How to Get Rid of Kombucha Smell

Once you incorporate kombucha into your daily life, you’ll soon discover the benefits of brewing your own batches of the gut-friendly liquid. It’s a fascinating process, but it does present some challenges.

One particularly unpleasant aspect is the unique aroma associated with brewing kombucha. But does kombucha always have to smell?

It doesn’t! When it comes to the problem of how to get rid of kombucha smell, you can try using purified water, adding more sugar, diluting the batch with water, adding fruit juice, or adding baking soda. Keep reading for more details.

woman with brown hair and striped shirt holding nose due to bad smell

Does Kombucha Smell When Fermenting?

The most direct answer is yes. Kombucha does indeed smell when fermenting. However, it’s impossible to close the matter there fully. Let’s assume that you’ve brewed your tea, added the sugar, added the culture, and even found an excellent spot for the glass jar.

How are you sure that it is working? In the first 6-12 days of the fermenting process, you probably won’t smell anything coming out of your kombucha brew jar. After a week or so, a distinct vinegary tinge will start to develop.

Seasoned kombucha brewers recognize this smell immediately and usually love it. If you’re new to kombucha fermenting, you might be taken aback by the smell of vinegar at first. But it’s unlikely that you’ll pick up on any scent unless you open the jar itself.

The smell only becomes unpleasant (unless you really don’t like vinegar) if you brew the batch for too long. The occurrence of this particular smell is brought on by bacteria-eating minerals and fuel in the sweet tea. They will deliver healthy acids such as acetic, citric, glucuronic, and gluconic as a by-product.

Other Signs That the Fermentation Process Is Working

If you’re a few days into the fermentation, but the vinegar-like smell still isn’t present, you can look for other clues that your kombucha tea is brewing. Pay attention to the visual changes first.

Perhaps you’ll be able to notice the flocculation (or the collection of bacterial cells) in the form of brown strings or clumps. They could be visible anywhere in your jar and might even be attached to SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.)

The other notable clue that your kombucha is brewing well is the color change. The SCOBY feeds on tannins contained in the tea. As a result, the color becomes lighter. However, this is not an immediate sign of fermenting, and you’ll only likely notice it after a few weeks.

hand holding scoby kombucha jar

Why Does My Kombucha Smell Bad?

There’s another familiar smell some kombucha brewers may have encountered from time to time. Have you ever wondered why kombucha smells like a fart? Others also even state that their kombucha smells like vomit.

Undoubtedly, the very idea of these smells triggers an uncomfortable feeling, but there’s actually a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Sometimes a kombucha batch will give off a sulfurous odor, but that doesn’t mean anything wrong has happened during the fermenting process.

The sulfurous smell is present when foreign or airborne yeast particles integrate with SCOBY. Kombucha brewers welcome this “intrusion” because it diversifies microbial content and produces strong culture.

Also, there are specific species of yeast for which the sulfurous smell is a by-product. This doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s not a cause for concern. You might not enjoy the fart-like or vomit-like smell, but it’s not poisonous, nor is it dangerous to consume.

Finally, the brand of tea leaves you’re using could be the culprit too. Certain types of tea have a higher nitrogen content which sometimes leads to a sulfurous smell.

Unfortunately, if the sulfurous smell is too strong, you might not want to drink the kombucha, even though it’s probably going to taste good. So, while you might not have a bulletproof system of avoiding your kombucha smelling bad, there are ways to prevent this particular kind of smell.

Using purified water is one option. A store-bought brand or water you’ve purified at home works equally well. If the issue originated from the tea leaves, switching to a different brand could do the trick.

How to Handle Kombucha Smells

You now know what to do with the infamous sulfurous kombucha smell. But there’s still the matter of what to do with the potent vinegary smell.

If you leave the kombucha batch unattended for too long, the room will become filled with a sour and overpowering aroma.

Here’s the problem – the acids that cause it are difficult to remove. You can think of it in the same way as oversalting your food. You can’t reverse the process, but you can add ingredients to remedy the situation.

Adding More Sugar

Occasionally, some added sweetness will fix the problem of how to get rid of the kombucha smell. To do this right, take a small sample first and test if it works. If the smell and taste re-balance themselves, then add sugar to the rest of the kombucha batch.

Dilute the Batch with Water

If the sugar doesn’t do enough but makes things slightly better, then you can add some water as well. Stick to testing on small amounts of kombucha, then repeat the winning ratio on the rest of the liquid.

person pouring water into kombucha jar

Add Some Fruit Juice

If the water and sugar haven’t done the trick, some fruit juice just might. The amount of fruit juice you’ll need will depend on whether it’s the first brew batch or a continuous type of brew you’ve maintained for a while.

Add Baking Soda or Calcium Carbonate

Some kombucha brewers use calcium carbonate or baking soda for their brews, but others shy away from it. These substances are inevitably going to neutralize excess acid content. The downside is that they’re likely to impact the final flavor as well.

Let Your Kombucha Rest

If you’re unwilling to experiment with any of the suggested remedies for the smell, you can just leave the kombucha batch alone for a while.

Specifically, place it in the fridge and let it sit for around three weeks. This is known as “cold stabilization” in brewing circles and will mellow out the kombucha’s smell and flavor.

In Summary

Regardless of whether you’re a pro or novice at brewing your kombucha, not every batch is going to come out perfect. Smells are expected when it comes to the fermenting process – but only to a point.

Sometimes, you have to figure out how to get rid of the kombucha smell that’s less than tolerable. Sugar, water, and time and patience are all ingredients that can help. Also, not letting your brew sit too long will help avoid the vinegary smell.