How to choose the best bottles for your brew
I’ve been bottling home-brew kombucha for years. Various bottle options exist — some better than others! Accumulating the right bottles for a good home-brew stash can take creativity and knowledge about the brewing process.
Recall in the kombucha brewing and fermentation process the first fermentation (F1) is when your sweet tea ferments and is transformed into kombucha by your SCOBY. Then, the second fermentation (F2) is when you flavor your kombucha and bottle at room temperature to create tasty flavors. Proper bottles in this stage ensures safety and quality fizz in your brews.
What to avoid
Low-quality bottles cause tainted brews, or loud, messy, potentially harmful explosions.
Plastic is avoided by nearly all kombucha brewers as the fermented tea is a living drink, and could eventually start eating away at plastic.
Steer clear of flip-top bottles, found at homegoods stores like IKEA, which are meant to be decorative. These bottles are made of thin glass that cannot withstand the pressure produced during the home-brew kombucha process.
I also avoid square bottles, as the shape doesn’t handle pressure, making the bottle vulnerable to explosions.
What to embrace
Good-quality, food-grade glass is best.
I use both dark and clear glass bottles in my brews and keep them out of direct sunlight during the process.
Second-hand stores like Goodwill are a good option to score vintage flip-top bottles. I have found old European beer bottles with nice ceramic tops. Beware of cracked and dried seals with these finds, however. They won’t hold a seal and pose a risk for becoming unsealed during F2. What this means: bottle explosions.
I prefer green glass 16-ounce Grolsch bottles for when I want to enjoy kombucha by myself or take it on the go. These bottles are durable, pressure-rated, and convenient to utilize in the flavoring stage, widely-known as F2; Fermentation Two.
When I need bottles, I pick up a four-pack of this beer at a local liquor store. My dear husband takes care of the contents for a per-bottle cost of $2.11. We wash them up good, remove labels, and they’re ready for kombucha!
Bottles like this can also be purchased at brewery supply stores or other retailers like Northern Brewer.
Decide which bottle size is best for you. Larger bottles are ideal for sharing. Typical 16-ounce bottles suit single servings.
Reusable store bottles
GT’s and Kevita offer a decent bottle option when reused for home-brew. The larger opening makes it nice for larger fruit experimentation during F2.
Make sure you retain any paper/plastic liners on the inner portion of the caps; they help keep carbonation in the bottle.
In my opinion, the best store bottle for reuse is Health-Ade. After roughly 30 uses, the seal has given me no issue and retains a tight airlock.
A word of caution: cap quality on retail kombucha typically isn’t meant for re-use. Seals often loosen, resulting is less-fizzy kombucha.
Island Orchard Cider out of Door County makes a delicious alcoholic cider that is distributed in Wisconsin. The 750ml cider bottles are wonderful for home-brew kombucha when you want to share with a friend. Each bottle holds about 25 ounces.
Bottles like this can also be found at brewery supply stores or other retailers.
So, what about mason jars?
As a home gardener and maker of sauces, I have an impressive stash of mason jars from over the years. I really wanted these to work when I started my home brew.
But, these vessels don’t hold carbonation the right way. I haven’t been able to find a consistent fizz, and most of my efforts end up flat with black mold establishing on the lid. I just can’t recommend mason jars for your F2.