How to Brew Kombucha from Tap Water
I Need to Brew My Kombucha With Tap Water – What Can I Do To Improve It?
Well. The answer is, quite a lot actually!
What water one uses for kombucha is important and can play a big role in the quality and success of your brews. The main categories of water are:
- Mineral water
- Spring Water
- Distilled or filtered water
- Tap Water
- Rain Water
Now mineral water and spring water are not (usually) good options, as they can both contain high levels of minerals which, while beneficial to you, can harm the kombucha SCOBY over time. The best from this list is distilled or filtered water. For more info on the different categories of water, have a look at What is the Best Water For Kombucha.
Now you might be saying, well hold on, I can’t afford to buy distilled water – or maybe you just feel it is a waste of money.
Tap Water And Kombucha: What You Need to Know
The reasons why tap water is not an ideal choice for using in kombucha is as follows. Tap water contains high levels of chlorine, fluoride and often a host of other chemicals. This is in order for the water to be kept clean and free of bacteria and germs.
However, when water which is treated with chemicals to keep it sterile and safe to drink comes into contact with your kombucha SCOBY, it also starts to kill off the bacteria and yeasts which are the living organisms which make up the kombucha SCOBY, and the SCOBYs health will start to suffer, resulting in worse and worse fermentations.
Tap water can also be either too soft, or too hard for SCOBYs. Hard water is water which contains high amounts of minerals. Soft water is water which contains low amounts of minerals. The best for kombucha brewing and SCOBY health is thought to be somewhere in the middle.
Neither the chemicals nor the minerals can one see with the naked eye. However, in most places it is possible to obtain a list of what chemicals are used to treat the tap water, from the local municipality or water department. They might also be able to tell you the level of hardness present in the water.
If the water department cannot tell you the hardness level, then you will have to try and determine this for yourself. This is very important, because it will decide whether you will need to treat it for hardness or not.. While some fermentations such as water kefir, do well with high levels of minerals, a high amount of minerals can harm the kombucha SCOBY culture. However, completely soft water (totally devoid of minerals) is also not ideal. Here are some indicators which can give you some clues as to the hardness or softness of your water.
Hard Water Traits
- Deposits of scale are a sign of water hardness. The minerals within the water are depositing on surfaces with which they come into contact. This will show up as scale on the bottom of your kettle, shower heads which clog up and have to be unblocked, and even deposits on building up on showers floors and in basins. In extreme cases you might notice staining on your clothing, and sticky dull looking hair, no matter how often you shampoo your hair.
- In hard water, soap will not make a lot of foam or lather, and you will have to use more.
- Hard water can have a metallic taste to it.
- Hard tap water is most common in inland areas where water is pumped from underground.
Soft Water Traits
- After washing with soap in soft water, one’s skin can have a ‘slick’ feeling to it, almost as if some soap is still left (this is not the case).
- Soft water has no taste.
- Soft water usually results in a lot of foam and lather when you are using soap.
- Soft tap water is most common in coastal areas.
Brewing Kombucha with Tap Water: What to Do to Make it Suitable for Brewing
The main reasons why tap water is not good for brewing kombucha are that the chemicals present within the water can harm the SCOBY, and that the water can be very hard – with a high mineral content, also potentially dangerous for the SCOBY. These two factors make tap water the worst water to use for kombucha.
Fortunately, if you do not want to always purchase distilled/filtered water for your sweet tea base, there are steps one can take to remedy both the high level of chemicals, and extreme hardness, so you can use tap water for Kombucha brewing with no adverse affects to your SCOBY health and kombucha taste.
Ideally, we still suggest you use filtered / distilled water if you can get your hands on this, since you remove all potential risk to your SCOBY health. However, if you can’t easily get distilled water, or the cost is an issue, then you can still use tap water, but you need to treat it yourself.
Step 1: Remove Chemicals from Water
You can remove (some) of the chemicals with the following:
- Boiling tap water for +10 minutes can remove considerable amounts of chlorine.
- Letting tap water stand overnight in an uncovered container allows for chlorine to evaporate off.
- Filter jugs can remove a large percentage of chemicals present within tap water.
