Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish, is gaining popularity across the globe. It’s tasty, beneficial for health, and most importantly, can be made at home.
But many beginners struggle with their kimchi not bubbling as it should. So, if you’re wondering what has gone wrong with your kimchi fermentation, I’m here to help.
The kimchi not bubbling issue is typically related to either incorrect amount of salt, a poor choice of a container, or low temperature. Today, I’ll review each of these causes in detail. In the end, I’ll share tips on making perfectly fermented kimchi, so read on to find out.
Should My Kimchi Be Bubbling?
To answer whether your kimchi should be bubbling, I’ll first explain how lacto-fermentation in kimchi works.
When salt combines with lactobacillus bacteria in kimchi, the microorganisms start to thrive. It then breaks down natural sugars present in cabbage and converts them into lactic acid.
Along with acid, the process produces carbon dioxide gas or CO2. These are the bubbles you should see during fermentation.
CO2 is always produced in the fermentation process. However, this doesn’t mean you will always see its effects.
Depending on various factors, the bubbles may be large or hardly noticeable. They may gather on the water surface inside the jar.
How Long Does It Take Kimchi to Start Bubbling?
The length of the fermentation process depends on a range of factors.
Generally, you can expect kimchi to ferment for up to four days at room temperature and up to a month in the fridge. But in practice, the amount and type of salt and jar sealing can affect the time needed drastically.
The lower the temperature and the less salt you add, the longer kimchi takes to start bubbling.
If you add too little salt and your fridge is very cold, the kimchi may not begin to bubble even in a month. On the other hand, strongly salted kimchi in a warm room can start bubbling in a day.
Why Isn’t My Kimchi Bubbling?
Now, let’s look at the potential reasons your kimchi is not bubbling.
The Jar Isn’t Sealed Properly
The kimchi jar must be clean and airtight for the fermentation process to start.
If your jar isn’t correctly sealed and air can get in, the fermentation process won’t happen. Furthermore, you risk spoiling the product.
You Didn’t Allow Enough Time
Fermentation is a chemical process that doesn’t start the minute your seal the jar. Numerous factors can affect the time required for your kimchi to start bubbling.
As a rule of thumb, the lower is temperature, the slower the fermentation process.
At room temperature, kimchi takes about four days to start bubbling, depending on the amount of salt. But it may take up to a month if you store kimchi in the fridge.
However, this doesn’t mean fermenting kimchi in the fridge is wrong. Kimchi fermented at room temperature has a milder flavor. As fermentation in the refrigerator takes a much longer time, kimchi has a stronger, more sour taste.
Too Little or Too Much Salt
Salt is a natural preservative necessary for fermentation.
It draws out water from kimchi, ensuring microorganisms can’t breed and helping seasonings better penetrate vegetable cells.
A lack of salt may slow down the fermentation process or prevent it altogether.
On the flip side, adding too much salt may result in kimchi just preserving rather than going through the lacto-fermentation process. This issue is linked with a certain percent of salinity the lactobacillus bacteria need to thrive.
How to Make Sure Your Kimchi Bubbles
Finally, it’s time to find out how to ensure your kimchi will ferment properly. Read on to discover three simple but essential tips to avoid your kimchi not bubbling.
Find the Right Container
Traditionally, kimchi is fermented in clay jars called ‘onggi’ buried in the ground.
Of course, you don’t have to bury your cabbage, but you should find the right container for it. A Mason jar with tight sealing will be a perfect choice. But any other airtight container will also do the job.
Before you put in the ingredients, sanitize the container properly. Salt will prevent microorganisms from breeding. But preservation doesn’t happen instantly, and bacteria may start the spoilage process before the fermentation begins.
If any air can get into the container, it isn’t suitable for kimchi. Check the seal for micro-cracks and gaps to avoid kimchi not bubbling.
Use the Right Amount of Salt
As you already know, both too little and too much salt can prevent your kimchi from bubbling. Therefore, measuring the right amount of salt is essential to get high-quality kimchi.
Although Koreans didn’t have kitchen scales when making kimchi centuries ago, you can use technological progress to your advantage today.
First, measure the cabbage you want to ferment. Then, calculate 2% of its weight. That’s the amount of salt you need.
Slight fluctuations from the calculations won’t make a difference apart from the change in time required for fermentation to complete. But don’t shift from the necessary amount too much, or your kimchi may not ferment at all.
Ensure the Right Conditions
Temperature is a significant factor in fermentation.
The process happens both in temperatures under 50° Fahrenheit and above 100°. But according to Koreans, kimchi tastes the best when fermented at 70-90° Fahrenheit.
That’s about the room temperature in warm seasons in most homes across the U.S.
Keep your kimchi at room temperature for a couple of days. Then, place it in the fridge to slow down the fermentation.
If you find it too mild after tasting the kimchi, take it out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for longer.
Hopefully, this guide will help you make properly fermented kimchi every time.
Experiment with temperatures and salt amounts to achieve different tastes but adhere to the general recommendations.
Like any dish, kimchi requires a bit of experience, but with practice and knowledge of chemical processes, you will soon master it.