I’ve been making Kombucha off and on for the last 4 years. Recently, I’ve decided I’d get into it a little more seriously, since I can feel my body needing all the help it can get. After doing a few brews for 3-6 week stints to experiment with flavor and sourness, I’ve found that I have more energy in general when I drink it… the non-caffeine energy. So, I decided to go with a bigger container, but wanted something unique. After doing research, I decided to go the route of a continuous brew oak wood barrel.
There are lots of places to buy wooden barrels, however only a handful that make them sitting vertically like this and have a hole at the top, along with a spigot hole made for being a spigot hole and not simply a bung hole in the middle like horizontal barrels.
The place I purchased mine was from http://www.barrelsonline.com. ($128+shipping which was $29.99) The reviews weren’t good, but I figured I’d give it a shot since the alternatives from other companies didn’t seem much different and were quite a bit more pricey. This particular one is 5-Gallons, with galvanized steel hoops that wrap around the barrel, and the wood is charred American Oak. They say the order takes 14 business days, and I’d say from start to finish it was about that time. It was shipped from Mexico, and while I’m not happy about that it didn’t seem that it effected the quality. I chose a full-wood spigot, and the barrel to not be varnished so it could breathe. The lid I didn’t care about so I chose cork… even though it’s never on and I cover it with a cloth cover I bought from Kombuchakamp.com with elastic to hold it on.
Below you can see the wood residue floating in the water before it was emptied the first time.
Prepping it wasn’t hard, for me at least. I’m kinda redneck’ish, so bear with me. I put the barrel in my shower, and filled it with super-hot water from my hand sprayer. Once I filled it entirely, I let it sit for an hour or so to let the wood expand/swell. Honestly, it didn’t leak much at all and I was surprised. I picked it up (held the top and bottom), and flipped it to dump the water out into the shower, then sat it back down again. I repeated the process 3-4 times, with the final time being cold water. The last time I made sure the sides weren’t leaking at all, and they weren’t. I wiped it down, then took it out the the kitchen.
I had 2 1-gallon glass containers with Kombucha already brewing, so I dumped those in as a starter batch. I then brewed up a 2-gallon pot of black tea, threw 2 cups of sugar in and stirred it up, leaving it cool to room temp. After, I tossed that into the barrel which made the level reach almost completely to the top! I threw the cloth cover on that is in the picture, and left it go.
After a week, I came back to look at how things were going. I was surprised to find a nice sized Kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) floating on the top already! I left it go another week, and that SCOBY grew quite a bit, and lodged itself into the walls. After pouring a cup from the spigot, the SCOBY looked like something from the movie Aliens, and gripping the walls ahah. I knocked it off the walls and pushed it down into the kombucha to get wet, then covered it back up.
I am very happy with it so far. The small line of moisture you see in the picture above appeared a couple days after I started brewing, and it was kombucha coming through. It was simply moisture, and within a couple of days the wax filled the holes up and made everything perfect. This barrel does a great job of keeping the sun and light away from the bacteria/yeast and lets everything do it’s job without any interruption.
The spigot does take a bit of muscle to twist due to being wood on wood, but it works nicely.
I have another barrel coming so I can have an uninterrupted barrel and another for brewing that can be emptied halfway into the other barrel for drinking. This will allow the sugar to be added with the new tea, and not interrupt the content of the kombucha being drank.
Let’s hope the second one is as good as the first. Also, the words “kombucha” I had laser printed into the front by the company before sending it as a part of the purchase for free. You can choose whichever words you want, and as you can see I’m very inventive.