The first fermentation is an important step, and it will determine whether you will have a healthy SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) moving forward into your latest hobby.
Once you have received your SCOBY, from a friend, or a shop, you are ready to start your first fermentation. The SCOBY that you have, is a living thing, and it needs feeding to stay alive, and healthy. A mixture of Sweetened Tea will nourish and feed your SCOBY so that it can grow and keep producing the live cultures that have such great health benefits to you, and your family.
Where should I do my first Fermentation?
Fermenting Kombucha is a Aerobic process, by which the fermentation happens where oxygen is available. It is therefore best brewed in a wide mouth vessel or Jar to maximise the surface area.
It does best in a warm environment, anywhere from 24 - 30 degree celsius. It is possible and beneficial to use a heat mat used for germination of seeds placed underneath your brew. This can help keep a more consistent temperature, but it is not required.
Find a location that will not be disturbed and that holds a relatively constant temperature. My kitchen counter has given great results.
What type of Tea do I use to make Kombucha
This is entirely up to you, and I would encourage you to experiment with each new batch, as using different tea will give you very different tastes, colour, and results.
Most commonly used tea for Kombucha:
- Black tea
- Green Tea
- White Tea
It is generally best to avoid scented Tea such as Earl Grey, as the essential oil added to the leaves can slow down, or may inhibit fermentation all together.
You can use tea bags, or loose leaf tea, just be sure to remove any tea leaves when transferring your sweet tea brew into your vessel to ferment.
From my research and experiments with brewing Kombucha, it is best to only steep the tea for a short time. This will give you in my experience a cleaner final product, with a fresh flavour. This method also leaves lots of room for flavouring which can be done in your second fermentation.
How much sweet tea should I make for my first Kombucha Fermentation
For your very first batch I would start small. This has lots of advantages. You will only need a small jar or vessel, you will only need one jar or vessel, you won’t need lots of tea, and you will only need a little sugar. Also if it all goes wrong, which is unlikely you haven’t wasted too much.
Some people don’t measure quantities when making their initial sweet tea brew. I prefer a little more consistency than that. Here are my quantities for my First Kombucha Fermentation:
- 1 lt of Filtered boiled water
- 2 Organic Green tea bags
- ½ cup or Organic sugar (113 g by weight)
- ½ cup of SCOBY liquid (125 ml) - ADD WHEN THE ABOVE MIX HAS COOLED.
It is very important to let the above brew come cool completely before adding the liquid SCOBY. If you add it when the Sweet Tea mix is too hot, it will kill off any good bacteria that you have.
I always try to keep everything Organic when making my Kombucha, it just feels better that way. We use eKombucha (new tab) liquid SCOBY starter for our brews, and it has produced great results. They have an Organic certification and are based here in Sweden. They also have a great logo, so we like them that little extra bit.
The above mix has given me great results. I am also in the small school of Kombucha brewers who does not keep the Pellicle. This is the rubbery disc that will form on top of your brew after 4-5 days or so. In my experience keeping the pellicle has not given me any different results, and in a few brews not adding it to my next batch has resulted in a faster fermentation, and formation of a new pellicle. I keep reading different views and thoughts about this.
What is a Pellicle
It is my understanding that the disc that forms on top of your brew is the waste byproduct from the fermentation process. When the yeast in the SCOBY liquid is fed with a mix of Sugar and Tea, it begins to consume the Caffeine in the tea, and the sugar. This process creates a Pellicle. I do agree that there is some trace of SCOBY in the pellicle, but in my experience it is not required to keep for your next batch.
If you would like to give someone some SCOBY, simply give them a small amount of the liquid from a completed batch of Kombucha that has fermented for several days. This will get them started in no time.
How long will my First Fermentation take
5-6 days, although this depends on a few things.
What temperature your brew is fermenting in, and the quality of your Kombucha Starter kit. Generally, if your brew is fermenting at room temperature (20-23 degrees Celsius), you should see a Pellicle starting to form after around 5-6 days. At this point you should taste your Kombucha. Your Kombucha will continue to ferment until it is placed in low temperatures (in the fridge), and even then it will still ferment, only much much slower.
Can you drink Kombucha after first ferment
Yes. Not only can you drink your kombucha after the first fermentation, you should also taste the brew during fermentation. On the starter liquid that we use (eKombucha (new tab)), they recommend that you taste after 5-6 days.
What size jar or vessel do I need for my First Fermentation?
Using the method above, you will end up with a total of 1.125lt of liquid including your SCOBY. This is the perfect amount for a 1.5lt Kilner Clip Top Jar. It will give your brew enough head room to ferment, and the wide mouth and belly of the Kilner Clip Top Jars are perfect for this application. I very often leave my first fermentation in the Clip Top Jar, and then add flavourings for a second fermentation and carbonation.
There are also Kilner Jars specifically designed for continuous Kombucha brewing. Continuous brewing means simply that you can brew a batch of kombucha, drink it, and then simply add more sweet tea mixture to the same jar. This is a great way to brew in my opinion, as you always have a supply. Healthy guts all the time.
The Kilner Kombucha Drinks Set is a 3 litre Jar with Tap and a Beechwood lid. It comes with two 400ml Kilner Jars with Handles, a Kilner Muslin Cloth to allow your fermentation to breath properly.
Using the Kilner Kombucha Drinks Set for your first ever Kombucha will make the experience a lot easier. You can be sure that the jar is big enough to give your sweet tea brew enough head room to ferment, and you know that the cloth is made for this application. For example, for my first brew, I used an old (clean) fabric tote bag, cut into squares. Whilst this did work, the fabric was a little too thick, and slowed down my fermentation dramatically.
On top of all that, you can decant or drink directly out of the Jar, and even use this for your second fermentation. The included handled glasses are a very nice touch, and the perfect glass for the first taste of your new brewing hobby/obsession.
Ian Hunter - Father of three, based in Southern Sweden. Author and Co owner of Grow Zone and growing Food all winter. See my full About Page here.
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