How to Lower the pH of Kombucha
Is your kombucha not acidic enough? In this post we talk about how to lower the ph of your kombucha, from a quick fix, to a deep look at your SCOBY Health.
Kombucha has become a little famous for it’s health benefits. One of these is its naturally low ph, which when ingested has an alkalizing effect on the body. Western diets are notorious for creating acidity in the body, which can correlate to a variety of health issues.
Kombucha will over its brewing cycle automatically become acidic. If your kombucha’s ph is relatively high at the point of drinking – and you want to enjoy the health benefits of a low ph brew, then there are a couple steps which you can take to lower the ph further.
4 Ways to Lower the Ph of Your Kombucha
When attempting to lower the ph of your kombucha, there are three basic ways in which you can do this. The best way is to increase fermentation time, part of which can be to do a second ferment. If your SCOBY is healthy and brewing is going smoothly, then this is the best way to drop the ph.
Another trick to dropping ph from the get go, is to use more starter liquid at the beginning of batches. If you are at the point of drinking, and want a quick fix: you can also add apple cider vinegar. Or some other naturally fermented vinegar.
Lastly, if the cause of your kombucha not dropping in ph during its brew cycle lies in a problem in the SCOBY, then it might be neccesary to do some SCOBY balancing.
let’s take a look at each of these methods in a little more detail.
# 1 Increasing Brewing Time to Drop the Ph of Your Kombucha
As mentioned above, increasing the brew time of your kombucha is the most common and logical way to lower ph. Kombucha acidifies with fermentation, and the longer you ferment the lower the ph will become. Super long ferments will turn your kombucha into what is known as kombucha vinegar!
While kombucha vinegar is not usually what everyone wants out of their brew, longer and slower ferments are considered best. Kombucha which has been fermented for a good length of time is supposed to contain higher level of nutrients/probiotics. And of course has a lower ph – which is what we are after!
How to Increase Fermentation Time
Increasing fermentation time is pretty self explanatory. All you have to do is allow your kombucha to continue to ferment in its brewing vessel.. Until such a time as the ph has dropped to your liking!
Checking the Dropping Ph Levels
Because temperature, ingredients and SCOBY condition has a lot to do with how fast a batch of kombucha brews, it is best to check the kombucha periodically. Rather than setting on an exact amount of extra days for which you are going to brew. Once you have done a couple extended brews, if the temperature is remaining constant – then you can probably just brew to the same amount of days each time. Remember that a change in season of weather will most likely affect the rate of your brew.
To gauge the ph of your brewing kombucha along the way, you can do the following:
To test the ph closely, you can use ph strips. They are widely available in drugs store and cost about ten dollars for roughly a hundred strips. You can also buy them on Amazon.
If the exact ph of your kombucha is important to you, and you are going to be doing a lot of testing, then investing in a ph meter is an option. They are of course more costly than ph strips, but a good quality one should last into the foreseeable future
If you are not so interested in exact readings, then you can always do a simple taste test! Tasting your kombucha a long the way is a great brewing practice as it will familiarize you with the different tastes your kombucha has during its brewing cycle.
If you want to do taste testing a bamboo or glass straw can come in handy. Simply insert it down the side of the brewing vessel and take a sip! Or, you can scoop a little out from the top by pushing the SCOBY down gently with a mug or glass and stealing out a little booch.
Best Ph to Bottle At
Before we move onto the next method of doing second ferments, lets quickly have a look at what is a suitable bottling ph. You probably already have an idea of what you want the ph to be, but here are some rough figures as to the ph at which a lot of people bottle.
3.4 is considered to be a good starting point to bottle at. Those who prefer their kombucha nice and sour, bottle at as low as 2.9.
Lower the Ph of Your Kombucha By Doing a Second Ferment
Another method which you can use if you have not implemented it already, is to do a second ferment. For those of you who may not be familiar, a second ferment is simply an additional sealed stage of fermentation at the end of the brewing cycle, where the SCOBY is not present. This is a point where it is common to add in flavorings such as fruit, spices or herbal teas, because there is no chance of damage to the SCOBY.
A second ferment is another great brewing practice. They can allow your kombucha to mature out at a more mellow pace, which can make for some great tasting booch – especially if flavorings are added. If you want to drop the ph of your kombucha, then doing a second ferment is an awesome way to do this.
How to do a Second Ferment
We have a few posts on how to do a second ferment, so I am just going to give you a quick run down. For detailed guidelines, check out How To Make Second Ferment Kombucha (And Why You Absolutely Should).
- The first thing to do is to stop your ferment a little on the early side. This sounds counteractive to the aim of dropping ph levels, but it is usually neccesary. Because the second ferment continues to acidify the brew – even without the SCOBY – by implementing it once the kombucha is already super sour, you might find that after the second ferment is done your kombucha is almost like vinegar. However, if you are going to be adding in flavorings which contain sugar (such as fruit or fruit juice, maple syrup etc) then this early stopping is not so important.
