Most kombucha home brewers are trying to keep at least a hint of sweetness in their bitter kombucha, but sometimes kombucha ferments too quickly or too long and starts to taste like vinegar, making it undrinkable.
Well what if I told you that making your kombucha into vinegar, whether on accident or on purpose, could be a good thing?
Kombucha vinegar is over fermented kombucha that has had most, if not all, of its sugar fermented by the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) into alcohol, acids, and carbon dioxide. Normally kombucha is fermented for 1-2 weeks. Kombucha vinegar is created when it is fermented 1-2 months.
In this article I’ll share with you everything I’ve learned about kombucha vinegar, including the easiest way to make it and its cool uses in recipes and more! Let’s get into it.
How is Kombucha Made?
In order for you to understand what kombucha vinegar is and how to make it, you need to understand how kombucha is made.
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!
What is Kombucha Vinegar?
The longer that 1st fermentation goes on, the more sugar is eaten by the SCOBY and the more bitter the kombucha becomes.
Kombucha is normally fermented for a little over a week so that it has a little bit of a vinegary kick, while still retaining some of its sugar and tasting sweet. Kombucha becomes vinegar when it’s over fermented, usually after 30-60 days. This makes it pretty much undrinkable, like regular vinegar.
Over fermented kombucha and regular vinegar both get their sour and bitter taste from acetic acid. Kombucha vinegar is about 2% acetic acid while regular vinegar is between 4-7%. This means that kombucha vinegar is slightly sweeter and fruitier than regular vinegar, with a hint of tea flavor to it, but still has the same sour and bitter bite.
Health Benefits of Kombucha Vinegar
By consuming kombucha vinegar, you get all the probiotic health benefits found in kombucha such as:
And in addition to these probiotic benefits, the acetic acid in kombucha vinegar and regular vinegar has been found to lower blood sugar levels by 50% after meals. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is good because it can:
Help prevent weight gain and promote weight loss
Reduce risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes
Reduce stress hormones and inflammation
How to Make Kombucha Vinegar
To make kombucha vinegar all you have to do is make normal kombucha, but allow the 1st fermentation to go for 4-10 weeks instead of 1-2. To increase the speed of fermentation and make kombucha vinegar quicker, brew the kombucha in a warmer environment (but no hotter than 85 degrees F, 29 C) and use extra acidic starter tea.
A good place to get kombucha vinegar is from a SCOBY hotel if you have one. If you've never heard o a SCOBY hotel, it's just a jar that stores a stack of extra SCOBYs for later use.
These SCOBYs float in sweet tea that will keep them healthy and well fed, but because of there are so many SCOBYs in such a small place, the sweet tea becomes acidic and vinegary very quickly and needs to be replaced with a new batch every 4-6 weeks.
Rather than dumping out and wasting this super strong kombucha from the hotel every 4-6 weeks, use it as kombucha vinegar!
If you don’t have one already, you can learn how and why to make a SCOBY hotel in the article I wrote on them here.
Kombucha Vinegar Recipe (1 Gallon)
If you know how to make kombucha, making kombucha vinegar should be pretty easy for you. But if you’ve never home brewed booch before or just need a reminder, this recipe will walk you through the entire process.
1 Cup of Sugar 1 Cup of Starter Tea
1. Brew Sweet Black Tea
The very first thing you need to do to make kombucha vinegar is brew a few cups of black tea. Green tea can work too but black will give the vinegar more flavor and has more caffeine in it, an important nutrient for the SCOBY.
Once the tea has brewed add 1 cup of sugar.
If you want to create 2 gallons of kombucha vinegar, just multiply the amount of sugar and tea above by two.
If you’re using an irregularly shaped container, you can brew kombucha vinegar to the cup by using the numbers below.
To make 1 cup of kombucha vinegar you need:
0.0625 Cups of Sugar
0.5 Tea Bags or 0.375 Teaspoons of Loose Leaf Tea
0.125 Cups of Starter Tea
Just multiply these ingredients by the # of cups of kombucha vinegar you want to make and you'll have the right amount of each ingredient.
As I said before, the tea and sugar will provide food and nutrients for the SCOBY to keep it alive and healthy.
2. Add SCOBY and Starter Tea
Next you are going to add the few cups of sweet tea you just made to the glass jar/container you're using and fill up whatever space remains with water. You can use cold water to help the tea cool down faster.
Once the tea has cooled down to room temperature, add in the SCOBY/s and starter tea.
Starter tea is just unflavored kombucha from a previous brew that will help create an acidic environment in the tea early to prevent mold growth.
If you bought a SCOBY online it will come packaged in starter tea. If you've brewed before and didn't save any starter tea from a previous batch, you can use a store bought bottle of unflavored kombucha or a splash of distilled white vinegar to give the brew its initial acidity.
It’s important to wait until the sweet tea has cooled down to room temp to add the SCOBY and starter tea because too hot or too cold temperatures can shock the bacteria culture.
3. Cover the Jar
After the sweet tea, SCOBY, starter tea, and water have all been combined in the brewing vessel, cover the top of the container with cloth or old tee shirt and secure it with a rubber band. This will keep fruit flies and other bugs out.
