Flavoring and Bottling Kombucha Tea



One of the greatest benefits of making your own kombucha at home is the ability to influence the flavor of the finished product and find new blends for your family. Kombucha flavor can be influenced a number of ways, including choosing different teas used in the initial brew, fermenting for different lengths of time, adding flavorings, and employing a second fermentation period.

Choosing the Tea

The type of tea used to brew kombucha is one of the most important influences in how the finished kombucha will taste. However, not all teas are appropriate for use when making kombucha. Click here to read more about which teas are best to use for the health of the scoby.

  • Black tea tends to make a bolder-tasting, amber-colored kombucha. Kombucha made with black tea is often described as having a fruity flavor reminiscent of apple cider but can vary greatly. We recommend experimenting with English Breakfast, Ceylon, Darjeeling, and others, as different teas and combinations of teas can create undertones that are woody, earthy, and smoky.

  • Oolong tea is a favorite here at Cultures for Health. Oolong provides the amber color of a black tea but the partial fermentation of the tea leaves balances the flavor, creating a more even-toned flavor that is somewhat fruity, somewhat grassy, essentially a flavor between a black tea and a green tea. Oolong makes a very nice base flavor upon which to add flavorings after the primary fermentation process is complete.

  • Green teas generally offer a lighter color and a grassy taste profile. We recommend trying jasmine green tea, which makes a particularly tasty kombucha.

  • White teas make a very delicate and flowery-tasting kombucha.

  • Herbal teas can be added for flavor but must be used in combination with black or green teas. Remember, herbal teas with oils must be avoided. (Click here for more information.) Combining strawberry herbal tea with oolong tea makes a particularly tasty brew.

Fermentation Period

As the kombucha ferments, the scoby consumes the tea and sugar, producing vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and carbon dioxide. The longer the fermentation process is allowed to proceed, the less sweet and more acidic the resulting liquid will be. This process can be used to your advantage by strategically halting fermentation when the brew has reached the right balance between the sweetness and vinegar flavors for your particular taste preferences. While we recommend allowing the kombucha to ferment for at least 7 days given ideal conditions (click here for more information), once that initial week has passed, it is a matter of personal preference when the process is halted. For example, many people prefer to stop fermentation between 7 and 10 days, which yields a more sweet kombucha due to higher sugar content. Fermentation periods of 3 to 5 weeks will generally yield a much more vinegar-like flavor profile (but also significantly lower sugar content).

A quick tip: After 7 days, you can start tasting your brewing kombucha using a straw. Simply dip the straw carefully into the brew, past the developing baby scoby. When you have about an inch or two of the straw in the liquid, put your finger over the top of the straw, and pull it out of the brew. Release the liquid into a spoon or glass by lifting your finger off the top of the straw.

This way you can keep track of how the flavor is progressing and halt the process when you find the flavor most pleasing.

Adding Flavors

Once the initial fermentation period is complete and the scoby removed, you can consume the kombucha as is or choose to add additional flavorings.

Common options for additional flavorings include fruits, juices, herbs, and spices. Flavor extracts such as vanilla, almond, and coconut can also be used. Flavoring agents can be added to the kombucha either just prior to drinking, or they can be added to the kombucha and then the mixture can be stored in an airtight bottle for a second round of fermentation (see below). As a general rule of thumb:

  • If flavoring with fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, we recommend starting with 10-30% fruit and 70-90% Kombucha.  Keep in mind that dried fruit often yields less flavor than fresh or frozen fruit.

  • If flavoring with juice, we recommend starting with 10-20% juice and 80-90% Kombucha. 

  • If flavoring with herbs, the variety and strength of herbs varies so greatly we recommend just experimenting to come up with the best ratios and combinations for your taste preferences. 

  • For flavor extracts such as almond or vanilla extract, start with 1/4 teaspoon extract per cup of kombucha and adjust to taste. Remember the flavor will develop during the second fermentation period.

