If your unfinished home-brewed kombucha slips away from you and is well on its way to becoming vinegar, don’t throw it out. Why not just let it become vinegar? Because kombucha is such a robust, aggressive culture and antioxidant, it can transition rather quickly to vinegar if the fermentation process is not stopped at the right time. So, don’t fight it. There are lots of recipes in which you can use your own homemade vinegar in place of other cooking vinegars.
Since the SCOBY from your batch of vinegar could imbue a harsh taste in any subsequent batch of kombucha, I recommend either discarding it or designating it as a “vinegar SCOBY” if you want to keep brewing vinegar.
Makes 1 scant gallon
14 cups purified water
16 to 20 tea bags; or
8 tablespoons (35 grams)
loose-leaf black tea or green tea, 6 tablespoons
(35 grams) balled oolong tea, or 10 tablespoons
(35 grams) loose open-leaf oolong tea
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
2 cups starter tea (Starter tea is previously brewed kombucha or store-bought raw kombucha with no flavoring or infusion.)
1 SCOBY (SCOBY is short for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast – this is the kombucha culture and can be sourced online or at a homesteading store.)
Heat 6 cups of the water in a stainless steel saucepan to 212°F, then remove from the heat. Add the tea, stir well, and cover. Steep for 4 minutes, stirring once at 2 minutes.
Remove the tea bags or pour the tea through a colander or fine-mesh strainer into a second pot. Compost the tea. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Then add the remaining 8 cups of water to cool the tea to about room temperature (72°F or cooler). Add the starter tea and stir.
Pour into a 1-gallon jar. With rinsed hands, carefully lay your SCOBY on the surface of the tea. Cover the opening of the jar with a clean cotton cloth and hold it in place with a rubber band.
Place your jar in a warm spot (72°F to 78°F) out of direct sunlight and leave your kombucha undisturbed to ferment.
A kombucha’s vinegary nature is subject to taste. If you allow the fermentation to continue for 18 to 21 days (tasting it along the way with a straw), you should expect to make a basic vinegar. Age it for more than 3 to 5 weeks,and you will have a uniquely flavored product comparable to store-bought vinegar.
When the kombucha vinegar suits your taste, remove the SCOBY. Pour the liquid into a bottle and store in the refrigerator to cease the fermentation process.