Tag Archives: brewing

  • Brew Diagnoses Checklist: What we need to help


    Knowing your brew is doing well is vital. That’s why we are here to diagnose any concern you might have. We see hundreds of pictures every week from home brewers all over the world.   In order for us to make a sound diagnoses there is a certain set of questions and pictures that will tell us what is going on. Here is a brew diagnoses checklist for you to complete before submitting a query.




    In making sure there is not a problem with a brew we need to see pictures. Lucky taking and sending pictures is an easy everyday activity. The ideal set consists of three images:


    AerialShotKOmbucha1. Arial shot of entire brew surface showing SCOBY growth, if any.


      CloseUpKombucha2. Close up of surface highlighting any area of concern or general SCOBY growth.



    3. Profile shot of entire brew


    The more pictures the merrier. Don’t feel like these are the only shots you should send if you have the will to send more. In the event that there are still questions after viewing the photos we may request a couple more shots of any area of concern.




    With most inquiries we will ask the same set of questions. The answers will give us a reason for an issue if there is one and will help us guide you to make the necessary changes to your brew set up.


    1. What is the average temperature of the brew while it is fermenting?
    2. How long has it been fermenting?
    3. Where did the original SCOBY (mother, mushroom, culture) come from?
    4. How much starter liquid was used?
    5. What tea/blend and sweetener was used?


    We can actually almost know everything we need to know just from these five questions. As with pictures though, if there is something specific we need more information on, we will ask.


    As you can see diagnosing a brew is just as easy as brewing. With only a few simple steps we will gladly tell you what’s going on. In 95% of the cases we see, when using a proper set up there is nothing actually going on, just a new brewer needing some confirmation on their brew.

  • Kombucha Brewing: Starting From a Commercial Bottle, pt. 1


    In making kombucha, starting from a commercial bottle of kombucha was not a bad idea 5 years ago but the industry has changed. The day of the small micro-kombucha brewery making unfiltered, raw kombucha is coming to an end.


    These days, many breweries are using additives and filtration processes to help control the fermentation process - a standard practice in the commercial brewing world for established industries like beer and wine. Sure, it can be a relatively inexpensive way to get going, but you may be propagating something you didn't intend. For this reason, it is best to start a batch of kombucha using a fresh, straight-from-the-fermenter SCOBY.


    Think about it like this. A town of 5,000 trying to build a new meeting hall will have a hard time not building more than a room with four walls.


    A town of 5,000,000 will be able to not just build a room with four walls but a whole structure full of rooms, passageways and fun things to do (definitely an amazing kitchen).


    The same can be said for a colony of kombucha microbes coming from a commercial bottle of kombucha (town of 5,000) and a fresh kombucha SCOBY and starter (town of 5,000,000). There is really no comparison. The fresh SCOBY will brew a potent delicious kombucha the first round, in the normal 10-14 days, where as the commercial brew starter may not even form a new SCOBY let alone ferment a perfect batch in 10 days.



    We get photos all the time of peoples brews that have molded after trying to start a batch with a bottle of the popular brands of kombucha.


    Don’t waste your time or ingredients trying to build a colony from a subpar SCOBY. Start with a lab-grown, fermenter-fresh SCOBY and get perfect brews right away. Because let's get real, who wants to wait more than 10 days for their ‘buch?


    Stay tuned for Starting from a Commercial Bottle, pt. 2!

  • Save your Mothers: Why You Need a SCOBY Hotel

     SCOBY Hotel, Kombucha Brooklyn

    There are a few tantalizing aspects of home brewing kombucha that keep us coming back for more, aside from (obviously) drinking kombucha on the regular. Sure, it's the way it makes us feel - cleanly energized, refreshed, and awakened. It's economical - anyone who began their kombucha regimen with store-bought bottles knows that it's an expensive thing to love ready-to-drink kombucha. It's a healthy beverage, an easy way to dose oneself with probiotics, b-vitamins, amino acids and enzymes - and it can be very low in sugar.


    But one of the major facets of home-brewing crusades is simply that it's fun! Brewing kombucha is intellectually stimulating. Just as any scientist hones his work through trial and error and learns as much from failure as from success, we as home brewers are taunted by that 'buch event horizon, the unknown territory beyond the edge of the abyss.

    Not to discount the would-be brewers of the classics - but there's always space for that new brew that leaves our taste buds whirling in an ecstasy of confusion, surprise and delight.


