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.
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.
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:
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
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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