* Please note that this blog remains up as a resource. However, this blog is currently on hiatus until further notice. For more information, please read this blog post. Thank you and happy kombucha brewing, drinking, and SCOBY trading! Lots of love. ~Annabelle *

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Kombucha Bottling 101 (Updated May 27, 2010)

What to do when you are done brewing your kombucha? One thing you can do is bottle your brew.

Why bottle?

Bottling, or a secondary fermentation, allows the yeast to feed on more of the sugar in your kombucha tea. This creates CO2, decreases the amount of sugar in your kombucha, and also makes your drink more carbonated and fizzy, which many people enjoy.

Here are some things to think about when choosing your bottle:
  1. Glass bottles with narrow necks are the most common way to store fermented beverages.
    -old beer bottles* (their tight seals are ideal to create more fizz)
    -EZ Cap (Flip-Top) Beer Bottles
    -wine bottles
    (nice as a gift or if you're sharing!)
It's your choice:

  1. Old kombucha bottles-Pro:
    -GT's now sells kombucha with plastic caps! Many kombucha brands now sell kombucha in reusable bottles.
    -Con:-In my experience, they sometimes leak, and air can escape more easily as opposed to beer bottles (air leakage can lead to decreased fizz).-If they came with metal caps (ex. the GT ones), the caps usually oxidize/rust easily

    GT's old metal caps

  2. Old plastic bottles

    -The plastic material allows for expansion (decreasing the chance of your bottle exploding).
    -The plastic bottles become hard after a couple of days, signaling that the yeast have consumed most of the sugars in the kombucha and that you are ready to refrigerate it.
    -Plastics aren't good for the environment.
    -Re-using old plastic bottles could expose you to chemicals. (Especially because Kombucha Tea is acidic!)
    -Some people choose to do an initial secondary ferementation in plastic bottles and then transfer the kombucha into glass bottles for long-term storage. More information on this in the Two Stage Bottling Technique at Kombucha Balance.
    -My recommendation:
    -I don't use plastic bottles for my kombucha, but if you do, please re-use a plastic bottle only once!

  1. Optional: Add some flavors to your brew! Put in little pieces of cut up fruit, raisins, goji berries, etc. to your bottle, to add some zing and health benefits to your kombucha! They will provide some more sugars for the yeast to feed on, adding flavors and creating an additional fermentation. It's generally recommended not to add too much biological matter. And the smaller the pieces are, the more surface area that the yeast can act on.What also works well:
    -Citrus fruit peels (ex. grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange)
    -Fresh ginger
  2. -If you are using raisins or dried fruit to flavor your kombucha, cut them up first!

  3. Fill your bottle(s).-It is up to you on whether or not you would like to leave headroom. For more info, read my post Bottling and Headroom.

  4. Cap your bottle(s).

  5. Leave your bottle(s) out at room temperature for 1-2 days, 4-5 days, or longer.-Personally, I've been doing 4 days, but the time will vary depending on the brew/brewing conditions (ex. the temperature of the room).
    -*PLEASE* do not leave your bottles out for too long. Otherwise, too much CO2 may build up in your bottle, causing it to explode!

  6. Refrigerate your kombucha!-If you bottled your kombucha in plastic bottles, the bottles should feel hard when it's ready to refrigerate them.
    -Refrigerating your kombucha will cause the yeast and bacteria to go dormant. Fermentation isn't completely stopped, but is slowed significantly.

  7. Enjoy and drink your kombucha! Some people recommend dating your batches, but I always finish drinking my kombucha before the next batch comes around! :)
Note: Like soda, once opened, kombucha goes flat.

*A few comments about beer bottles*:

-If you drin
k beer, this is a great way to use up old bottles!
-They are easy to get for free. You can even get used ones for free (or cheaply) from restaurants, bars, etc.
-If you feel uncomfortable using old ones, you can buy new beer bottles at your local brewing store, although this is the more expensive route.
-Note- clean them well first!!! Go to your local homebrewing store and get a brush to scrub them out a bit. Then boil them, put them in the dishwasher, use Iodophor, or do whatever it is that will ensure removal of any hiding bacteria/places where bacteria can grow!-To cap your bottles, buying bottle caps are relatively cheap. I got a half pound of caps for only around $3-4 at the Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge. And at only $14, the Red Baron Beer Bottle Capper is a good investment. Find it at your local brewing store or online.
-The one downside- I have to admit that going through bottle caps is not the best for the environment. If this is a concern for you, the EZ Cap (Flip-Top) beer bottles, which are refillable, may be the way to go.


Ecclenser said...

Excellent blog. I just started experimenting and am quickly on my way.

I didn't realize bottlers were so cheap. I've been saving GT bottles, but now have second thoughts after seeing that crusty rusty cap.


Also, do you prefer original kt or do you have a favorite recipe?

Annabelle Ho said...

Thanks! I’m glad that you are starting to brew!

Yes- it is too bad about the GT bottles! Everyone seems to have them on hand, but the rust is unappealing.

