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How Much Alcohol is in Kombucha?

Published by Emma Thackray, Hip Pop co-founder

December 23, 2021

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It’s a common question - can you get drunk from drinking kombucha? It may seem like a silly thought, because it's a soft drink, right? Kombucha does contain a small amount of alcohol, which it gets as a result of the fermentation process. However, you would have to drink a very large quantity of commercially made kombucha to feel even remotely tipsy.

Now, before we move forward, let's discuss more about this process.

The scoby fermentation process

SCOBY stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This particular ingredient pretty much plays the main role in how we know and taste kombucha, because it is the culture that drives the kombucha fermentation. Fermentation, is a chemical process where carbohydrates like sugar turn into alcohol or acid. Kombucha is produced by adding scoby into sweetened green or black tea. This mixture will be left to ferment for 1 to 4 weeks to let the bacteria and yeast break down the sugar and convert them into alcohol or acid. The result will be your fizzy, tangy fermented tea -- kombucha!

How much alcohol does kombucha tea contain?

Getting to the main question, the amount of alcohol produced from fermentation that the kombucha tea contains depends on the type of kombucha tea you are drinking. Home brewed kombucha will likely have slightly higher level of alcohol than what we and other kombucha breweries produce because we have the equipment to manage and test the process. Generally, kombucha tea that is brewed commercially will contain only a very small percentage of alcohol - less than 0.5 per cent. Hip Pop kombucha is classed as non-alcoholic and we test ours to confirm this, it measures 0.3% ABV or less, a minute amount known as ‘trace alcohol, which is common to all fermented foods..

Should you drink kombucha if you are teetotal?

That depends on how religiously you want to stick to being teetotal. The quantity of alcohol in kombucha is so negligible that it is classed as a non alcoholic soft drink. It won’t affect you in the same way as beverages with regular alcohol levels that are brewed to be an alcoholic drink.

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Does homemade kombucha tea contain more alcohol than shop-bought versions?

Put simply, it is possible that homemade varieties of kombucha tea will contain more alcohol.

This special tea is made by combining bacteria, sugar and yeast together and mixing them with white, black or green tea. This mixture is then cooled to room temperature, put into a glass container and left to ferment for at least one week.

The fermentation process is what gives the kombucha drink its usual characteristics. As it matures, it creates a mixture of carbon dioxide, alcohol acidic compounds and healthy, living bacteria.

It is possible to regulate the amount of alcohol that is produced during fermentation, using more controlled, commercial methods of making kombucha tea. However, this is far less easy to regulate when making it at home.

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Does homemade kombucha tea contain more alcohol than shop-bought versions?

Put simply, it is possible that homemade varieties of kombucha tea will contain more alcohol.

This special tea is made by combining bacteria, sugar and yeast together and mixing them with white, black or green tea. This mixture is then cooled to room temperature, put into a glass container and left to ferment for at least one week.

The fermentation process is what gives the kombucha drink its usual characteristics. As it matures, it creates a mixture of carbon dioxide, alcohol acidic compounds and healthy, living bacteria.

It is possible to regulate the amount of alcohol that is produced during fermentation, using more controlled, commercial methods of making kombucha tea. However, this is far less easy to regulate when making it at home.

How do you lower the quantity of alcohol in homemade kombucha tea?

If you would like to lower the amount of alcohol in your homemade brew, you first need to understand how alcohol is produced in the first place.

Kombucha is made from yeast and bacteria and it is the yeast that produces the alcohol. When you put your SCOBY (the thick mushroom-like kombucha disc) into the initial tea and sugar mix, the yeast straight away starts to react with the sugar. Yeast basically eats and thrives on sugar, so the more sugar there is, the more it will thrive. This natural reaction with sugar is good, as the bacteria in your SCOBY needs the alcohol in order to grow.

This whole process normally produces alcohol to a small degree, and that’s essential in making homemade kombucha tea. However, sometimes the yeast dominates.

How to prevent overactive yeast

The best way to control this situation is to alter the conditions of your yeast. Yeast thrives in warmer conditions; the fermentation of kombucha tea is optimised at between 22 degrees and 28 degrees Celsius. At the upper end of this scale, yeast thrives; at the lower end, it’s bacteria. So to reduce alcohol content, lower the temperature to around 22 to 23 degrees. You can also try lowering the sugar content

Can I increase the alcohol content in my kombucha?

Yes, but you will need to brew it differently with a secondary fermentation using a different type of yeast, an alcohol producing yeast such as a champagne yeast. This is known as ‘hard’ or ‘alcoholic’ kombucha. In fact, alcoholic kombucha is becoming a healthier alternative to other types of alcohol, as also reported by the Insider.

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Can I increase the alcohol content in my kombucha?

One of the other main ways to alter alcohol content, either way, is with the type and strength of tea that you use to mix with your sugar and SCOBY. Strong tea is high in sterols, which enables the reproduction of yeast. The fewer sterols you have in your tea, the less alcohol that will be produced. When you mix your tea bags or leaves with your hot water at the beginning of the kombucha making process, use smaller quantities to the same quantity of water, or don’t let the tea brew for as long.

Yeasts need sterols to reproduce, and if they can get those sterols from tea, they don’t have to make sterols themselves. If there are little to no sterols present, the yeasts have to make their own. This leaves them with less energy to convert sugar to alcohol.

Kombucha Producers UK

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Hip Pop is a family run business craft brewing kombucha in a state-of-the-art microbrewery on a gorgeous farm outside of Manchester. We produce award-winning organic kombucha that is also vegan, and gluten-free. Our kombucha comes in four delicious flavours Ginger-Yuzu, Apple-Elderflower, Blueberry-Ginger and Strawberry- Pineapple. Visit our shop to check all our kombucha cases.

Conclusion

Commercially made kombucha like Hip Pop contains a tiny amount of alcohol (like all fermented foods, and even natural orange juice) less than 0.5% alcohol, and is classed as a non-alcoholic beverage. However, homemade kombucha can contain higher quantities of alcohol. If you are looking for an alternative to an alcoholic beverage we can strongly recommend kombucha. Since our kombucha has gone through a fermentation process, similar to wine or beer, it has similar complex notes, flavour and mouthfeel but without the hangover! To learn more about Hip Pop follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

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