You may have heard of the word “kombucha” more and more recently. Over the past 2 years, kombucha has really been making a name for itself and trending all over the foodie pages. But what exactly is kombucha? Well, it’s a form of fermented tea. Before you get all freaked out about fermentation, remember that a lot of the foods and drinks that we know and love are fermented: kimchi, sauerkraut, beer, wine, yogurt, miso and more. Kombucha is no different. It is believed that kombucha has been consumed for many years, the earliest dating back to 220B.C. in China, Korea and Japan. Kombucha is not just a fizzy, sour-sweet drink but it also has some assumed beneficial properties*. This fermented beverage has been linked with having a high source of probiotics as the fermentation process produces acetic acid, causing a large culture of gut-healthy bacteria to form (lactic-acid bacteria). You need them to have a healthy and efficient digestive tract as it can aid with digestion and reduce inflammation in the area. Hence, why more people have been getting on the kombucha band-wagon.
*Note: Although there are some associations between kombucha and its benefits (high source of probiotics, antioxidant properties, effectiveness in controlling cholesterol and blood sugar levels etc.), scientific research pertaining to kombucha is still ongoing and limited. The beverage has minimal evidence to support the above claims but there may be good properties to the beverage.
Before you begin, remember these points:
1. Choosing the right bottle for your kombucha
When bottling kombucha, one thing that you have to get right is the bottle. Any glass bottle can be used for this process, but if you really want a GREAT batch of kombucha, we recommend that you use a sturdy glass bottle with an air-tight cap. Having an air-tight cap/lid will really help with preventing the release of carbon dioxide gas from the bottles. If you lose your carbon dioxide, you lose the fizziness of the drink. And that will leave your kombucha tasting relatively flat, and we don’t want that. Another thing to note is before bottling your kombucha, really make sure that you inspect and examine your glass bottles for any imperfections, cracks or breaks. The last thing you want is leakage and having all that beautiful fermented mixture be wasted.
2. Burping your bottles every other day
What in the world does burping a bottle mean? I was just as confused by this step as you may be. In my head, I was thinking of firmly patting the bottle until air was released. Like burping a baby. Thankfully, that’s not what it is. Burping the bottle is simply uncapping or unscrewing the lid of the bottle to release some trapped air. As a result of fermentation, the chemical process creates carbon dioxide gas. And as mentioned earlier, we like and we need that carbon dioxide for fizziness. However, if there is too much carbon dioxide trapped in the bottle, it generates more pressure within the glass bottle and the bottle can actually explode. We’re trying to make kombucha here, not bucha bombs. So, to prevent that, every other day or so, burp the bottles. And while you’re at it, you can actually give your kombucha a taste-test. If it needs more time to ferment, leave it out. If it’s done, throw it in the fridge.
3. Take great caution when burping/opening your bottles
As mentioned in the above point, an excess of pressure within the glass bottles can cause it to erupt. So everytime you need to burp your bottles or if you need to do a tasting of your kombucha, be sure to take it to the sink and open it there. Also, for added protection, cover the bottles with a cloth to trap any spraying liquid. A good technique that can be used is by opening the cap slowly in the sink while applying downward pressure.
How to actually bottle your kombucha: a step-by-step guide
Tips before you start bottling:
- Use a funnel (things can get real messy without one)
- Do it over the sink (again, really messy so save yourself some time on cleaning)
- Use a large pitcher to help with pouring the kombucha
- Prepare an extra bottle, in the event that you have excess kombucha
- Using clean hands, remove the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast) from the brew jar. This is usually formed after the completion of the first or primary fermentation process. Place the “SCOBY” into a clean container.
- Measure out 1.5 to 2 cups of kombucha from the brewing vessel and add it into the container with the “SCOBY”. This will be the starter for your next batch, if you decide to make some more. You can go ahead and store this as it will not be required during the bottling process.
- Take your clean bottles and add the flavouring of your choosing to the bottom of the glass jar. If you have no flavoring, then you may skip this step.
- Using a funnel, pour out the remaining kombucha from the brew jar and into your clean glass bottles. Remember to leave about 2-5cm of empty space from the nozzle. This is because the fermentation process produces a lot of gas, and that gas requires some space to move around.
- Screw on the bottle caps/jar lids tightly on your bottles and give in a quick little rinse on the outside. Pat them dry afterwards.
- Store your bottles at room temperature, preferably away from direct sunlight. Ideally, you want to keep the bottles somewhere that you can see them so that you won’t forget to burp them. This process will take approximately 2-7 days. You may keep fermenting the kombucha for longer but not longer than 30 days.
- Burp the bottles every other day in order to release gas and to sample your kombucha. To sample your kombucha, use a straw or metal spoon to remove it so it doesn’t compromise your batch. No double dipping!
- Once you are satisfied with the taste and fizziness of your kombucha, you can place the bottles in the refrigerator to chill and halt the fermentation process. Note: The longer you ferment the kombucha, the more sour it will taste.
- Enjoy your personal batch of homemade kombucha!
Ways to Influence Kombucha Flavour
There are a few ways that you are able to influence the kombucha flavour. Some of them include:
- Choose a different tea
- Instead of using black tea, you could use white tea or green tea. Choose whichever suits your taste buds best.
- Adjust fermentation time
- As mentioned briefly, the longer you ferment the kombucha, the more sour the flavour will be. It becomes less sweet and more acidic. But it all depends on what you prefer. Some people enjoy the sourness of the beverage and others find it overwhelming. The best part about making kombucha is that you are the master brewer. You decide how you like it. Just remember, at least 2 days and at most, 30 days.
- Adding flavouring
- This is the true art of kombucha making; this is where you get to be creative. Channel your inner masterchef and create your own concoction. You can add fresh fruit or frozen fruit to the kombucha. Dried fruit, juices and vanilla/almond extract work too. Some people have even experimented with savoury kombucha by adding herbs. Just remember to add your flavourings before you pour in the kombucha, this allows the flavours to dance together and mend. Ultimately, achieving a deeper and more complex flavour profile.
Written by @DrFatinDaud
Dr Fatin Najwa binti Daud is a junior doctor, content creator and copywriter residing in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She previously worked in marketing, specifically digital marketing, and business development. Dr Fatin is highly passionate about medicine and education. Her other interests include activism, humanitarian work, fashion and sports. You can find Dr Fatin Daud on LinkedIn.