Second ferment? What's that?
It's when you take your finished Kombucha and bottle it, flavor it, build up carbonation… that's the second ferment.
And, wow… it makes Kombucha sooo good and tasty and bubbly!
In the past, we didn't second ferment, but now we always do. It's that good!
On this week's #AskWardee, I'll show you how to second ferment Kombucha! Check out the particulars below in print, podcast, or video.
The Question: How Do You Second Ferment Kombucha?
Christina S. asked this question ages ago:
How do you second ferment Kombucha?
It's really easy, and it's so worth doing; so let's get it into how to second ferment Kombucha!
Why Second Ferment?
- it adds flavor(s)
- it increases carbonation
- you'll save money over buying bottled Kombucha
- it can help wean your family off soda — not many can resist bubbly Kombucha!
- and it increases the “wow” factor of your homemade Kombucha — I mean, just look at those bottles! 🙂
To make your own bubbly beverage that your family and friends love as much as soda? It's a rarity in today's world — and some might say that's reason enough for doing it! 😉 I certainly wouldn't argue!
What Bottles To Choose
You need Grolsch-style bottles. However, it's not enough just to look like the old fashioned bottles — the bottles have to be strong enough not to explode under the pressure of carbonation.
If purchasing new, make sure the specs say they are rated for Kombucha and other home brews. A casual bottle won't cut it. They actually have to be tested and made for this job. I like these (light/clear) or these (dark).
If purchasing used, you're taking a chance. The money savings may be worth it — if it actually works.
Do you know someone who brewed beer or Kombucha at home and is selling or giving away their old bottles? Ask if those bottles were strong enough. Hopefully, they'll be honest about it!
Obviously, don't buy bottles that have cracks or chips.
We have a set of larger bottles that we bought through a discount store for a few dollars each. They had sugary soda in them. I bought them just because I wanted the bottles. I dumped the soda, and we've been second fermenting Kombucha in them for years now. That was a bargain that paid off — they could easily have proven not strong enough, though.
How To Second Ferment Kombucha aka… Bottle It!
The process of bottling (second fermenting) Kombucha is quite simple:
- Complete the first ferment of Kombucha in your regular fermenting vessel — like this continuous brew system. You want it to taste great and not be too sweet. If it's too sour, the second ferment will help sweeten it up, so that's ok, too.
- Put 6 to 10 pieces of cut up, dried fruit in the bottom of each bottle. We love dried figs, blueberries, cherries, or cranberries; or candied ginger. (You can use fresh or frozen fruit, too… here's how!)
- Fill the bottles to within one inch of the top with the finished Kombucha (see below for decanting methods).
- Close the bottles.
- Put the bottles in a warm location or on a seedling warming mat for 1 to 3 days.
- Refrigerate. When totally chilled, they're ready to drink.
Methods Of Decanting
Depending on your fermenting vessel (for the first ferment), there are multiple ways to decant the Kombucha into the bottles.
First, if it's a continuous brew system like this, decant right from the pour spout of the large vessel into the bottles.
Second, pour the first fermented Kombucha into a glass measuring cup and pour it from there into the bottles.
Third, use food-grade tubing to transfer the first fermented Kombucha from the large fermenting vessels into the individual bottles. The downside to this is you have to “start the flow” by putting your mouth on it and sucking out the air, which creates a vaccuum for the Kombucha to start fill the tube and pouring into your bottle.
You may remember from science class how liquid finds the lowest spot. To fill a bottle, put one end of the tube inside the Kombucha fermenting vessel, then “start the flow” by sucking some air out of the other end of the tube (so it creates a vacuum for the Kombucha to start flowing) and put that end inside the bottle. Make sure the bottle and the tube inside it are below the end of the tubing that's in the large container. To slow down or reverse the flow, raise it up. This is a fun method, but it can be messy or undesirable because 1) you have to put your mouth on the tube now and then, which isn't ideal if you're going to serve Kombucha to guests on a regular basis and 2) it's easy to overflow bottles!
Fourth, you can use an (inexpensive!) automatic bottling syphon like this (pictured above) to decant fast and easily! Although it takes a bit to get the hang of it, it works a lot like #3 except you don't have to put your mouth on any tubes so you can feel completely comfortable serving your Kombucha to family and friends. This is my son's preferred method of decanting and I show you how to do it on #AskWardee 104.
What If It's Too Sour?
When bottling Kombucha and opening up for a taste-test, you lose some or all of the carbonation for the time being.
So, this is where you need to develop a rhythm for your house and how long it takes your Kombucha to second ferment until it's perfect. By the way, this can change with the seasons… faster in summer, slower in winter, due to house temperature.
If it goes too sour… no worries, you can “sweeten” to taste with liquid stevia after you open the bottle!
Additional Fermenting Articles
- Troubleshooting Your Ferments (KYF172)
- Lacto-Fermentation 101 Video Series
- Which Water is Best for Fermenting?
- Which Kind of Salt Should I Use for Fermenting?
- Do Lacto Ferments Contain Alcohol?
- Can I Use Alternative Sweeteners in Ferments?
- How to Tell if Your Kombucha is Moldy (And What to Do About It)
- How To Divide A Scoby #AskWardee 083
- Can You Make Kombucha With Honey? (Yes!) #AskWardee 085
- How To Make Kombucha
- Continuous Brew Kombucha (review)
- Where To Buy A Kombucha Scoby
- Where To Buy Bottles: these are dark and these are clear
- How To Create A Scoby Hotel
- How To Flavor Kombucha With Frozen Fruit (works with fresh, too)
- Where To Buy A Seedling Warming Mat
- Where To Buy Liquid Stevia — if you have sour Kombucha that you need to “sweeten up” without sugar!
- GAPS Articles/Archives
- FREE Fermenting Formulas Cheat Sheet
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Do you second ferment your Kombucha? What flavors are your favorite? Finally, what tips would you add?
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