What’s the difference between continuous and batch brewing kombucha? And which brewing setup is best for you? Breaking down everything you need to know about continuous vs batch kombucha here!
If you’ve been digging into the kombucha world online, you may have run across the terms “continuous brew” or “batch brew”. And if you’re anything like me when I first heard the terms, you’re wondering what they are and, more importantly, which is better for making kombucha!
The difference between continuous and batch kombucha all comes down to timing – when are you harvesting the kombucha? With batch brewing, you harvest the kombucha all at once, while with continuous brew kombucha you harvest gradually over time.
I personally use and love the batch brew method of kombucha (and use it for all kombucha recipes on this site), but I’m breaking down the pros and cons of each below.
Batch brewing, as the name suggests, is when you brew a big pot of kombucha and harvest it all at the same time (leaving a little starter and the SCOBY to start the next batch).
With batch brewing, you typically have a harvesting day where you transfer the finished kombucha into bottles, then add new sweet tea to your first fermentation vessel to start the process over again.
The first fermentation vessel in batch brewing usually isn’t large, about 1 to 2 gallons.
Pros of Batch Brew
- Hands-off: Flavoring and bottling all happens on one day, then it’s hands-off for the next 1 to 2 weeks (until the next batch is ready to be bottled).
- Flavor control: After you get used to the fermentation lengths needed for your environment, it’s pretty easy to control the flavor of the kombucha by letting it run longer or shorter.
Cons of Batch Brew
- Susceptible SCOBY: When you harvest the kombucha, you’ll most likely need to touch or remove the SCOBY, making it susceptible to contaminants. Make sure your hands and equipment are clean (here’s how I clean kombucha supplies).
- Bottling Day: While batch brewing is hands-off throughout the week, on harvest day you’ll need to set aside a chunk of time (1 to 2 hours) to bottle and flavor all the kombucha.
- More Bottles: With batch brewing, the kombucha will all be ready at the same time, meaning you’ll need enough fermentation bottles to fit all of that kombucha!
Continuous brewing is different from batch brewing in that you harvest the kombucha continuously, rather than all at the same time.
Most continuous brewing setups involve a large vessel (2 to 4 gallons) with a spigot. You draw kombucha out via the spigot whenever you want to drink some, then replace it with the same amount of sweet tea.
This sweet tea is quickly inoculated by the kombucha in the vessel because there is more starter tea present, meaning the first fermentation happens more quickly in continuous brewing.
Pros of Continuous Brew
- Kombucha on tap: If you like drinking kombucha straight from the first fermentation (without flavor or fizz), then continuous brewing is great. You’ll have fresh kombucha whenever you want it, and don’t have to wait for harvest days.
- Large Households: A larger brewing vessel and more steady supply of kombucha make this a great choice if you’ve got a lot of kombucha drinkers to satisfy.
- Safer SCOBY: The SCOBY is handled less in continuous brewing because you’re using a spigot to remove the kombucha, meaning it is less likely to be contaminated.
Cons of Continuous Brew
- Flavor and fizz: While you can flavor and bottle kombucha from continuous brewing, it’s not as convenient. Rather than prepping a large amount of fruit or puree (such as how we do in batch brewing), you’ll need to prepare smaller amounts more frequently.
- More daily work: You’ll also need to do more work on a daily basis, such as steeping replacement tea and checking the flavor.
- Yeast settles: Yeast naturally settles in the bottom of the vessel, so you’ll need to remember to stir or swirl the kombucha before harvesting through the spigot.
How I brew kombucha
So how do I brew kombucha? With batch brewing! While I can see how continuous brewing would work well for some people, batch brewing is just what works well for us.
A large part of this is because I don’t actually store my kombucha in the kitchen, but downstairs in our warm guest bedroom! To continuous brew would mean lugging my kombucha upstairs every few days, which…ain’t nobody got time for that.
Similarly to continuous brewing, I use a large vessel (2 gallons) with a spigot, but I draw off all of the kombucha on harvest days (except the starter tea for the next batch), then bottle it all at once. These harvest days get slotted into the calendar, and I spend an hour or two playing with flavors, bottling, and prepping the next first fermentation.