Super Kombucha

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Getting Scientific with pH Readings

Kombucha  pH readings should be taken at least twice, once when you start a new batch after you add the starter tea to the mixture, and again as the brew nears completion.

ph-scale

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, from very acidic to very basic. A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic and greater than 7 is basic (or alkaline). Each whole pH value below 7, is ten times more acidic than the next higher value. For example, a pH of 4 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 5 and a hundred times (10 X 10) more acidic than a pH of 6. This holds true for pH values above 7, each of which is ten times more basic than the next lower whole value.

In making kombucha tea, the first pH test reading should be below 4.6 pH. If it is slightly higher than that, you might want to wait an hour and test again because the SCOBY will immediately start working on the brew. You will most likely see a rapid drop in pH within the first few hours. If not, then keep adding more starter tea from a previous batch until the recommended pH is reached. This guarantees that the fresh tea solution is acidic enough to combat any foreign molds or yeast.

Finished kombucha results in a weakly acid beverage, much like lemons or apple cider vinegar. When you drink it, kombucha binds with the minerals in your body to create and encourage alkalinity. Even though it is slightly acidic externally, it becomes alkaline internally.

Testing as you near completion of the fermentation process, will insure that you are in the 3 pH range. Anywhere between 3.4 and 2.8 pH is acceptable. You can select the level that is most agreeable to your taste.  If the pH reading is too alkaline, then the tea will need a few more days to complete the brewing cycle. However, the brewing process does not end when you bottle the brew. It keeps on fermenting, so depending on your taste preference, you may wish to bottle it at 3.5 on the higher and sweeter end of the spectrum.

pH Reading
Cooled
Tea/Sugar
Solution
Inoculated w/
Starter Tea
Finished
Kombucha Tea
pH too Acidic
for Human
Consupmtion
2.0 pH
*
2.5 pH
3.0 pH
*
3.5 pH
4 pH
*
4.5 pH
*
5.0 pH
*

How to Test pH Levels

ph-readingYou will need to get some pH testing strips or a testing meter. After searching all of my local pharmacies for pH testing strips, I started trying to find them at the hardware store in the wine-making section. Finally, I resorted to Amazon… where I found ALL of it and more including pH meters and test strips galore…

We used to call it litmus paper in high school science class… but you will need something a lot more accurate to measure the exact level of acidity in your kombucha. The following inexpensive PH 1-14 test paper Litmus Strips, include 2 packs, 80pcs per pack will work quite nicely.

22 Comments

  1. Hi, Was wondering what you think of your ph meter. How many times have you used it? I use some chemical drops from La Motte for testing urine ph, and am considering in trying the drops of kombucha. I believe the drops are more accurate then the tape. And I understand the tape has a shelf life. Thanks for posting & creating this site. It is helpful for me. (: Juju

    • The Dude

      July 2, 2016 at 4:31 pm

      I really appreciate hearing from you! I have been experimenting with all sorts of ways to improve my kombucha and the ph tester is probably one of the best ways to get some form of relative measurement to explain why some batches are better than others. I also use it to test many commercial brands of kombucha and I have been surprised at how much higher (sweeter) they measure. The digital testing meter is quite accurate and I really like this relatively inexpensive addition to my tool collection. I have also shifted up to making 2-gallon batches at a time and find that using an aquarium siphon as a transfer pump from batch-to-bottle is another great improvement. I will post an article on that item soon.

      • THanks for your response. I will order the amazon digital one. Apreciate your input on the tool. Do you use a hydrometer, too?

        • The Dude

          July 2, 2016 at 10:57 pm

          No, I do not but I have considered it…

          • A note on using hydrometers for Kombucha. While you may be able to establish some kind of pattern (starts at this gravity, finishes at this gravity) from batch to batch, the gravity shouldn’t be relied on for calculating ABV.

            juju, do you use a hydrometer? If so, care to share any data or patterns you’ve noticed? I’ve often considered using one as well.

  2. I just started a kombucha tea from a kit (A couple days ago). It was dried in a seal package. Came with nice test strips too!
    I tried finding anyone with a starter that was ready, but could not find anyone in my area. So this dried scoby is my attempt to get a kombucha going for me & my family.

    I am wondering what the starting pH should be from a dried kombucha, that had no starter liquid(tea) for me to add to it.
    Instructions say it can take up to 30 days for the first batch to “activate”. To activate it, white vinegar is required. Then I have to prepare 2 more batches per these Instructions before working on normal batches. Instructions say the pH should be 3.6 or lower, but it doesn’t say what to do if it’s too high or low, or how to adjust the pH if needed.

    It is currently at 4.0
    Is this to high for starting out on a dried scoby going on 2 days in its new tea?
    If it is… How can I lower it without having a previous batch’s tea to help it?
    Do I add more vinegar (This is what makes sense to me since it it’s the vinegar that the Instructions say will activate it)?

    Any suggestions would be super helpful.

    Thank you. =)

    • The Dude

      August 11, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      I have never worked with dried scobys. From what I see online, it may prove difficult. That said, adding vinegar will lower the pH, but I’d dilute it with water and proceed gradually. Here’s an article on understanding pH. I found another set of instructions on rehydrating a dried scoby that may help. I also know there are sources that will provide wet scobys sent in sealed plastic bags. If I were brewing now, I would be glad to send you some. I will check in with some friends who are brewing now if you would like a source. What country USA? and state are you located in?

      • Thank you for the reply =)
        Yes after beitng the dried Scoby, it is proving difficult to activate. Everything I’ve read says it typically produces a weak Scoby and is very susceptible to mold. Every site I’ve been to that had anything to day about dried Scobys says not to use them. =( While the kit seemed very nice at the time, a good price (Like $5-ish)sho very affordable, and was the first thing I found at a natural store at all; I think I would have been better off waiting for something better. There is little guarantee that this Scoby will do anything.

