Choosing what jar to use to brew your kombucha sounds like a simple task. But with so many different materials, sizes, and shapes, there are a lot of mistakes that can be made when choosing a jar that can lose you time and money.
Kombucha jars are used in the home-brewing kombucha process known as 1st fermentation. They are usually 1 gallon or bigger, made of glass, and sometimes have a stainless steel spigot. It’s important that a kombucha jar is made of glass, ceramic, porcelain, or wood because chemicals in plastic and metal will interact negatively with the living culture of bacteria in the kombucha.
There are a ton of options and things to know when it comes to kombucha jars, but hopefully by the end of this article you'll have all your questions answered. Let's start with the basics.
The Best Kombucha Jar Materials
Most kombucha home brewers, including myself, use glass jars to brew their kombucha.
Glass is a great material to use because it doesn’t negatively react with the living culture of bacteria used to make kombucha (called a SCOBY). If you use a plastic or metal container to brew your kombucha, the SCOBY will consume some of the toxins in these materials and over time will weaken until it's unable to fight mold growth and dies.
A few other advantages to using glass to brew your booch are that it’s pretty cheap and easy to find. You can get a 1 gallon glass jar at almost any grocery store, or even online on amazon. Plus using glass also allows you to see your brew as it develops and show it off to friends or family that visit.
Save a trip to the store by getting your glass kombucha jar on Amazon. This pack of two 1 gallon glass jars (pictured above) will allow you to get started brewing kombucha quickly and for a great price (it’s Amazon Prime Eligible). These are the jars I use and they work great. You can check out the 1 gallon glass jars on Amazon here.
2. Food Grade Porcelain, Ceramic, and Stoneware
Porcelain and Ceramic are two great options if you’re looking to use an opaque container to brew your booch. These materials keep sunlight off of your kombucha and also make your brew more discreet, which could be useful if the sight of a SCOBY or brewing kombucha upsets your family or roommates.
A lot of decorative pieces made from these materials are not food grade, so if you do decide to use porcelain, ceramic, or stoneware to brew your booch, make sure that the glaze on them is food grade. This will prevent lead and other materials from getting into your brew and eventually into your body.
I don’t use a porcelain kombucha jar, but if I did, I would use this one on Amazon. It’s a continuous brew (more on this later), holds 2.5 gallons, looks beautiful, and costs half of what similar jars do. Plus it comes with free shipping.
3. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel kombucha jars are another great option for brewing. Although metal is not a suitable material to use for 1st fermentation, stainless steel is safe to use and won’t leach toxins into your kombucha.
People who use stainless steel to brew their booch love it because of its light weight, durability, and how easy it is to clean. It also looks great, especially for those who already have stainless steel appliances in their kitchen.
The only con to using stainless steel is that it is a lot more expensive than glass or porcelain.
If I were to use a stainless steel brewing container, I would use this one on KombuchaKamp's website. It’s a continuous brew, holds 2.2 gallons, has a fine finish wood counter stand, and comes with a stainless steel spigot.
4. Oak Barrel
One last option for a kombucha jar is using an oak barrel. It not only looks cool, but also can add a unique flavor to your brew. I personally have never drunk oak barrel brewed booch, but those that have say that it adds a smoky and vanilla like flavor.
It’s worth mentioning that oak barrels can be expensive, and are usually quite large and heavy. So I wouldn’t recommend them to beginners, but an experienced brewer might have some fun with one.
Kombucha Kamp sells a 2.5 gallon continuous brew oak barrel with a wood spigot. This wooden brewing vessel has a really cool aesthetic and will for sure add some great flavor to your kombucha. You can check it out on KombuchaKamp's website here.
What Size Jar Should I use to Brew Kombucha?
The size of the jar you use brew kombucha totally depends on how much kombucha you want, and how quickly you're going to drink it. Any size container can be used as long as the ingredient ratios remain correct, but most home brewers will use a 1-2 gallon jar.
Remember, 1 batch of kombucha takes about two weeks to brew. So whatever size you use, it should make enough kombucha to last you at least two weeks. This way, you always have booch to drink because when you’re close to running out a new brew is almost ready.
One last thing to remember in terms of brewing vessel size is that after every brew you’ll need to set aside a few cups of kombucha to use as starter tea for the next batch.
The Shape of the Jar Changes the Fermenting Time
The size of the jar you use affects how much kombucha you’ll make, but the shape of the jar you use affects how quickly it will be made. That's because the greater the surface area of your kombucha jar, the faster the booch is going to ferment.
This is because more surface area allows more oxygen to enter the booch and stimulate the bacteria and yeast. Meaning that a tall, narrow jar is going to ferment slower than a short and wide one.
Any of the jars recommended in this article have a good amount of surface area for their size. But if you’re going to use something you already have at home, make sure it doesn’t have too small of an opening or your kombucha won’t ferment properly.
