We are asked by people on a daily basis, what to do with a kombucha mushroom culture that may not be working as great as it did when the culture starter was new. The common problems are no fizz, culture not reproducing, or off smells. This is one of the main reasons for keeping a back-up of your culture. You will want to have a replacement on hand if something happens to your main brewing Kombucha culture or also known as a ‘mother’. If a replacement is needed, keeping a backup also allows a new batch to get going without having to find or wait for a replacement culture to be shipped.
Through Neglect, a Kombucha Mushroom Culture can Become Unusable Under These Conditions:
– Leaving the tea for a long time with adding fresh tea/sugar solution.
– Contamination with mold. These happens when the pH is not acidic enough. Note: Mold will always grow on top of the tea culture.
– Contamination via insects, gnats, or fruit flies Can happen if jar is not covered and secured properly
– Replacement needed due to miss-handling Jar drops, handling with unclean hands or utensils, broken jar/glass.
By keeping a back-up on hand or several containers brewing at once the need to pay for or search for a replacement will not be needed. With each brewing cycle, the kombucha mushroom will reproduce itself so there will be plenty of fresh back-ups to keep. You may keep a replacement culture in some fresh tea solution stored covered in the refrigerator or again keep several jars going at once.
Other sources say that the kombucha culture can be frozen or dried in a dehydrator and still stay active.
Thanks for checking out our Blog page and Happy Culturing!
Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods.
Q. My package is expanded during shipment. Is it still good?
A. Nothing is wrong with the culture starter and this happens normally during shipment. It’s a good sign, meaning the kombucha ‘mushroom’ culture is viable and living. Remember this is live and active cultures of yeast and bacteria your working with.
Best to open the package and place in a clean jar with lid, until use. Make sure to get your first batch going ASAP!
Q. Just made the first batch of kombucha tea and the starter mushroom sinks to the bottom. Is it bad?
Nothing is wrong, if your kombucha culture mushroom sinks when placed in the new tea solution. After a few days and with the build up of CO2, the culture will in most cases rise to the surface. When selecting which cultures to brew your new batch of tea with choosing a mushroom culture that floats will help jump start the brewing process and provide an extra level of protection. If the culture floats then the tea starts culturing from the top down. When a culture does sink, the culture growth works from the bottom up. Even if the mother culture does not start to float, do not worry, as the new culture layer will always form on the top of the tea solution. This is one reason to add ‘starter tea’ when making a new batch to aid in inoculating the tea solution.
Q. My finished Kombucha tea has no effervescence. How can I make it fizzy?
A. People in the USA are custom having fizzy drinks and the finished kombucha or Jun beverage, making little bubbles as it is poured into a glass, is what one desires.
A few things are easy to change yet effect the outcome of the finished product… Temperature is the number one factor in producing effervescence. If the temperature is to low or high, the amount of carbonation varies. A temperature of 75 to 80 deg F does the trick in most cases.
Yeast change sugars into alcohol, producing carbonation as a side effect. Happy yeast colonies make more fizz! Adding a bit more sugar or trying a different type could help add more fizz. However, just adding more sugar won’t always do the trick. Too much sugar can make the yeast sluggish and slow. Like people after the ‘all you can eat buffet’
Try Changing Tea type of tea you use. Aged or black teas seem to produce more carbonation.
We also find that having more than one mother culture in a jar seems to seal it off better. This holds in more carbonation, which one can see being released as the kombucha culture is removed.
Q. I think I have mold on the tea culture…what do I do? Mold on the kombucha mushroom culture is a common question we are asked here. What does mold look like compared with the dying yeast cultures that are common during the kombucha or JUN brewing cycle? A simple answer is that most mold or foreign growth will look like mold that occurs on other type of food such as bread or cheese. Most will be fuzzy and brown or green in colour. Any type of mold or fungus growing on top of the kombucha mushroom is cause to discard the whole mushroom culture due to contamination. See our older Blog post for more on kombucha and mold.