- Next transfer your kombucha (minus any starter liquid which you want to reserve for the next brew) into sealable glass containers. If you are adding pieces of fruit you might find that glass jars are the best option as they have wide mouths. If you are adding in spices, syrups, juices or teas, then you can get away with using grolsch bottles or other narrow necked glass bottles.
- After transferring the kombucha add in any chosen flavorings.
- Allow to ferment until the ph has dropped to your liking. The time that this takes will depend on the temperature, what you added, the vitality of your kombucha, and at what point of maturity it was put to second ferment. Again you can do some taste tests, or use ph strips or a ph meter.
- IMPORTANT!! You must crack the lids on your secondary ferment vessels every day. Pressure will be building up, and you must release it otherwise your jars/bottles could explode.
When transferring the kombucha and setting aside starter liquid – if you have stopped the primary ferment on the early side, you will need to reserve more starter liquid. The reason for this is that as the starter liquid will be less acidic, you will need more of it to drop the ph of your next batch of ready to brew kombucha. It is very important to start off with an acidic kombucha set up, because this low ph of the beginning kombucha is what protects it from mold and other pathogens. So –
Keep in mind the less acidic the kombucha is that you will be using for starter liquid the, the more of it you will need. Newly set up kombucha should have a ph level of below 4.5-4.
# 2 Adding More Starter Liquid to Drop the Ph of Your Kombucha
The last note on starter liquid brings us to the point of adding more starter liquid to you kombucha in order to drop the ph. This is a useful method to use if you feel that your kombucha does not seem to be brewing properly. Besides introducing acidity into the brew from the beginning, starter liquid also inoculates your kombucha with a whole host of free floating yeasts.
These yeast help to activate fermentation. If you do not have a lot of yeast strings on your SCOBY, the chances are that you need that starter liquid!
How to Add More Starter Liquid
Again, adding more starter liquid is pretty self explanatory. However it is worthwhile to note that there is a limit as to how much starter liquid to add. You want to incorporate enough so as to protect the brew and inoculated it, but leave enough room for tea so that a proper fermentation can take place. As mentioned above, the strength (or ph) of the starter tea is also important to consider.
Guide to How Much Starter Liquid to Use
Weak starter liquid <ph 2.5: Use a ratio of 3-4 cups of starter liquid to 1 gallon of sweet tea (depending on how weak the starter liquid is)
Regular starter liquid ph 2.: Use a ratio of 2 cups of starter liquid to 1 gallon of sweet tea
Ideal Ph Of Ready To Go Kombucha (sweet tea + starter liquid) is 4.5 -4
# 3 Adding Vinegar or Lemon Juice
This is a quick fix that you can use if you want to drop the ph of the kombucha you are about to drink. Simply add a small amount of a natural fermented vinegar to your kombucha. 2 teaspoons per glass would be a moderate amount. You can play around with the quantity to suit your tastes.
# 4 Balancing Your SCOBY
This last point is only relevant if you feel that you are having brewing problems with your SCOBY. This could be due to a number of things, such as incorrect ratios between ingredients, or an old SCOBY. However a very common cause of brewing problems is the SCOBY itself. SCOBY problems are very often caused by an imbalance between the yeasts and the bacteria. Both of these sets of organisms rely on and compete with each other at the same time. If either of them is out of kilter this can handicap the whole fermentation process.
How to Tell if You Need To Balance Your SCOBY
A good way to check if your SCOBY needs balancing is to ascertain the level of yeast strings and particles. If you can see a large amount of yeast strings, then you might have a yeast overgrowth. If you have no strings and no sediment the yeasts might be in recline and the bacteria are dominating.
How to Balance the SCOBY
As we have a few in depth posts on balancing the SCOBY, I will not bore you with all the info here. If you feel that you have a yeast overgrowth then use the detailed guidelines in this post.
If you feel that there is a lack of yeasts, then refer to this post for guidelines on how to encourage them. Both of these guides will provide additional info on how to ascertain whether or not your SCOBY needs balancing.
Note that balancing the SCOBY is not a direct method for lowering the ph of your kombucha. However if you are having general brewing problems , and as a result of that fermentation is stalling, this could result in ph levels not dropping. To remedy all this, a bit of SCOBY balancing might do the trick.
Making sure that your kombucha reaches the right level of acidity is good for you, and for your brew!
The main way to go about lowering the ph of your finished kombucha is to extend brew times and do second ferments. However, if your brews are giving trouble and do not seem to acidify unless you leave them for overly long periods of time, then you might need to check into the health of your culture.
Introducing more starter liquid into your kombucha can drop the ph right from the beginning, and inject an heightened does of microbes which can aid fermentation.
And lastly if you want a real quick fix for a glass of booch that you have poured which is not sour enough, add a little vinegar or lemon juice.