To be honest, I haven’t done too much experimenting yet. I usually do the gallon recipe that I posted and I like doing 4 parts green tea to 2 parts black tea. I sometimes use oolong tea, too. In the past, I’ve usually used evaporated cane juice and sometimes I throw in some sucanat. I really like adding flavors (especially citrus fruit peels and/or ginger) when I bottle. I've also added homemade chokecherry jam when bottling and it makes some BEAUTIFULLY colored kombucha! (The picture in the right sidebar of my blog). I need to start doing some more experimenting though, and if I do I will definitely post it!!! Feel free to ask me any more questions! :)

Elizabeth Jarrard said...

i love the beer bottling!!!

Brooke Cassady said...

i added a few cinnamon basil leaves to my last brew and it turned out pretty delicious!

Annabelle Ho said...

oooo cinnamon basil sounds great! thanks for the tip!

Annabelle Ho said...

two of my new favorite flavors:

1. variations with mint! (i got fresh mint from the farmers market, cut the leaves up in small pieces, and slipped them right in the bottle! i made lime-mint, simply mint, cinna-mint...)

2. cinnamon raisin! MmMmMm.(the key to the raisins is to cut them in half first!)

Annabelle Ho said...

*Please Note* that Katalyst Kombucha has begun bottling in reusable bottles, and that GT's bottles now have plastic caps! (Although the plastic caps still do tend to leak on me...). But yay for more sustainable options!

Unknown said...

Hi! I'm about to bottle my bucha and am wondering if the only way to add fruits or other stuffs is by putting a little bit in each bottle before filling or if there's a way to do it all at once. Also, how finely do you chop the ginger/ how much do you add? I'm slightly worried about ginger's antimicrobial properties, but I loves me some ginger so if that's not an issue I wanna add as much as possible. Oh, also, aren't SCOBY's partially bacteria so that filling it all the way might kill the bucha? Thanks!

Annabelle Ho said...

Hi Jaime!

-I add around 2 tsp of "stuff" per 12 oz beer bottle, although I never measure. I cut the ginger pretty small- the more surface area the pieces have, the better!
-You can add flavors to a larger amount of kombucha in a secondary fermentation for a few days (such as in a quart container, covered with a breathable cloth). However, if you want more fizz, you may still want to do the bottling process afterwards. Also, you will want to remove your kombucha mushroom at this point to not harm it. Or if you have an extra kombucha mushroom that you want to experiment with, you can leave a mushroom in there. If the container you’re using has a narrow neck, you can fill the kombucha to the top. If not, cover the container with a breathable cloth.
-That is a good question about filling the kombucha to the top and killing the bacteria! I have been trying to do more research on it. The yeasts are facultative anaerobic, so they can survive. I used to think that filling the kombucha to the top would cause the bacteria (which need oxygen) to go dormant, and the bacteria/yeasts do go dormant when they’re put in the fridge, but if the kombucha is still fermenting at room temperature for a few days, it is possible that the bacteria will not be able to survive without a good oxygen source. However, I also believe that there is some dissolved oxygen in the kombucha, so that may help some of the bacteria for a little while…Although I am not exactly sure what happens to the bacteria during the secondary fermentation of the bottling step/how long the bacteria can survive w/o a good oxygen source, much of kombucha’s health benefits come from the beneficial acids produced by the bacteria, such as acetic acid, gluconic acid, and lactic acid.
-If I learn anything else I’ll post it, or if you have any more questions please ask!

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

This is probably a bit late, but you might want to correct an error in the pressure section. Like you said pressure=force/area. However, having a greater area(wider mouth) would decrease the pressure and not increase since you are dividing the force by it. If you think about it area of the metal cap you are using stays the same under the assumption that the bottle is a rigid body. This leaves the force as variable in the equation or in more simpler terms in the yeast is creating co2 which in turn increases the force.

I've heard people use balloon as caps instead which theoretically would be better at preventing explosions since the "cap" would now be elastic rather than rigid.

Annabelle Ho said...

Thanks for noticing that, Jeanette!

It's been awhile since I originally wrote this post, and I definitely have learned a lot since then. I will update this post and thanks again!

itfactor36 said...

Good blog, Annabelle Ho!!
I thought that I'd share my own bottling experience here in the San Francisco Bay Area (Northern California).

First off, I agree with you that glass bottles are the best, as you recommend on top.
AAMOF, I find that Trader Joes (a semi-specialized food outlet here on the West Coast) sells 33.8 fl oz bottles of brewed tea, that when empty are PERFECT for bottling kombucha for secondary fermentation! After finishing the tea, I wash each bottle and its small aluminum cap with warm tapwater and dishsoap. I then rinse with cool filtered water to eliminate any soap or other residue, then I allow the inside of the bottle and the cap to dry before adding the kombucha tea that's finished the primary. When filling each bottle, I fill to approximately 1 inch below the bottom of the cap, and then I very TIGHTLY cap the bottle for pressurized secondary fermentation/carbonation.

