What To Do If My Kombucha Is Too Cloudy
My Kombucha Is Extremely Cloudy – It Looks Terrible! Run into that problem? Not to fear, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know in this 2000 word trouble shooting guide!
Usually Kombucha has a naturally occurring cloudiness to it. The degree of cloudiness varies, and is not something to panic about. While first time drinkers of Kombucha might be a bit put off, cloudiness is merely a sign of the yeast activity which is going on within the brew – and this is not a bad thing!
However what may happen, is that the yeasts within your SCOBY can get out of hand. If this is the case, your Kombucha brew might take on an extreme case of cloudiness. This will usually be accompanied by a very high level of carbonation. The yeast at this point is not dead (dead yeast sinks to the very bottom of the brew, dusting it with a coating) or it’s not large enough to sink to the bottom — as a result, it stays suspended and clouds up the Kombucha.
While yeast activity is an important part of the brewing process, signs of excessive yeast action – such as a high level of cloudiness in your tea – may be indicating a more serious problem than cloudy tea.
Reasons for Cloudy Kombucha
Before you freak out, here are a couple valid reason why your Kombucha may be cloudy.
- Base Tea Color is Darker – different teas have different colors. You could have made a tea base that’s very dark (black tea say).
- The Lighting in the Room – Kombucha takes different shades depending on the lighting in the room
- Lots of SCOBY parts floating about
- Lots of Yeast Particles Floating Around (not good!)
The Tea Is Fine – The SCOBY Is Not
If you have gotten a very cloudy brew, but it still tastes good, don’t throw out the batch. This can be easily remedied by doing a second fermentation. I will outline this technique below, but first we should get down to the root of your cloudiness problem.
If you have gotten a cloudy brew accompanied by high levels of carbonation, or have been struggling with this for some time – what is probably happening is that the yeast levels within your SCOBY are out of balance. If you wish to gain more knowledge on how to brew from, and treat, a SCOBY which has a yeast imbalance, you can read What to Do If There is Too Much Fizz in My Kombucha (Too Much Fizz). I will also outline below what is going on, which methods one can use to get the SCOBY back on track, and how to get those yeasts under control.
The SCOBY is made up of two different types of organism, yeasts and bacteria. These two populations need to have a symbiotic relationship. One requires the other to produce properly fermented Kombucha and for the SCOBY to be healthy. However, if one or the other gets out of balance and dominates the SCOBY, then problems arise within the Kombucha and the SCOBY itself.
Unless one is working with a new SCOBY which one has purchased, or a SCOBY that has been in storage, a dominance of the yeasts is more common than the opposite, which is a dominance of the bacteria. Over activity of the yeasts and a yeast imbalance in the SCOBY is most common in warmer climates (i.e. if your room temperature is in the 80’s or 90’s). Have a look at Warm Weather SCOBY Care: Brewing Kombucha in Hot Weather if you reside in a hot area. This may solve future problems.
What To Do To The SCOBY to Fix a Cloudy Brew
You have two choices here: fix the current brew or prevent a cloudy situation from occurring during your next brew.
1. How to Prevent Kombucha Brew During Your Next Batch
However, if you don’t think the situation is that bad and you wish to continue with the same SCOBY – or you are continuing brewing while waiting for your “master race” SCOBY – then here are some things to do with your next batch.
Before starting your next brew of Kombucha, decide which of these methods you wish to implement. My advice would be to do them all. Seeing as yeast imbalances can be a frequent or common problem, if you think this is the case and have a very cloudy final brew, with high carbonation, then you won’t be doing any harm.
Now the aim here is to get the yeasts out of respiration and into fermentation mode. When in respiration mode, the yeasts use up the available oxygen and glucose at a rapid rate which starves the bacteria of these. Once the yeasts are in fermentation mode, this slows down drastically, providing a more optimum environment for the bacteria. In fermentation, the yeasts also produce alcohol, which the bacteria feed on.
Here are some methods for kicking starting fermentation
When making your sweat tea, replace a portion of your sugar with glucose. Karo and corn syrup are good sources of glucose to use. Corn syrup is mostly the preferred choice amongst brewers. This trick of adding glucose to stimulate the yeasts out of respiration and into fermentation mode is called is the “Crab Tree” effect in the beer making industry. You can combine this method with the next.