How to Cover your Jar to Prevent Mold
During 1st fermentation, your brewing vessel needs to be covered with some kind of breathable fabric so that flies or other bugs don’t get in it. However, do not seal your jar with an airtight lid. An airtight lid will prevent oxygen from entering, killing the SCOBY and/or building up dangerous pressure.
What I used to do to cover my brews is cut up an old 100% cotton t-shirt into circles and secure it with a rubber band over the mouth of the jar. But the recent set of glass jars I bought came with coverings so I use those now.
A few other things you can use to cover up your jar are:
Tight weave dish towels
How Continuous Brewing Vessels Make Brewing Kombucha Easier
If you’re going to be brewing a lot of kombucha a continuous brewing vessel can be a great investment. The difference between a normal jar and a continuous brewing vessel is that a continuous brew has a spigot.
A spigot makes brewing way easier because when your brew is finished you don’t have to try and lift a heavy 1-2 gallon glass jar to pour it out. No siphoning, no ladeling, you don’t even have to touch your SCOBY. All you do when your brew is finished is empty it via the spigot and leave a cup or two of tea left as a starter for the next batch.
I think a continuous brew vessel is one of the best investments homebrewers can make to make brewing kombucha easier. The only thing that may keep you from getting one is that they’re quite more expensive than a normal glass jar.
If you do decide to invest in a continuous brewing vessel, make sure that the spigot is:
Made of stainless steel
Can be removed for cleaning
My favorite continuous brewing vessel is the RPI 3 gallon drink jug. I love this jar because it allows you to make a ton of kombucha, has a stainless steel spigot, and is super cheap. If you don't want to brew the full 3 gallons of kombucha you can just fill it up to whatever amount you want. If you’re interested you can check it out on Amazon here.
How To Clean a Kombucha Jar
Some people choose to clean their kombucha jar after every few brews, but this really isn’t necessary because if your kombucha is being made right, the acids in it should keep foreign bacteria from developing anyway.
If you do get mold in your kombucha or on your SCOBY, you need to throw away the SCOBY, any liquid it touched, and clean any containers it was in immediately!
Once the tea and SCOBY are either thrown away or set aside and the jar is empty, wash it thoroughly with soap and water like you would wash your dishes.
Once the jar is cleaned with soap and rinsed, add a splash or two of distilled/pasteurized white vinegar (raw vinegar has its own bacteria cultures that will contaminate our brew) and swirl it around to coat all the interior of the jar. This process is known as “curing” and does two things:
1. Removes any soap left behind that could harm our SCOBY
2. Sets the pH of the jar to prevent mold and contaminants
After curing you don’t need to rinse the jar again, just plop in your SCOBY and starter tea and begin brewing again. If you want to learn more about SCOBY/kombucha mold and how to prevent it, you can check out my article "What SCOBY Mold Looks Like and How to Prevent it" here.
How to Heat a Kombucha Jar
One of the biggest problems people have when brewing kombucha is keeping the brew at the right temperature.
If your brew isn’t kept at a temp above 65 degrees fahrenheit (18 degrees celsius), it could develop mold or a flat and dirty taste. This is because low temperatures slow down the fermenting process and make the bacteria culture in your booch inactive. And if the bacteria in your booch aren't active, the brew has no acidity in it to prevent mold or other bad microorganisms from developing.
The ideal range of temperatures to keep your kombucha jar in is 75-85 degrees fahrenheit (23-29 degrees celcius). It’s usually easy to stay in this range in the summer, but “winter is coming” and if your kitchen isn’t heated enough, your home brewed booch could take months to brew.
Wrapping your brew in a blanket or towel and placing it near an appliance in a warmer area of the kitchen is one solution. But if you’re still having a heating problem and dealing with mold and ruined brews, you could save a lot of time and money by investing in a kombucha heater.
Kombucha heaters are made specifically for home brewing kombucha and allow you to control the temperature of your brewing booch to the degree. They’re also super energy efficient, so you can have one on 24 hours a day without worrying about your electricity bill running up.
Hemlock home brewing makes a really good quality heating pad for 1 gallon vessels. It has 3 temperature settings that allow you to configure the heat to exactly the level you need, and has a temperature gauge that makes it easy to know exactly how your booch is doing. You can check out Hemlocks kombucha heating wrap on Amazon here.
Hopefully this article could help you make the decision on which kombucha brewing jar to buy.
If you’re a beginner brewer and are still confused, I recommend keeping it simple and just use a 1 gallon glass jar. From there you can buy more jars to increase the amount of kombucha you’re making, or buy a continuous brewing vessel to make brewing as easy as possible.
If you’re a more seasoned brewer, you may want to give stainless steel or oak barrel brewing a try, since one of the most fun parts of home-brewing kombucha is experimenting with new techniques.
Whichever jar you choose, I wish you the best of luck and happy brewing!
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, check out the rest of my website!