Fortunately, there are only a few terms to learn before you get going on your first batch. I'm the last person to teach a science class on how this all works and I am trying to explain this in my own words. Basically, I know how to steep tea, add it to a jug, add sugar and water, and starter liquid. If you're interested in learning more, check out Kombucha Kamp for some fantastic resources.
- Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast. SCOBY is present in the liquid itself and this active liquid will form a cellulose mat or baby SCOBY on the surface of the brew. Its self-preservation design is to keep the bad stuff out and the good stuff in, sort of like it's own lid. The SCOBYs cellulose mat, or pellicle, can be transferred from one batch to the next brew to help facilitate fermentation or they can be stored in a SCOBY hotel, or composted or discarded after being used in 4 or 5 batches. Generally, a baby SCOBY will be formed with each batch, but not always.
- Starter liquid is simply fermented Kombucha. When your first ferment is finished brewing, you'll need to hold back 1-2 cups of finished brew to act as a starter liquid for the next batch. Just stir the finished 1st ferment then decant 1-2 cups, set aside to save to innoculate your next batch.
First Ferment (F1) or Primary ferment
- This is the first stage of fermentation with tea, sugar, and SCOBY. The brewing process takes about 10-14 days. Watch for signs that your F1 is ready to bottle. You'll see a change of color in the tea, a slightly sweet fermented smell, some bubbles at the top of the rim, a newly formed cellulose mat (pellicle, or baby SCOBY), the pH will be in the range of 3-3.5.
Second Ferment (F2)
- After your first ferment is finished brewing, you can either drink it or bottle it with flavorings. If you bottle it, this is called the 2nd ferment or F2. The F2 process takes only a few days at room temperature, then you can refrigerate. If you're using especially high sugar fruits like pineapple, be sure to burp your bottles daily to prevent over carbonation and explosion.
- Whatever you'd like to add to your kombucha to give it a 'taste'. F1 tastes a bit like lemonade. But if you add flavorings and bottle it with a tight lid, the F1 will take on the flavor and create carbonation for a fizzy drink. See my Flavorings post for some of my favorite combinations.