How to Flavor Homemade Kombucha Tea

A few weeks ago, I shared a novel of a post with YU all about brewing your own probiotic-rich Kombucha Tea. This week, I’m going to talk you through flavoring it with everything from ginger to raspberries to thyme. Once you start making your own kombucha, not only will you save money and boost your immune system just in time for the cold weather to arrive, but you will instantly add more fun and adventure to your culinary life. You can experiment with different teas as your kombucha base, and you can then flavor your brew with fruits, juices, herbs and spices.

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First, you’ll need to brew some kombucha according to the instructions in this post. And get yourself some super airtight bottles like these (or use recycled store-bought kombucha bottles).

As you’ll recall from Part One of this two-part How to Brew Your Own Kombucha Tea series, you brew your kombucha for 7-10 days (initial fermentation), then you do a second fermentation where you bottle it, add a raisin or two for fizz factor and 1-3 days later, you’re ready to enjoy.

I love to use fresh fruit to flavor my kombucha—the probiotics eat up the fresh, natural sugar and I find that the flavor is more intense. There are two points in the process where you can flavor your kombucha. After the 7-10 days—your initial ferment (not as fizzy) or for the second ferment (very fizzy and I recommend for a more complex flavor profile). There are infinite possibilities for adding flavor to your probiotic brew…

Flavoring with fruit:
If you don’t care about fizz and want to enjoy it sooner than later, puree or smash some fruit, stir it into to your brewed kombucha and enjoy right away (this is the sweetest option). If you want fizzy and a bit less sweet, add the fruit for a second fermentation (you can also add raisins or ginger for extra fizz). Dice, or smash your fruit. The more surface area exposed to the liquid, the more flavor.

Raspberries smashed

With fresh, frozen or dried fruit, you want about 1/2 cup fruit per 3-4 cups liquid.

I find that stone fruit makes the kombucha more creamy and smooth, which some folks like and some don’t. Nectarines, plums and peaches work well. My favorite fruit flavors are raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and strawberry, or a combination of all. Apple is also quite nice with fresh herbs and spices…

Try these combos:
Mixed berries
Raspberries and ginger
Any berries plain (my all-time fave is raspberry)
Green apple, cinnamon, cardamom
Blackberry and thyme
Mango and a pinch of cayenne
Watermelon and jalapeño

Flavoring with herbs and spices:
Herbs provide the most flavor with a second ferment. And little goes a long way when adding herbs and spices.

For every 3-4 cups of liquid:
2 cardamom pods
1/2″ crushed cinnamon stick
2 tsp fennel seed
Rosemary and lemon zest
Pineapple and basil
2-3 whole cloves
1 split vanilla bean (here’s how to open)
1/2″ fresh ginger, grated
1 tbsp lavender buds
1 tbsp hibiscus leaves
1 tbsp rose petals

Ginger & Cardamom

Combos to try:
Strawberry and rose and/or hibiscus
Cherries and rose and/or hibiscus
Blueberries and rosemary
Strawberries and thyme

Strawberries & Thyme

Flavoring with juice:
For every 3-4 cups of kombucha, you’ll need about 1/4 cup organic juice.

Flavoring with extracts or infused waters:
You can also play with using organic, oil-free extracts like orange, lemon, almond, hazelnut and vanilla, or waters like orange blossom and rose, to flavor your kombucha after the first or during the second fermentation (flavor will intensify here). For every 3-4 cups of kombucha liquid, you’ll use about 1 tsp of extract and 1-2 tsp of waters.

Try these combinations:
Orange blossom and green apple
Strawberry, vanilla extract and rosewater
Apple, hazelnut and orange extract

Superfood add-ins:
Just like you see with store-bought kombucha, you can add chlorella, spirulina and chia seeds for a second fermentation. For chia, add 1-2 tbsp per 3-4 cups of liquid. For chlorella and spirulina, 1 tsp per 3-4 cups liquid. Don’t strain these ingredients out when your second fermentation is complete.

Ideas for the kiddos:
Instead of sugary sodas, do a second fermentation of kombucha with fresh fruit and raisins (and/or ginger) for extra bubbles. After 1–3 days, blend up some more fruit (raspberry and strawberry are winners) and add to the fizzy drink (you can strain if you have kids with pulp phobia). This bubbly beverage is so much better than soda—fruity, bright and flavorful enough that the kids will enjoy it. Plus, they are getting all sorts of beneficial probiotics and fiber that are non-existent in soda and plain pasteurized juice. Have them help make it, call it homemade soda pop and I bet it will go over quite well.

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SAFETY:
It is so important to monitor the gas buildup in each bottle with a second ferment (and even with a first). You are basically creating little bombs if you leave the bottles too long without checking them. I’ve read, and heard about, bottles long forgotten on the top of a warm fridge that have exploded.

My favorite tip to avoid this comes from Sandor Katz (the man when it comes to fermentation). He recommends keeping a plastic water bottle and filling it along with the same second ferment batch that you fill your glass bottles with. This plastic bottle is a gauge for how much pressure is building up in the others, because it will tighten as CO2 builds up inside, while the glass won’t give you a clue. A second ferment can be complete after a day (in warm environments) or a week, even longer, but that plastic bottle will tell you when you need to release some pressure from the bottles. If it’s bloated and tight, you know the glass bottles have just as much buildup, so carefully release some gas over the sink for all and transfer to the fridge (to slow fermentation) or back to the counter. When adding fermentable sugars from fruit for a second ferment, the probiotics are super excited, eating all the fruit and in doing so they release a lot of CO2—it’s this build up that gives us bubbles, but we have to monitor it so no one ends up with glass all over their kitchen, and precious kombucha wasted.

