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“How do I know when my kombucha is ready?” is one of the important questions that those new to home kombucha brewing ask. Understanding the factors that influence how long a batch of kombucha takes to brew will go a long way toward helping you decide when to bottle your brew.
Here are the factors that contribute to how long a batch of kombucha must brew before it is ready:
The volume of the kombucha brewing (fermentation) jar
The more sweetened tea that the SCOBY needs to ferment into kombucha, the longer it will take to do so. Assuming a SCOBY of equal size, a one gallon batch of kombucha will take less time to ferment than a two gallon batch.
The diameter of the brewing jar
The baby SCOBY will cover the entire surface of the brewing jar as it grows. The larger the SCOBY (see number 3) the faster the fermentation will proceed. This is why it is preferable to use a brewing jar that is wide (has a large diameter) than one that is tall and narrow.
The diameter and thickness of the SCOBY
Larger SCOBYs will change sweetened tea into kombucha faster than smaller ones. Both the diameter and the thickness of the SCOBY must be taken into account. Also, more mature SCOBYs tend to brew faster than less mature ones.
How much starter tea was added along with the SCOBY into the fermentation jar
The job of the starter tea is to quickly acidify the brewing kombucha. This protects the SCOBY from contamination by outside organisms. It also gives the brew a boost, as some of the mixture is already kombucha. The more starter tea is added to the fermentation jar with the SCOBY, the faster the fermentation will proceed. It always a good idea to add a good quantity of starter tea to a new batch of kombuccha–one or two cups is sufficient.
The temperature of the brewing kombucha
One of the most important elements in how long the SCOBY takes to finish changing sweetened tea into kombucha is the temperature of the brew. SCOBYs like a temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature of the brew is colder than that, the fermentation will proceed more slowly. If the temperature is much warmer, the fermentation will proceed faster.
The ideal temperature will also affect other aspects of the brew since different yeasts and bacteria thrive at different temperatures (remember a SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast). Taste will also be affected. Read this article about kombucha brewing temperature for more detailed information.
As you now realize, there are a number of factors that influence how long it takes before a batch of kombucha is ready to bottle. Many of these elements can be written down so that over time, the home brewer can have a clearer picture as to how long a brew may take to finish.
We created the Complete Home Kombucha Brewing Journal because we wanted an easy way to keep track of everything that goes into brewing a batch of kombucha so we could learn to predict when our brew is likely to be ready to bottle.
You Get to Choose
Ultimately, each home brewer gets to choose when to bottle each batch of their kombucha. Once you have a ballpark idea of about how long each batch will take, you begin tasting it on the first day it could be ready. Once it is to your liking, you will bottle and flavor it.
A batch of kombucha is ready to bottle when it tastes somewhat tart. Most of the sugar should have been converted by the SCOBY into kombucha. We like just a small amount of sweetness to remain. If the kombucha tastes exactly like vinegar, for us, that it too tart.
Remember that for most flavors of kombucha, you will be adding some sweet fruit which will make it a bit sweeter before you drink it.
Using this guide will help you to know when to check your brew, but experience is the best teacher. The more you brew kombucha at home, the easier it will be to make it exactly the way that you prefer. And that, to us, is the whole point of brewing your own kombucha at home.
In the video below, Angelica explains the most personal way to tell if your home brewed kombucha is ready.