    Just as any brewer knows, there will always be home runs and strike outs. In kombucha brewing, a failure could potentially lead to the loss of your beloved mother (SCOBY, kombucha culture, mushroom etc.). If you have only maintained one culture throughout your brewing escapades, you're walking on thin ice!


    Enter the SCOBY hotel. A comfortable, safe home for the SCOBY on the down-and-out. A cage for potential future meals. A reservoir of dreams for the adventurous brewer. Really, all it has to be is a lidded jar in your refrigerator.


    Consider this - each time you harvest your 'buch, you will have grown another SCOBY in your brew jar. As always, you'll use the newest culture for your next brew, and either discard or save the original mother. But what do you do with the mothers you've saved?


    Eat them, share them with friends, sure. But you've got an additional use for those mothers. They are your brewer's insurance. Every brewer remembers their first failed batch, causing you to source another SCOBY. But if you've been brewing for any amount of time, you could already have 5 mothers saved up in your hotel, keeping you from having to source another culture.


    Another great thing about saving your SCOBYs in a hotel is the experimentation it allows. Have you ever wondered what will happen to a SCOBY in grape juice? Coffee? Beer?


    SCOBY on Coffee, Kombucha Brooklyn SCOBY on Coffee

    Or what if you want to try out some tantalizing new herb blends that you're not sure will ferment properly. It's always rewarding, even if you fail, to try out something new. Even a few of the blends we've put up on our website, like Buffalo Soldier or Red Chai we were unsure about, at the start. But they turned out to be some of our favorite, out-of-the-box flavors, and both are completely unconventional, as far as 'buch brewing is concerned.


    So - are you sitting on a load of thyme, or wild-harvested lilac? Have a bunch of old Earl Grey tea bags you want to get rid of? Or did you devise that ideal, mouth-watering kombucha that you think only has a slight chance of being successful? With the security of a load of backup SCOBYs, comfortable in your refrigerator, a moldy brew or SCOBY that doesn't make a baby will be no matter to you. Dream on, 'buchies! Let's do some exploring.

  • Hops and Kombucha: Not Just for Beer Anymore


    Hops and kombucha, Kombucha Brooklyn


    We go on and on about flavoring kombucha, and have covered both pre- and post- fermentation flavoring. We've espoused a different approach than, generally, store-bought kombuchas have taken.


    But there's one avenue we haven't covered yet, and that's the use of the glorious herb that is hops in flavoring your kombucha. We've found that the combination of hops and kombucha makes an exceptional spicy, dry and floral kombucha whose thirst-quenching ability is second to none. For a couple of years we've gotten our hops from Wrobel Farms, in Bridgewater, NY and have been very pleased to use their whole cone and pellet cascade hops in our keg program's 'buch.


    Dry Hopping


    The approach we've taken with hops and kombucha is to "dry hop" it - that means that the hops are added to the kombucha after we've steeped the tea. Unlike our love for using herbs in the tea infusion, we've been leaving the hops out of this stage.


    Hops and kombucha, Kombucha Brooklyn


    Generally, in beer brewing, it's common to add hops during the boiling process to contribute a bitter aspect - this can be early on in the boil, or at the end of the boil, depending on the amount of bitterness desired in the final brew. This does reduce the amount of volatile hop oils in your brew, but the addition of hops after the boil has become commonplace as well, and it is this practice we label "dry hopping." The end result is that the hops contribute an intensely hoppy essence to your brew, with a deeply floral aspect that is incomparable to boiled hops, which will have lost much of the volatile oil originally present in the herb.


    On the whole, hop with low alpha-acid ratings are chosen for dry-hopping, since they will have less of a bittering effect on the brew, and will contribute more highly floral and aromatic notes.


    When we're dry-hopping our kombucha, we simply add the hops to a vessel containing kombucha for secondary fermentation. For a 32-oz growler, adding 3 grams of whole cone hops gives your brew a nice, strong flavor.


    Consider this approach: add 12 grams whole cone hops, per gallon, to kombucha that is finished with primary fermentation. Allow to sit in the refrigerator for at least a week. After a week, strain out the hops, distribute into bottles, and allow to undergo secondary fermentation.


    Remember, though that you should monitor your secondary fermentations with a plastic bottle so you can observe the carbonation taking place in all of your glass bottles. Read more on this simple process here.


    Hops and kombucha, Kombucha Brooklyn


    So - get some 'buch going, and spice it up with some hops!


    Hoppy brewing!


    *Click here to purchase these same hops from our website*


  • Kombucha Recipes: 4 Brews That Rule


    We get so many questions on how to make kombucha, when sometimes all you need is a delicious recipe! We hope you tried Ruby Daydream - but here are a few more kombucha recipes to whet your appetite for killer 'buch.


