Brewing Tips

Bad Internet!

There is a lot of information on the internet about how to make kombucha. Most of our advice that we teach in our classes is contrary to 90% of what is done and said elsewhere. At Pure Luck® we are purists and don’t believe in shortcuts. When we speak, we speak directly from years of experience and reference research and studies done by universities and scientists. The internet is ripe with poorly thought out, recycled information.

So heres our disclaimer, you can do whatever you want. Really, there are so many factors when comes to fermentation. But, you might want to hear us out. Most people reading this probably never drank Pure Luck® – Pure Kombucha™, and maybe you should give us a try. Food and Wine magazine named us one of the top 5 kombucha brands in America in 2017, out of 100’s of brand submissions, so we must be doing something right. 🙂

Our first suggestion to would be kombucha brewers is, when you start making kombucha acquire cultures from multiple sources. Biodiversity is a great thing. And maybe you are asking yourself right now. What do we know, right?

Who makes our kombucha?

Brand founder and Head Brewmaster, Brett Casper. Overseeing every batch, he has a decade of kombucha brewing experience. Combined with 20 years of tea brewing experience. Gleaned from learning sessions with 9th generation tea masters in Hong Kong, ceremonial experts in Japan and American tea masters like Josh Kaiser, the founder of Rishi Tea. Multiply that by a mild obsession with the history of tea, thousands of blending and tasting sessions and a background in Chemistry and Physics.

You could say our brewmaster is a bit of a nerd. All the information you will find here is from proven, reliable sources, masters of craft and our own scientific methods and experience.

Kombucha starts with tea, water and sugar. Your choice of base ingredients is extremely important to create a delicious, healthy kombucha. Always, use organic ingredients.

First, and most important. If you drink kombucha for the probiotics, antioxidants and detoxifying beneficial acids then, you are going to want to ferment your kombucha a minimum of 21 days, otherwise its going to be just mostly sugar and tea.

Brewing Tea

*Loose leaf teas are best

1) Never brew tea in metal, aluminum or plastic – Tea is acidic and will leach the taste and chemicals used from your brew vessel

2) Use the right brewing temperature, different teas have different brewing temperatures that work best – Too high a temperature will result in a bitter tasting brew and “off flavors”

3) Measure the tea properly – Too much tea to water ratio will result in “off flavors” and bitterness, too little tea will result in a flat taste

4) Compost the tea – Tea makes excellent compost, it actually has very high contents of things necessary for the soil and plants

Kombucha Myth – You can only make kombucha with a blend of green and black tea. Actually, you can make kombucha with almost any tea. And you can blend in almost any herb or dried berries/ fruits you like.

Water

Water will make or break your tea and by relation your kombucha. Distilled water is no good because it hasn’t got any minerals, and never use tap water. Tap water is full of chemicals, chlorine and deposits from the pipes. Mineral water and spring water are best to brew tea.

* Choose a water with a pH of 7 – that’s neutral

SCOBY’s

*ALWAYS ferment in glass

If you care about your health or the planet, we ask that you please don’t buy SCOBY’s or kombucha packaged in plastic. Yes, lately, everyone seems to sell SCOBY’s this way. But it wasn’t always like this. If more people bucked this system and demanded purity, we would be better off collectively.

If you care about purity, then you might like to know that the starter culture is usually the most acidic form of kombucha, having completed a full cycle it’s pH is probably below 3.0. You also might like to know. Acids (kombucha) leach plastic, this is a scientific fact.

*Cleanliness, purity and sterility are the most important things to making delicious kombucha. Make sure your glass vessel is clean and sterilized before adding your tea and cultures. Distilled vinegar works well and so does very hot water to sanitize.

*Never add your cultures to hot tea. Wait for it to cool. When a new SCOBY is forming it doesn’t like vibrations, moving or to be disturbed at all. So let your new baby grow in peace for the first week.

*To avoid mold on top of your SCOBY keep it moist.

*When collecting starter culture for your next batch, always take it from the top of your last batch of kombucha. At the bottom is where all the yeast have gone dormant and you don’t want those because in your next batch, it will make the bacteria to yeast ratios of of sync.

PRO TIP: After you collect your starter culture to make your next batch wait until that culture has completed a full 30 days of fermentation. For Example: If you bottled your kombucha at 21 days wait 9 more days before making the next batch. Making the cycle a complete 30 days. It’s also totally OK to let your starter culture sit at room temperature for 40, 50, 60+ days. Just make sure the SCOBY stays moist. When you add this starter to your next batch theres no need to mix up the yeasts at the bottom of the jar. Please note that if you added juice or fruit to your cultures this method won’t work. Only pure kombucha will be safe at room temperature indefinitely.

*Something to consider – We have stored our Pure Kombucha™ starter cultures at room temperature for years (sealed in airtight bottles) and used to them to make kombucha again. The first batch is usually not so great but after a couple batches they are just like new again. 🙂

Myth number #1 – A SCOBY is “fast” or “strong” because it is thick. Sorry to burst your bubble, but, these SCOBY”s are just old and have many layers. Compost grandpa SCOBY’s. Fresh, young SCOBY’s are better. You only want the top layer. The rest don’t matter and just take up space.

*Consider how much volume that fat, old SCOBY takes up in your vessel, that could be many more glasses of kombucha for you to drink!

**Something to imagine – You have a friend named Bob. Bob never changes his clothes. Every couple weeks Bob just puts a new pair of clothes on over top of his old pair of clothes. Bob is your SCOBY.