What is Not Mold: Sometimes the culture will produce brownish streamers or what is described as a string or web-like in appearance or growth, which hangs down into the tea. This is not mold or contamination and are simply old, dead yeast cells that have completed their life cycle.
These are fine to consume, however, many people like to strain these out before bottling the finished beverage. Sometimes the mushroom itself will form a brown area by the edge of the glass, which may look like mold. This must be examined closely as this, too, may simple be dead kombucha yeast cells. At other times, the mushroom culture will develop whitish coloured bumps on the surface of the liquid. These are sometimes mistaken for mold; however, they are simply small bubbles of carbonic acid just under the newly developing skin. The new culture will continue to fill out and cover these within a few days. But most important, if you are unsure of anything or suspect something is wrong! Do NOT Drink the Tea!
Thanks for checking out the Blog page and Happy Culturing!
Live, Grow, Share Cultured Foods
Checkout our culture specials this weekend at our store page.
We have some free kombucha cultures with certain orders.
See details at the Organic-Cultures Store
As any long term brewer knows, kombucha brews different in the long summer days vs. the colder winter months. To make the prefect summer kombucha tea beverage a change in ingredients, length of time, and temperature are required. Below are some tips to keep your kombucha tea happy and producing a great pro-biotic beverage.
– As temperatures get higher, the brewing time will decrease. This can be a benefit; however, too short of brewing time will not produce the highest amounts of organic acids and pro-biotics. If living in a hotter climate finding a cooler place (basement, climate controlled space, etc.) may be necessary.
– Keep the temperature of the liquid (not ambient temp) at recommend brewing temperature range. Standard temperature is between 70 to 80 Degrees F. Doing so will allow for the proper brewing times. If you kombucha tea is ready within just a few of days then the temperature is most likely to high, which greatly effects time.
– During the summer months, we brew with lighter teas, like green or white organic. This seems to suit the hotter weather over a black or fermented tea. In addition, the yeast will consume more sugar when the temperatures are high, so use 1 ½ cups organic sugar vs. the standard 1 cup.
– BUGS! If brewing kombucha through a season one will see how much fruit flies love the yeast in kombucha tea. The flies can be a real problem and will even be attracted from outside. Simple solution is to make a fruit fly trap which is very simple to do. Just take around a ½ cup of old kombucha liquid starter and place into small container. To this, add one or two drops of dish soap. The soap breaks the water tension and kills the flies when they land on it.
Once too many fruit flies are in the container it will have to be changed and refreshed to attract more bugs.
We hope these tips and tricks will help you brew great tea during the summer time.
Look for more tips each week and as always…
Taking A Break From Culturing Mushroom Tea Brewing
From time to time, the home brewer of KT may wish to take a break from the process
of mushroom tea culturing. There areseveral methods one may use for short term storage of the mushroom culture. If the time frame for stopping production is a week to a month then the process isas simple as making up a fresh batch of tea/sugar solution and leaving the
batch to sit in a cool place.
The temperature should be a little lower than optimal to slowdown the culturing process, yet not too much, to make the culture go into a dormant state.
Upon return or desire to restart production cycle, simply make fresh kombucha tea
solution as per directions. The tea that is a couple of weeks old may be too strong with vinegar to be drinkable; however, it should start a new batch easily. Make sure to check and adjust the pH when breaking the brewing cycle.
If the time frame is between a month or two, then follow this process…
Make a fresh batch of tea solution and start a new batch, as normal, 2 to 3 days before departure or ending the brewing production. After the third day, place whole brewing container into the refrigerator and leave until return. Use a lid or covering that will not allow for excessive evaporation, say a loose fitting lid or covering part of the opening with plastic wrap. Storing the KT in the refrigerator will slow down, but not stop, the culturing/brewing process. After returning to brewing production, the SCOBY cultures may need a cycle or two to completely return from their dormant state.