    All recipes below are for a 1-gallon brew.


    Deep Purple


    Deep Purple, Kombucha Brooklyn


    This is an old school blend that saw its heyday at the New Amsterdam Market at Manhattan's South Street Seaport. We made it only a few small batches in a collaboration with our friends at Runa, a company that distributes the delicious Amazonian energizing herb guayusa. We've done lots of brewing with yerba mate, and guayusa is its cousin. The result tasted reminiscent of grapes and flowers, which is where this tasty brew got its name.



    • 7 grams gunpowder green tea (though any unflavored green tea will do)
    • 6 grams guayusa
    • 1 gram lavender


    Allow to ferment until it's reached a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. You likely won't see incredible SCOBY growth from this blend, but of course that isn't necessary to make great 'buch ;-).


    Velvet Smoke


    We got the idea for this one when making a Motley Brü. The Motley Brü is pretty much as it sounds - leftover, unlabeled and orphaned tea is steeped and brewed into a kombucha that can usually never be recreated. One particular blend of this variety contained some Lapsang Souchong, resulting in an incredibly smokey 'buch. Thinking we could balance it out, Velvet Smoke was born. By pulling back on the amount of the smoked tea and supplanting it simply with English breakfast tea, and softening the whole number with some soothing chamomile we were able to create one of the most pleasant small batch brews ever.



    • 8 grams English Breakfast tea
    • 4 grams Lapsang Souchong
    • 2 grams chamomile


    Like any brew, ferment until balance is achieved. Allow to undergo secondary fermentation to impart refreshing effervescence, chill and serve. Strange but fantastic, this will be a classic in your 'buch repertoire.




    This brew is a real crowd pleaser. If you've ever tasted pineapple tepache, popular in Mexico and Central America, you have an idea of what this recipe will turn out like. Fermented with black tea and herbal chai, it's finished in secondary fermentation with pineapple juice. The result is a citrus-fruity, spicy 'buch that cuts through the summer heat.



    • 12 grams English Breakfast tea
    • 3 grams herbal chai tea (use regular chai if you don't have herbal)

    With this brew, you will be able to let it ferment a little bit longer than normal - maybe a bit past the sweet/acid balance.


    Secondary fermentation:


    Add 3 oz of pineapple juice to a 16 ounce bottle, and fill the rest with the fermented English Breakfast / chai mix. Use the same ratio for other bottle sizes. Allow to become effervescent, but fill the exact same mix into a plastic bottle so you can use it as a model for the carbonation being built up in your glass bottles. Once carbonated, refrigerate and enjoy.




    This one is a throwback to a bygone era when information on 'buch was few and far between. I was fermenting with way too much tea per gallon (48g!), but my did the linen closet 'buch flow like wine. Big into secondary fermentation flavoring, but not into the relatively plain flavors available at the store, I used two ingredients that were seasonal and readily available - strawberries and rosemary. Language can often give you hints at flavors to try, and these two words fit together so well I had to make it. I'm glad I did.




    Honestly, steep whatever you've got. I'd recommend a blend of black, green and white tea, because strawberry is relatively overpowering and a nice backbone of black tea will maintain more of a tea flavor at the end of this brew. This one is all about secondary fermentation.


    Secondary Fermentation


    Here's where it gets fun. You're going to make a decoction of strawberries and rosemary. For one gallon, you'll want 1-2 cups of this mixture for flavoring your bottles. Dice up a handful of strawberries and add them to 24 oz boiling water, and a tablespoon of dried rosemary. Allow to simmer on low until the mixture has reduced by about half. Taste it periodically in case you need to add more rosemary. Be sure to bottle into plastic as well so you can tell when you've built up a good amount of carbonation. This is another hot day masterpiece that will turn the heads of your BBQ patrons!



    The recipes here have been developed with a spirit of fun and experimentation, as outlined in the blog Home Brewing Kombucha:  Think Outside the Box. Our tea blends Buffalo Soldier, Red Chai, Holy Diver, Easy Rider and Sunbather have been made in the same spirit. 


    Great kombucha can come from a bottle at the store, or on tap at a bar or restaurant, but the most satisfying 'buch in the world comes from your home, the product of chaos, courage, and enthusiasm. You're highly encouraged to try these recipes, but really we hope they are springboards for you to develop your own truly unique kombucha!

