Believe me, I’ve messed up my fair share of kombucha brews by having the wrong steep time.
The tea you use in your kombucha is the main flavoring agent. That’s why you must get the steeping times correct.
While it’s not that complicated, there are different steep times for each type of tea you are using.
Here’s how long you should steep tea for kombucha:
- Black tea – 3 to 4 minutes
- Green tea – 2 minutes
- White tea – 4 to 5 minutes
- Oolong tea – 1 to 5 minutes
- Pu-Erh Tea – 3 to 4 minutes
If you steep the above teas for longer than the recommended time you will end up with a bitter kombucha. This forces you to add much more sugar than you would regularly – no one wants that!
When possible, use filtered water as the minerals in water absolutely affect the tea’s flavor. Read more about it here.
How Long To Steep Black Tea For Kombucha
Black tea is the most popular tea to use for kombucha. It provides the classic kombucha flavor while providing the best food supply for the yeast and bacteria.
Unfortunately, it has the same tendency as the other teas to become extra bitter if left to steep for too long.
This is because the longer steep times allows for bitter tannins to leech out into the tea.
The best way to avoid this is to use the correct temperature and correct steeping time.
Black tea should be brewed between 208 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The best way to tell the temperature of the water is to look at the bubble size.
For black tea, you will want a bubble size of 4-8mm.
If the water is too hot it will damage the tea leaves. The longer you steep the tea the theine in your tea gets weaker – this reduces the ability for the tea to “wake” you up in the morning.
How Long To Steep Green Tea For Kombucha
Green tea is the second most popular type of tea for brewing kombucha. It produces a lighter flavor as well as a lighter colored kombucha.
As the green tea leaves are much more delicate they require cooler water and shorter steeping times.
I steep my green tea for a maximum of 2 minutes. I’ve found that if I steep the tea for any longer it becomes too bitter to be enjoyable.
The temperature of the water should be between 150-180 Fahrenheit. This temperature produces bubbles that are around 3mm in diameter.
Try steeping green or white tea at a very low water temperature (140˚F) for a long, long time. This will give a nice gentle flavor with low caffeine release.
Tea Bags Or Looseleaf Tea?
Personally, I don’t think it makes much of a difference. Tea connoisseurs have told me that tea bags make the tea bunch up which reduces the surface area of the leaves.
I haven’t really found much difference.
Also, there won’t be any difference in the recommended tea steeping times.
Just make sure to only use 1 tablespoon of loose leaf tea for every cup of water. So, for kombucha, 7-8 tablespoons of tea is the best amount.
Never squeeze the tea bag when you are finished brewing bagged tea. This only releases bitter tannins into your tea which will ruin the flavor. Simply pull out the tea bag and compost.
What Happens If I Steep For Too Long?
I’ve been there. Don’t worry.
I once went out to purchase some expensive tea just for kombucha only to ruin it with a steep time that was too long.
The only way I was able to save the brew was to add 1/2 cup more of sugar than I normally would.
This balanced out the bitter tannins and made it so the tea was drinkable.
If you are watching your sugar intake your other option is to just use sweet fruit during your second ferment. I recommend using a combination of pineapple and ginger in your F2.
This will help cover up the bitter with more pleasant flavors.
If neither of the options is appealing your only choice is to throw out the tea and start again! Not exactly the end of the world.
Getting the right tea steeping time is a crucial step for producing quality kombucha. If you are not a tea drinker already it may take a few tries to get it perfect.
The best way to learn is to taste the tea before you add the sugar. This way you will be able to tell when your steep time or temperature was off. The tea will be bitter and unpleasant.
Play around with both the temperature and steep times until you’ve found something that suits your taste. Remember, the above information is only guidelines – experiment and see what works for you!