Though suggested by some authors on kombucha, one may freeze the mushroom cultures and return to them when ready. We do not recommend freezing the cultures, as this puts great strain on the bacteria and yeast colonies, destroying many cell walls and in turn reducing the amount of active cultures present. Better, the have a friend maintain the mushroom cultures in your abstinence or obtain a new culture from a quality source, like organic-kombucha.com or organic-cultures.com when ready to begin brewing kombucha tea again.
Since one can regulate the temperature of the brewing process, extending the length of time needed for culturing. Example would be storing the brewing jars in a dry cool place to slow the process when traveling. In most cases, simply discarding the old tea below 4.5 pH upon return, and starting a new batch is all that is needed to restart your production of your very own raw kombucha tea beverage.
Using Herbal Teas, Flavored Teas and or Wild-Crafted Plants – A Quick Word
Traditionally, brewing and maintaining kombucha mushroom culture required black tea and a sugar source. There are reasons for using black tea that aid in the longevity of the cultures vitality by working as a nutrient solution.
When using herbal teas or plants to brew kombucha tea mushroom cultures the concern lays is the amount of volatile oils contained within the plant in question. Using herbs, plants, or flavored traditional teas with high amounts of volatile oils may affect the growth of the Kombucha culture. An example of a tea not to use would be peppermint tea. Also, avoid herbal or flavored teas that contain high amount of bitters. The benefits of using medicinal herbs when preparing kombucha tea can greatly enhance the beneficial properties of the kombucha tea tonic.
A great old time Kombucha recipe, from Russia, is an alternative to traditional black tea is dried rose hips, dried elderberries, and a sugar source. This is a very old traditional recipe as both ingredients could be gathered in most areas with very low cost, if any, compared to imported tea, which only the wealthy could afford.
Teas NOT recommended for brewing kombucha tea, include but are not limited to: Sage, peppermint, St. John’s Wort, chamomile flower, ginger root, or plants
within the pepper family.
Herbs Safe to Use for Brewing: Aniseed, young blackberry or raspberry leaf and berry, chicory root, club moss, dandelion, elder flowers and berries, fennel, hibiscus flower, nettle leaf, oat straw. In addition, Rooibos tea (red bush tea), plantain leaf, rose hips common, yerba maté leaf, and valerian root.
NOTES on Fresh Plant/Herbs: First, use low oil teas, Google herbal sites for complete listing. One draw back to using herbal tea is that they contain more wild yeast spores over green or black tea. This may contaminate the kombucha cultures; on the other hand, the wild yeast may assist in producing a fizzier beverage. This happens by introducing more yeast into the brewing vessel. The draw back is that you have no control over what type of yeast you introduce. In short, there may be a higher chance of contaminating your kombucha mushroom cultures by using herbal teas or plants. Use a backup culture for experiments! To prevent contamination, make sure your pH readings are within the proper range.
Kombucha Tip For the Week… As requested again… Kombucha Tea Fast Brew Method V02:
Our fast brew method can save a bit of time and the tea/sugar solution is ready to inoculate with the kombucha cultures and start tea.
KT Classic Recipe… is as follows: – 1 gallon water, bring to boil – Add 6 teabags or teaspoons per gallon – Add 1 to 1½ cups of sugar, stir – Allow to cool to room temperature and inoculate with culture – Brew 7 to 14 days
KT Fast Brew Method: – ½ gallon of water, bring to boil – Add 6 teabags or teaspoons per gallon – Add 1 to 1½ cups of sugar, stir to dissolve – Add ½ gallon of cold water, mix – Allow to cool to room temperature and inoculate with culture – Brew 7 to 14 days The difference is that the fast brew method will require less time to cool the raw tea/sugar solution, thus, getting the round brewing faster. The basic difference is cutting the water in your recipe by half and then adding the other half of the water (cold) at the very end. This cools the solution faster, to get the batch started and help to prevent mold.