  • Auto-Siphon's Best Friend: The Auto-Siphon Clip


    You've got your best friend (the auto-siphon). You know how to take care of it. But really, the auto-siphon is a much needier friend than to rely simply on you. That's where the auto-siphon clip comes in.


    Auto-siphon clip Kombucha Brooklyn


    I thought I had single-handed siphon operation down, but when I discovered the clip I started to wonder what I was doing without it. Not only is it great for stabilizing the down tube, it makes it so I can make the siphon hover in the fermentation vessel just above sediment-level. That way I get less sediment in my bottles when I'm filling them, and I can be active with both hands just in case anything goes awry in bottling (when doesn't it...).


    Auto-siphon clip Kombucha Brooklyn


    After my contentment subsided in just using the clip, I realized another part of my routine that was about to receive an upgrade - drying my auto-siphon. Just laying it in the drying rack doesn't do much for it, you really need to hang it. So, I simply clipped it to my metro rack and voila! It's now an essential part of my 'buch brewing procedure.


    Auto-siphon clip Kombucha Brooklyn


    So if you're a regular 'buch brewer, and haven't discovered the wonders of the auto-siphon and its sidekick the auto-siphon clip, why not give them a try? You'll be glad you did.


  • Cleaning an Auto-Siphon


    Cleaning your auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn



    It's good to take care of your friends. Here are some general guidelines on cleaning an auto-siphon:


    1. As soon as you're done using it, rinse it - pull out the inner tube, run water through it, and remove the end cap for the outer tube, and rinse water through it.


    2. It can be tough to get SCOBY out of your auto siphon. Let the setup soak in soapy water to break down any residual culture.


    Cleaning your auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn


    3. Vigorously pump soapy water through it, until any residue or culture is dislodged. Don't be shy, either - shake it or strike it against the palm of your hand so you can make sure to get all of the SCOBY out of it. If you want to get really intense, use some PBW (powdered brewery wash) as a soaking agent.


    Cleaning an auto-siphon Kombucha Brooklyn This end cap is removable, helpful when cleaning an auto-siphon

    4. Importantly, the loose plastic piece that is lodged inside your outer tube (not the end cap - that is removable) is meant to stay there - don't try to remove it! You'll hear it shaking around, but it is lodged there for a reason - it restricts some flow so you can get a good amount of pressure going easily so the flow can begin.


    Now that you know how to use and clean one - why not pick one up and watch your free time and cleanliness increase? Pick one up here.

  • Using an Auto Siphon: A Kombucha Brewer's Best Friend


    Auto siphon, Kombucha Brooklyn


    The auto siphon has become my favorite brewing implement for many reasons. It's saved my time and energy for years for the simple fact that it makes small batch brewing and farming SCOBYs faster and less laborious tasks.


    When transferring kombucha from brew vessel into bottle, I can think of no faster or cleaner method than using an auto siphon.


    Using an auto siphon, Kombucha Brooklyn


    Hydraulic little guy. Rinse and clean your auto siphon immediately to prevent any sticky, tenacious kombucha buildup in the tubes!


    You'll find many other uses for your auto siphon to seamlessly transfer liquids! So pick one up today and say goodbye to sloppy pours and time-wasting spills.

  • Kombucha Recipe: Ruby Daydream


    Ruby Daydream, Kombucha Brooklyn


    One of the funnest things about summer time is the refreshments! We're always trying to think outside the box, and in this kombucha recipe there's no exception. In honor of the coming summer, here's a great brew to turn the proverbial heads of friends and family that is sure to please on those warm, sunny occasions!


    Ruby Daydream

    For a 1-gallon brew:


    1. Steep the following for at least 20 minutes in 32 oz freshly-boiled water:


    2. After removing the leaves and lavender from the infusion, add:

    • 1 cup sugar (stir to dissolve)
    • 64 oz (1/2 gallon) cool, filtered water
    • 1 cup already-brewed kombucha (or 3 TBSP white vinegar)
    • SCOBY


    3. Top the brew off with water so that the surface of the liquid is just below the neck of your vessel.


    4. Cover your brew jar with a cloth and rubber band. Allow the brew to ferment for 5-10 days. Be sure to taste it every day after 5 days!


    5. Once you have a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, your brew is ready for secondary fermentation. Now, you'll need three more ingredients:

    • 5 grams dried (or fresh!) hops (pellet or whole-cone) such as Cascade
    • 1 cup boiling water
    • juice from (1) ruby red grapefruit (~ 1 cup)


    6. Place hops into a nylon mesh bag or tea ball and submerge into the boiling water. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, remove hops, and allow to cool


    7. Siphon or pour off your kombucha into your filling vessel - this can be a tea pitcher, another brew jar, etc.; this is the jar from which you will fill your bottles. Be sure to retain 1 cup of brewed kombucha for your next batch.


