How to Bottle Kombucha Like a Pro
When it comes to kombucha making, the emphasis is usually on the brewing process. However getting bottling under your belt is just as important.
Bottling kombucha is the final touch, and you can use it to do second ferments, or to halt fermentation completely. Because kombucha is a ‘living drink’ how you bottle and what you do with your bottled booch will play a role in the final flavor.
Using bottling to add in additional flavorings or merely to up carbonation is something every kombucha maker needs to know. However, before we get into that, let’s take a look at some bottling basics.
Bottling kombucha refers to the stage where you remove your SCOBY and decant your fermented kombucha into bottles which can seal. For this you should know how to clean your bottles and items properly, how to pour and not loose fizz, and what items you can collect to make things easier.
Cleaning Your Bottles and Decanting Items
Most kombucha brewing guides will instruct you clean the brewing vessel and all other brewing items with spirit vinegar and hot water. The acidity will kill any unwanted pathogens. The same cleaning guidelines hold for your bottling and decanting items.
Quick n’ Easy Cleaning Guidelines
What I have found to be the easiest is to fill the sink with some hot water, and add a dash of spirit vinegar. Then take all of your kombucha items and run them through this. You can also use a pot scrubber or brush to further clean any items which might need it.
How to Pour/Decant Your Kombucha
When decanting your fermented kombucha into bottles it is important to make sure that you do not lose all of the fizz. Pouring kombucha back and forth between containers is a recommended method for people wishing to de-fizz their kombucha, and if you are not careful you can lose +50% of your carbonation with heavy-handed decanting.
If you are not siphoning and are pouring your kombucha, try to pour directly from the brewing vessel into your bottles, rather than into a jug and then into the bottles. Doing a double pour will increase carbonation loss by two fold. To pour directly you might find that you will need to get hold of a wide mouthed funnel.
A really good way to decant kombucha is to syphon it into your bottles. If you have not syphoned before this probably sounds way more complicated than it actually is.
How to Syphon
To syphon, you will need to take a length of hose. Place one end under the surface of the kombucha. Having a bottle ready, suck on the free end of the pipe. The liquid will start to rise up the pipe. As soon as it reaches and goes over the top of the brewing vessel it will create a suction and flow by itself from there on. Quickly place your empty bottle under the pipe.
The trick to perfect siphoning is to get just enough siphoning power to allow for the kombucha to flow into your bottles, without it coming out at high speed. The way to reduce the speed of the flowing kombucha is to raise your bottle and the end of the pipe. You will find a place where the kombucha will flow, but the speed will be reduced.
What You Need for Perfect Bottling
For the best bottling setup you will need a few additional items to add to your kombucha brewing kit.
A nice wide mouthed funnel can make all the difference when it comes to bottling. Funnels reduce mess, and thereby can make your bottling process quicker and cleaner.
If you want to use the siphoning method to decant your kombucha, then you will need a length of hose. Clear hose is great, as you can see what is going on inside it. This also helps to reduce mess, and is useful to see if you have a blockage.
Having a sieve or strainer is great for getting rid of floating yeasts in your final bottled kombucha. While the floating yeasts are not harmful -in fact they are part of the beneficial probiotic makeup of kombucha – they can look unattractive. Having bottled kombucha which is clear and free from floating yeasts is particularly nice if you are sharing your kombucha with someone less accustomed to drinking it.
It is of course quite obvious that you need bottles for bottling, but I thought it relevant to mention. A favorite kind of bottle for storing kombucha in is Grolsch style fliptops. These are great for grabbing a bottle of kombucha on your way out, and they also hold up well under the second ferment. They are usually made from thick glass, and have a sturdy ceramic top with a heavy duty wire fastening system. If you have a capper, then you could also bottle your kombucha in recycled glass drinks bottles.
If you have neither of these options, then you can always bottle your kombucha in some mason jars until you sort yourself out some bottles. Make sure you check out our post best bottles for making kombucha
Do not bottle in wine bottles with corks unless the kombucha is stored somewhere away from people and breakable things. It is rare that one will have a space which is cool enough to store kombucha – and not contain anything breakable. The reason for these cautions is that if any pressure builds up with the bottles the corks can come shooting out with force – not good!
Also, if you do not know this already, do not use plastic bottles. The natural acids within kombucha can leach out BPAs into the liquid.
Using Bottling to Add Flavoring or Carbonation
While secondary ferments are often done in separate containers, they can also be done in conjunction with bottling. If you are new to kombucha making it can be confusing. Below is a quick cheat sheet to determine if you can use bottling as a secondary ferment opportunity or not.
When Not to Use Bottling For Secondary Ferments
In some cases, it is not a good idea to use the bottling stage as a second ferment as well.
