Trouble shooting your Kombucha batches
Kombucha is a beneficial tonic beverage that has many health benefits. Rich in natural detoxifiers, Kombucha fights free-radical damage in your body, energizes you, and gives you many probiotics to help with digestion, brain health, and fighting the bad bacteria and viruses in your environment. Plus you can make Kombucha at home using just tea and sugar, so that these awesome health benefits come to you for just pennies a glass. See my directions for making Kombucha at home here:
Here’s a quick chart for proportions of tea/sugar and starter for different size batches of Kombucha:
|Amount of Tea||Amount of Sugar||Amount of water||Cups of Starter|
|1 quart/litre||1 ½ tsp. loose tea /2 tea bags||¼ cup||3 ½ cups||½ cup|
|2 quarts/litre||1 T loose or 5 bags||½ cup||7 cups||1 cup|
|1 gallon||2 T loose or 8 bags||1 cup||13 1/2 cups||2 cups|
Second Fermentation method:
When making the second fermentation you can add 1 cup of fruit or fruit juice for every 7 cups of finished Kombucha, which is basically replacing the starter that you remove with fruit juice, and then bottling your batch to allow the fizz to build up.
Conditions necessary for perfect Kombucha:
Kombucha is a fermented drink and is very easy to make in the right environment. It asks for clean jars and utensils, non-chlorinated water, and strong tea with real sugar, plus time to ferment at room temperature (70F). If you give it these conditions, your kombucha growing career will be free of problems. However, if any of these elements are missing, you may have a few problems with your Kombucha. Some problems can be fixed, but others are irreparable.
Troubleshooting Problems with your Kombucha batches
When making Kombucha you are dealing with a live acidic culture. As long as the culture can colonize the solution of tea and sugar quickly, it will successfully compete with any bad bacteria like molds in the environment. However, if the colonization is too slow, bad bacteria can take hold of your Kombucha solution. Here are a few of the things that can go wrong and some suggestions of what to do about them.
- 1. My Kombucha is too acidic and tastes like vinegar
You left your Kombucha too long to ferment. Properly fermented Kombucha should be between a pH of 4 and a pH of 2. If it gets lower than 2, it will taste like vinegar. A lot of bottled Kombucha has this vinegary quality, as raw Kombucha continues to ferment even after bottling and even at refrigerator temperatures. The sooner it is drunk after it has reached its ideal pH the better it will taste.
You can use Kombucha that tastes vinegary for starter on your next batch of Kombucha. You can also use it in place of vinegar in salad dressings, marinades, and sauces. You can add it to bone broth to help extract the vital minerals from bones and cartilage, as well
Vinegary Kombucha is safe to consume, it just tastes a bit more sour than is pleasant to the taste.
- 2. My Kombucha mushroom is brown on top but doesn’t have any mold.
This is normal. The Kombucha mushroom will grow more and more dark as it thickens, which each new batch of Kombucha. It will also grow baby scobies (mushrooms) on top of the original scoby. These can be pulled apart, gently, to start an new batch of Kombucha, or to give to a friend.
- 3. My Kombucha has hairy black, orange, green, or red mold on top of the scoby.
Your Kombucha got too hot or too cold during the first ferment or your utensils were contaminated. You were fermenting next to a batch of bread, cheese, or other fermented food. You were fermenting too close to the household garbage. Throw out the entire batch including the scoby. Get a fresh scoby from a friend and start again, with well boiled water, clean utensils. Move your fermenting Kombucha to a clean cupboard away from other sources of contamination. Cover with a clean handkerchief or tea towel to keep out dust. Do not use cheese cloth as the weave is not tight enough to exclude pests.
- 4. My Kombucha hasn’t changed in 5 days. It is a pH of 7 and the scoby is at the bottom of the jar.
Your tea was too hot when you put your scoby and starter into the jar and it killed the Kombucha colony. Start again with a new scoby and new starter Kombucha.
- 5. My Kombucha smells or tastes bad – not vinegary, just bad.
Don’t drink it. Throw it out. Start again with a fresh scoby and fresh starter. Don’t risk drinking anything that might have bad bacteria in it. Kombucha should taste slightly acidic, with a fresh, sparkling taste – a bit like apple cider vinegar in honey. There should be no putrid smell or taste.
- 6. My scoby is black, not moldy just black.
Your scoby has died. Throw it out and any batches that were made with it, and obtain a fresh scoby. Your scoby may be old – they have a life span. You may have started the batch with tea that was too hot.
Err on the side of caution:
These tips are suggestions for getting the most from your batches of Kombucha. Always use your own common sense when making fermented foods in your own kitchen. Never risk your own or your family’s health by consuming something that you believe has gone “off”. Err on the side of caution. Because of the acidic nature of Kombucha it is very rare for anything to go wrong with properly made batches of Kombucha. If you are careful to clean and rinse your utensils and jars, use acidic starter – either a previous Kombucha batch or vinegar, and a clean and active scoby, you will have many, many weeks of happy Kombucha making and consuming. Your active kombucha culture should give your Kombucha of the correct pH of 2 to 4 within 5 to 7 days. You should have baby scobies forming on the top of the jar or on top of the mature scoby. These can be separated from the mother culture and used to ferment fresh batches of Kombucha. Or they can be set in your fridge in a cup of Kombucha to keep them alive but slow down their growth. These then will be ready to give to a friend or as a safe guard for troubleshooting a failed Kombucha batch.
Articles in this Joybilee Farm series
What can go wrong? Trouble Shooting your Kombucha problems – Part 4 (This post)