***When a new SCOBY is formed, it forms on top of the old SCOBY. The only SCOBY that matters is the new SCOBY on top. Peel the top layer and compost the rest. A new SCOBY will form every time you make a new batch of kombucha. You don’t even need the whole thing. If it breaks, no big deal.

Just like Bob should remove and discard his dirty old clothes. So should your SCOBY.

Myth number #2 – Which came first? The culture or the SCOBY? You don’t need a SCOBY to make kombucha, only the starter culture. A new SCOBY will form every time you make a new batch of kombucha. You can make kombucha with only the starter cultures but, you can not make kombucha with only a SCOBY.

Myth number #3 – SCOBY’s don’t need to be perfect and white. People selling SCOBY’s online often talk about how pretty they are. They don’t need to be pretty and perfect, just healthy and fresh (and not packaged in plastic!). The most important thing is to have a good, pure starter culture. We recommend getting starter cultures from multiple sources that come in glass, and that were fermented in glass. We have produced tens of thousands of SCOBY’s. They come in all different styles, shapes, sizes, textures and colors. SCOBY’s will get darker and more rubbery with age. Just watch out for mold.

*Black and green mold are the worst. Don’t even breath near it. And if you get mold, you have to throw everything away, very thoroughly sanitize your glassware and start all over with new cultures.

**In the case of kombucha, SCOBY’s are actually mostly made up of yeast. It’s kinda like a yeast hotel. The technical term for a SCOBY is Zoogleal Mat or Bio-film.

***You can eat SCOBY’s too. Some people make candy, jewelry and clothes.

BAD IDEA: Storing your SCOBY’s in a SCOBY hotel. We can hear everyones collective groan here. But really, compost those old SCOBY’s to reduce the risk of contamination and to get a better tasting, cleaner ferment. They are not goldfish.

PRO TIP: If you make more than one “flavor” of kombucha like us. Keep your SCOBY’s and cultures exclusive to that blend of tea. Training your cultures and using only SCOBY’s formed from each individual blend, over generations, will result in better flavors and stronger cultures.

Second Ferment

This is the part where people add fruits and juice. The internet says to do this to make it more palatable. We don’t do this, or even condone it really. Especially, if your are interested to reduce sugar intake. More collective groans, we know this is everyones favorite part. But, if you use quality ingredients and brew your tea the way we recommend, your kombucha will be delicious without adding anything on the back end. It’s actually easier this way too! Why do we suggest this?

You are adding more sugar with fruit/ fruit juice. You are also contaminating your cultures.

*Something to consider – If you ferment your kombucha in a 2.5 gallon(10 liter) batch and you start with about 2 cups (500g) of sugar. You follow the information on the internet that says ferment kombucha for 5 -15 days. You ferment your kombucha for 10 days. What do you have?

**About 85% of the original sugar and very little probiotics or beneficial acids. It’s pretty much just sweet tea at that point – 21 grams of sugar per 16 ounces (500ml) – or about 425 grams of sugar (85%) left in your kombucha after 10 days.  If you add fruit or juice you are adding about 12 grams of sugar on average per serving, 8 ounces (250ml).

***If you assume a 50/50 blend – juice to kombucha – then for every 8 ounces of kombucha (250ml) you get 11 grams of sugar and for every 8 ounces (250ml) of juice, another 10+ grams of sugar from the juice. Making your total sugar intake 21+ grams. For reference a can of Coke has 38 grams of sugar and a bottle of Pure Luck® – Pure Kombucha™ has about 1.5 grams of sugar. If you are drinking kombucha as a soda replacement, we are sorry to inform you, that you are not really getting any benefit at all. This is why we are sticklers to a minimum 21 day fermentation and don’t recommend adding juice.

****Something else to consider is safety, if you leave this sugar laden “kombucha” at room temperature in a closed bottle for 3 or more days the bottle will explode.

PRO TIP: Why do most brands add juice? One reason is to make the consumer think they are getting more nutritional benefit. The other is to flavor the kombucha.

*Really, many brands ferment only one kind of “kombucha”, a black and green tea blend, and for only 7-15 days, (meaning to begin with – very few probiotics/ beneficial acids and lots of residual sugar). They use this “kombucha” across the board in all their flavors. Read the labels.

**So to cover the smell, dilute the alcohol, make more money and hide the taste of the metal or plastic the kombucha was fermented it in – they add juice. There are very few brands in the world that can claim they are selling 100% raw, undiluted kombucha made from only tea and fermented a minimum of 21 days. There’s only one, that can claim they are selling Pure Kombucha™, thats us. 🙂

***We really do just brew and sell strictly Pure Kombucha™ which is made from 100% tea and is bottled as 100% RAW, living kombucha. Packed full of probiotics, beneficial acids and antioxidants with the highest energy quotient available. Pure Kombucha™ is the most concentrated, probiotic shot available, and you can feel it right away after drinking it! We brew tea, ferment it in glass and bottle it.

**** The only exception to this is our CBD kombucha. But, we actually ferment the CBD too!

PRO TIP: The very best kombucha advice we can give, K.I.S. (Keep it simple)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: To get all the personalized tips and tricks not listed here. Sign up for one of our classes – get a kit, SCOBY and our proprietary cultures and learn much more detailed information from our brewmaster himself. Contact us anytime at the link at the bottom of the page.

And no, no one has ever died from drinking kombucha. You can’t believe everything you read on the internet. 😛

Cheers!