Periodically we get questions or run across articles regarding alcohol in kombucha. So we wanted to share our answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding kombucha and alcohol.
Question #1: Why is there a trace amount of alcohol in kombucha?
Kombucha is a naturally fermented food. To make kombucha, you add a SCOBY (culture of bacteria and yeast) to sweet tea. The yeasts in the SCOBY consume a substantial amount of the sugar and in turn, produce ethanol (alcohol) and carbon dioxide (those perfect little bubbles). The bacteria then consume the ethanol and produce healthy organic acids, such as acetic and gluconic acids. So alcohol is a natural byproduct of fermentation whenever there are yeasts and sugar present.
Question #2: So is kombucha like wine or beer?
No. One of the cool things about kombucha is that the yeast and bacteria work in symbiosis, so as the yeast continue to produce ethanol, the bacteria continue to convert that ethanol into acid. It’s a constant cycle. So the alcohol content in kombucha is self-limiting. Unlike kombucha, beer and wine are fermenting often with a purpose to drive alcohol content, so efforts in those brews usually involve removing the self-limiting components of fermentation. That being said, because real kombucha is naturally fermented and not pasteurized to kill the beneficial yeast and bacteria, the trace amount of alcohol in kombucha varies from brew to brew.
Question #3: How much alcohol does kombucha have?
By law non-alcoholic beverages must contain less than 0.5% ABV. Keeping your kombucha properly refrigerated until you drink it will help ensure the alcohol remains stable (because once the kombucha gets warm, those gut-friendly probiotics get active again and fermentation will continue).
Question #4: What about over-21 kombuchas and kombucha beer?
There are some brands of kombucha who brew over-21 beverages (sometimes called kombucha beer) which are higher in alcohol than regular kombucha, but these are a different kind of product altogether and you must be 21 to purchase them. They often combine beer making techniques and ingredients to drive the production of ethanol.
Question #5: Can I drink kombucha if I’m pregnant or sensitive to alcohol?
Since raw, naturally fermented kombucha does contain a trace amount of alcohol, those who are sensitive to alcohol may choose to avoid it. As with any product, if you have questions or concerns, you can always consult with your healthcare provider before consuming kombucha.