Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Second Ferment Kombucha

Fermented tea

In yesterday's post about the benefits of ferments in your diet, a question from MargaretP, asked how I got so many bubbles in my kombucha. It hasn't always been the case. When I first started making kombucha tea, I also experienced the disappointment of waiting for the second ferment, only to have LESS bubbles, than the first time it fermented in my jar.

I thought maybe I wasn't adding enough tea in the original ferment. Or perhaps I had a brand of tea, interfering with the bacterial growth. So many possibilities, and I tried so many ways of making the first ferment, translate better into the second ferment. I never was able too though.

After the first ferment

Problem was, I never really had problems with the first ferment bubbles. They were always present when I tipped the kombucha into the bottles, for the second ferment to take place. My lids were always on tight afterwards too, so no carbon dioxide could escape. Therefore, it had to be a problem with the bacterial count, inside the bottle in the second ferment.

Fortunately, I was able to borrow from my sourghdough making journey, where to get a lovely high loaf, I gross fed my starter through creating a "sponge", first. This doubled the yeast count, to ensure enough bacteria present to survive, the first AND second rise of the dough. Would it be possible to achieve the same feeding frenzy, inside the kombucha bottle?

Flavour enhancers

I always used dried fruit, as the source of sugar to kick-start the second ferment. I still use the dried fruit, because it adds a certain woody flavour. So for the second ferment, I add to each bottle:

  • 1 diced apricot
  • 1 tablespoon sultanas
  • 1 sliver of lemon peel

These are my flavour enhancers, not the gross feeder ingredients. As I found dried fruit, alone is not enough. I think in our climate (especially during summer) the bacteria in kombucha tea, feeds very quickly. So by the time you reach the end of the second ferment, there's hardly anything for the bacteria to feed on, to create the carbon-dioxide.

Where it begins

Here is my little trick, to gross feed kombucha in the second ferment. Ginger Syrup. I make this in advance, and it lives in the fridge until I need to bottle more kombucha. Those plastic bottles, are recycled from the water spritz my husband makes. A swig of lemonade, and spring-water in a bottle, then topped up with a lot of rainwater. It's the only way we can get our eldest, to actually drink water.

When it comes to making the kombucha, I use 3 x 1.25 litre bottles. To each bottle I add the flavour enhancers above. Then finally, 1/4 cup of Ginger Syrup, in each bottle. I add the first ferment kombucha, until it reaches where the bottle starts to taper up. So the whole tapered section is headroom, and you'll need it too.

Bubbles erupt, after releasing the cap

When I open a bottle, after the second ferment finishes, I cannot take the cap off immediately - or it escapes all over the counter top. I have to open it three separate times, to let enough carbon escape, so the liquid doesn't. This is my main re-hydration drink, during summer. Nothing quenches my thirst better, than a glass of fizzy kombucha and ice cubes. To reduce any residual sugar further though, I add extra water to my glass. It all depends how hard I've been working, how much I dilute.

I also have it after exercising in the evening, every night. Most of the sugar from the ginger syrup though, feeds the bacteria in the bottle, and converts to carbon dioxide. So of the 1/4 cup added to the bottle, you're not getting all that glucose. Most of it converts. 

My kombucha tea scoby

I'm being terribly unforgiving, to those who haven't made kombucha before. I haven't done a post on how to make the actual fermented tea yet, but there's plenty of great resources online, to show you how. Starting with the one that got me cracking, from Kirsten at Milkwood.net. She references a recipe from Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing traditions. Which is a great book!

She also references some of Sandor Katz, thoughts on making kombucha. An extra tip I didn't realise would help either, is to make sure you stir your kombucha, before adding it to the bottles for second ferment. Those little yeasties need to be dispersed, so each bottle gets some.

If you have further questions, pop them in the comments box below. I will say to MargaretP's schedule for ferments though, mine doesn't take that long. It's about 3-4 days in the first ferment, and about the same in the second. But that's in my house, and we're always a few degrees warmer than where MargretP lives. As for the ginger syrup recipe, it's at the very end...

Almost fills a 750 ml bottle


  • 500mls water
  • 2 cups raw sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan, except vanilla
  2. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes
  3. Remove from heat, discard star anise, and add vanilla last
  4. Leave to cool fully, then bottle and store in fridge

It's also great on vanilla ice-cream, or milkshakes. Not that we make that many, and it's mostly for the kids.


  1. Thank you Chris, I will try that today as mine is ready for second ferment now.

    1. You're welcome, Margaret. I look forward to hearing how it goes for you. I put bottles in the fridge, on the 3rd or 4th day. I let it go an extra day in winter, when temps are lower. The plastic is tight, but not about to explode, tight. Cheers and good luck. :)

  2. Thanks for the reminder about ginger syrup. It's been a while since I made any. I have been adding elderberry syrup to my second ferment with ginger pieces. I love the flavour and the wonderful bubbles that I get.

    1. That sounds like an awesome combo, Jane. I'd make elderberry syrup too, if I could actually grow shrubs here. I've tried twice already, and I don't seem to have the right conditions for them to survive as a temperate plant. Too hot in summer, and not enough water. When the perfect spot comes up though (shade and extra moisture) I'll give it another try. Because elderberry is medicinal, and I love having those plants in my garden.

  3. I always add ginger to my second ferment but it does not bubble a huge amount. I will try your ginger syrup next time. My friend uses crystallized ginger in her second ferment and gets a great fizz. I have tried it but with no success.

    Thanks for the tips :)

  4. Your friend had a great idea with the crystallized ginger. Isn't it funny how we all get different results with fizz? I know it gets incredibly hot in your part of Australia, so I'm wondering if the bacteria is consuming the food quickly? I personally found the 5-7 days recommended by northern hemisphere patrons of Kombucha making, was more like 3-5 days in sunny Queensland (southern hemisphere).


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