How to Brew Kombucha in Cold Weather
It Gets Very Cold Where I Live – What Can I Do?
Very cold temperatures can severely slow down your kombucha fermentations. If the temperature drops too low, things can come to a complete standstill. This is because the yeasts, and then the bacteria go into a state of dormancy. The cold causes them to become underactive to the point where they are not carrying out any of their fermentation processes.
Even if they do not become completely dormant, their activity will slow in direct relation to the drop in temperature, and it can take forever to produce a mature ferment.
Slow fermentations are actually preferable to super fast ones, as the slow process can produce a more complex, better quality kombucha with a better flavour. Faster fermentations tend to be less rich in the health giving components, can have a flat flavour profile and take on a yeasty taste.
Fermentations should take between one week and 4/5 weeks. This is the maximum time one should leave your brew to ferment. If fermentation has not happened by 4/5 weeks, then the culture has gone to sleep on you. On a side note, if fermentation is taking place normally and you are letting it get really mature, do no leave it for over 30 days as after 30 days the culture will have used up all available nutrients, and then will start to starve.
How to Keep Your Kombucha Warm in Cold Temperatures
There are lots of different ways one can get the temperature of your brew up a bit in order to ensure that fermentation is taking place and you are experiencing normal brewing times. Make sure you read our Kombucha cold weather brewing guide for more info.
There are one or two things to keep in mind when planning how to keep your brew warm:
- Do not make it too hot. As said above, slow ferments, while requiring you to have patience are more desirable than very fast ferments. So when deciding on how to warm up your kombucha fermentation, keep in mind that it might only be a relatively small temperature adjustment that is needed. A good kombucha brewing practice is to keep a maximum/minimum thermometer down the side of one of your vessels. This way you can see what the exact temperature is as at any given time, as well as the highs and lows.
- Keep temperatures even. SCOBYs like consistency, so try to ensure that whatever method you are using to warm up the brew is keeping it consistently warm, rather than warming it up dramatically, and then letting the temperature drop down again.
Here are some ideas on how you can get the temperature of your brewing kombucha up a little bit.
Turn on the Heating
During winter, most homes do use heating. While your house may still be cold, it won’t be frigid. You’ll still be able to get (slower) brews if your room temperature drops down to 55 to 60 degrees at night. However, if you have rooms that stay warmer, you may be best served to move your brew into your living room or bedroom where there is more heat.
Find a Warm Spot
Look for a naturally warm spot in your home. E.g. close to a fridge, a furnace, or other piece of equipment that is running that puts out a bit of heat around it.
Remember not to place the vessel in direct sunlight as this can damage the SCOBY, and make sure the area does not get too hot, or you may damage your SCOBY!
With a bit of looking around, you may be able to find a location that’s warmer than surrounding areas, even in the cold.
Use an Electric Warming Device or Strip Heater
This is my favorite solution for brewing in cold climates, as it ensure a perfect brewing temperature during the day and night — even in the winter. This gives a much more stable Kombucha brew and better flavor Kombucha. So if you live in a cold area or an area with cold seasons, spend the 30 to 50 bucks and invest in such a device!
People use things like electric blankets and even hot plates set on extremely low settings to keep their kombucha warm in cold weather.
There are also warming trays specially designed for kombucha which you can buy online which apparently work very well. I personally just say spend the couple bucks and get a Kombucha-specific heater to save the headache. But if money is a problem, you can get by with products not specifically made for Kombucha (electric blanket, general strip heater, etc).
You can check out our Kombucha Equipment Guide page (see Temperature Control section) which has some specific Kombucha heater recommendations.
What’s the Best Solution?
Kombucha culture experts advise against artificially heating one’s brew unless absolutely necessary, as good fermentation requires an even heat. As most homes in cold climates are heated to an ambient temperature usually one does not have to resort to this. But if you do, just remember to make the heating mild, and try to ensure that it is evenly distributed over the vessel.