Flavoring Basics for Kombucha
Kombucha can be flavored with fresh or dried fruit, jams and jellies, dried herbs and flowers, barks, spices, syrups, or anything that sparks your imagination! There are no strict rules because you have removed the SCOBY and starter liquid for the next batch. As long as you like the end result, any flavoring will work well with Kombucha.
You can combine multiple flavors in a bottle and then pour the Kombucha on top. Seal the bottle and allow carbonation to build during the second fermentation. The duration of this process may vary from 1-3 days or longer depending on your brewing environment. As long as you keep it at room temperature, the Kombucha will continue fermenting in the bottle.
Flavoring Kombucha in the Bottle
Kombucha Flavoring and Bottling Safety
If you’re not careful, small explosions can occur with the bottles, especially if too much flavoring is used or if it’s very hot, such as in the summer. To prevent explosions, open the caps slightly during the flavoring process (also known as the “second fermentation”) to allow carbonation to escape. This process is called “burping” the bottles.
How to Flavor Kombucha in Batches—Large Vessel Second Fermentation (Then Third Fermentation in the Bottle)
For most people, flavoring Kombucha in the bottle is the convenient way to go, especially when you only need to flavor a few bottles at a time. Flavored bottles also allow for more variety, which many home brewers prefer. However, there is another method of flavoring Kombucha that some people may find suitable, and that is flavoring it in the brewing vessel or another large container like a gallon tank.
This is our preferred method of flavoring and bottling. We like to flavor a large vessel, then strain out the flavorings and leave the brew in the bottle for 1-2 weeks until carbonation has developed and the flavor becomes dry. It’s absolutely delicious!
However, we NEVER recommend adding flavorings to the brew while the SCOBY is present. That is not the correct way to successfully flavor Kombucha! Instead, you should add flavorings AFTER removing the SCOBY and starter liquid for the next batch. By taking out the SCOBYs and placing them in a hotel or another vessel, and by drawing starter liquid from the top of the brew, we can protect the ingredients for the next batch. Then, you can add whatever you want to the remaining Kombucha in the vessel.
Afterward, cover the vessel with a cloth or use a hard lid if available. Let the brew sit in the vessel for an additional 1-3 days to extract the flavor, and then bottle it. After bottling, remember to clean the brewing vessel thoroughly with soap and water to remove any residue from the flavorings. Rinse it very well!
If you’re doing Kombucha Continuous Brew (as opposed to Batch Brew), simply use the spigot to fill up a gallon tank or another vessel. Add the flavors and strain them after 1-3 days.
Third Fermentation—Straining Kombucha Flavorings to Extend Shelf Life
Another advantage of this method is that you can strain the flavors from the Kombucha as you bottle it. This is not necessary because the low pH of the Kombucha prevents any mold or other contamination from occurring with the fruit or flower pieces. However, removing the flavorings will help maintain the flavor of the Kombucha in the bottle for a longer period. Otherwise, they may degrade and mix into the bottle, potentially causing off flavors. Normally, we strain out the flavorings to extend the shelf life, but it requires more effort.
The process of building carbonation in the bottle, typically for about 1-3 days without flavors, is what we call the Third Fermentation.
Brewing Kombucha is a fun and creative process. Enjoy experimenting with flavors!