It’s hard to match the refreshing nature of a cold soda pop on a hot summer day. There’s something about those bubbles that chase away the heat and leave you feeling light and happy.
But soda pop is filled with added sugar that you know isn’t good for you. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy a fizzy drink that had health benefits?
Enter fizzy kombucha. Yes, you can make your healthy kombucha tea even more fun to drink by putting it through a second fermentation. It’s not hard, and you may love the results.
What is a Second Fermentation?
You know that kombucha is a fermented drink. Standard kombucha is made by combining tea, sugar, and a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY), then allowing the combination to sit and ferment for between 7-30 days. The result is a slightly sweet, slightly tart beverage.
But what if you want a little more excitement in your kombucha? Then you can put it through a second fermentation process. That means you’re going to let it sit again, typically from 2-4 days, to trap the carbonation that forms during that time.
What’s nice about this process is that it naturally carbonates your kombucha. Unlike soda pop, which is artificially carbonated, kombucha is naturally carbonated through a second fermentation.
This occurs because unlike during the original fermentation process—in which the carbon dioxide byproduct was free to flow through the permeable cover on the jar—during secondary fermentation, these bubbles are trapped and therefore buildup inside your bottle.
What are the Benefits of Second Fermentation?
The main benefit of second fermentation is that it makes your kombucha fizzy. There are other benefits as well, such as:
- It creates carbonated, bubbly kombucha.
- It allows you to flavor your kombucha.
- If you use healthy ingredients for flavor, like fruits and herbs, you’ll be including the nutrients from those ingredients in your tea, making it even healthier.
- It reduces the sugar content—as your tea ferments further, the yeasts in the kombucha consume more sugar, leaving the end product containing less.
- Second fermentation increases the level of probiotics and acids, meaning the tea will have more of these beneficial ingredients than if you had not fermented it a second time.
Does Second Fermentation Increase the Alcohol Content?
The initial fermentation process creates some alcohol in the tea. That’s because when the yeasts consume the sugar, they produce ethanol as a byproduct. The bacteria in the SCOBY, however, converts most of that ethanol to organic acids, so the end product is typically very low in alcohol—between 1-3 percent for homemade kombucha, and 0.5 percent or less for commercially produced kombucha sold as a non-alcoholic beverage.
The second fermentation process, however, will create more alcohol. This time, because there is limited oxygen available to the bacteria, it can’t convert most of the ethanol produced, so the alcohol content of the final product will increase. Typically, the effects are extremely mild, and the final product will still be 3 percent or lower.
How Do You Know When Your Kombucha is Ready for Second Fermentation?
If you want carbonated kombucha, you need to know when the time is right for this second fermentation.
First, complete the process of making your kombucha. That’s the critical first step. That means you’ll want to go through the process of combining the ingredients, fermenting the tea, and separating it from the SCOBY as if you were getting it ready to drink.
Once that process is complete, you’re ready to move on to your second fermentation.
How to Make Your Kombucha Fizzy
Below are the steps you’ll want to take for secondary fermentation:
- Decide your fermentation is ready: Complete the original fermentation process. Decide that the tea has the right combination of sweet and tart tastes that it’s done.
- Prepare your bottles: Make sure you have some air-tight bottles that you can put your kombucha in. Rinse them with hot water, then with distilled vinegar (to kill any microorganisms).
- Choose your flavor (optional): If you want to flavor your kombucha, choose your favorite juices, herbs, and/or spices and add them to the bottom of the bottles.
- Reserve a kombucha starter: Remove the SCOBY from your kombucha, and measure 1.5 – 2 cups of the mother tea. Place both of these back into the fermentation jar and set the jar aside for your next batch of kombucha. The remaining kombucha is what you’ll use to create your fizzy tea.
- Put the remaining kombucha into a pitcher (optional): This step makes it easier to fill individual bottles, but you can skip it if you like. Filter it through a cheesecloth if you want to remove any floating bits.
- Fill the bottles: Using a funnel, fill your bottles (any size is fine), leaving 1 – 2 inches of air space at the top.
- Close the bottles: Place the lids on the bottle and secure them tightly, then store the kombucha in a warm, dark place for 2-4 days. The longer you leave them, the more bubbly they will be.
- Burp the bottles daily: Every day, release the pressure in the bottle a little by opening and closing the top. This will keep your kombucha from building up too much carbonation and exploding!
- Finish your carbonated kombucha: When the tea has reached your desired flavor and level of carbonation, it’s ready to drink. If you didn’t strain it before (or if it needs straining again to remove flavoring bits), use a mesh strainer or funnel to strain it again while pouring into fresh bottles. Place them into the refrigerator until you’re ready to enjoy them.
Keep in mind that it’s normal for new cultures to grow during this period. This is a result of the live yeast and bacteria in the tea that continue to ferment. Simply strain them out when your tea is done.