Flavoring Ideas

  • Blueberries and raspberries
  • Blueberries and cinnamon
  • Blueberries and fresh or candied ginger
  • Strawberries and fresh or candied ginger
  • Strawberries and basil
  • Cherries and almond extract
  • Fresh peaches or pears, puréed
  • Fresh mango
  • Pears and almond extract
  • Goji berries
  • Pineapple
  • Cranberry juice
  • Pear juice
  • Pomegranate-blueberry juice
  • Apple juice and cinnamon
  • Grape juice
  • Lemon or lime juice and fresh ginger
  • Pineapple juice, coconut water, and coconut extract
  • Vanilla beans (split open) or vanilla extract
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Fresh or candied ginger
  • Coconut extract
  • Lavender and chamomile
  • Chai Spice Blend
  • Lemon balm and rose hips
  • Combine 50% lemonade water kefir and 50% kombucha for a Probiotic Palmer.


Second Fermentation and Bottling

There are advantages to taking the time to allow the flavored kombucha a second round of fermentation. A second fermentation period allows the flavors to meld and achieve a deeper and more complex flavor profile. Further, if bottled in an airtight container (see below), the live yeast and bacteria in the kombucha will continue to consume the tea and sugar that remained after the primary fermentation process was completed and the scoby was removed, along with any sugar from juice or fruit added for flavor. A byproduct of fermentation is that carbon dioxide is produced, giving the kombucha the fizzy texture it is often known for. 

Instructions for a Second Fermentation

  • Remove the scoby from the finished kombucha.

  • Add the desired flavoring and mix to combine.

  • Bottle the flavored kombucha in airtight bottles (see below).

  • Allow the kombucha to remain bottled for 2-14 days at room temperature. 

  • Once the secondary fermentation process is complete, the kombucha can be strained of the fruit or herbs if desired. The liquid can then be rebottled and stored on the counter or in the refrigerator. We recommend storing kombucha at room temperature for no longer than 14 days, as carbonation can build up. The more sugar that is in the flavoring, the faster the carbonation will build.

  • The kombucha may need to be strained again prior to consumption, as the active yeast and bacteria in the kombucha will continue to ferment the beverage (even in the refrigerator) at a slower rate and can produce small immature scobys (looks like small blobs of gel) or stringy brown yeast particles. While neither is harmful if consumed, both have an unpleasant texture.

Choosing bottles for kombucha. We recommend glass containers for bottling and storing kombucha. Technically stainless steel can be used but we find that glass is the least problematic material. We do not recommend using plastic. Plastic can be scratched or damaged and can harbor bacteria that can contaminate the kombucha. Plastic may also react to the acidic nature of the kombucha. While essentially any glass container with a lid can be used to store kombucha, to obtain the best levels of carbon dioxide, which gives kombucha its characteristic fizzy texture, it is important to bottle kombucha in truly airtight bottles. For example, canning jars make wonderful storage vessels for finished kombucha but they are not truly airtight and carbon dioxide will leak from them, resulting in flat-tasting Kombucha. Better options include Grolsch-style (flip-top) bottles or old wine bottles fitted with new corks. Both adequately contain the building gas and keep the kombucha better carbonated.

Make sure to check the bottles carefully for cracks before bottling, as cracks can weaken the integrity of the bottle and lead to explosions. We also recommend "burping" the bottles occasionally during the second ferment to release excess pressure.

Use caution when opening the bottle. Creation of carbon dioxide during the secondary fermentation period means the contents of the bottle will be under pressure, and caution should be used when opening the bottle. We recommend covering the bottle with a cloth to catch any spraying liquid, and opening the bottle slowly while applying downward pressure.

Alcohol content. A quick word of warning about alcohol content in flavored kombucha. The manner in which most people flavor and store their kombucha for a secondary fermentation period will result in only a very minimal amount of alcohol (generally purported to be less than 0.5%). However, in cases where a large proportion of a high-sugar flavoring is added to the kombucha, a very long secondary fermentation period is utilized, or the flavored kombucha is stored for an extensive period of time prior to consumption, it is possible to build a higher level of alcohol. Consequently, we urge you to always use good judgment when consuming flavored kombucha. 

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