- Screw on filters for kitchen taps can remove the majority of chemicals present in tap water.
- Distillation units will purify water completely.
1. Boiling Water then Let it Sit Method
Boiling can do two things: remove a good amount of the cholorine present in tap water and kill off any harmful bacteria remaining in the water and kill off any molds present.
However, boiling alone will probably not be enough to give you a good quality of water. It’s will give you water that’s minimally ‘good enough’ but if you want ‘the best’, there’s more you can do after.
So at the very least boil the water.
If you do nothing else to tap water, at least BOIL it for 10 minutes before using it for Kombucha making
You should also use a water filter unit to further purify the water and to extract various metals and chemicals out of. These won’t get everything (compared to distilled water which uses reverse osmosis to pull everything out of the water), but will take out enough so you can brew quality Kombucha.
2. Water Filter Method
If you are going to be using tap water for your kombucha tea (or for drinking or cooking for that matter!) then you really should invest in some sort of water filter. You can use the following:
- Filter Jug
- Tap Filter
- Distillation Unit
While distillation units can be expensive, they yield the purest water and are recommended if you want the purest filtered tap water you can get from home.
However, if you do not want to make such a big outlay, then a kitchen tap filter, or at the least a water filtering jug such as Brita is a must at the very least.
But What About Saving Money
You might be thinking, but hang on! One of the reasons I wanted to make kombucha myself and at home was to save all that money I was spending on it – I don’t really want to go and blow cash on water filtering gadgetry. But this is maybe not the best way to look at the situation.
If you are drinking tap water, making tea and coffee with it and cooking with it, then you are ingesting a steady stream of chemicals. Being spurred to up the equality of your home’s water in order to ensure successful brewing, is then maybe just another positive side effect of making kombucha.
Purchasing something to filter out these chemicals is not only going to be good for your SCOBY, but good for you too. Chlorine alone is considered quite toxic, toxic enough to be used as a chemical weapon!
Of course the quantities present in tap water are small enough for a person to ingest without immediate ill effects, but if it can kill the bacteria within the kombucha SCOBY, it’s probably not something you want to drink yourself.
One could say that drinking chlorinated tap water is akin to drinking a glass of diluted pool water. So get a filter – your SCOBY will thank you and so will your body
Step 2: Softening Hard Water (optional)
This is another step you can (optionally) take if your water is ‘hard.’
- Boiling water can remove what is termed “temporary hardness”. To see if this works for your water, boil a sample for a few minutes. Leave to settle for a couple hours. If a layer of white sediment deposits at the bottom of the kettle, this means that some of the minerals have deposited there, and you can obtain the softer water by pouring or siphoning it carefully off the top.
- One can also purchase water softeners. There are different varieties and sizes – such as filter jugs, ones which can also be fitted onto taps, and large ones which can soften all of the household water. If you are living in an area where the water is very hard, and you are experiencing irritating things such as discoloured clothing, marks and smears on kitchen ware, sticky hair etc, then this might be an attractive option.
The Steps to Purify Tap Water to Get the Best Water for Kombucha
Let’s not complicate things with all the descriptions. Here are are the three things to do:
- Boil your water for 10 minutes (you can stop here if you wish, but recommend 2 and 3 to get even better water purity).
- Let it sit out overnight for any extra chlorine to evaporate off
- Put your boiled water through a filter jug IF you don’t have a screw on tap filter installed
Buy Distilled Water or Mineral Water
The Final Word
Purchasing purified water, or additional items to do the purifying one’s self at home, might seem like an unnecessary expense, when perhaps you were hoping to save money by buying a SCOBY and home brewing your kombucha (for tips on how to brew kombucha at the least expense possible have a look at Brewing Kombucha on a Budget: The Penny Pincher’s Guide).
But the frustration of having a struggling culture and sub standard ferments is not worth it.
If your SCOBY cannot handle the chemicals in your municipal water, you might even have to purchase a new one.
Compromised SCOBY cultures will probably not make babies SCOBYs either, or grow in thickness, so keeping stores of baby SCOBYs to replace your brewing one because it is dying, will not work either.
Those same chemical present in tap water which are not good for your SCOBY, are also damaging to your own health.