Tea & Sugar
Q: My first batch with the kit turned out delicious and I'm ready to brew again. How much tea and sugar do I use?
A: Use 1 cup of sugar and 3 tablespoons caffeinated and plain loose-leaf black, oolong or green tea (or 6 to 8 caffeinated tea bags).
Q: I’ve been interested in adding flavor during the initial fermentation. Is it ok to brew with flavored tea?
A: Generally we don’t recommend brewing with flavored tea because the vast majority out there (the yogi and teavana type tea blends) have harsh oils or flavors that can damage your kombucha culture and encourage mold growth. Additionally, most flavored teas tend to be made with a majority herbal tea, not the black and/or green tea required for a healthy culture. The great news is, The Kombucha Shop has created a custom line of organic flavored tea blends so you can safely and easily brew delicious flavored kombucha.
Our kombucha tea blends do not contain any oils, harsh fragrances or antimicrobial ingredients that will damage your culture. Everything in our tea is real—real peppermint, hibiscus, yerba mate. We also use a strong black and/or green tea base that provides the caffeine and tannins needed to keep your culture healthy and promote the proper yeast to bacteria ratio in your brew.
Q: I'm trying to reduce my sugar intake, can I use less than the recommended amount of sugar?
A: No. As we like to say at TKS, the sugar isn't for you, it's for the culture. Kombucha cultures feed on sugar—it is a necessary piece of the fermentation puzzle (the yeast in the culture process the sugar for energy, in turn creating CO2 and alcohol). Lowering the amount of sugar in your brew will only throw off the fermentation process. Remember, with an average 2-week brewing period, most of the sugar has been processed out by the time it is ready to drink. The average 8oz. of plain homebrewed kombucha will contain 3-6g of sugar depending on how long it was brewed.
Q: Do I have to use caffeinated tea?
A: Yes, kombucha cultures have evolved to feed on caffeinated tea from the Camellia Sinensis tea family, meaning black, oolong, white or green teas. Without one of these teas high in caffeine and tannins, your culture will grow weak and eventually die. Avoid flavored teas like Chai or Early Grey and others with additional oils and herbs as they weaken the culture and encourage mold growth (No Yogi type tea blends!). We recommend using a pure black, oolong, white or green tea. A blend of green & black tea, or oolong & black tea, make a particularly great combo, both in flavor and for creating a healthy culture and brew. Black tea is the highest in tannins, so if you notice your culture growth has stagnated after a few brews, mix some black tea into your mix.
For reference, our custom TKS Original Tea Blend is a mix of loose leaf oolong and ceylon (black) tea. Ceylon is a traditional black tea from Sri Lanka and Oolong is a mix in itself of fermented black and green teas. Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea and has been used in kombucha brewing for thousands of years.
We recommend you use organic and fair trade loose leaf teas when possible, as we feel they make all the difference in the quality of your final brew!
Q: Do I have to use refined/granulated sugar?
A: Yes. Traditional kombucha cultures have evolved to feed on granulated white sugar and cannot properly ferment without it. Thick sugars like turbinado, sugar in the raw, and brown sugar are too difficult for the culture to break down and process. Also, always avoid alternative sugars like honey, stevia, etc. as the culture will struggle to thrive. For reference, we use Wholesome Sweeteners Evaporated Cane Juice (Organic Sugar) in our brewing kits.
Q: How much liquid starter do I need to start each batch?
A: If you are making one gallon, you need between 1 to 2 cups of starter liquid (which is the finished kombucha carried over from your previous batch). Scale up or down depending on how many gallons you are brewing.
Q: How do I increase the caffeine content of my kombucha?
A: If you like a stronger and more caffeinated tea, we recommend using up to 10-12 tea bags or 5-6 tablespoons loose leaf tea. Anything more than that and it will start to taste bitter.
Q: What is the cost per batch using a TKS kit?
A: The only two items you need to purchase after the initial batch are tea and sugar. So the cost of each succeeding batch depends on the quality of those ingredients. The average cost falls somewhere around $1.50 to $2.50/gallon. You can make it for less or more, but that is going to be your average continual cost per gallon of kombucha.
Q: Can I put the tea in loose (without the tea bag) and pour the brewed tea through a strainer? Does this make a difference in how strong the tea is?
A: We've actually found using the tea bags vs. open brewing without a pouch yields no difference in terms of strength. So you can do either; it's really just personal preference.
Q: While brewing, a piece of black tea was left in the bottom of the gallon jar. Now there seems to be something growing around it. Will my batch be alright?
A: No need to worry if a bit of the tea leaves were left behind in the brew jar. The formation around it is just yeasts/scoby blobs feeding off of it. Your batch will turn out great! And feel free to strain out any tea/yeast bits when the batch is done fermenting.
Q: I used green tea for my brew and it's barely producing a culture. Is that fine?
A: When using only green tea it's very common for the culture to not grow as large. Your kombucha will still ferment but the culture will just be thinner. The kombucha should still be done brewing after a few weeks, even if the culture isn't that large.
The reason this happens is that green tea has far less caffeine and fewer tannins, which are the two main nutrients in tea that the culture feeds on. If you'd like to see your culture grow in a little thicker next time, we suggest doing a combination of green and black tea. That way you can get the flavor of the green tea in your kombucha, but your culture will get the nutrients it needs from the black tea.
Q: How much sugar is in finished kombucha?
A: It depends on how long you brew for; a longer brewing time will render less sugar in the final product. An average 14-day brew will yield 3 to 6 grams of sugar per 8 oz of kombucha. Keep in mind, if you add fruit juice or fruits during the second fermentation, there will be small amount of natural sugars remaining from the fruits after the second ferment as well.
Q: What is the purpose of the starter tea? Why can't I just add the culture?
A: Adding the starter tea immediately lowers the pH of the sweet tea from roughly 5.5 to 4.5 or below. This is the recommended pH to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, molds, etc. and is why your brew can sit out at room temperature while brewing. It's particularly important in those first few days before your new culture grows on top, which acts as biofilm and protects the liquid below from airborne contaminants.
Q: How do I store the culture when I want to take a break in between brews?
A: We recommend storing it on your countertop, in a glass jar (the 1 gallon brew jar works well), placed in at least 1 to 2 cups of liquid kombucha starter tea (your previously brewed kombucha) and covered with the cotton cloth and rubber band. You can store it like this for up to 4 weeks, at which point it will likely need to be fed. To feed your culture, make one cup of hot caffeinated tea, dissolve 1/3 cup of sugar in the tea. Allow the sweet tea to cool to room temperature and add it to the jar housing your culture & starter tea. Repeat this process every 4 weeks to ensure the health of your culture.