Homebrewing Kombucha

Hi Steepsterites! I have recently been learning more about kombucha after getting a bottle on a whim from the co-op, and I’d really like to start brewing my own. Since deciding this, I’ve had a lot of questions: What is the best brewing container for continuous brewing, which is the style that has the most appeal to me? (I’ve seen a lot of companies offering glass or lead-free ceramic containers with spouts. The chemical-phobic part of me is really determined to find one of these with a spout that is either not plastic or some sort of really safe plastic.)

And on another front, is the whole kombucha deal safe and healthy? I mean, I’ve read all sorts of things about how good it is for you—and I do feel that it’s made me feel good when I drink it, which is the most important test—but do I have anything to be concerned about with a) acid intake or b) aggravating my fairly low blood pressure? I feel like everything I read has an agenda: either to encourage people to brew kombucha or to say that it’s a completely dangerous unregulated substance that should be avoided at all costs. I most certainly lean toward the former, but I want to be prudent in making this decision to start brewing or not. I know some people out there in the Steepster universe homebrew, and I would love to hear what actual people have to say about it.


6 Replies

I don’t personally make or brew kombucha, but my mother did for a couple years, when I was a kid. I tried it at the time, and really didn’t enjoy it.

Funnily enough, I do remember what she brewed it in, which were 1-gallon pickle jars. This makes a lot of kombucha purists cringe, due to the metal/tin lid on the glass container.

For the sake of cleanliness, she actually had a three jar process (well, two jars and a pitcher). The current batch was done in one jar. After the fermentation cycle was finished, she transferred the ‘finished’ tea into a pitcher (think your everyday tupperware pitcher), and then moved the mother into a second pickle jar with new tea. Then she sterilized the first jar, and it waited around for the next cycle.

The baby was either given to someone, if she had a foster parent lined up, or tossed in the garden as compost, I think. I want to say she did it on a two week process, but I could totally be wrong.

Regarding the danger – maybe? My mother has a fairly compromised immune system, and it was less severe when I was a kid, but it still wasn’t 100%. Anecdotally, she never had any issues due to the kombucha.

But there are two things to be wary of.

1) Fermenting anything, be it kombucha, beer, wine, whatever… if can go south real quick if the environment isn’t kept fairly sterile. You’re creating a almost perfect environment for bacteria to grow (arguably, this is the point). Whether it’s the right bacteria or not can be hard to control, unless you’re really up on your cleanliness.

2) It’s a living, growing fungus. If logic serves, fungal agents can complicate a LOT of issues.

Neither of these are specific kombucha problems though.

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mbanu said

Dark glass would probably be best, as kombucha is slightly acidic, and sensitive to light. There have been cases of lead poisoning from folks drinking kombucha brewed in ceramic. :)

Is it safe and healthy? The current answer is “we don’t know”. :) The scientific research that has been done on kombucha has had mixed results. Rare but serious health dangers have been reported (a young man with AIDS hospitalized with lactic acidosis after drinking kombucha, a group of elderly folks made dangerously sick by a bad kombucha culture they had shared with one another etc.), but there is also research showing that properly-brewed kombucha can help lower cholesterol and help the liver with certain problems. Part of the challenge is that limited formal research has been done on what should and what shouldn’t be in kombucha, so detecting bad batches is a matter of folk wisdom. :) Having a good starter culture, and learning from an experienced brewer are your best tickets to success. Good kombucha can introduce flavors to tea that you will taste nowhere else. :)

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David Lau said

I just came across a really cool Kombucha company here in the bay area called House Kombucha. The use Red Blossom Tea Company’s teas. They also have some great info on their website. http://housekombucha.food.officelive.com/default.aspx
Check it out

Thanks, David! I’m really excited to get started. I’m going to ask around campus if anyone has experience/equipment/expertise…I’m at college, so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone!

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DukeGus said

I do brew kombucha but it’s late here so I’ll try to give some info tomorrow :)

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Jason admin said

Found this article recently. Might be of help.

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