The Ultimate Guide to Carbonating Your Kombucha
Kombucha’s fizziness is one of the things which makes it so enjoyable to drink. Although some people do not like carbonation in general, and purposefully remove the carbonation from their kombucha, it is usually sought after.
After a regular period of ordinary fermentation, kombucha usually has slight levels of carbonation. By implementing a couple of “extra fizz” strategies you can up the carbonation of your kombucha by quite a lot.
Sometimes you might harvest a batch op kombucha which is just flat. Other times kombucha can go flat on your while it is in storage. In either case, there are a couple of things which you can to naturally inject some fizz into your kombucha one more.
Here’s Terry from KombuchaHome (unwittingly!) showing what true explosive Kombucha carbonation looks like:
Where Kombucha’s Fizz Comes From
The fizz in kombucha is carbon dioxide bubbles. These are produced by the yeasts as they convert the sugar present into alcohol. Besides the alcohol, the other waste product are the carbon dioxide bubbles. Some of the bubbles escape during fermentation, because the fermentation is open. However some do remain trapped in the kombucha tea.
Science Behind Increasing Carbonation in Kombucha
When one is aiming to increase the levels of carbonation in your kombucha, it is the yeasts and their process which one is wanting to encourage. This can be done in a variety of ways. Here are some things which act as stimulants to the yeasts n kombucha:
Things That the Kombucha Yeasts Like and Which Cause Them to Create More CO2
- Sugar (their food source)
By increasing their food source at the right time and in the right quantities you can encourage the yeast activity within your kombucha.
- Warm temperatures
The kombucha yeasts prefer slightly warmer conditions to their bacterial counterparts.
- Black Tea
The kombucha microbes – the yeasts included – usually prefer their regular tea type, black tea, to any other. This is because they feed off of the tannins and other compounds within the tea. They can do ok on green tea. Herbal tea, however, is usually a no go, unless done in a controlled and planned manner which supports the SCOBY. For more info on kombucha and different tea types check out this post What is the Best Tea For Making Kombucha.
- More of their kind
Another thing which will stimulate the kombucha yeasts is to try and incorporate as many of them into the starter liquid for each batch of kombucha as possible.
Most of the methods which we will be talking about below with regards to increasing the carbonations within your finished kombucha will be making use of these strategies.
Ways to Increase the Carbonation in Kombucha
When it comes to increasing the carbonation within your kombucha, there are basically two different stages where you can influence things for more fizz. In the primary ferment and in the secondary ferment. The primary ferment is the stage where you are doing the regular ferment with the SCOBY.
The secondary ferment is optional and can be done after the primary ferment once the SCOBY has been removed and the kombucha has been bottled. The bottles are left out for an extra period of time at room temperature, sealed. Sometimes, if flavoring such as large pieces of fruit is added, then different jars/containers with wide mouths are used, and once the secondary ferment is finished the kombucha is decanted into drinking bottles for refrigeration.
Although secondary ferments are optional in kombucha brewing, you will not be able to achieve high levels of carbonation without them. They are also great for deepening the flavor of your kombucha. For more on secondary ferments check out How To Make Second Ferment Kombucha (And Why You Absolutely Should).
Ways to Increase Carbonation In the Primary Ferment
You can simply use make use of a secondary ferment to up levels of carbonation within your kombucha. However, if you are really keen to get as much fizz as possible, then you might want to start tweaking things in the primary ferment already. As mentioned above, this will all be aimed at egging on the yeasts.
Incorporate More Yeasts into Your Ferment
Although there are yeasts within the actual body of the SCOBY, there are also a large quantity floating free within the kombucha. The way these get into your new batches of kombucha is via the starter liquid. The free floating yeasts tend to sink and accumulate at the bottom of whatever container they are in. So when you are taking starter liquid, try to harvest the tea which is right at the bottom. This should container a cloudy looking conglomeration of brownish bits and pieces and strings. These are the yeasts.
