I could have cried when I went to taste my kombucha last week and discovered mold floating on top. We had made two previous successful batches in quart-sized jars, so we got a little crazy and brewed up a whole gallon. Unfortunately, after about two weeks, the baby SCOBY floating on top had a blueish-green tinge to it, and the liquid tasted off. Once I jiggled things around a bit, I noticed a small spot of mold floating by itself. It just about killed me, but I dumped the whole batch down the drain, mother culture and all. Better safe than sorry.
Although I had followed the instructions to the tee and used only quality organic ingredients, something had obviously gone wrong. After a few minutes of internet research, I identified my mistakes:
- Keeping the kombucha in the kitchen – Kombucha is a food; it seemed to make sense to keep it in the kitchen. According to Organic-Kombucha.com, the kitchen is actually the worst place to brew kombucha due to the food particles, yeasts, molds and other bacteria floating around.
- Not maintaining the proper temperature – In the winter, we keep our home at a balmy 63-65 degrees, nowhere near the 75-85 degrees recommended for ideal fermentation. To keep the kombucha warmer, I placed it on the countertop near the stove (see mistake #1).
- Using an old jar with a spout – The only gallon-sized jar in our house has a tap on it (the kind where you push the button in and liquid comes out). I washed the jar well and figured it would be fine. Now I suspect that the plastic spout may have harbored unwanted bacteria.
Before I try my hand at kombucha again, I plan to track down a few gallon-sized jars that I can easily sterilize. I also think I will allow the kombucha to ferment in our spare bedroom. I need to check the temperature, but I’ve noticed that it stays much warmer in there, probably because it’s upstairs and the door is usually closed.
I have to admit that I get really frustrated with all of this sometimes. Making traditional foods sounds like it should be easy. I mean, people were making yogurt, cheese, saurkraut, and kombucha long before thermometers, refrigerators and basic sanitation practices. Why is it so difficult for me to get good results? I should add that I also had to dump an entire half gallon batch of yogurt last week because it was sour. I think I tried to re-use my culture one too many times.