“Hi, I’m new to making Kombucha and I have a concern about bottling KT after the second ferment. I have read on many sites that there’s a chance the bottle can explode from carbonation buildup and that …I should be very careful. So how do I be very careful? Moreover, is that really a concern? I see on your site that you do not mention it when explaining how to bottle KT. Is that only a concern after the second ferment?”
To Answer Your Question…
Bottling is the best way to extend the shelf life of the kombucha beverage. There is a concern with excessive buildup of carbonation when bottling. Below are some steps to follow when doing the secondary fermentation:
1. Do NOT add extra sugar or juice when bottling. This adds raw sugar source which the yeasts will turn into carbonation & alcohol)
2. Use quality bottles such as Grolsch style beer bottle (Grolsch or standard beer bottles are designed to hold extra pressure)
3. Leave a 5% head space when filling each bottle and the pH is below 4.5
(In the beverage industry, this amount is required by the FDA)
4. Just to make sure all is safe, keep your bottles in a cardboard or plastic box to keep glass and liquid from going every where Following these easy steps will assist you in your secondary bottling process. Please comment below with any other questions or a tip you may have to share.
Kombucha tea fast brew method… Our fast brew method can save a bit of time and the tea/sugar solution is ready to inoculate with the kombucha cultures and start tea.
KT classic recipe is as follows:
– 1 gallon water, bring to boil
– Add 6 teabags or teaspoons per gallon
– Add 1 to 1½ cups of sugar, stir to dissolve
– Allow to cool to room temperature and inoculate with culture
– Brew 7 to 14 days
Kombucha Tea Culture Fast Brew Method: – ½ gallon of water, bring to boil
– Add 6 teabags or teaspoons per gallon
– Add 1 to 1½ cups of sugar, stir to dissolve
– Add ½ gallon of cold water, mix
– Allow to cool to room temperature and inoculate with culture
– Brew 7 to 14 days
The difference is that the fast brew method will require less time to cool the raw solution, thus, getting the round brewing faster. The basic difference is cutting the water in your recipe by half and then adding the other half of the water (cold) at the very end.
Question of the Week…
My Kombucha Culture is Producing a Flat Beverage, What Can I do to Make More Fizz?
This happens to many KT brewers from time to time. First of all, use best quality ingredients you can afford, we suggest organic ingredients. Are you using city water? Then stop! Try changing the type of tea your using and use no teas high in oil content, like peppermint or Earl Grey.
Some people will tell you to just add more sugar, however, just as in beer and saké making, adding to much sugar can make the yeast even more sluggish.
I believe temperature plays a bigger role in producing fizz in the KT, which is the carbon dioxide (CO2), produced from the yeast breaking down the sugars. My suggestion is to make sure the temp (of the liquid, not the ambient temp) is at least 80 deg F for the first 3 or 4 days, then drop the temp down to 70-75 Deg F for the rest of the brewing cycle. If you feel that you need more sugar then add it by ‘addition’ over the first 3 days of brewing.
Another trick is to make sure the raw tea/sugar solution is aerated. Do this by pouring the cooled tea between two vessels several times. One last tip, the SCOBY culture helps to trap in the CO2 so make sure your culture doesn’t have a lot of holes in it and that the new culture forms and seals the top of the liquid.
By following a few simple measures one can keep the culture strong and contamination free. There are many types of unwanted air-born or surface contaminations; however, by keeping the cultures covered as much as possible we can greatly reduce the amount of wild yeasts and unwanted molds. By reducing the amount of foreign and unwanted invaders,
the kombucha strains stay strong, healthy, and viable. Through either neglect, improper environmental conditions, or the wrong nutrients the mushroom culture can become weak and susceptible to contamination. By following the steps below, your kombucha
culture should last a lifetime and more.
Steps For Preventing Mold and Contamination on Kombucha Mushroom
and Tips For Keeping Your Culture Starter Happy & Healthy !
