More carbonation problems

topic posted Tue, March 4, 2008 - 12:15 AM by  Mark
Hi, I have been making Kombucha for a couple months now and I am still struggling with the lack of carbonation. My product usually turns out good tasting but I never get any carbonation. I have tried everything I have read here concerning carbonation. This includes:

- Adding extra sugar before bottling.
- Adding fruit juice before bottling.
- Shorter fermentation time so that not all the sugar has been used up before bottling.

I use GT bottles for bottling. What I often see when adding sugar before bottling is a big scooby forming in the bottle. I never get any carbonation however. Is there anyone that has any suggestions concerning this? I really want to have a carbonated product since I think it tastes so much better that way.

Thank you!
posted by:
  • how long do you let the bottles sit at room temperature before refrigeration?
    How long is your first ferment and do you taste before bottling?
    What temperature are you fermenting?
    P.S. Scoby is an acronym for Simbiotic Culture of bacteria and yeast. The floaty thing is a cellulose bi-product some people like to call the momma.
    • Thank you for your answer Tyler.

      I have experimented with different brewing times and bottling times. Usually I let the bottled Kombucha stay in room temperature for 4-7 days before refrigeration.

      My first fermentation is a bit different from what I have heard. I usually let it ferment for 3 weeks before bottling. I have tried shorter times but it just tastes like sugared tea if it doesn't sit its full 3 weeks. My fermenting temperature is in 22 C or about 72 F. I am aware of my fermentation being longer then usual and this might be part of the problem. However the Kombucha is still a bit sweet after 3 weeks and I do add a spoon of extra sugar or fresh fruit juice to the bottles.

      My goal is to get a product that tastes very close to GT's. I love GT's Kombucha and unfortunately they don't sell it in Sweden, were I live. So far I do get a product that resembles GT's in taste, a bit sweeter though and no carbonation at all. I also get more "floaties" then GT.
      • Also I use evaporated cane juice sugar and I don't heat my water when adding the tea. I just let the tea bags sit in the cold water for a long time (1h). This way I get a totally raw product. I don't know if this has any effect. I have tried heating the water before and get the same result (no carbonation).
        • I use an entire cup of biologically active (non-refrigerated) starter tea, and mine never takes more than a week.

          What is the shape of your jar? I like ones with a narrower top so that when the carbonation pushes the scoby upwards it makes something of a seal on top. Sometimes it falls back down, or I will push on it and let some gas escape and fresh air enter. I generally see lots of carbonation.

          You might want to try adding fresh kombucha to the mix every once in a while. Go buy a GT or whatever brand you like and pour a splash or two into your jar. There might not be the right balance of bacteria and yeast.
          • I have been having carbonation problems too. I am wondering if it is a whole scooby issue.
            I finally started mixing things up to try to create more effervescence, nothing has worked yet.
            One thing that you might want to try if you haven't is using plain white sugar.
            Also, a small heater (like a mug warmer coaster thing) next to the brewing jar might speed up the brew.
            Then I decided to add sparkling water to my Kombucha. Of course it added sparkle, but it deluded the tea, and it still wasn't GT lovin.
            Anyway, lets continue sharing our findings as we proceed striving for the effervescence essence in our Kombucha.

            also, does anyone know if adding things like sparkling water will kill the cultures?
            • keep in mind, "plain white sugar" has a pretty (in my mind) *horrific* manufacturing process (why are we even manufacturing food??)

              anyway.. check it out for yourself:
              don't forget this kinda stuff is used in this process:

              frigggggin' gross if you ask me..
              • I'm using brewing bottles with pretty small openings and the scooby is always on top of the brew, making a kind of cover. I have tried white sugar and it was negative. I also thought about adding carbonated water to the brew that just feels wrong. I mean people are getting good carbonated brews so there must be a way. I'm not giving up on this one.

                Thought about maybe ordering a new scooby as a next measure. I guess something could be wrong with my scoobies. But they are alive since they are growing fine and I'm also getting lots of floaties after bottling indicating that things are growing but no carbonation is building up.

                If I understand this right carbonation should build up when the growing culture has no way of getting rid of CO2 building up in the brew. If this is the case CO2 starts converting to HCO3 which gives the brew a nice fizz. I guess either my culture isn't making that much CO2 or the GT bottles aren't that air tight, which seems strange because I have heard lots of people re-using them.

                Any advice is welcome. I really want a good carbonated brew.

                • Oh, yeah I have another problem to. A couple of times when my bottles have been in the fridge for more then 2 weeks the Kombucha has gone all soft. It tastes disgusting, no sour taste at all just a sweet kind of tea taste. It's like the Kombucha culture has died and the good acids have been converted to something else. My carbonation problem might have something to do with this?
              • I'm at school skimming the sugar article. Could anyone who reads it please summarize the groodie parts? Cause I don't get it. Except that can uses 4 times more water in production than beets, I'm not learning anything here. I'd like to, though.
              • Sooo... ? 25% of US sugar is processed with bone charcoal...which does NOT become part of the sugar. Only cane sugar is processed with bone charcoal. Only 50% of cane sugar worldwide is processed with bone charcoal. Cane sugar uses 4X more water than beet sugar. And we have an overconsumption problem with this food, whereby tonnes of raw sugar leave each 24-7 factory daily. Are these the atrocities or are there more?

                PS. I like the white sugar in my tea. It takes less time to process and my scoobies and friends who need more kombucha than I can brew love me for it. I don't like white sugar in my diet, but it is quite a large percentage of what I eat anyway. The scoobies inside of me love that, too.
                • Besides bone charcoal, sulphur dioxide is also/alternatively used in the processing to separate the biomass from sucrose. There are a few other chemicals in the processing I don't recall. Next time I take the train past the old C&H sugar plant I'll make a note of their big chemical tanks with hazardous materials warnings.
  • Unsu...
    I might recommend scrapping the re-used commercial bottles. The seals may be compromised.

