Known for its distinctive tart, tangy and slightly sour flavour, kombucha in its purest state can evoke the taste of apple cider vinegar. Flavour will vary depending on the type of tea used and the spices, juices or herbs added into the brew, but that base, slightly vinegary taste (which, even for big kombucha skeptics, can grow to become a pleasant kick) comes from the acidity produced during fermentation. And that acidity has been linked by researchers to some surprising health benefits. Here’s why most kombucha is acidic—and why its acidity matters.
ACIDITY DURING FERMENTATION
The fermentation process is one of the elements responsible for kombucha’s characteristic tart taste. The yeast in the SCOBY—standing for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast—eats the sugar in the brew and transforms it into alcohol. That’s also why kombucha contains a very marginal amount of alcohol (learn more here about alcohol in kombucha). The bacteria then feed on the alcohol and create acidity. As such, the longer you let your kombucha ferment, the more acidic it will turn out. This high acidity in kombucha has a dual function; it creates a perfectly balanced environment in which the healthy bacteria and yeast in the SCOBY flourish while warding off disruptive and harmful microorganisms. The acidity is essentially allowing kombucha to protect itself while sustaining its own life.
ACIDITY AND OVERALL HEALTH
pH is a scale used to measure the acidity or alkalinity in a solution, ranging from 0 to 14 with 7 as the true neutral. A pH higher than 7 indicates higher alkalinity while a pH lower than 7 indicates higher acidity. Commercial kombucha generally has a pH between 2.5 and 3.5, situating it around grapefruit, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. But it the pH can drop lower, the longer the kombucha is left to ferment. So, why does pH matter to our health? Healthy acidic foods and beverages contain acetic acid that has been linked to numerous health benefits. Sadly, your favourite soda, though acidic, won’t carry any of these. Acetic acid contains a variety of bioactive compounds known to have antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, which help boost your immune system and fight off infection, aid in digestion and may reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes, among other benefits.
Kombucha, like any other fermented food, houses a diverse collection of healthy, live bacteria that need a balanced environment in which to thrive. In kombucha, that environment is highly acidic to not only allow the bacteria to survive but to ward off and any potentially inhibiting or harmful microorganisms that could threaten the environment. That acidic environment could also be significant for human health, as early research shows benefits like improved digestion, boosted immune system and even lower risk of certain cancers. And hey, that’s certainly more than your favourite soft drink can do for you.