Another suggestion you presented on top was to use [old] plastic bottles. I reviewed Dr. Andrew Weil's caveat at http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/QAA188289 , and I see very little to worry about here with simple attention to some basics. Yes, standard 24 fl oz and 2 liter plastic soda bottles are made of PETE #1 (=polyethelene terephthalate) which "could" conceivably release significant levels of DEHA under the right conditions. OTOH, if someone has already _recently_ purchased such a PETE soda bottle, then it makes perfectly good sense to re-use such a soda bottle ONLY ONCE OR TWICE for bottling kombucha -- and CERTAINLY NOT FOR MONTHS!! -- before disposing of such a bottle.

IMNSHO, the Pros to using such bottles outweigh the Cons here, and I would rate PETE bottles for bottling kombucha a very close second after using glass bottles. The three key areas to ensure carrying out here are 1) to wash out each PETE bottle and its cap with warm tapwater and dishsoap after each prior beverage within each bottle has been consumed, 2) to rinse each PETE bottle and its cap with cool filtered water following the above washing to eliminate any soap or other residue, and 3) to use each PETE bottle ONLY(!!) once or twice for kombucha bottling.

Hope that this all helps or even refines your own thinking on this!! :)

itfactor36 said...

I'd like to follow through on my OWN long comments above concerning YOUR 'Kombucha Bottling 101' post.

1. You yourself wrote an EXCELLENT blog post about how high a level someone should fill their kombucha bottles with. The post is entitled 'Bottling and Headroom' and your blog readers can find this at http://www.kombuchafuel.com/2010/05/bottling-and-headroom.html
This essentially corroborates what I wrote above, but with better explanation.

2. I'm uncertain if you mentioned this, but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should one use polycarbonate plastic for bottling kombucha!! Polycarbonate is often marked with a "PC" or #7 (triangle surrounding a 7), and Nalgene water bottles have historically consisted of polycarbonate. The major concern with using polycarbonate for kombucha bottling (or for any other beverage storage for that matter!!) is its release of bisphenol-A (BPA). BPA acts as a a chemical that mimics the hormone estrogen and these pair of sites among others delve into polycarbonate's imminent release of BPA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polycarbonate (more technical) http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/200311/lol5.asp
Also specifically concerning BPA:
- The Wikipedia on Bisphenol A, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A (more technical)
- 'Update on Bisphenol A for Use in Food Contact Applications: January 2010', http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm197739.htm
- 'Canada first to declare bisphenol A toxic', http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/canada-first-to-declare-bisphenol-a-toxic/article1755272/

Again, let me reiterate to the point of redundancy..... polycarbonate bottles should NEVER be used for bottling kombucha!!

3. As far as using PETE #1 plastic for bottling kombucha, I would ALSO add my strong suggestion that such bottles store kombucha for a fairly short time.
In your DIRECTIONS' Step 4 above, you recommend that bottling be carried out for approximately 4-5 days.
IMO, I suggest that PETE #1 plastic bottles will be safe and effective for bottling and storing kombucha for these 4-5 days +PLUS+ an additional week or so.
As the two-week bottling-time of storing kombucha approaches (and passes), one absolutely MUST consume the fully-finished kombucha tea ASAP!!!
I believe that this suggestion will result in reducing the possibility of bottles' swelling, leaking/cracking, or chemical-leaching as will [eventually] occur if the finished kombucha is stored in such bottles for much too long a time.

Annabelle Ho said...

thanks @itfactor36 for visiting my blog, and for such thorough commentary on the bottling process! your comments regarding bottling in plastic are very helpful!

Emily said...

hi! once it's bottled & flavored and in the fridge, how long can it last in the fridge??
we are on our third batch, our first 2 batches were no good, but finally got a very healthy scoby and the kombucha is wonderful and fizzy! just wondered if our first batch from a few weeks ago would still be good, it's been in fridge... ?
so glad i found this website :)

Annabelle Ho said...

Hey Emily,

Glad you came across my blog! Kombucha can last for up to a year in the fridge. The better you are with sanitation, the better chance that the kombucha will last longer in the fridge.

Yes, your first batch from a few weeks ago should still be good if it's been in the fridge. Like soda though, kombucha loses it's fizz once opened. If I put a large jar with kombucha in it in the fridge, I usually put a SCOBY in there with it to keep it slightly active.

Hope that helps! Happy brewing! :)

Pam said...

Awesome, thanks for this info. It has been very helpful. I cant wait to bottle my fermenting KT and add fruit& herbs.

CookinTheKeys said...

I am fairly new to brewing Kombuca. I have a question. In my early brewing I had a batch that fermented a little longer than to our tastes. I saved some and stuck it in the fridge. Now that I have babies, I am looking to start a second container. Can I use the tea as a starter for my new batch? I failed to save enough on this last batch.

Annabelle Ho said...

I think that tea should be fine as starter tea (unless you notice that the tea has some strange or off-putting odors or appearances that are not typical of kombucha). If you still have some kombucha from your last batch, I would add that in, too. You could also brew a smaller batch for this round, if you are concerned you still may not have enough starter tea.

Anonymous said...

thank you for all this information kombucha master Ho!

Anonymous said...

Corks instead of caps ;p