Although the precise origin date is unclear, the first kombucha recipes were recorded at the beginning of China's Qin Dynasty in 221 BCE.
While we can be sure that kombucha back then was not commercially available, most people are still turning to supermarket kombucha, even when making your own is simple, straightforward, and cost-effective. Some people who may have thought of making kombucha worry about the naturally-occurring kombucha alcohol content.
Yes, kombucha has alcohol, but it's not as simple as that. Want to find out the truth about the alcohol present in this popular healthy beverage?
Keep reading to find all you need to know about the alcohol content of kombucha.
What Is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a fermented tea with a fizzy, tart taste. Often, fruity, herbal, or floral notes are additions to add extra flavor.
The process of kombucha fermentation creates alcohol, as a natural by-product. This fermentation is necessary and important to brewing kombucha, as it acts as a defense mechanism against mold and other pathogens.
The Legal Stuff
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Health Benefits of Kombucha
Research shows that kombucha is helpful for many ailments. The list of benefits gives us good reason to keep drinking kombucha!
Some of the kombucha health benefits are:
- It naturally increases healthy gut bacteria
- Contains antioxidants
- Can kill bacteria
- May reduce the risk of heart disease
- May help manage diabetes
- May help prevent cancer
Kombucha Alcohol Content
The process of brewing kombucha does create alcohol, but it's a different kind of alcohol than that found in beer and wine.
The amount of alcohol produced when making kombucha depends largely on how long the brew is fermented. Other factors that may alter the alcohol content are the additions of fermentable sugars or added nutrients or flavors that are added during the second phase of fermentation.
Store-bought kombucha must have an alcohol content of less than 0.5% to be marketed as a non-alcoholic beverage. The low alcohol levels that are possible with the commercial production of kombucha are difficult to achieve with homemade kombucha.
The Fermentation Association in the U.S. is pushing to raise the legal alcohol limits for kombucha, from 0.5% to 1.25%, as is the allowance in some other countries.
The kombucha alcohol content by brand varies, but, for now, all of them must be under the 0.5% limit.
When making homemade kombucha, the final product usually contains an alcohol content of between 1% and 2.5%. Getting it lower than that takes some experimentation.
How to Reduce Alcohol Content in Homemade Kombucha
There are some ways you can try to reduce the alcohol in your homemade kombucha. It's important to know, however, that this requires patience and trial and error.
There is a way to perform a kombucha alcohol test to get a reading of the alcohol content of your kombucha. To run the test you can use a hydrometer or an acid test kit.
Here are some ways to get the alcohol content in your kombucha down:
- Lower sugar levels
- Brew kombucha at a lower temperature (65°F to 73°F)
- Start with a clean scoby, free of the yeasty strands
- Use more starter tea (already fermented tea) to increase bacteria
Making Kombucha at Home
Making your own kombucha in the comfort of your home saves you lots of money (store-bought kombucha is so expensive!). It also allows you to control the alcohol levels to an extent and add the desired flavors to it. To make things easy, you can purchase a kombucha starter kit.
With just a few simple supplies, making a DIY kombucha is simple and enjoyable. Here are a few of the things you will need:
- A tea blend (blends of black, green, or white tea—no herbal teas—and make sure they are organic and free of additives and extract)
- Organic sugar or other sweeteners (for beginners, raw, organic cane sugar is best)
- A SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)
- Pre-brewed plain kombucha tea (store-bought, or kept from a previous batch)
- A stainless steel, glass, or lead-free ceramic container
Once you have collected all of the ingredients of kombucha and the necessary supplies, you are ready to make your own kombucha tea. For detailed instructions, check out our DIY homemade kombucha page.
Photo by Kayla Joy Creative
Intentionally-Alcoholic Kombucha Beverages
While most people drink non-alcoholic kombucha, some people like the alcohol content of their kombucha. Some people prefer their kombucha even stronger, as a special occasion drink. Here are a few intentionally- alcoholic kombucha beverages.
Kombucha beer is a hybrid beverage that requires two stages of fermentation.
Once the primary fermentation is complete, you can consume your kombucha, or you continue with a second fermentation, which is when you should add flavor or carbonation. In the case of kombucha beer, the second fermentation requires the addition of brewer's yeast and sugar. You can choose the type of brewer's yeast you prefer—spicy, fruity, hoppy—or a combination of these!
Hard kombucha is a kombucha that is fermented longer and with additional quantities of sugar and brewers or champagne yeast. This kombucha process allows for an increase in alcohol content and the development of a fizzy, zingy, and mildly sweet alcoholic drink.
You should be warned, however, that hard kombucha has an alcohol content between 3.5% and 5.5%, so it should be enjoyed in moderation.
When you brew your own kombucha, you are the master of your own ship! You can add any flavors that appeal to you for both your non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
Any of these flavors should be added in the second phase of fermentation, and you should experiment with quantities to achieve the flavor you enjoy. Some of your options include:
- Fresh fruit purees
- Fresh fruit juices
- More sugar for additional carbonation
- Fresh or frozen fruit pieces
- Fresh herbs or quality dried herbs (use sparingly)
- Dried fruit
- Quality fruit jams or preserves
- Food-safe essential oils or extracts
- Dump and Go Dried Flavoring Packets
Remember that anything you add to your kombucha may affect the taste and carbonation of your beverage. If you want more bubbly kombucha, it's important to make sure you add the right amount of sugar, to give your yeast something to eat!
To Hard Kombucha or to not...
Kombucha is a refreshing, enjoyable beverage, known for its unique flavor and health benefits Now that you know all about kombucha's alcohol content and how kombucha is made, you can make this amazing beverage just the way you like it. If you would like to dive deeper into making your own kombucha, check out our free kombucha workshop! We will be covering the basics of brewing low-alcohol kombucha to get you started fast.
Personally, I keep my kombucha alcohol levels as low as I can when home brewing, what would your pick be? Are you into hard kombucha, kombucha beer, and alcoholic kombucha or do you prefer run-of-mill low alcohol-level kombucha? Let me know in the comments below! If you have tried hard kombucha or kombucha beer I'd love to know what you thought about it.
Blog Posts that you may Enjoy
- Health Benefits of Kombucha
- Step-by-Step Kombucha Brewing Recipe
- Continuous Brew Kombucha
- Herbal Kombucha, can it be done?
- Kombucha Bottling & Flavoring Guide for 2nd Ferments
- How to Brew Jun (Green tea & honey Kombucha)
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