The Health Gain
Swap “Chew Big Red” with “Drink kombucha” and I would wholeheartedly concur. Kombucha is my favorite probiotic food (I’ve bounced around making homemade kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut) so now it’s going to be yours as well. If you’ve taken at least 5 seconds to read anything health-related in the last couple years, you would have heard about the vital importance of gut health/microbiome and probiotics. If you have delved in further than that, you would have observed the debate between probiotic supplements vs. fermented foods as to the best solution for optimizing your gut health. The answer today (to the best of my knowledge and bounded rationality) is fermented foods, so I’m going to teach you how to make kombucha, at scale, so you can have a multi-gallon supply at your disposal for the week.
The Economic and Time Gain
Most “how to make kombucha” posts/videos show you how to do it with just a regular mason jar. I’m going to assume you’re like me, too lazy or time-starved to make a new mini-brew every day or so. As with most activities, a more intelligent approach would be to batch process it. So this is about saving you time, without compromising your health gains.
What of the financial gains? this costs a little over a dollar a gallon to make it yourself. Store bought is up to $32 per gallon. This means each batch saves you about $120 each week, requiring less than an hour a week to produce.
Step 1: Required Supplies
You will need the following items to produce 4 gallons of kombucha a week. You don’t have to drink all 4 gallons a week to still benefit from the large quantities to consume at your leisure.
Glass Beverage Dispenser
It’s best to use all glass and or stainless steel vessel and parts. No plastics whatsoever are allowed. Kombucha is very acidic. Acid over a period of time will leach large amounts of plastic into your brew. This can disrupt your hormones.
I recommend a 5-gallon square glass beverage dispenser. Five gallons will net you up to 4 gallons per week or any smaller amount you want.
You will need a stainless steel spigot. There is a common myth that says never use stainless steel with Kombucha. This is easily dispelled when you learn that most commercial brewers use stainless tanks.
Professionals agree that we should brew between 74-84 degrees and ideally at 78 degrees. Most people find that a difficult to accomplish, until now. We will place the glass dispenser in a 48-quart cooler with night lights plugged into night light sockets. This will prevent temperature fluctuations and will allow almost exact temperature control.
Night Light Sockets
Kombucha prefers black tea as the SCOBY (bacterial culture) is just starting to develop. Black tea is ideal for the first month or so of brewing to let the SCOBY grow. After you have an enlarged SCOBY you can wean it off of black tea and on to other healthier teas. Two types of tea each with amazing health benefits are green tea and Tulsi tea. Tulsi tea is an adaptogen (helps you fight against stressors). I recommend using loose tea as it is much easier to work with and is much more affordable per batch.
Step 2: First Time Setup & Prep
Getting The Right Temperature
Connect the extension cord to an outlet, and add 1-3 night bulbs (play with 4, 5, and 7-watt bulbs). Place the lit bulbs and thermometer in the cooler and close the cooler lid. Wait a few hours and adjust the number of bulbs and/or wattage until you achieve 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, the optimal temperature range is 74-84 degrees. Professionals brew at 78 degrees for 7 Days. This will achieve the best flavor and ease of scheduling.
Installing the Spigot and Gaskets
Remove the existing plastic spigot on glass beverage dispenser. Install the stainless new spigots. Tighten with pliers or hands.
Step 3: First Brew
- METICS TO NOTE:
- 2 tablespoons (TBS) of loose leaf tea per gallon of water.
- 1 cup of sugar per gallon of water.
- Boil two pots of roughly 1/2 gallon water each on stove.
- Turn off stove once water boils.
- Add 2 tablespoons of loose leaf organic black tea to one pot.
- Add 1 cup of sugar to the second pot of water.
- Wisk sugar water until sugar dissolves.
- After 5-20 minutes of tea brewing, use a strainer to pour the pot of tea into another pot to separate the tea leaves from tea.
- Wait another 30 minutes to let all the water cool to less than 100 degrees.
- Pour tea and sugar water into glass beverage dispenser.
- Add SCOBY to glass dispenser.
- Now that the glass dispenser contains all the necessary ingredients (SCOBY + sugar water + tea) fasten a paper towel or thin cloth at the top of the glass dispenser’s opening using rubber bands.
- Place whole glass dispenser into cooler (temperature controlled at about 78 degrees) and wait 7 days.
- Ideally, you will check the cooler and temperature every day or so to ensure you are still in the 74-84 degree range. Extra credit/OCD if you hit 78 degrees daily.
- After 6-8 days, carry glass dispenser out of cooler and drain kombucha into glass mason jars.
- NOTE: Do not drain completely; leave a few inches of kombucha in the glass dispenser to continue the SCOBY fermentation until the next batch.
- Bravo! You now have 7+ days worth of kombucha and may repeat the steps above to batch for the following week (minus the adding of the SCOBY).
Step 4: Second Brew & Beyond
On your first 10 batches, you will want to gradually work your way up from 1 gallon to 4 gallons. This will allow your SCOBY to grow and your body to adapt to larger amounts of probiotics. With each brew, gradually increase the total water volume from 1 gallon to 4, keeping the tea leaves and sugar proportions in check (see METRICS TO NOTE above).
On day 5 taste test daily for sweetness. You want a hint of sweetness and some bitter or sour. Brew until you achieve this. It usually takes 6-8 days at 78 degrees. The higher the temperature the faster the brew. Adjust the temperature accordingly to accommodate for the convenience of making this once a week or at your preferred cadence.
Transitioning From Black to Green or Tulsi Tea
Start with black tea for the first month. On the 5th brew or so add 1 Tablespoon of tulsi, green, or other tea of your choosing and subtract one TBS of black tea for each batch. In 8 weeks or so you will have weaned it to 100% the tea of your choice. I do 50% tulsi 50% green tea, so 4 TBS tulsi, 4 TBS green tea for the 4-gallon batch.
A Word of Encouragement
If you made it this far, you are well on the road to gut health victory, a battle worth winning. This probably seems like a lot or somewhat complicated but you will get the hang of it after the first couple batches. Never let perfection get in the way of good enough. Post below how it’s working out for you after you’ve given it a stab. If you are a kombucha queen or king and have other tips to share, let us hear it!