Home brewing kombucha is one of those things that can start out feeling complicated, but with the right tools and the YEABUCHA Method it will quickly become a simple and enjoyable part of your week. Sooner than later, you will stop referencing your YEABUCHA Brew & Bottle Guide and just know how to do your booch. It’s important to share that even though you follow the same method each week, your brew may be different from batch to batch. Carbonation can be explosive or lacking. SCOBY growth, appearance and location will vary week to week. Poor SCOBY growth does not always signify poor bacteria health; rather it could be a signal that your brew just needs some TLC. External factors (like temperature) and naturally occurring factors (like bacteria or yeast overgrowth) play a role in the outcome of your brew. Learning how to keep them balanced will provide you with delicious kombucha, time after time.
One of the many great things about kombucha is that it is a very resilient ferment. Additionally, SCOBYs have an incredible ability to adapt and find balance within each brew. As you fine tune your brewing method and find your optimal flavor profile, you will quickly notice if something is not quite right with your brew. Pay attention to signals your brew might be giving you. Here are some of the most common signs that indicate your brew needs to be rebalanced:
- Smell - is the odor more sour or strong than usual? Healthy home brew may have a mild smell to some sensitive noses, but the smell should never be offensive or off putting.
- Taste- is the taste of your brew off? Is it sweeter or more vinegary than usual?
- Bacteria- did you grow a thick, healthy SCOBY, but your brew lacks carbonation?
- Yeast- noticing more brown yeast strands the usual floating in your brew jar? Is the bottom of your brew jar cloudy?
If you find your brew is off in one of these areas, it is a pretty clear indication that your brew needs to be rebalanced. There are several aspects to this process, but they all involve simple steps that can get your brew back on track. Unless you have obvious mold or flies- there is no need to completely toss your SCOBY and brew. Start with the basics and review what you are doing and using. Home brewing uses only a few ingredients, make sure they are sourced well!
Water: We have found tap water and fridge water from filters that have not been changed, can lead to the introduction of bacteria that throw off the taste and odor of your brew. If your booch smells off, try using a gallon of distilled water or bottled water or replacing the water filter and purging the line before using the water to brew.
Tea: Make sure you are using organic black tea free of “natural flavors.” We have made it easy to sustainably and affordably keep on hand with our 3 month supply of loose leaf tea. Check out the deals we offer our brewers! Also, when you brew your tea, pay attention to how long you allow it to steep. We’ve all gotten distracted before (guilty), but allowing your tea to steep for more than 6-8 minutes can negatively affect your brew. Set a timer.
Sugar: Don’t skimp on sugar when it comes to your brew. It acts as fuel and is eaten up by the bacteria and yeast during fermentation. If your SCOBY doesn’t have proper fuel, it may not perform well and your brew could be negatively affected. Organic cane sugar is necessary for your kombucha to properly ferment.
SCOBY + Starter liquid: Make sure you always leave room for 1-2 cups of strong starter liquid at the top of your jar. Take your extra SCOBYs out of your brew jar. We recommend having no more than an inch of SCOBYs in your active fermentation jar. Keep those extra SCOBYs safe in a SCOBY hotel!
If your brew is still off, don’t worry! We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve to help you get your kombucha groove back.
Location: Double check where you’ve placed your brew. Is it undisturbed, warm enough and have ample air flow? Ideal brewing temps are in the mid to low 70s, which means seasonal weather changes can affect your brew. We recommend placing a towel or cutting board between your brew jar and the counter, or placing a heater in the vicinity of your brew jar during colder months to help maintain comfortable brew temperatures. (Be careful not to overheat as this can cause a yeast overgrowth).
Yeast: Yeast related issues can be adjusted based on your brew. If you have too much yeast, strain your liquid and discard the last ¼ cup. You can also use a fork to pull out long strands of yeast from your brew jar and discard them. On the flip side, if you need more yeast, pull half of your starter liquid from the top of your jar and the other half from the bottom of your jar where you will typically find a higher concentration of yeast.
Tea: Our final tip to help rebalance your kombucha brew is to prepare your sweet tea with half black and half green tea. Even if you’re not completely sure what the specific problem with your brew is, rebalancing with tea will help you get back to normal. We have found that brewing with this combination can be very beneficial to retaining healthy SCOBY growth.
We hope you have a better understanding of what is going on in your brew and feel empowered to rebalance whenever you need to. Cheers to happy brewing!