The Islamic dietary laws classify food as either halal (permissible) or haram (prohibited.) Because alcohol is one food that is considered haram, knowing whether or not it's ok to drink kombucha is difficult, since kombucha has some alcohol in it, but such a small amount in can be legally bought by minors.
Kombucha is considered halal (permissible) in the Islamic faith because the trace amounts of alcohol it contains are naturally occurring due to fermentation. 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 similar to the amount of alcohol in other fermented foods such as ripe bananas, yogurt, grape juice, bread, pickles, and vinegar.
If this simple answer isn’t enough for you, don’t worry, we’ll go over everything kombucha so that if you are a muslim you can feel confident in your decision of whether or not to drink 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.
How Kombucha is Made
In order to understand why kombucha is halal, 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 Does "Halal" Mean?
Most people who are reading this article will likely already know what halal means. But for those that don’t, halal is arabic for permissible. The opposite of halal is haram which means unlawful or prohibited.
In the Islam faith, halal and haram apply to all facets of life, but today were talking about food.
In general all food is considered halal unless it is prohibited by the Qur’an or Hadith. The Hadith says that if a Muslim eats a food that is haram (prohibited) their prayer will be rejected by Allah.
A few examples of foods that are considered haram or prohibited in the Muslim faith are:
Pork and pork products (ham, sausage, bacon)
Unspecified meat broth
Pure or artificial vanilla extract
Any food prepared with alcohol or animal fats
As you can see, some foods are easy to define as halal or haram. But others, such as kombucha, which contains really small amounts of alcohol, are not so black and white.
Why Kombucha is Halal
Although kombucha contains small amounts of alcohol, it is still considered halal. This is because the alcohol in kombucha is the natural result of a biological process known as fermentation.
The alcohol in kombucha that comes from fermentation is 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.
A fatwa (non-binding legal opinion on a point of Islamic law) was passed in 2015 that permitted the consumption of low-alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages, as long as they contain 0.5% or less alcohol, meaning it is non-intoxicating.
This is great news for muslim kombucha lovers, because according to federal regulations, all store bought kombucha must be kept below 0.5% alcohol content in order to be marketed and sold as an non-alcoholic beverage.
For reference, the average beer has a 4.5% alcohol content. This 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.
Is Home-Brewed Kombucha Halal?
If you’re a muslim and considering home-brewing kombucha, there are a few things to know before you get started.
Because home brewed kombucha is not as consistent and tightly regulated as store bought booch, it can have higher levels of alcohol. You’re still extremely unlikely to become intoxicated by one glass of home brewed kombucha, but it is common for alcohol levels in home-brewed booch to surpass 0.5% and go as high as 3%.
If you are a muslim and 3% alcoholic kombucha makes you uncomfortable, but you still want to home brew kombucha, a possible solution is to purchase a hydrometer. A hydrometer is a tool that is used to measure alcohol as well as sugar levels in a drink.
All you have to do to find out the alcoholic content of your booch with a hydrometer is collect a sample of kombucha in a test jar, then place the hydrometer in and allow it to float. Whatever alcohol number on the hydrometer is floating at the top of the kombucha is its alcohol content.
The longer your kombucha ferments, the more alcohol is going to be produced by the bacteria culture, so I’d recommend testing the alcohol content everyday your kombucha is fermenting and then end the brew before the alcohol levels get to a point you’re uncomfortable with.
I found a really affordable and high quality hydrometer kit that includes a hydrometer, test jar, protective case, cleaning brush, storage bag, cleaning bag, and instruction sheet. Plus it has free shipping! If you’d like to know the alcohol content of your home brewed kombucha, you can find that kit on Amazon here.
Also, if you’re trying to avoid kombucha high in alcohol, make sure to refrigerate it when it’s finished brewing. If your kombucha stays at room temperature the bacteria will continue to ferment the sugar into alcohol. Refrigeration slows down the activity of the bacteria culture, therefore slowing down fermentation and the production of alcohol.
Nonalcoholic Kombucha Options
For those that want to play it safe and have 0 alcohol in their booch, there are brands that make nonalcoholic kombuchas. These brands brew the kombucha like normal, but use a special process post-brew to remove the alcohol while keeping in all the healthy probiotics.
My personal favorite nonalcoholic kombucha is made by Remedy Raw. Remedy Raw's kombucha is full of probiotics, but has zero sugar and zero alcohol. It also has a lighter, less bitter taste than most kombuchas, which I really enjoy.
You can buy a 12 pack of Remedy Raw's two best flavors, Raspberry Lemonade and Ginger Lemon for a really good price on Amazon here.
Kombucha is considered halal because of it’s extremely low alcohol content that is a natural result of fermentation. The amount of alcohol in store bought booch is so low that you'd have to drink over 20 bottles in a short period of time to even get a buzz from it. You'd be throwing up long before you got even close to drinking 20 bottles of kombucha.
I would however, be cautious with home brewed kombucha as it’s alcohol content can get up to 3%. So if you'd like to home brew kombucha but keep the alcohol levels low, the the use of a hydrometer can help you determine the alcohol content in your booch.
If you want to learn more about booch, how it relates to your health, and even how to brew it yourself, check out the rest of my website!