    Invest in a few Grolsch bottles. You can find them at beer-n-wine making shops, as well as the replacement seals. They're inexpensive enough and will ensure a very good seal. And they'll last and last and last.

    You can find them too (as I do) at flea markets, garage/tag sales and such - usually a buck-or-two. A good cleaning and sterilization and you're good to go.

    BTW, I've meking my own kombucha for about a year now and get decent bubbles. I don't prime the bottles with suger wither, just add my kombucha and cap.

    Good luck - good health!
    • Thank you for the tip Rose. I will try to find some Grolsh bottles for my next bottling. Some how I don't think this will solve my problem though. When re-using the GT bottles I have closed them really tight. But I will definitely give it try.
      • ....sounds like you're doing everything right. Explore the possibility that you have a defective or weak culture... it's just not performing. ... Try getting a new culture from a different source, and then brewing up a new batch with it.

        By the way, if your culture is generating a bunch of bubbles around itself during the normal brewing cycle, as it should do, then you know that the fermentation is active... and will probably continue doing its thing once in the secondary stage.

        As in most biochemical reactions, the addition of heat will speed things up.

        • Wow. 3 weeks is an awful long time for brewing. But it's not unheard of. Briggi is right, I often get batches that I just can't get to go fizzy and it's just a matter of experimenting. One sure way for me to get the fizz is to add fruit juice. I've added Naked berry smoothie, unpastuerized apple juice, and ginger juice with honey with great success. Try bottling as soon as the fizzing and bubbling stops under the momma and leave your bottles on top of the fridge (usually pretty warm up there) for a few days. Dump anything that doesn't 'feel' right.
  • Make sure to tightly close the bottle and let it sit at room temperature for around 4 days before refrigerating it. The continued conversion of the sugar into beneficial byproducts is what causes the carbonation- refrigeration halts the process.
    • On second thought, sound like robster uses too much sweetner in his original batch. The culture is so overloaded that she doesn't want to do any more.

      Experiment with lesser sweetner ratios until you get it right.
  • I am trying to get the carbonation right also, let me know if anything works for you and I will do the same!
    • Hi, FWIW, I have been brewing kombucha for a month now and have been experimenting with different teas and sugars,i.e white sugar, organic cane sugar, raw sugar, piloncillo. The teas I tried, black tea (indian grocery store loose tea), green tea (lipton bags), pu-erh tea (loose) and a mix of yerba mate and black tea.
      My scoby was started with a bottle of GT kombucha and plain sweet tea. I now have about 5 1-gallon jars going.
      Here are my findings re. brew length, tea choice and effervesence.
      Ultimately, the green tea and the organic sugar work best. The brew never goes past 7-days when it isn't sweet anymore a slight tingly fizz and thus ready for bottling. I use the GT bottles I have from purchasing a bottle of each time I passed the HFS.
      When I am ready to bottle I add a little less then 1 TBSP of fresh squeezed ginger juice, cap the bottles tight and leave them on the counter for about 2 days. Then I put them in the fridge. Awesome fizz and very refreshing.

      When I made pu-erh tea with piloncillo the resulting sweet tea was delicious but the kombucha was horrible! It turned to vinegar before the 7-day was over (perhaps because the piloncillo made it too sweet). One jar stayed sweet and was flat at the end of the 7-days probably because there was too much molasses in the piloncillo. The black tea is so-so. the yerba mate mix was not worth the effort.
      Because I just love the GT gingerade that is what I was trying to duplicate and consider it a success with the ginger juice at the end.
      If your taste test can't have you decide if it is still too sweet or not than it is just right. (sometimes I add a little bit of sugar to the bottle as well, and that has it bubbling just like champagne).
      • That's the similar recipe to what I use. I brew with green tea and a bit of black tea for "color" and evaporated cane sugar from whole foods bulk foods - like 90 cents a pound, and at bottling a little more than a tablespoon of fresh organic ginger juice (I juice several pounds at once and freeze it in ice cube trays) and put them in flip-top/EZ-Cap bottles and secondary ferment them at 80F for 3 days. The carbonation and flavor....amazing
        • Wow, what a great idea for freezing the ginger juice! I want to make everything easier at bottling time with little mess at the kitchen counter, and this was my last hurdle!! all this grating I do every week.
          Now I can control how much ginger juice by filling the ice cube tray with just the amount per bottle!
  • i was having problems with carbonation as well for a while.

    then i stopped using sugar and started using honey (raw honey).

    now my kombucha is very very carbony!! I can't even put lids on the bottles for a few days after pouring it, or the bottles explode! (that was a "fun" mess to clean up and a very funny story).
    • I am wondering if I am really brewing kombucha...I've been at it for a few months now, 3 to be exact...I have beautiful thick scobys, the brew time is 7 days...I bottle it with ginger juice and end up with great carbonation. Last week, I decided to buy another bottle of GTs gingerade kombucha as a comparison taste test.
      When I drank that I noticed that it was quite sharp, not sour, not sweet, gingery usual I experienced slight pain or stiffness in my knuckles, (much like what I experience if something I ate had MSG).
      So I decided not to add the sugar to my bottles when bottling (it doesn't need it anyway), and althought the kombucha end up with now tastes a bit closer to the GTs gingerade I do not have the energetic after effect nor that tight feeling in my knuckles...
      How do I know I have brewed the "real" thing? Does it really matter as long as the caffeine and the sugar are consumed?
      I don't know enough chemistry so I am a little bit lost. Is it really time for those ph strips?
      Thanks for any responses...

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