How to Raise the Ph of Your Kombucha
Are you looking to raise the ph of your kombucha? In this post we take a look at how to this, and some of the reasons why you might want to have a kombucha that is less acidic.
During fermentation, kombucha drops in ph. It becomes acidic and begins to taste sour. This acidity is a source of great health benefits. When we ingest an acidic food or drink, such as fruit, kombucha etc, it is alkalizing. The human body does best when in a slightly alkaline state. However modern diets low in fresh produce can be notoriously acidifying. If you include something like kombucha into your diet, it’s alkalizing effects can help to combat this acidity in the body. Health experts have linked acidity in the body to a range of ailments and disease. So as you can see, making acidic kombucha is not a bad thing!
Why You Might Like to Raise the PH of Your Kombucha
However, although the acidity inherent to kombucha is a healthy and desirable element – there are limits to how acidic your might want your kombucha to be.
Taste & Drinkability
Kombucha which has gone below a ph reading of just under 3 will be quite sour and acidic. Kombucha which has gone below a ph reading of 2 is likely to be too acidic for human consumption!
So, while acidic kombucha is healthy, it must not be so acidic that you cannot drink it or enjoy it.
Drinking incredibly acidic liquids, such as undiluted vinegar, can have a negative effect on tooth enamel. The extreme acidity can eat at your tooth enamel. It is the same with incredibly sour and strong kombucha! Have you ever noticed when eating or drinking something acidic that your teeth feel strange? It might have something to do with the ability of acidic substances to attack tooth enamel.
There is much debate as to what is the ideal brewing period for kombucha is with regards to maximising probiotic levels. Some schools of thought say that the longer you brew your kombucha and the more sour it is., the more probiotics there will be in it. The contrary belief is that the probiotics are at the highest at the end of a short brew time just after they have eaten what food is available. If you are of the second opinion, then doing shorter brews and keeping the ph higher, makes sense.
So! If you are keen to raise the ph of your kombucha, let’s jump into just how to do this.
4 Ways to Raise the Ph of Kombucha
There are a few keys ways in which you can make sure that the ph of your finished kombucha is not too low. We will start with the main one.
# 1 Decrease Fermentation Time
This is the most obvious way to make sure that your kombucha does not get too acidic. During fermentation the yeasts consume whatever sugar they can get their hands on within the tea. Their waste product is alcohol. Yes alcohol! If you did not know that kombucha can contain alcohol, check out our post Can You Get Drunk on Kombucha Tea?. Moving on though, once this alcohol is produced it is soon eaten up by the bacteria part of the kombucha SCOBY. In turn, the bacteria produce natural acids after eating the alcohol. These natural acids are what lowers kombucha’s ph and makes it taste tart.
The longer the fermentation process continues, the more sugar is converted out and the more natural acids are produced. If you stop your fermentation earlier than you normally would, this will mean that your brew should have a higher ph than usual.
The exact time to stop it will depend on you and how high you want the ph. You can do a simple taste test along the way, to see how sour the batch is getting. Or, you can test the ph of the brew using a ph meter or ph strips. For more info on ph testing for your kombucha, check out How to Test the PH of Kombucha.
# 2 Decrease the Amount of Starter Liquid
This technique should only be used if you are already using very strong starter liquid. If the starter liquid you are using has a very low ph, and is extremely sour, this could overly lower the ph of your kombucha from the start. If however you are using a normal strength of starter liquid, then do not use this method. The reason for this is because you need to acidify your brew before allowing it to ferment. This is the main role of starter liquid.
Lowering the ph of your sweet tea by inoculating it with mature kombucha protects it from pathogens. Organisms of decay such as mold cannot live in acid conditions. If you do not use enough or strong enough starter liquid, then you will be opening up your brew to invasion by pathogens.
Ideal Ph of Ready to Go Kombucha
The best way to make sure that your ready to go kombucha is at the right ph is to measure it. You simply add the starter liquid to the tea, and then test. If you do not have ph strips or a meter, you can also do a taste test. This will be less accurate, but it will give you some indication. A batch of kombucha which has been inoculated with starter liquid should read between 4.5 and 4 on the ph scale.
If you do a taste test, the ready to go brew should have the rough acidity level of an apple or other piece of fruit.
# 3 Use Less Sour Starter Liquid
Very similar to the above point, if your starter liquid is very tart and acidic, then you can try using some which is less potent. This will mean that your brew will start off being less acidic, and take longer to reach an overly acidic level. Again, be very careful when reducing the strength of your starter liquid, as this is what protects your brewing kombucha from mold and other pathogens.
The best way to be sure that your kombucha has had enough starter liquid added to it is to test the ph of the ready to go batch. It should read between 4.5 and 5 on the ph scale. If you do a taste test, it should have the tartness of an apple.