More about the benefits of a second fermentation. I can’t recommend a second fermentation enough. 1-3 days is plenty, and the longer you let the brew continue to ferment, the more acidic and less sweet the taste. If bottled in an airtight container, the live yeast and bacteria in the kombucha will continue to gobble up the tea and sugar that remained after the first fermentation. The fresh sugar that comes from fruit is turned into carbon dioxide which gives the kombucha the bubbliness it’s known for. If you want to skip the fruit and experiment with herbs like lavender (which makes a beautiful kombucha on its own), just add a raisin or two for that second fermentation fizz. It won’t change the flavor, but it gives the brew food to turn into bubbles. Fill your bottle with flavoring ingredients and brewed kombucha only 3/4 full, to accommodate bubbles and expansion.

After your second fermentation, open your kombucha bottle over the sink! And for insurance, place the bottle in a large glass bowl to catch any spill over. Slowly release the cap—there’s a lot of bubble build up in there and the pressure can make your brew spill out volcano-style.

Strain the flavoring ingredients out, rebottle and place in the fridge to slow fermentation. Enjoy anytime.

The measurements above are just ideas to get you started. I hope you will experiment with quantities, combinations and share with us all what YU discover.

So to recap:
1. Initial fermentation 7-10 days—instructions here.
2. Bottle brewed kombucha with ingredients, seal and let it ferment a second time (1-3 days)—more tips here.
3. After second fermentation is complete, open bottle carefully over the sink, strain, rebottle and refrigerate. Enjoy!

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Now, I want to hear from YU.
What flavors will you experiment with first?
Can’t wait to hear your plans…

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Psst:


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Read the comments or add yours.

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  1. Rosanna

    Thank YU Heather for the second part of this wonderful Kombucha post! I completed my first batch ever and wasn’t too in love with the result. I know it takes practice and patience. I’m on my second batch now so your post came in just in time! Love the idea of a second fermentation with other flavors. The scoby is getting bigger since I purchased a bigger glass container.. It’s just fascinating!

    • Heather Crosby

      Hi Rosanna! Thanks for sharing your kombucha adventures with us. How did the second batch go? What didn’t you like about the first one? Sometimes, if the batch ferments too long it can become pretty sour. When this happens, I pour some in a glass with water to dilute it a bit and add fresh blended berries. Delish.

      Oh, I just made a batch of green kombucha tea and during the second fermentation, added dried jasmine flowers. Amazing! I recommend it. x

  2. Amanda

    have you tried to flavor kombucha with fresh mint leaves?

  3. Vivien Barron

    Hi,
    I loved your article, it gave me the confidence to really experiment with different combinations of flavouring. I have just bottled six new recipes. The kombucha tea was made with Green tea and Tulsi tea and the fist bottle for it’s second fermentation has as recommended by you, lavander and raisin. Then I have elderberry and rose petal, lemon grass and chilli, hibiscus with equinox elixir and finally jasmine and goju berries.
    I wish I didn’t have to remove and strain the ingredients because apart from the way the ingredients beautifully colour the tea, the added ingredients do make the bottle of tea look so attractive. Is there any way one can keep the ingredients in. At present they seem to continue to carbonate by leaving it in and I worry about the bottles exploding too much on opening or even before.
    Many thanks
    Vivien

    • Heather Crosby

      Vivien,
      Thanks for your important question and for sharing such lovely flavor combos 🙂 You can absolutely leave the ingredients in the bottles—even eat them if you want. Just be careful and open slowly over the sink. Volcanic action is very possible, but that’s just a sign that life is booming in that bottle! x H

  4. I love this article!!! I was looking for ways to incorporate herbs into my kombucha + your combinations sound delicious.

    Thanks!

  5. Jillian Vamplew

    I’ve just started my first batch and would like to know if pineapple can be used to flavour it.

    • Heather Crosby

      You can definitely try pineapple in the second fermentation Jillian—let us know how it turns out!

    • Donna

      I’ve been brewing for about a year now and one of our favorite combos is a couple chunks of organic frozen pineapple with fresh or frozen raspberries, or blueberries or cherries. Pineapple adds lots of fizz and sweetness in general.

      • Oh wow, gotta try this! I find that ginger always adds some nice fizz. And the most I ever got was from beet juice, but BE SURE to release the gas build up daily in a beet-juice second ferment or you’ll end up with walls and ceiling that look like a scene from Dexter. The inch worth that was left in the bottle tasted great though. Lessons learned 😉 x H

  6. Jillian Vamplew

    Thank you. Will let you know how it turns out.

  7. Coco

    I always used dried fruits and herbs to flavor my kombucha. The dried fruit becomes fluffy and juicy in kombucha and is still delicious if eaten during the first 1-3 days of second fermentation. I am curious how fresh fruits as flavors work.
    How would you describe the kombucha flavored with fresh fruit (for example, fresh strawberries) is different from the kombucha made with dried fruit (freeze-dried strawberries)? Does the fresh fruit make the kombucha bubblier? More acidic? Please let me know.

    • Coco,
      I always use fresh fruit because the more live it is, I imagine the more desirable for the bacteria. I’m very happy with the flavor I get from fresh fruit. Earlier in the second ferment, the kombucha is sweeter. The longer it ferments the less sweet it is because the bacteria eat all the sugars up—this also yields more sour flavor and acidity.

      This group is helpful—perhaps someone there has more experience with dried fruit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/KombuchaNation.CulturesHealthHealing/
      Hope this helps!
      H

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