When I was in South Carolina, my hubby and I found an old water cooler at an antique store for around $25. It was intact, so I brought it home cleaned it up, replaced the old spigot, and used it for a continuous brewing system for kombucha for a long time. It held about five gallons, but we go through a lot of kombucha. The downside of it was that since it was made of pottery, I could only view things from the top. Eventually my kombucha was turning straight to vinegar almost as soon as the fresh tea was added.
When I pulled my SCOBY out it was about 7″ thick and 14″ across! No wonder I had vinegar! I thinned down the SCOBY (made some yummy SCOBY candy with the part I peeled off), cleaned the crock and let it get back to work. This set up continued until I noticed that it looked like the outside of the crock was sweating. Somehow cracks had formed inside and kombucha was literally seeping through the crock. I was really sad, but I pulled out the first small glass urn I had gotten when I started doing continuous brewing. I turned the leaky crock into a compost tea brewing system to nourish my garden and yard.
Since moving to Chattanooga, I’ve struggled to keep my kombucha at the right level of sweet to sour. I just didn’t like the 1 gallon urn I had it in. I really dislike using Mason jars for kombucha, because we drink so much of it and fooling around with the jars is a pain. As a result, we stopped drinking one of our favorite, healthy, fermented beverages for a while. Then my hubby got in one of his beer brewing catalogs and we found our solution, the Big Mouth Bubbler.
The Big Mouth Bubbler was made initially for beer brewing. When beer is first fermenting it can produce a thick layer of foam on top called a krausen. After a day or two the krausen usually subsides, but it leaves a stubborn film inside the carboy. Beer carboys tend to have a very narrow mouth, so the only way to clean them is with chemicals, a big bottle brush, and patience. The Big Mouth Bubbler was created to help beer brewers clean their equipment by giving the carboy a big mouth, thus the name. At first they only came in plastic (I despise plastic and certainly would never choose to ferment in it), then they upgraded to glass. The latest incarnation came with a spigot so that brewers can bottle directly from the carboy and not have to worry about tubing, siphons, and other stuff. This is what I had been waiting for!!!
I recently got my Big Mouth Bubbler and have successfully begun brewing kombucha again! I haven’t managed to get it up to 5 gallons (we keep drinking it) , but I think I might go ahead and try to finish filling it this week. I love that I can see into it to monitor my SCOBY and the level of kombucha I have. My next project is to make a carboy cover. I have made a bunch in the past out of old t-shirts, but I need a new one to accommodate my Big Mouth!