Congratulations, you’ve brewed your first batch of Kombucha! Now for the next step: bottling. Don’t let bottling your Kombucha appear intimidating or time-consuming. I can usually accomplish bottling a gallon or two of booch in a half hour, including prep time. And I assure you, it is quite simple.
Wait, second fermentation?! I thought I was done! Well, you can be done, but allowing your bottles to sit outside of the fridge for a couple of days can greatly enhance the booch.
Fizziness and Umph! Kombucha naturally produces carbonation while fermenting, but second fermenting allows more CO2 to accumulate in the bottles, especially if you fill to almost the tops of the bottles. Before second fermentation (SF), your booch is slightly flat. Don’t get me wrong, it is teeming with life, but by now the yeasts have consumed nearly all of the sugar in the batch and are a bit hungry. Adding more food (in the form of fruit or fruit juice) for the yeasts to consume gets your beverage in full gear again before refrigeration. The yeasts begin their feeding frenzy and produce CO2. The CO2 has no escape route and has no choice but to be incorporated in your brew. Your added flavors will become stronger during SF, also.
Preparing for bottling
To prepare for bottling, you will need to do a few things.
Gather your glass bottles. Sure you can purchase your bottles, but it is far better to reuse. A few weeks before brewing, tell your friends to be on the lookout for small glass bottles with reusable lids. In Korea, I’ve managed to gather all of my bottles from going through my office recycling bin each day. I still go through the bin each day to find bottles to give to my booch brewing buddies. Most drink bottles in Korea are about six ounces (180 ml) and come with reusable lids, so the size is perfect. In the States, small mason jars and small glass bottles of Orangina and other drinks work well. If you drink a little more booch at a time, used Grolsch bottles with the cask lids are an excellent bottle option.
Purchase wax paper and cut out squares a little bigger than the mouths of your bottles. By placing the paper in between the bottle mouths and lids, you will keep the acids in the Kombucha from reacting with the lids.
If your bottles are very narrow at the mouth, consider purchasing a glass pitcher or funnel to aid in pouring.
Decide what flavors, if any, that you would like to add to your booch and prepare accordingly.
Flavoring your Kombucha
If you would like to flavor your Kombucha, this is the time to do so! You may use dried herbs, fruit (fresh or frozen), 100% fruit juice, or a combination of the three.
I like using ginger, not only for its taste, but for its health benefits and its antibacterial properties – an extra protector against contaminates.
You can use around a teaspoon (or a little more for a larger bottle) of fruit or fruit juice per bottle, or a half teaspoon for herbs.
I have experimented with nectarine and ginger, plum and rosemary (with and without ginger), raspberry and ginger, blueberries and ginger…did I mention I like ginger? I have tried numerous times to duplicate the flavor of Reed’s Ginger Beer, but I believe I may need to try it again with a little pineapple added. It is on my to-do list, along with cherry and ginger.
The Bottling Process
As you did before brewing, sterilize all of your bottles and utensils.
Remove the mother (with very clean hands) and a cup of Kombucha and place both in another container for safe keeping. You should begin brewing another batch after you are finished bottling this current one.
If you like, you can strain your kombucha to remove small strands of culture, bits of old mother, and leftover tea bits from loose leaf tea. I usually do not strain my booch, but I realized that I had many small bits of loose leaf tea in this particular batch.
Add your flavorings to the bottles. For this (pictured) batch, I used a few small pieces of fresh ginger and two frozen raspberries per bottle. Fill your bottles with Kombucha, filling it almost to the top. By leaving just a small amount of air space between your Kombucha and lid, you can increase the amount of carbonation achieved during the second fermentation.
Place the squares of paper over your bottle mouths before capping the bottles tightly.
From here, you can place the bottles in the fridge, or allow them to go through SF. If I am getting low on Kombucha, I usually put a couple of bottles in the fridge to tide us over until the other bottles are finished going through SF. I place the other bottles in a dark spot, within a box or a sturdy bag to protect the surrounding area in case the bottles were to explode. You can let them second ferment for 2 to 4 days. If you want a SF time longer than 2 days, I recommend checking your bottles around every 12 hours. You may need to “burp” them to avoid any bottle explosions.
I have never second fermented my bottles for longer than 2 days, to avoid bottle explosions. I have never had a bottle explode, and they have always been well-carbonated.
Note: Refrigeration does not stop fermentation, but greatly slows it (the cultures go dormant). Therefore, if you open a bottle and notice that a tiny mother has formed on top, that is perfectly normal (and awesome)! You can toss the mother or choose to chug it down.
Once in the fridge, you’re ready to jump in and brew your next batch. Your bottles should last about a year in the fridge, though I’m sure you will have no problem drinking them before your next batch is finished. However, if you happen to bottle a large amount and need to finish it before your next batch is complete, invite some friends over and have a booch party! Cheers!