Feed the Yeasts
When a new brew of kombucha is set up, there is ample sugar available for the yeasts. If it is highly refined sugar, then they will with ease gobble it all up in the beginning stages. The majority of the carbon dioxide will be produced at this point in the brewing. Which means that often when it comes to harvesting the kombucha, much of the carbonation will have evaporated out of the liquid.
Adding More Sugar Halfway Through Fermentation
One way to combat this uneven production of carbon dioxide is to feed the yeasts sugar again, half way through the fermentation. You can give them approximately another quarter of what you added in the beginning.
Using A More Complex Sugar
If you are not so keen on the idea of having to add more sugar into your brewing kombucha halfway through the fermentation, you can also choose to use a more complex type of sugar. For example brown sugar and castor sugar. These types of less processed sugar which have more molasses present are more difficult for the yeasts to process, and therefore their carbon dioxide production is more even throughout the fermentation period. For more info on using complex sugars and other sweetening alternative check out The Ultimate Guide to the Best Types of Sugar For Brewing Kombucha and for a guide on brewing with brown sugar specifically have a look at How to Brew Kombucha with Brown Sugar.
Do Not Use Too Much Sugar In The Beginning
Make sure that you are not using more than the recommended amount of sugar to tea in your initial sweet mix. If there is too much sugar present at the start the yeasts will become sluggish. This is similar to the effect that a large meal has on us humans! In brewing, it is called the crabtree effect. This crabtree effect will stall fermentation, can be one for the reasons for reduced carbonation in kombucha. If fermentation does not take place properly, then there will not be much carbon dioxide present in your brew. We do give you some tips in our other articles on how to reduce sugar content in Kombucha.
Increase the Temperature
If the temperatures are low where you are, then you might want to consider trying to find a warmer spot for your kombucha to ferment in. Kombucha can ferment between 49o Fahrenheit (18o Celsius) and 95o Fahrenheit (35o Celsius). However, the yeasts do better on the warmer side of this spectrum and the bacteria do better on the colder side of the spectrum. So if you want more yeast action, providing them with their favorite temperatures can do the trick and ultimately result in more carbonation. For more info on increasing the temperature of your brews have a look at Cool Weather SCOBY Care: Brewing Kombucha in Cold Weather.
Use Black or Green Tea
If you are using herbal teas or infusions for making your kombucha and are having trouble with carbonations, then you will want to switch back to regular tea. Tea, whether it is green, black, yellow or oolong, as long as it is derived from the Camellia Sinensis plant is what the yeasts in kombucha are adapted to feeding on. If the yeasts are deprived of these nutrients for too long, they will start to decline in health and not be able to carry out fermentation properly. This will result in low levels of carbonation.
And that about wraps it up for the primary ferment. Let’s check out what we can do to the secondary ferment to get more fizz!
Ways to Increase Carbonation In the Secondary Ferment
Although it can be important to make sure that conditions are right the primary ferment for good fizz production, the secondary ferment is where all the magic happens. It is possible for a lot more carbonation to build up within your kombucha during the secondary ferment than during the primary ferment. The reason for this is that secondary ferments are always done sealed. Which means that carbon dioxide which is building up has nowhere to escape to, and end up being trapped within the kombucha. Resulting in bubbles!
Because of the sealed environment and the proximity to the end of fermentation, the second ferment is really the perfect time to adjust things to add in fizz. Here are some options.
Add Sugar or Fruit
A foolproof way to kickstart the yeasts back into carbon dioxide production is to add in a little more sugar to the kombucha before bottling them up for the second ferment. They will start to feed on this, and in turn produce CO2 as their bi-product. Because the kombucha is sealed up, the CO2 will be contained and trapped in the bottle until. You do not have to use sugar for this injection of food for the yeasts. You can use fruit pieces, fruit juice, fruit puree, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut sugar, etc. Just do not use artificial sweeteners, they will not work.
Flavorings Which Cause Fizz Production
Fruit tends to work particularly well actually, especially certain fruits such as pineapple. No wonder people often experience pineapple beer explosions! Here is a list of top fizz producing flavorings.
- Lemon slices (high fizz!)