1. KEEP CULTURES COVERED AT ALL TIMES Keep the culture jars or brewing containers covered with a clean section of cloth or breathable material and secured tightly with rubber bands or string. .
2. NO SMOKING Do NOT smoke cigarettes and tobacco around the kombucha fermenting area or even better not to smoke in the same house. Smoke molecules may kill or weaken the cultures. The constitutes within the tobacco smoke are not to the kombucha bacteria and yeast and will be directly affected by this action.
3. USE QUALITY INGREDIENTS Though at first this may not seem to be a step in preventing mold contamination,
however, by feeding your culture (and yourself) the highest quality ingredients you provide the best range of nutrients
and less chemicals and preservatives.
4. SELECTING A PROPER BREWING SPACE Selecting a proper area for the kombucha tea to sit and brew can make all the difference in the world between a healthy culture and a weak one. The kombucha mushroom requires a nice warm place, out of direct sunlight, to ferment the tea solution. The closer to 80 deg F the better the cultures will grow. The faster the cultures can grow out within the tea/sugar solution the less chance of contamination by mold. Keep the kombucha out of the kitchen area. Although this is the most convenient place for most people to store and brew, it is also the worst! Smoke from cooking, burning fats, and other particles are again not to the liking of the mushroom culture. Out of all areas in your house, including the bathroom, the kitchen area has the most wild yeast, molds, and germs. Not only do dirty surfaces, sink drains, and leftover food particles in the kitchen provide a breeding ground for unwanted molds and bacteria. The kitchen area also provides other abundant sources of molds and wild yeast
through the washing and prepping of fruits and vegetables. Do not worry though, if kept at the p
roper pH, the acidic nature of the kombucha culture mushroom will protect its self from contamination.
5. KEEPING PROPER TEMPERATURE This may not seem to have much to do with contamination, but, by maintaining the proper temperature range of 75 to 85 degrees F the kombucha will ferment the tea solution much faster. The faster the kombucha yeast and bacteria strains can culture out the tea solution the less chance of contamination by invaders.
Finding the correct place within your home can make a big difference on the temperature of the brewing tea.
6. CORRECT pH This, by far, is the most important factor and the key to keeping your kombucha and other traditional food cultures healthy and viable! Why? Because if the pH of any solution ormixture is below 4.5 pH, on the pH scale, it is almost impossible for micro-bacteria to grow. By keeping the pH low, the likely hood of mold ever growing on the surface of your SCOBY is very unlikely. This is also the easiest tip to follow. We keep the pH of kombucha low by adding what is called ‘starter tea’ to every new batch of tea. Keep the pH of the culture below 4.5, as most molds can only grow in a higher pH solution. Do this by using a good amount (about 10%) of fermented ‘starter tea from your last batch to lower the pH of the new batch of fresh tea/sugar solution. Testing a new batch of tea, using pH test strips with a narrow range of 0-6 pH, will tell you the acid content of the tea. It is recommended to keep adding starter tea until the pH is lowered to the correct range. However, do not lower the pH factor to much or the Kombucha culture cannot complete the brewing cycle properly. Purchase pH test strips here.
7. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS AND LAST TIPS Keep the cultures away from plants, as the soil contains millions of spores and microbes in the soil, keep plants in a different room if possible. Do not neglect your culture! Allowing the top of the kombucha SCOBY to dry out is the number one cause of contamination. Lastly, use common sense and good hygiene when brewing your own tea. Clean any glassware and utensils before each use and wash hands before handling the cultures. DO NOT use anti-bacterial soaps. Remember, properly fermented tea always has a slight vinegar smell not a musty or moldy smell.
Of course, if there is mold on the kombucha culture then discard the tea cultures and never try to ‘save’ a culture once it has
been overgrown with something unknown that could be dangerous to your health or life.
By Following a Few Simple Tips Your Kombucha Will be Happy & Mold Free!
Source for Kefir, Kombucha, Koji Spores, Tempeh, & Other Traditional Food Cultures…