    8. Once the hop-tea is cooled, you can add it to your filling vessel, along with the grapefruit juice.


    9. Stir the contents of your jar, fill into glass bottles and one plastic bottle (so you can tell how much pressure builds up).


    10. Allow to sit at room temperature until the plastic bottle has built up a good amount of pressure, indicating that your glass bottles will be carbonated (read here about secondary fermentation). Generally this will take 1-2 weeks, but this step is also totally optional - non-carbonated kombucha is delicious too! Place the bottles into the refrigerator and share once they've cooled.

    Optional: Steep a little bit of hibiscus and add it to your brew for secondary fermentation. This is a great way to add a little color to any brew!

    Once your bottles are ready to drink, pop one open and put your feet up! You deserve some time to sit back with this refresher. This is a good time to start daydreaming about your next brew!

  • Choosing a Brewing Vessel


    Ceramic kombucha crocks, Kombucha Brooklyn

    While it's easy to brew kombucha in pretty much any container, it's an important decision to choose the best vessel you can find. Choosing a brewing vessel can make a huge difference in the quality, and of course quantity, of your kombucha brew. So, in an effort to clarify a few things for brewers new or seasoned, read below to find out more about these essential instruments.


    In choosing your brewing vessel, look for a few key characteristics:


    Stainless steel pot, Kombucha Brooklyn


    1. The vessel should be glassceramic, stainless steel (304 or brewer grade, not cooking grade) or wood. While many will say that food-grade plastic can be used, undesirable flavors often result from continued use of plastic. Glass is an inert material and will not allow the leaching of chemicals into your brew. If brewing in a ceramic vessel, be sure it is lead-free (the crocks that KBBK carries are lead-free and USA-made). Stainless steel is especially popular in commercial brewing environments and as such will work for home brewing as well. Some choose to brew in wooden barrels, which is also fine, and will contribute woody characteristics to your brew.
    2. The vessel should be wide-mouthed. The kombucha SCOBY requires that air be constantly exchanged with the outside environment, as it is constantly taking in oxygen and expelling CO2. A wide surface area ensures fast growth, as well as quick acidification of the tea. This results in a healthy culture. The wider the area for the culture to exchange gases, the more numerous are the antibacterial byproducts of SCOBY metabolism. Keep in mind that although your SCOBY will grow in tall, narrow-mouthed vessels, it will do so less vigorously.
    3. The size of the vessel is important, though not quite so much as the available surface area. Similar to the surface area, however, the more shallow the depth of liquid in the fermentation vessel, the faster the SCOBY grows and processes the tea into delicious kombucha.
    4. The shape of the vessel is a matter of personal preference, and the culture will take the shape of the container at the level of the liquid’s surface.
    5. Vessels with a spigot can be intermittently convenient but can also tend to cause headaches. While it may seem useful to use the spigot and not worry about using or cleaning an auto-siphon, or requiring precise pouring technique, brewers will find the spigot becoming periodically clogged with kombucha culture; you'll find yourself not using the spigot as frequently as you are using it.
      • Additionally, the materials from which the vessel's spigot is made could be contributing chemicals to your brew through leaching. As kombucha is very acidic, any substance that is reactive to such liquids can potentially release toxins into your brew (something interesting to consider when kombucha is a detoxifying drink). It's for precisely this reason that we advise against brewing in plastic, even BPA-free or food-grade plastic vessels.
      • An auto-siphon can be just as simple to use to extract kombucha, resists transfer of large chunks of culture, is easy to clean, and requires no relocation of the brewing vessel.


    Barrel, Beehive and pot, Kombucha Brooklyn


    Additional Considerations


    Ventilation is very important for your brewing vessel. Without proper ventilation, your brew's bacteria will be unable to access the oxygen they need to produce a nicely acidic kombucha. So, consider using fans in bigger brewing setups as well as completely porous (but not too porous) covers for your brewing vessel! Remember that cheese cloth is too porous and can allow fruit flies entry into your brew.


    Remember that it's not only kombucha that you can ferment in your vessels - pretty much any vegetable ferment (kimchi, sauerkraut) and some liquid ferments will work too - think kefir, mead, kvass etc. So, open up your horizons and start scouring flea markets, pawn shops, garage sales and antique malls for some sweet fermentation vessels!


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