- Ginger (particularly fresh and grated)
Doing Long Second Ferments
Doing an extended second ferment is a sure fire way to lock in carbonation. For this, it is best that the temperatures are not too high. Long slow second ferments at lowish temperatures can also produce great flavor profiles.
Doing Warm Quick Second Ferments
If the temperatures are too warm where you are to do a second ferment of more than a couple days, do not worry. You should still experience good levels of carbonation because the warm temperatures will be catering to the yeasts.
Word of Warning on Second Ferments & Explosions
If you have done much reading up on kombucha then you will have probably come across warnings with regards to explosions. When doing a second ferment, any pressure which is building up within your bottles is trapped there and can not escape. If not released, this pressure can build up to the point where it can pop a glass bottle. Which means you have a massive explosion on your hands!Not safe.
How to Prevent Explosions
You can either fit an airlock to your lids if you are using special containers for doing your second ferment in. Or you can simply crack the lids once a day or so to release pressure. As you do not want to lose too much CO2, close the up immediately again. You just want the excess which could cause an explosion to escape.
When to Do a ‘Third Ferment’ to Get Back Fizz
This method of leaving your bottled kombucha out for a day or two or three to lock in extra carbonation can be applied to stored bottled of kombucha which have lost their fizz. All you need to do is take the bottle out of the refrigerator and open it. Add some sort of sugar or sugar source such as fruit juice or honey for the yeasts to feed on. Reseal, and allow the bottle to sit out at room temperature out of direct sunlight for 24-48 hours. If it ha snot built up any pressure during this time, give it another couple of days. If kombucha has been stored and refrigerated, then there is a high chance that the yeasts have gone dormant and need a little extra time to get active and eat up the sugar.
How to Minimize Carbonation Loss During Decanting
An often overlooked point when it comes to retaining fizz in kombucha is that decanting can cause kombucha to lose a lot of its carbonation. In fact, pouring kombucha from one jug to another a couple times is one way of quickly taking the carbonation out of kombucha. People who do not like fizz implement this to get their kombucha fizz free!
So, when you are decanting your kombucha from the brewing vessel into the storage/drinking bottles, try not to have to re-pour it too many time. I used to pour my kombucha from the fermentation vessel, into a bowl with a jug mouth. I then would decant that into my fliptops.
As I have discovered, a much better method is to siphon your kombucha out of the brewing vessel. This might sound complicated if you have never done it before but it really could not be easier. All you need is a short length of hose, about 5 feet long depending on the size and depth of your fermentation vessel.
How to Syphon
Once you have your hose, all you need to do is insert under the surface of the kombucha. With your empty bottle ready in hand, give the free end of the pipe a suck. A flow of kombucha should come up the pipe, over the rim of the brewing vessel, and down into your waiting bottle. Easy! You can minimising the force of the flow by bringing the bottle which you are filling higher up, this will slow the kombucha as the force of gravity is less. DO not go too high, because then you will lose the suction.
If You Are Still Not Getting Carbonation
If after implementing these fizz tricks you are still not getting good levels of carbonation, then you should consider whether you SCOBY is still healthy and carrying out fermentation properly. If you are getting seriously low levels of carbonation, check for other signs that your kombucha is not fermenting. Check for the following points.
Is my kombucha becoming sour?
Is my SCOBY growing in thickness?
Is my SCOBY making baby SCOBys?
If your SCOBY does not seem to be growing or making babies, then it might be lacking in vitality. If your kombucha is not even getting tart, then it is probably seriously struggling. For more info on what a healthy SCOBY looks like, check out What Does A Healthy Kombucha SCOBY Look Like? For guidelines on SCOBY care, read this post How To Care For Your Kombucha SCOBY So It Lives For Years.
While fizzless kombucha can be a common occurrence, getting fizz into your kombucha is not so difficult. Implementing a second ferment is a surefire way of getting great levels of carbonation. If you want to really supercharge you fizz factor, try adding ginger and lemon.
If nothing is working, consider that your SCOBY might be down in condition and not functioning at full power. Or, hit us up in the comment and perhaps we can assist.
However, if all goes well – enjoy the fizz guys! : )