2. Decreasing The Tea Strength
In addition to replacing some of your sugar with a form of glucose when making the sweet tea base, decrease the strength of the tea. This lowers the level of nutrients available to the yeasts, which stops them from getting such a head start on the bacteria. However, reducing tea strength and dropping the level of nutrients available to the yeasts also has the effect of slowing down their production of enzymes. Enzymes are responsible for turning the sugar in the tea into glucose, which along with alcohol, acts as fuel for the bacteria. Therefore, be sure to use both of these methods together to get the best results. In addition to manipulating the yeasts into fermentation rather than respiration, here are a couple other tricks you can make use of.
3. Dropping The Temperature
If it is possible, start your new batches at or below 73o Fahrenheit (22o Celsius) and maintain them at that temperature throughout the fermentation. Yeasts thrive in warm temperatures, while bacteria do better in slightly cooler environments. Getting the temperature down will facilitate the bacteria and inhibit the yeasts, aiding towards getting the SCOBY back into balance.
4. Get Your Kombucha Starter From The Top Not the Bottom
Whether you are taking liquid for your starter from the previous batch or out of your SCOBY hotel – for more on SCOBY hotels read How to Create a Kombucha SCOBY Hotel (to Store Extra SCOBYs) – make sure that you take liquid off the top, rather than the bottom of the container. Free floating yeasts sink down, and you want to ensure that you are getting as few of these as possible. On the other hand, if you have the opposite problem of a low level of yeasts in your SCOBY you should take from the bottom you should check out What to Do If There is No Fizz in My Kombucha (No Fizz).
2. How To De-Cloud Your Currently Brewing Kombucha
Cloudiness in Kombucha is in and of itself not a problem as long as the brew still tastes and smells good. Reducing the cloudiness for drinking is not at all difficult. The longer the bottled Kombucha stands, the more the cloudiness should disappear. There is also a little trick which can be implemented to help reduce the cloudiness, and that is to add a small amount of gelatine!
What I would recommend, if you are not doing it already, is to do a second fermentation, with the addition of gelatin added. This sounds much more complicated that it actually is. Simplistically put, a second fermentation is merely allowing your Kombucha to continue its’ process for a bit once you have bottled it.
There are different methods of doing this, some people use a double bottling method, but it is also possible to merely strain and decant into your choice bottles for storage and consumption, and allow the brew to mature in those.
Second Fermentation to Clear Cloudy Brew
I will briefly outline how to do a second fermentation below:
- Remove the SCOBY, and strain your Kombucha.
- Decant into your bottles for storage, deciding how much airspace to leave depending on what taste you want to achieve.
- Add small amounts of gelatin to each bottle. This will help to clarify.
- Leave in room temperature conditions out of the fridge for a couple of days, checking for pressure build up.
- Place in the refrigerator ready for consumption.
There are one or two things to take note of here during the second fermentation.
1. Reduce Amount of Air Space In Your Bottles
Before decanting into bottles for the second ferment, give the brew a taste. If it is a bit sweet for your taste, leave a marginal air space between the surface and the cap. The oxygen in this air will allow for fermentation to continue. However if the brew is tart, then leave as little air space as possible. This will help to stall any further fermentation.
2. Continued Carbonation Builds Up Pressure
If your tea is continuing fermentation, remember that pressure will be building within the bottles. The last thing anybody wants is a huge Kombucha explosion to clean up, so keep an eye on your bottles, and burp them if you think that the pressure is getting too high. Using the right bottles is also important, the ideal type are the ones with flip EZ caps. Check out Best Equipment For Brewing Kombucha if you want more info on bottles and equipment, and if you are having horror visions of explosions, you can also read How to Prevent Your Kombucha Bottles from Exploding.
Doing a second fermentation also provides an excellent opportunity to add fruit or other flavoring without damaging the SCOBY. This is a very general set of instructions, as there are lots of variables one can take into consideration, such as the temperature of your kitchen, what flavoring you wish to add etc.
For in depth guidelines on doing second fermentation, read How To Make Second Ferment Kombucha (And Why You Absolutely Should). Not only can one achieve different flavors and a fuller Kombucha, and have more control over the level of carbonation and fermentation, second fermentation have the added benefit of increasing the quantities of health giving organic acids.
The Final Word
You might have been alarmed at your excessively cloudy Kombucha, but look at what all it has revealed… If you didn’t know about the makeup of the SCOBY, hopefully now you feel more in tune to what is going on with it. If you didn’t know about secondary fermentation, getting rid of the cloudiness in your brew gave you an opportunity to give it a bash – and if that’s not enough we even discussed how to breed master races of microbes!