If you read our previous post on how to brew kombucha, you know that kombucha is a two-part process consisting of primary and secondary fermentation. The primary fermentation is where kombucha is made but will be plain and flat. The secondary fermentation or 2F is when kombucha is bottled, flavored, and carbonated. In this post, we’re taking the finished kombucha from the primary fermentation and bottling it up, flavoring, and carbonating.
Why do you need to bottle your kombucha?
Bottling your kombucha serves a few purposes. First, bottling is required to create carbonated kombucha. When using the proper bottles, bottling provides an airtight environment where carbonation can build up but not escape. When co2 cannot escape, it forces the co2 back into your kombucha, which in turn, carbonates it. Carbonation adds so much to the finished product in terms of brightness, texture, and flavor. In addition to carbonation, bottling is the step where you add flavor, more on this later. Bottling also provides secure storage to place in the fridge neatly or to travel if you want to bring your kombucha to work or share with a friend.
What kind of kombucha bottles should you use?
Airtight bottles! When choosing kombucha second fermentation bottles, the most important thing is that they are airtight. There are a variety of kombucha bottles that will provide an airtight seal, so it’s best to decide what will best suit your needs when determining the best kombucha bottles!
Do you bring your kombucha with you on the go, work, school, or when running errands? Then I’d recommend using smaller bottles, so it’s easier to travel with them. These 16oz flip-top bottles are great for kombucha’ on-the-go because you can be sure the lid won’t twist off in your lunchbox/purse.
When is it time to bottle your kombucha?
Bottling occurs after the primary fermentation has finished. The first fermentation is complete when the pH is between 2.5 and 3.5, and you have achieved your preferred flavor balance of sweet and tart. This process typically takes about 7-21 days, depending on temperature. At this point, we have finished kombucha, but again it will be plain and flat. If you prefer an uncarbonated, plain kombucha, then simply bottle and place in the refrigerator to cool before drinking. If you prefer to flavor and carbonate your kombucha, you’ll need a kombucha second fermentation in the bottles.
To get carbonation in our kombucha, we need to feed the yeast sugar in a closed environment like an airtight bottle. Adding sugar, fruit, or juice to the bottles during the 2nd ferment will feed the yeast. As the yeast begins to consume the sugars, they will release co2. In the primary fermentation, the co2 escaped through the opening in your brewing vessel. Allowing the co2 to release is why you will never have carbonation after the primary fermentation. Now, since this time around we have an airtight chamber, the co2 has nowhere to go. Now, the co2 will build up inside the bottle, which in turn forces or dissolves the c02 into your kombucha, which carbonates it. Carbonation and flavoring go hand in hand. We can get creative when adding sugars to carbonate. If we want plain kombucha, add cane sugar. If we would like peach kombucha, add sugar i.e., fresh peaches or peach juice. Bonus – the fruit or fruit juice both flavors and provides the sugar needed for your yeast to carbonate. After adding sugar/flavorings to the bottles, we’ll let them sit out, tightly capped, for 1-7 days at room temperature. Don’t forget to burp your bottles!
What does it mean to “burp” your kombucha bottles?
As you may have noticed, we are capturing carbonation in a glass bottle. In other words, the co2 is building pressure inside a sealed container. Burping kombucha alleviates pressure as this can get ugly if we allow this to build for too long. An essential step in this process is to “burp” your bottles after one day. This is done to check on how the pressure is building and releases excess co2. To burp, pop open the cap and then put it back on, releasing excessive built-up CO2. If you don’t do this, you may end up with a geyser, or even worse; you may wake up at 4:30 AM to the sound of the infamous “bottle bomb” and waterfalls of kombucha dripping down your cabinets (I speak from experience).
If you’re burping and not much is happening, keep the caps on for a few days to allow the carbonation to build up, assess the temperature and make adjustments as necessary.
HOW TO BOTTLE YOUR KOMBUCHA
When it comes to bottling your kombucha, I have a few words of advice:
- Use a funnel
- Do it over the sink
- Use a pitcher if you have one; it makes pouring easier
For one gallon of kombucha, you’ll need 7, 16 oz bottles.
- With clean hands, remove the SCOBY from your brew jar and place it in a clean container. Measure out 1 1/2 to 2 cups of kombucha from your brewing vessel and add it to the container with the SCOBY. This will be the starter for your next batch.
- Take your clean bottles and add whatever fruit/herb/spice combos you’d like right into the bottom of the containers. Keep in mind you have to get the fruit out eventually, so chop/mash everything accordingly.
- Place the bottles in the sink.
- Using a funnel, slowly pour your kombucha from the brew jar into the smaller jars, leaving about one inch of headspace from the top. You’re welcome to strain out the yeast strings if you’re not into the texture.
- Tightly cap bottles and give them a little rinse.
- Keep bottles at room temperature for 1-10 days somewhere you can see them, so you don’t forget to burp them.
- Once carbonation is built up, you can place the bottles in the refrigerator to chill and halt the fermentation.
Are you not getting carbonation built up even after seven days? Check out this post on how to get fizzy kombucha for some tips.