# 3 Reduce the Yeasts
If your kombucha has an overabundance of yeasts, this could be causing premature souring. A prematurely sour ferment is one which sours very quickly, and has a sharp undeveloped flavor profile. If you are wondering ‘well how should I know if I have too many yeasts?’ do not worry. The yeasts are easy to spot. They hang around in brown dusty looking strings. These strings are either attached to the SCOBY, or float around on their own. Lots of brown silty looking sediment at the bottom of your brewing vessel can also be an indication of a lot of yeasts.
How to Reduce the Yeasts
The quickest way to reduce the yeasts immediately is to strain them out. All you need to do is filter your kombucha through a wide meshed cloth or coffee filter. This will catch most of the visible yeasts.
There are also other ways which you can reduce the yeasts. If you are interested in knowing more, particularly about long term control of yeasts, then check out How to Decrease Yeast Population in Kombucha. Long term control of yeasts can be an important brewing practice, especially if you live in a warm climate. Yeast manipulation forms part of what is known as balancing your SCOBY. Keeping the right balance between the yeasts and the bacteria within the SCOBY is the underlying basis to most SCOBY health and brewing issues.
# 4 Reduce Fermentation Temperature
The warmer the temperatures are, the faster fermentation takes place. The faster fermentation takes place, the quicker the ph will drop. Which equals tart kombucha very quickly! Longer and slower ferments are considered preferable to short and fast ones. You will usually get better flavor profiles coming through. Longer slower ferments are also thought to develop more diverse and higher levels of probiotic microbes. It is also better for general SCOBY health.
How to Reduce Fermentation Temperature
There are quite a few different ways you can set things up so that your kombucha is brewing at a lower temperature. The easiest thing is to find a cool spot for it to brew in. If this is not enough, then you might need to resort to artificial ways of cooling down your booch. You can stick your kombucha into a cooler with ice blocks. Or if you want to really get set up, with a little DIY you can rig a refrigerator to run at the perfect temperature for brewing kombucha.
For more detailed info on cooling down your kombucha, check out Warm Weather SCOBY Care: Brewing Kombucha in Hot Weather, How to Counter Extreme Seasonal Temperatures for Perfect Kombucha Brewing and How to Increase Bacteria Populations in Kombucha (coming soon).
What to Do if Your Kombucha is Already Too Acidic
The above methods are all what you can do to prevent your kombucha from acquiring too low of a ph. If however you have a batch of kombucha to drink on your hands which is too acidic to drink – here are a few tips to make it drinkable once more.
Dilute With Water or Fruit Juice
A great way to drink up really strong kombucha is to combine it with another beverage such as water or fruit juice. This will dilute the acidity enough to that you can drink it and still enjoy the benefits of the kombucha. You can even use something like water kefir!
Use as Kombucha Vinegar
If you have a batch of kombucha on your hands which is very very strong and sour, you can use it like vinegar! When kombucha reaches this level of maturity it is often known as kombucha vinegar, because it is very similar to other natural vinegars. Natural vinegars such as apple cider vinegar, rice vinegar, red wine vinegar etc are also produced via fermentation and allowed to become very mature.
If you are curious about this similarity, take a look at What’s the Difference Between Kombucha and Vinegar.
How to Use Kombucha Vinegar
You can use kombucha vinegar in just about every instance which you would use regular vinegar or natural vinegar. It works great in marinades, brine, salads, stews etc.
For some inspiration to get you started on cooking with your kombucha vinegar, here are some recipes ideas:
How to Use Kombucha Vinegar as a Brine
Kombucha and Parmesan Salad Dressing
Make-Your-Own Kombucha Salad Dressing
Kombucha Italian Dressing
Pork Cutlets Marinated in Kombucha Smothered in a Cream Sauce
Italian Sausage with Kombucha, Peppers and Onions
For a general guide on how to swop in kombucha vinegar in the place of regular vinegar in recipes, check out How to Substitute Kombucha for Vinegar in Recipes
Although kombucha’s low ph is a source of health benefits, a ph which is too low can make kombucha undrinkable. Very acidic beverages are also apt to erode tooth enamel. For these reasons it can be a good idea to keep the ph of your kombucha from getting too low.
The most common ways to do this is by reducing fermentation time and brewing temperatures. You can also take at look at the starter which you are using. If it is very strong, you can reduce the amount slightly. If you are using large quantities of starter liquid this could also be souring your kombucha from the start. Just be careful when reducing strength and quantity of starter liquid, because starter liquid is what protects the brew from contracting mold.
Another method which you can use to prevent premature souring is to reduce the yeasts. This is a good thing to do if you have a overgrowth of them. Reducing yeasts falls under SCOBY balancing, wherein you keep an eye on the balance between the yeasts and bacteria within your brew. Knowing how to reduce or encourage both the yeasts or the bacteria can go a long way to eradicating brewing problems.
Lastly, if you already have some really strong and sour kombucha on your hands, then do not despair. Very strong kombucha is called kombucha vinegar, and there are many uses for it. Alternatively, if you still want to drink the kombucha, simply dilute it with water, juice, or some other beverage.