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Kombucha and pH – Quick Guide

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Starting pH is crucial for your ferment!

Kombucha can be a little intimidating when you’re first getting started, but the truth is it’s easy, and once you’ve got the right tools and information it’s a breeze. But experienced brewers know that it’s important to respect the process and know your stuff — and pH is no different.  Understanding how to correctly start is crucial for a successful, healthy brew.  And one of the keys to consistently crafting brewery quality kombucha at home is starting pH. 

Without the right starting pH, several issues can arise. First (and most importantly), you are at exponentially higher risk for mold. The correct level acidity in your brew, indicated by the pH, will kill off those potential pesky invaders.  Second, your brews will very likely be inconsistent in flavor and finishing time.  But if you track your pH, you too can be a booch master. Second, (but most important), is mold. The correct level acidity in your brew, indicated by the pH, will kill off the potential of mold growths.  The easiest way to check your brew’s starting pH is with Raw Brewing Co – Kombucha.com pH Strips.

So what is pH and what’s the right number?

pH is the measurement of acidity or alkalinity, and the scale goes from 0 (extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely alkaline), with 7 in the middle representing a neutral pH. When making kombucha, you need to to start your brew at the right pH: 3.5-4.5.  Never start a kombucha ferment above 4.5, as it exponentially increases the risk for mold.  

Checking your brew’s starting pH is easy.  After you combine your SCOBY and starter liquid with room temperature sweet tea, simply grab a clean spoon, take a spoonful of your brew, and dip a Raw Brewing Co pH Strip in it.  Then compare the color to the color chart — the closest match is your pH.  If your pH is too high, add more starter liquid.  And if your pH is lower than you’d like, simply add more sweet tea.

Here’s the catch: the good bacteria in kombucha create acids, so (if you did things right), the pH will decrease throughout the ferment.  The lower the pH, the more tart your kombucha will be — so keep your eye on it!. This number should land between 3.5 and 4.5 but you are better off if it’s closer to 4.5. Just remember this: if you want to brew like the pros, start at 4 and finish at 3.

To learn more about pH, checkout our full guide on Kombucha and pH

How much starter liquid do I need?

There’s several factors that can affect your brew’s starting pH: how much sugar you use, the pH of your water supply, how strong your starter liquid is, etc.  Generally speaking, after getting in a brewing cycle, using about 10% starter liquid is a good place to start.  For instance, if you’re making a 1-gallon batch, use 1/10th of a gallon of starter liquid.  But save a little extra just in case — and most importantly, pH test your brew!  Additionally, starting your first batch with a healthy scoby and starter culture (like Gaia) is important to help you hit the ground running.  

Can I add vinegar if my starting pH is too high?

Contrary to popular belief, you can add vinegar if your starting pH is too high.  However, there’s only one type of vinegar that’s acceptable for bringing your brew’s pH down: white vinegar.  Whether or not it’s distilled is unimportant: it’s the same thing — the only difference is the strength of the vinegar.  White vinegar has been pasteurized, so there’s no yeast or bacteria in it that can interfere with your brew.  Never add apple cider vinegar or any other vinegar, as it can change the biology of your ferment and introduce different yeast and bacteria which could outcompete your brew.

So you want to brew consistently like a pro? 

It’s easy!  All you need to do is:

  1. Start with a strong culture like Gaia
  2. Use pH strips to always test your brew
  3. Start your brew at a pH of 4 
  4. Finish your brew at a pH of 3  

It’s that simple, Booches! 

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