Kombucha is a little sweet, a little sour, but is it a little boozy? The fermented tea drink, which has exploded onto the North American market over the past few years, is known to contain a certain amount of alcohol due to its production process. But how much alcohol are you really taking in per serving, and what kind of effect does it have on your body, if any? To learn more about the alcohol content in kombucha, read on.
WHERE DOES THE ALCOOL COME FROM?
Kombucha has long been consumed as a health drink--since around 220 B.C--originating in Northeast China (Manchuria) as an elixir with healing properties. But we don’t usually equate health with booze, so how does alcohol come into play? Like beer and wine, kombucha is a fermented product. A SCOBY (a disc-shaped symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is placed in a sweetened tea mixture and left to sit (ferment) at room temperature for a few weeks (or months, for Gutsy’s kombucha). During fermentation, the sugar is broken down into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The kombucha is then bottled to contain released CO2 and create carbonation, giving you the delicate bubbles that contribute to making this drink so refreshing. From there, bottled kombucha is placed in a refrigerated environment to slow down the carbonation and fermentation processes (which is why you’ll always find our kombucha in the cold case at the store).
In 2010, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau conducted tests of various commercial kombucha brands and found that they could contain anywhere from 0.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) to 2.5%. The inconsistency and variance in alcohol content worried industry and consumers. Some stores carded those purchasing kombucha, and the Whole Foods grocery chain pulled some of the drinks from its shelves. U.S. law stipulates that kombucha with an ABV of 0.5% or more must be regulated as an alcoholic beverage. That number is 1.1% here in Canada. While there are trace amounts of alcohol contained in our kombucha, the alcohol content shouldn’t concern you--it’s not nearly enough to get you tipsy or to have any real effect on your health.
WHAT ABOUT HARD KOMBUCHA?
As federal regulation agencies cracked down on kombucha producers for the lack of standard alcohol content, a new branch of the industry was beginning to grow: hard kombucha. It grew in popularity, quickly being perceived as a healthy alternative to cider or beer. Brands began selling kombucha with anywhere from3.2 to 8% ABV. And in June 2018, large beer companies, like Molson Coors and Boston Beer (which owns Sam Adams), began purchasing smaller kombucha companies as a way to get in the game.
However, much of the rhetoric around healthy hard kombucha is misleading for one simple reason: probiotics do not like alcohol. Alcohol essentially kills all of the healthy bacteria that makes kombucha a gut health aid. So, while you can absolutely enjoy the same great taste in a hard kombucha as in a non-alcoholic version, you may want to be wary of companies making health claims.
Although alcohol is present in commercial kombucha, the amount is negligible enough for it to be considered a non-alcoholic beverage, and you won’t feel any of its effects. And while hard kombucha can be a nice alternative brew to a Happy Hour beer, you unfortunately won’t benefit from the sweet and sour drink’s potential health properties. To learn more about the effects of our probiotics on your gut health, check out our blog post.