What to Do if My Kombucha is Bitter
Is your homemade kombucha tasting unpleasantly bitter? If so, there are a couple easy to analyze things which might be causing this.
Are you sampling your homemade kombucha only to find that it tastes unpleasantly bitter? If so do not worry, we might know what you are doing wrong and how to fix it.
Before we look at what to do, the first thing is to pinpoint what is making your kombucha bitter.
What Causes Bitter Kombucha
While there are a couple factors which can bring on bitterness, the main culprit is as follows:
Over Steeping of Tea
The main cause of bitter kombucha is overbrewing of tea. If tea is left to steep for too long it releases a lot of tannins. This causes the brew to become extremely bitter. Tannins are a good thing, and the SCOBY needs them as it is a source of food for the microbes. However too many tannins will result in an unpleasant tasting batch of kombucha. Some brewers also believe that overly high levels of tannins can also weaken the SCOBY over time.
If you are meticulous about the steeping time of the tea which you make for your kombucha batches – and you know that this is not the cause of bitterness – then there are a couple of other factors which might be causing the problem.
If you are using ordinary sugar for your kombucha making, then it is unlikely that it is the cause of any bitterness. However brewers have sometimes reported experiencing slightly bitter batches when brewing with maple syrup.
Make sure that you clean all of your containers and brewing items thoroughly before use. These items could hold residues from some other bitter substance.
Too Many Yeasts
Sometimes brews which have a very high yeast count can become slightly bitter. To counteract this and get your kombucha and SCOBY culture back into microbial balance, you can strain the kombucha, and detach any excess yeast strings from the SCOBY. When setting up the new batch, use starter liquid from the surface of the container in which it is stored. This will contain fewer free floating yeasts than starter liquid from the bottom.
What to do About Bitter Kombucha
Once you have pinpointed what is causing the bitterness in your kombucha, it is time to take action.
Reducing Steeping Times
As oversteeping is the most common and likely cause of bitter brews, the first thing to change if needs be is your steeping time. When I first started making kombucha, I thought that I could save on tea by reducing the amount of tea, and steeping for longer. Mistake! I got bitter batches and couldn’t figure out why.
Recommended Steeping Time for Teas
The steeping times for different teas vary. Here is a list of the main tea types and their recommended steeping times.
- Black tea: 3-5 minutes
- Green tea: 3 minutes
- White tea: 1-3 minutes
- Oolong tea: 3-5 minutes
- Pu-erh tea: 3-5 minutes
The teas which call for a shorter steeping time such as green tea are apt to become most bitter.
Change Sugar Source
If you do not think that over steeping is causing the bitterness, then consider your sugar source if it is something other than cane sugar. To test if the sugar source is causing bitterness, simply do one batch with cane sugar, and compare the results.
Reduce the Yeasts
If neither of the above factors is causing the bitterness, then you might want to consider regulating the yeasts within your brew. You will know that the yeasts are proliferating if you can see a lot of brown strings and sediment within your brewing kombucha. To reduce these, you can pull off ones which are attached to the SCOBY, and strain out some of the free floating ones. Over populations of yeasts are most common in warm climates.
2 Bitterness Reducing Hacks
Hopefully by now you have a good idea of what is causing the bitterness in your brews of kombucha. However you are probably still sitting with a whole batch of kombucha which is not as yummy as it should be. Is there anything you can do? Yes!
Bitterness Reducing Hack # 1 : Straining
If you want to quickly lower the level of bitterness present in your kombucha, you can try straining it through a couple layers of cheesecloth. This will remove some of the yeast particles and hopefully make for a fresher and less bitter tasting booch.
Bitterness Reducing Hack # 2 : Standing
Brewers who have struggled with bitterness often say that leaving the finished and bottled kombucha to stand for a week in the refrigerator can really help to mellow out the flavor and reduce bitterness. I found this to be true when I was making my uber bitter kombucha, so it is worth a shot!
Bitter kombucha can be a really disappointing and frustrating exercise if you do not know what is causing it. Hopefully this post has helped you to solve your bitterness problem.
Remember, if you are using green tea or white tea – a short steeping time is even more important for non-bitter tasting kombucha.
If you have any questions or tales of bitterness, please don’t hesitate to chat to us in the comments. Happy brewing all!