Do not seal the jar with a lid or anything airtight, since we need oxygenated air to be able to flow in and out of the container to keep the SCOBY alive.
4. Wait 6-10 Weeks
Depending on the temperature and activity level of the SCOBY, the sweet tea will turn into vinegar somewhere between 6-10 weeks. After 1 month has passed, I recommend tasting the booch a few times a week to see how it has progressed.
There technically isn’t a single moment when the kombucha becomes kombucha vinegar, but I would call it finished once the sweet tea has lost all of its sweetness and reached a bitter and sour taste similar to regular vinegar.
You don’t have to time it perfectly, but try to end the brew once it has lost all its sugar and sweetness, since after that the SCOBY won’t have any food to keep it alive.
Once you've decided the kombucha is bitter and vinegary enough, pour it out of the jar into bottles and refrigerate. Congrats, you’ve made your very own kombucha vinegar!
Where to Buy Kombucha Vinegar
If you're not a kombucha home brewer and don't want to invest in the equipment and ingredients needed to make kombucha vinegar, or just don't want to wait 1-2 months for it to ferment, you can actually just buy a bottle.
It will probably be tough to find at your local grocery store, so your best bet if you don't want to make it yourself is to get it online.
Amazon sells a 12oz bottle of 8-12 month oak barrel aged kombucha vinegar for less than $10. You can find it here.
Kombucha Vinegar Uses
From food to personal hygiene, kombucha vinegar has a ton of cool uses. Let's go over a few.
Drink it Raw
The easiest thing to do with kombucha vinegar is drink it like a shot. This is already a common practice with apple cider vinegar and provides a quick way to get the health benefits of kombucha vinegar into your body, without having to spend time and effort working it into a recipe.
A shot of vinegar will put some hair on your chest, but if you can handle it it’s definitely the most convenient option.
One easy and tasty way to incorporate kombucha vinegar into your meals is as a salad dressing. It'll give your salads the same tangy kick as balsamic vinaigrette, but with a slightly sweeter and fruitier flavor.
You can either dress your salad with raw kombucha vinegar, or you can infuse the vinegar with herbs, garlic, and spices to add more flavors.
You can also use kombucha vinegar to glaze and add some tang to vegetables like onions, carrots, potatoes, brussels sprouts, and squash.
To do this place the vegetables in a pan with water and the kombucha vinegar. Bring it to a boil and then cover and reduce the heat to medium and let it cook for 10 minutes.
Now remove the lid and raise the heat back up to a boil again. Allow the water to boil away and the vinegar to reduce and glaze the veggies, which should take about 5 to 7 minutes.
Once the vegetables are glazed to a sweet, rich brown color add butter to the pan and turn and coat the veggies with it. Then season with salt and pepper and serve!
Wash your Hair With it
I know it sounds weird but kombucha vinegar can actually be used as a natural hair wash. In fact, the acetic acid in vinegar has been found to improve scalp health, strengthen hair, and enhance its shine.
To clean your hair with kombucha vinegar I recommend diluting it with equal parts water, and then rubbing it into your hair while you shower just like you would with shampoo.
The acetic acid in kombucha vinegar is good for cleaning more than just your hair, and can actually be used as an all purpose cleaner to remove stains and bacteria around your house.
I like using kombucha vinegar to wipe down my kitchen table and counters over store bought cleaners like lysol and Formula 409 because it’s natural. I know exactly what’s in it and don’t have to worry about ingesting dangerous chemicals into my digestive system or lungs.
To use kombucha vinegar as cleaning fluid, first filter or strain it to get out any clumps of yeast and bacteria that can block the spray nozzle. Then fill up the spray bottle and spray it full strength onto any surface that you want cleaned and wipe clean with a cloth or rag.
Kombucha vinegar can also be used as a facial toner by applying it to your face with a cotton swab.
The vinegar can apparently kill bacteria and break up dead skin cells that clog pores and cause acne. It’s acidity also can rebalance the skin's pH, protecting you from bacteria and other bad organisms that are constantly trying to get into your body.
Kombucha vinegar has an advantage over regular vinegar in skin care because it has less acetic acid, meaning it's not as harsh or irritable on the skin. This makes it great as a facial toner, however I would still start with only a little your first time to make sure it doesn't irritate your skin.
My favorite use for kombucha vinegar is as a really strong starter tea for my kombucha brews. Starter tea is just a cup or two of kombucha from previous brews that is added to a new brew of booch to create an acidic environment and prevent mold growth.
By using kombucha vinegar as starter tea, our brews will start extra acidic, and will be better protected against mold and begin fermenting quicker.
There really is no excuse to waste over fermented kombucha with how many uses there are for it as vinegar.
Although I probably won’t be starting a batch of kombucha to make it into vinegar anytime soon, I will be making use of the old liquid from my SCOBY hotel as vinegar for either salad dressings or vegetable glazes, and will definitely not waste any accidentally over fermented booch in the future.
If you want to learn more about kombucha, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Have a great day!