        I checked around for a live scoby but never could find anyone with one, most people didn’t even know what I was taking about =( the natural store knew but didn’t know anyone doing it.they sold the bottle flavored products. In fact they asked me to contact them should I get any started & end up with babies lol I told them if be happy to share if I got anything going.

        If you know anyone that has a Scoby they would be willing to part with I’d really be interested. I’ve really put a strong effort into studying & learning what I can, I hope I can get this going. =)

        I do live in the USA, in Northern New Mexico (NM). =)

        If anyone wants to contact me my email is:
        Amber.Jane.Knowlton@Gmail.Com

        • I wanted to give everyone who was so helpful an update.

          I was shipped a nice healthy Scoby.
          I’m super grateful, and it has worked very well.

          I managed to grow some more Scobys from it and gave a few out to who I talk to before during my search.

          I even started a great continuous brew setup. (For my birthday I was given a nice ceramic water dispenser, holds 2.5 gallons!)

          It’s been very nice, so delightful, flavorful, & wonderfully fizzy.

          I found out from a Dr that I have a high level aluminum toxicity, my Dr recommended a few herbs and Kombucha for a natural detox. I’m so happy that it’s so tasty & easy to drink.

          My son, 6 years old, also drinks a little here and there. Last week he had a cold, and seemed to get over his cold quicker than normal.

          The dried Scoby took forever, but it finally grew a nice new Scoby. The dried one NEVER turned out right, it never got past being a dense hard leathery circle. Once I got the new live Scoby I didn’t worry much about it, but did continue to test it. Once I grew a new Scoby from the dried one I took the original dried one and gave it to a neighbor friend for their dog as a chew toy, lol!

          Over all its been great. I really enjoy having a tasty way to balance out my health, & my families health.

          Thank you again everyone who has been so helpful. =D

    • Hi all
      I used the dry packet/ kit also and had no luck after 3 attempts to rehydrate my scoby. I did finally break down and buy a live one off amazon there are many companies… and it was a huge difference. if your dry scoby doesn’t wake up don’t get discouraged… buy the live one online …. I was so excited when my scoby made a baby in less than ten days………..really great … good luck.

      • The Dude

        June 5, 2017 at 8:53 pm

        Hello Debra,
        I agree, the dry powder kits never seem to work well and if they do, it usually results in a weak struggling scoby. The best bet is to ask on local Facebook shopper/trading Pages for help from anyone nearby that is brewing. Kombucha brewers always have extra scobys on hand and usually love to help someone get started.

  3. What can be done when the pH is too low – like 1.9-2.1? Has it become kombucha vinegar and can only be used as vinegar? Or can something be done to raise the pH to a high enough level to drink? Thank you

  4. I am 13 days into a 2 gallon batch of green tea booch. I had a half gallon jar start at the same time and it turned out great and finished in 7 or 8 days to 3.5ph.

    The two gallon batch of booch is still hanging at 4.0 ph for 3 days straight and still tastes a little sugary. A baby SCOBY did form but it took a while longer than usual. about 1/8 thick before it sank. A new SCOBY was forming again until today when I stirred it up and rechecked the ph. I also threw a dash of white vinegar in there to wake it up. This was a first batch from a SCOBY purchased online. Wondering if I should keep waiting or scrub this batch.

    • The Dude

      February 22, 2017 at 1:29 am

      I have added additional scobys to a batch to help the process along. That’s what I would do under the circumstances. It’s like breeding dogs or horses. You try to keep selecting and feeding fresh new stock but it is hard to start with some of the scobys acquired online, especially the dried versions. Good luck!

  5. I started a batch of kombucha as the package described. I had bought it online. The PH was below 4. It has now been 17 days, has formed two or three new ones on top but still has the black tea taste and the sweetness that usually had been being converted within about 7 days the last time I made it. When I lived up North, I made four gallons a week. I had a system down and it tasted great. Not working here. Was the mother not quite strong enough for the full gallon of tea? Should I leave it longer, or just start over? Could I have put too much vinegar since every batch before I had been using my own starter tea? Could I have damaged the health or strength of the mother? Thanks for your time.

    • The Dude

      May 11, 2017 at 8:57 pm

      I have not heard of using vinegar as a starter. I always use 16oz or live kombucha, either commercial or homebrew, to a gallon of tea. I’d take the healthiest mother and start a new batch with tea, sugar and kombucha, avoiding the vinegar.

  6. Hi Dude,

    I’m in a bit of hurry as I already ordered or rather got a friend in the UK to order a kombucha starter kit with a dehydrated scoby for me. I would’ve much preferred the live scoby but since I live in India and my friend is ordering this online and he’s not sure of the exact date of coming to India (sometime in November 2017) – it was recommended to order a dehydrated scoby. Now after reading all the comments here, I’m quite disheartened about the efficacy of using a dried scoby. If I do order a live scoby, how long can it be kept as is before I start using it? If kept in the refrigerator, would that be a solution? Then calculate the time it takes for the flight to India and getting into my hands (out of the refrigerator). Please send your answer directly to my email if possible – URGENTLY. Thank you. (Aly)

  7. Hi Dude,
    Thank you for your informative article.
    I would like to sell flavored kombucha in bottles.
    Is it safe to say that once chilled, there is no possibility
    of bottles exploding?

    • The Dude

      February 22, 2018 at 5:30 pm

      Cooling slows down the fermentation process but it remains a living substance and must have a shelf life. The problem with commercial distribution is more concerned with the increase in alcohol level over time rather than dangerous levels of carbonation.

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