Kombucha is a really unique drink that a lot of people don’t know much about. One of the most common questions that new kombucha drinkers have is if there is alcohol in kombucha, and if so how much?
Kombucha contains a small amount of naturally occurring alcohol that results from the fermentation process. Store bought kombucha will always have less than 0.5% alcohol content in order to be sold under federal guidelines as non-alcoholic, which is a similar amount of alcohol as that in other fermented foods such as ripe bananas, yogurt, grape juice, bread, pickles, and vinegar.
In this article, I’ll cover everything about alcohol and kombucha, including why alcohol is in kombucha, whether or not its safe for everyone, and some non alcoholic kombucha options that are out there. Lets get into it!
What is Kombucha?
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
The Benefits of Kombucha
Kombucha is best known for the beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, that it contains. Probiotics are found in a lot of other fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut, yogurt, kimchi, and some cheeses.
Your body, especially your gut, is filled with good and bad bacteria. And it’s believed that the modern western diet which is so full of sugar and processed foods harms these good bacteria in your gut. This is bad because a lack of beneficial bacteria in the body can lead to digestive problems, diarrhea, and infections such as candida.
Fermented foods with probiotics like kombucha replace and replenish these beneficial bacteria in your gut and may
What Exactly is Alcohol?
Alcohol or ethanol forms when yeast ferments sugar. In large doses it acts as a depressant, calming down your central nervous system. But in small doses, it can actually act as a stimulant, creating feelings of euphoria and making you talk more.
Why Kombucha has Alcohol in it
Because alcohol is a natural by-product of fermentation, kombucha does contain a small amount of it.
All booch begins as sweet tea. What turns this sweet tea into sweet and sour probiotic kombucha is a living culture of bacteria. This culture of bacteria, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), eats the sugar and caffeine from the sweet tea and produces acids, carbon dioxide, and alcohol.
Once it has eaten enough sugar to make the kombucha bitter tasting, the SCOBY is removed and the 1st fermentation is complete. At this point the kombucha can be drunk, but it's not carbonated or flavored yet.
The carbonation and flavor is added in a 2nd fermentation. During this stage, the kombucha is sealed in glass fermenting bottles that are filled with fruit, juice, or herbs for flavoring.
Over the course of a few days, the kombucha in the bottles develops carbonation and flavor. It’s then refrigerated and ready to be drunk!
So alcohol is a natural byproduct of the SCOBY fermenting the sweet tea into kombucha, and serves as more of a preservative than an intoxicant. In fact, alcohol is naturally occurring in a lot of foods, such as bananas, grape juice, vinegar, pickles, bread, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
How Much Alcohol is in Store Bought Kombucha?
You may be wondering, “If kombucha has alcohol in it, why are minors able to buy it at the store?” The reason that minors can buy kombucha at the store is that under federal law, products under 0.5% alcohol by volume are not considered alcoholic.
Most store bought booch is just under this 0.5 mark, which means it can be marketed and sold to minors. For reference, the average beer has a 4.5% alcohol content. Which means that in order to get the same amount of alcohol as a beer, which would still leave you far from the point of intoxication, you’d have to drink 9 bottles of kombucha! Talk about a stomach ache.
How Much Alcohol is in Home Brewed Kombucha?
Because home brewed booch is not as tightly regulated nor consistent batch to batch, the amount of alcohol in it can vary a lot. Generally, most home brews will have between a 0.5-3.0% alcohol content.
% Alcohol Content of Kombucha and Popular Food and Drinks
Can Kids Drink Kombucha?
Because there is alcohol in kombucha, you may be wondering whether or not kids can safely drink it.
WebMD recommends that young children (under 12) should avoid kombucha until more is known about how it affects them.
However, since the amount of alcohol in kombucha is similar to that in other foods that are commonly eaten by young children such as grape and orange juice, ripe bananas, and some breads, it’s not the alcohol that’s dangerous for them.
The small amount of caffeine in kombucha is actually the reason young children shouldn't drink kombucha, because the American Academy of Pediatrics says that all children under the age of 12 should not drink any caffeine.
If you are going to serve your young children small amounts of kombucha, I recommend you only serve store bought booch, because as I said earlier, home brewed kombucha’s lack of regulation and consistency can result in alcohol levels of up to 3%, which is pretty close to that of a beer.
Children older than 12 should be fine drinking kombucha and its low levels of alcohol, but to be safe they should stick to the recommended 1 serving a day.
Can Pregnant Women Drink Kombucha?
I think it’s best for pregnant women to air on the side of caution and avoid drinking kombucha during pregnancy.
They should definitely avoid home brewed booch, since its alcohol content is usually not measured and brews can get up to an amount of alcohol close to that of a beer, but even store bought booch isn’t perfect.
Although it’s tightly regulated, there still is a small chance that a bottle of kombucha at the store hasn’t been stored properly and could contain more than 0.5% alcohol content, putting the health of the baby in danger.
Popular brands of booch have even come under lawsuits in the past for bottles of their kombucha being higher than 0.5% alcohol. So I just don't think it's worth the risk for pregnant women.
If you’re pregnant and still want to enjoy kombucha, you should read below about some non-alcoholic kombucha options!
Can Recovering Alcoholics Drink Kombucha?
Another group that may be at risk to the alcohol in kombucha is recovering alcoholics.
Although the amount of alcohol in kombucha isn’t going to get you buzzed, the alcoholic taste alone may be enough to send a recovering alcoholic into a relapse. Everyone is different of course and a lot of recovering alcoholics will be able to enjoy kombucha without any problems.
If you or someone you know is a recovering alcoholic and is unsure about whether or not to try kombucha, I would consult a doctor or therapist first.
Non Alcoholic Kombucha Options
If you’re pregnant, nursing, or a recovering alcoholic and want to enjoy kombucha but without the alcohol, I have a solution for you!
There are kombucha brands out there that after the fermentation process, remove all the alcohol from their booch. These kombuchas are generally made by healthier brands and usually not only have less alcohol, but less sugar and calories as well!
My favorite non-alcoholic booch is made by a brand called Humm Kombucha. I reviewed Humm in my Top 5 Best Kombuchas on Amazon article if you’d like to learn more about it. Or, you can check it out for yourself on Amazon here
If you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum and want MORE alcohol in your booch then hard kombucha is perfect for you.
Hard kombucha is kombucha that has been intentionally brewed to be alcoholic and is created by adding extra rounds of fermentation along with extra sugar and yeast.
Hard kombucha usually has an alcohol content similar to that of a beer (4.5-7.0%) A few brands that I like are Flying Embers, Boochcraft, and Juneshine.
Unless it’s hard kombucha, all store bought booch should have less than a 0.5% alcohol content.
For most people, this amount of alcohol is irrelevant. However young children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, and recovering alcoholics should be careful when making a decision about whether or not to drink it.
If you’re still unsure about whether or not it’s healthy for you or someone you know to drink kombucha because of its alcohol, I recommend consulting a doctor that can give you a more personal and specific answer.
And if you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, be sure check out the rest of my website!