Is kombucha alcoholic?

In this article we'll explore how much alcohol is in kombucha, how the alcohol content varies depending on the type of kombucha fermentation, and how quite a lot of producers in the US discovered the alcohol produced was a little more than they thought! But before we dive into the booze talk, let's get the scoop on what kombucha really is.

The Story Behind Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea brewed by mixing sweetened tea with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). This fermentation process whips up a tangy, slightly bubbly drink that has been a hit for ages. Legend has it that kombucha dates back over 2,000 years in China, with a fascinating history spanning various cultures for its supposed various health benefits and perks.

The tale goes that this fermented beverage was stumbled upon by accident when a servant of a Chinese emperor left sweetened tea unattended, allowing a SCOBY to do its thing.

As the love for kombucha spread, it journeyed to other corners of the globe, and the fermented beverage has been a beloved traditional sip for centuries. In Europe, kombucha gained steam in the early 20th century as a health booster, with claims of aiding digestion and beefing up immunity.

Kombucha Fermentation Process

The brewing process of kombucha tea involves marrying sweetened tea with the SCOBY and letting it ferment. During this fermentation dance, the SCOBY's bacteria and yeast chow down on sugar, releasing carbon dioxide and a mix of goodies, including alcohol and organic acids that give kombucha its signature tang.

After the first fermentation, kombucha can undergo a round two where flavours like fruits or herbs are added to jazz up the taste. This encore fermentation may bump up the alcohol content a smidge, depending on the ingredients and fermentation duration.

How Fermentation Plays with Kombucha Alcohol Content

During the fermentation process, yeast in the kombucha mix munches on sugars, cranking out alcohol as a by-product. More fermentation time means more sugar-to-alcohol conversion, upping the alcohol content.

Factors like temp, tea type, and added flavours can also sway kombucha fermentation in pace and alcohol content.

What about the B in SCOBY?

But hey, let's chat about the unsung heroes of kombucha—those diligent little bacteria munching away on alcohol like it's their favourite snack.

So, here's the lowdown: during fermentation, the bacteria squad gets to work converting ethanol (aka alcohol) into funky acids like the acetic acid and gluconic acids. It's like a mini detox, leaving us with all the tart and tangy goodness kombucha is known for.

Commercial vs Homemade Kombucha - how much alcohol?

If you're worried about how much more alcohol is in kombucha, here's the deal: Store-bought kombucha sticks to less than 0.5% alcohol or less to follow the rules. That means the alcohol content in the stuff you buy is usually pretty mild.

Now, when it comes to homemade kombucha, the alcohol levels can vary a lot. How much alcohol? The alcohol content in homemade kombucha can be as high as 2-3% ABV., but they generally hang below what you'd find in boozy drinks.

Is that booch...or booze?

In the US in 2010, Kombucha was getting yanked off the shelves faster than you can say fermentation fiasco, all because some brands had a little more buzz than the label was letting on.

It was a real plot twist for those sipping on their booch, blissfully unaware that their midday pick-me-up might just be a sneaky happy hour in disguise. It turned into a whole 'is it, isn't it' kinda debate about alcohol content which, let's be honest, was probably more excitement than kombucha had seen since its inception.

But real talk—it wasn't just about the buzz; it was a wake-up call about accountable labelling and knowing what's in our drinks.

Harder than Phil Mitchell

The exception to all the above is Hard Kombucha (i.e. alcoholic kombucha), where booze starts to become the star of the show. Still relatively niche but growing in popularity, maker of Hard Kombucha might add more sugar or additional yeast strains to really get the party started.

Drinking kombucha brewed by Counter Culture

Our Sparkling Light Kombucha does have a tiny alcohol content, but we're talking really small - like, less than 0.1% ABV small, which is why it's categorised as a non-alcoholic beverage. So you're all good to drink kombucha that we've brewed. Also we try to keep the acetic acid levels lower than your typical booch.

The little alcohol that's in there is a natural part of the fermentation process, kind of like the fizz in your sourdough starter. So, no worries, you're not going to get a buzz from your booch, but if you need to avoid alcohol completely, remember to keep an eye on the labels when drinking kombucha.