Kombucha Fermentation, How to tell if your kombucha is working?
So you’ve brewed your tea, added your culture, found a spot for it live… Now what? How do you know that it’s “working”?
While my best piece of advice is to trust that it is, there are a few signs to watch for to get some peace of mind. Testing the pH and using your sense of sight, smell and taste should give get a good idea that your booch is well on its way. Let’s go over how you can do this.
Reading Kombucha pH
Arguably the best indicator of a brew’s progression is its change or drop in pH. Taking a pH reading is a straightforward scientific way to see how your kombucha brew is fermenting. We will talk about acid production throughout this post. These beneficial acids can be detected through smell or taste, and can also be measured by testing the pH. As kombucha ferments, more acids are produced, and your brew becomes more acidic! If you’ve tested the starting pH, then come back a week later, and it has dropped, then you know that acids are being produced and your fermentation is occurring. It’s as simple as that.
The easiest way to test for pH is by using pH test strips in the acid range 0-6 like these. Kombucha should stay within this pH range, so targeting this range provides easy, accurate results. If you happen to have some for your aquarium or pool, they’ll work as long as they can read lower numbers. You could also get a pH meter, these provide very accurate readings, but you’ll have to calibrate it. So depending on your needs, for home applications, the strips may be easier.
Want to dive a little deeper on pH? Check out our post on kombucha pH Level.
Visual Changes During Fermentation:
The first to reveal themselves are typically the yeast.
Yeast cells flocculate during fermentation as a means of protection from alcohol (for a visual, picture how fish school to protect themselves from predators). The flocculation provides a visible manifestation of what would otherwise be impossible to see with the naked eye! If there’s alcohol present, this means that fermentation has occurred, and you will notice brown clumps or strings of yeast throughout your brew. They can be anywhere in the jar–they might attach to the SCOBY like the photo below, or sink to the bottom, or kind of chill somewhere in the middle. More on yeast flocculation here!