Wider brewing jars brew faster. Here’s why. The wider the jar, the larger the SCOBY grows, since the new SCOBY always grows to cover the top of the fermenting brew. Also, wider jars allows the SCOBY to get more of the oxygen it craves.
Best kombucha brewing jar materials
Glass kombucha brewing jars
So far, we have been only been recommending jars made of glass. We like glass jars because they are inexpensive and easy to keep clean. Since the mouth should be wide enough to get your hand into, it is easy to scrub away residue. It is also handy to be able to see into the jar and check on how your SCOBY is doing.
Porcelain or ceramic kombucha brewing containers
Porcelain is a kind of ceramic—the names are used interchangeably. They can work fine for brewing kombucha and many brewers like them.
One very important fact to know is that some ceramics are made with lead, which is poisonous to both the SCOBY and you. Lead is a heavy metal that is very dangerous to ingest and causes serious medical problems for those that get it into their bodies by mistake.
If the jar was manufactured with any lead in it or in the glaze, some of it will end up in your brew. For safety, you must be absolutely sure that any ceramic jar that you use for brewing, is lead-free.
Ceramic jars are easy to keep clean if they have wide mouths. Most are sturdy and thicker than glass, which makes them heavier to move around. Ceramic can also scratch or chip, so just like glass kombucha brewers, it is important to keep a good grip when moving it around.
This Brio Solid Porcelain Ceramic Crock is 100% lead and cadmium free, and suitable for brewing kombucha. It comes in eight colors including this pretty dark blue. It holds 2-1/2 gallons which is a good size for most brewers. You should replace the plastic spigot with a stainless steel one (see below).
Current price = Out of stock
Stainless steel kombucha brewing fermenters
Much high end brewing equipment is constructed of stainless steel. These containers can be used to brew kombucha at home. Stainless steel containers come in many sizes, including very large ones, so if you want to brew large quantities of kombucha, they may be your only choice.
Steel is easy to clean, strong, and won’t break if you bump or drop it. It can also be easily fitted with a valve near the bottom which makes putting the brewed kombucha into bottles easy.
Of course, you can’t see through the side of your steel fermenter, so you won’t have the pleasure of peeking in on your fermentation. The other disadvantage of steel is the cost, but steel fermenters are a good choice for the serious home kombucha brewer.
For brewing even larger quantities of kombucha, stainless steel brew kettles like this 10 gallon Concord Stainless Steel Home Brew Kettle are available in sizes that hold up to 45 gallons. Made from high quality, fully polished, 304 stainless steel, it is suitable for both home and commercial kombucha brewing. These also come with a stainless steel spigot and a thermometer.
Current price = Check on Amazon
Plastic kombucha brewing containers
Yes, you can brew kombucha in a plastic bucket. For larger than two gallon batches of kombucha, a food grade plastic bucket is an inexpensive choice.
These are readily available at your local brewing supply store and online because many home beer brewers use them. You’ll want to be sure to only use plastic that is designed for food. Other types of plastic can leach chemicals into your batch of kombucha.
Plastic brewing containers are light and easy to move around, won’t break if you drop them and can be cleaned easily. Plastic does tend to scratch though. Scratches are a problem because bacteria likes to grow there and you don’t want any foreign beasties growing inside your kombucha!
We generally don’t recommend brewing in plastic containers because over time, plastic can add unpleasant flavors to kombucha. You can’t see into food grade plastic containers which are opaque white, so it is harder to keep an eye on your brew. Also, let’s be honest, plastic is ugly. We prefer to have an elegant glass or ceramic brewing container sitting on our kitchen counter!
If you want to brew large batches of kombucha at the lowest cost, a five gallon plastic bucket will work. Be sure to keep it clean, sanitized, and avoid scratches. You will also want to replace the spigot, if it comes with one, with a stainless steel spigot (see below).
A note on kombucha brewing container spigots
After your kombucha has completed brewing (fermentation one), the kombucha is transferred into bottles. We always add some flavoring ingredients at this stage of the process because we love creating new recipes and delicious flavor combinations.
If you are brewing in a smaller (one gallon or so) container, you can simply pour your finished brew (after removing the SCOBY) into a pitcher and then use a funnel to bottle it. But larger kombucha brewing vessels are unwieldy to pick up and pour from, so you need an easier way to get the finished brew into bottles.
Some glass, ceramic, and plastic brewing vessels come with spigots attached near the bottom. Most of these are made of plastic and are not food safe for use with kombucha brewing. They are likely to leak. Furthermore, you will find that the SCOBY will grow right inside the spigot and when you open it, nothing will come out.
There are available stainless steel spigots that we can recommend. They are specifically designed for brewing. They are food safe and can be easily attached to a container with the right sized hole. They are easy to keep clean and safe for the SCOBY.
More choices in quality stainless steel spigots
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Transferring brewed kombucha from the brewing jar into bottles
If you don’t have a brewing jar with a spigot, it is still easy to transfer the kombucha into the bottles with an autosiphon. They work well, are easy to keep clean and inexpensive to buy.
The proper covering for a kombucha brewing jar
Whatever kind of brewing container that you decide on, you won’t need the lid or cover that it comes with. Remember that the SCOBY depends on oxygen to ferment your tea and sugar solution into delicious kombucha.
So you must tightly cover your fermentation container with a cloth covering. You want one that has a tight enough weave to keep out insects and dust, but can still let air in. We have always found that a cloth napkin or handkerchief works perfectly and that is what we recommend.
Some brewers report success using a paper coffee filter, but these are more difficult to tightly attach to the fermenter and must be replaced often. We frankly don’t see any advantage to using them.
You also don’t want to use is cheesecloth, because the weave is too open to keep your brew safe. And you don’t want to use any type of lid that keeps the air out.
There are a few ways to secure the cloth around the top of your brewing jar; you could use a piece of string or wire. Our favorite way though is with a large rubber band like these. Rubber bands are easy to take on and off so that you can check on your SCOBY whenever you want to with minimum fuss.
Kombucha brewing jars that are unsuitable for brewing
Some types of containers won’t work well for brewing kombucha. Here is a list of some jars that are not made of a material for safe kombucha brewing.
Plastic or rubber containers that are not food safe.
All plastic containers are manufactured from materials derived from oil, natural gas, or coal. They often contain many other kinds of chemicals that are not safe for human consumption. The SCOBY is a very active organism and can dissolve out chemicals from the plastic and create a brew full of chemical compounds that you do not want to drink.
Metals other than stainless steel
Most metals are not good for the SCOBY and not good for you to ingest. Only high quality stainless steel will prevent the SCOBY from leaching metal compounds into your kombucha. Stay away from containers made of copper, aluminum, or low grade steel.
Lead crystal glass
All crystal glass contains lead. As mentioned, this is a heavy metal that is very dangerous and causes serious medical problems when ingested.
Colored glass containers
Most colored glass also contain lead, a very dangerous metal to have in your kombucha. These jars are quite pretty, but don’t be tempted to use them to brew kombucha.