When You Want to Flavor Your Kombucha with Fruit Pieces
If you want to flavor your kombucha with fruit pieces, or some other large chunks of something (eg cinnamon sticks) then it might be a better idea to use a wide-mouthed jar for this which has a sealing lid. Trying to get pieces of fruit into or out of regular drinking bottles, whether flip top or other, can be frustrating and difficult.
Your Kombucha is Just Right
If you kombucha has reached the perfect level of maturity, you do not want to add flavoring, and it has enough carbonation, then there is no need to do a second ferment in your bottles.
When to Combine Secondary Ferments With Bottling
While there are some instances where you do not want do a second ferment in conjunction with bottling, for other instances it can be perfect.
You Just Want to Add a Little More Fizz
If your kombucha needs some extra fizz, then all you need to do once bottling is finished is to leave the bottles out at room temperature for a couple of days. They must be out of direct sunlight and you will need to crack them once a day to release excess pressure. The amount of time you leave them for should depend on the temperature. Fermentation takes place at a faster rate the warmer the temperature. If it is very hot, then you might only want to leave the bottles for a day. If the temperatures are low, then the bottles might need to be left for more than 3 days.
To encourage the yeasts to work, you might want to add some extra sugar at the time of bottling to increase carbonation. This is particularly effective if you usually harvest your kombucha on the sour and mature side. If your kombucha is still pretty sweet at the point of bottling, then additional sugar might not be necessary.
Your Kombucha is Immature
If your kombucha is immature at the time of bottling, and you feel that the kombucha would improve with a little bit more fermentation then leaving the bottles out for a couple of days will achieve this. You will not need to add sugar.
If You are Flavoring with Fruit Juice or Some Other Convenient Substance
If you do want to do a secondary ferment with additional flavoring, it might be possible to do this in conjunction with bottling if you are using the right ingredients. Substances which can fit into the mouth of the bottles and which ‘disappear’ into the booch are particularly appropriate. Such as:
- Fruit juice
- Maple syrup
- Fine spices
Although fine spices are super easy to add in at bottling for an easy peasy secondary ferment flavoring, they can create complications later. If you do not mind encountering a bit of spice powder in your kombucha while drinking, then they are great for secondary ferment flavoring. They also tend to sink to the bottom of the bottles, so if you are not picky about bits they are really not a problem. If, however, you do not want the powder in your kombucha when you drink it, then it might be a better idea to use whole types of spices such as cinnamon sticks, in conjunction with wide mouth bottles for secondary fermenting. Trying to sieve out spice powder from kombucha is not only difficult, but can also result in lots of carbonation being lost.
If You Need to Bottle ‘Early’
If you want to ramp up your kombucha making, and need to bottle up your brew early, then doing a second ferment in your kombucha bottles is ideal. This way you will still end up with properly matured kombucha, but be able to start a new batch immediately.
Third Ferment Fizz Hack
Sometimes, no matter how well you have bottled, you might open up a bottle of kombucha from the fridge only to find it is flat. There is a trick for this, which could be thought of as ‘third fermenting’. All you need to do is take the bottle and leave it at room temperature for a couple of days. If it is super sour, then you might want to add a little sugar, honey or fruit juice. The extra sugar will kickstart the yeasts and help them to ferment a bit and build up new levels of carbonation.
Note on Levels of Kombucha Within Bottles
Usually one is recommended to fill your kombucha bottles almost to the top, leaving about and inch headroom. This is supposed to be the best for building up levels of carbonation. However half full bottles of kombucha seem to carbonate as well, so do not be overly concerned if the last bottle of kombucha only fills up to half way. In fact, you can use it as a good test! Some people have even reported better carbonation in bottles which were not filled fully. So feel free to play around with this element if you are interested in lots of fizz (or read our article about how to build up explosive fizz in your booch). We would love to hear your results!
Getting your kombucha bottling streamlined is great, particularly if you are doing a lot of kombucha at a time. With a few key items such as a pipe for siphoning and a big funnel, you can make bottling quicker and cleaner. Bottling carefully and gently, along with a funnel or siphon for direct pouring, can also assist with keeping the fizz within your kombucha.
Working out when it is a good time to combine a second ferment along with your bottling stage is a great way to simplify your kombucha making activities. Doing secondary ferments straight in your bottles can be super convenient. Knowing when the second ferment must go into additional wide mouthed containers before bottling is also useful, as you will then not find yourself trying to fish expanded fruit or other ingredients out of narrow-necked bottles at any time!
If you are looking at making kombucha on a large scale, such as if you are thinking of opening up your own kombucha brewery, then fine tuning your bottling procedure is doubly important.