Cleaning your kombucha materials
Luckily, cleaning your vessels is pretty simple.
The thing about properly fermented kombucha is that its
low, acidic pH naturally makes it pretty inhospitable to
You do not need to sanitize or sterilize your materials when
This is not at all like brewing beer, where cleaning your
materials is almost as much work as the brewing itself!
Brew vessels and bottles should get a long rinse in hot water. If there are yeasty or crusty bits that get stuck to the glass, you can scrub with a clean sponge or scrub brush.
This often gets overlooked: Make sure there’s no mold on any of the sponges or materials you use to clean your brew vessels! Kitchen sponges are some of the dirtiest objects we have in our home.
You can use a bit of dish soap to clean the bottles’ mouthpieces and if there’s residue that’s particularly sticky or gunky.
You can run your glass brew vessels in the dishwasher on the hot water setting without any dishwashing detergent (like Cascade/JetDry).
Always rinse thoroughly.
Now for some no-nos
Don’t use antibacterial soap. For one thing, it’s just not necessary. And secondly, there’s always the chance that you may not rinse it all off completely. And antibacterial soap would not be good for the bacteria in your kombucha.
I do not recommend using a “vinegar cure,” rinsing with distilled white vinegar or using vinegar in any part of your kombucha brewing or cleaning process. Lots of homebrewers recommend this, but I find it to be unnecessary and a potential risk. I'm being ultra-careful, but again: using vinegar is completely unnecessary, so it’s honestly wasteful and possibly harmful to your kombucha in the long run.
Why no vinegar?
As I’ve mentioned in other parts of my site, I’m staunchly against using vinegar in any part of the kombucha brewing process. This is because the acidic compounds in the vinegar could come into contact with your kombucha sSCOBY and transform it from a kombucha culture to a vinegar culture...which is fine if you want to make vinegar. But if you want to make kombucha, it’s best to avoid letting vinegar contaminate your kombucha.
Some brewers say you can use distilled white vinegar diluted with an equal amount of water to create a “vinegar cure” to rinse all your vessels and materials. While I agree that such a small amount of vinegar likely won’t transform your SCOBY into a vinegar culture overnight, I don’t think it’s worth the risk. Over time, you could be exposing your SCOBY to more and more vinegar (even in small amounts) and suddenly, you’ll notice that your SCOBY is producing too-sour kombucha. Or you’ll find that the flavor profile isn’t right or it’s not getting fizzy. You’ll wonder why your symbiosis isn’t balanced.
So especially when hot water and dish soap does the job, there’s no point in wasting distilled white vinegar and potentially harming your kombucha.
Thankfully, kombucha is pretty low-maintenance when it comes to cleaning, so you don’t need to overthink it.