Kombucha is a fermented tea drink with an acidic flavour and slight fizz, which is increasingly popular among the health-conscious.
As kombucha has a low calorie and sugar content, it’s an excellent choice for consumers looking for an alternative to water, without any bad-for-you ingredients.1
In this article, we’ll explain what kombucha is, why it’s so popular, and investigate the health hype surrounding it.
Then, we’ll hear what side effects kombucha has, and who might want to avoid this fermented beverage.
The popularity of this fizzy, fermented tea is showing no signs of slowing down. There are many pre-bottled alternatives on the market, but have you considered brewing your own?
But first, let’s talk briefly about the benefits of kombucha and why we’re seeing this fermented fizz everywhere from health food shops to the mixer shelves in hipster bars.
In this article, you’ll find out
- What kombucha is
- Benefits of kombucha
- How to make kombucha
- Kombucha side effects
- What hard kombucha is
- Hard kombucha benefits
- Kombucha vs. hard kombucha
- Kombucha FAQs
What is kombucha?
Kombucha is made from tea fermented with sugar and a bacterial culture called a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast).
The fermentation process takes between 7 to 14 days.
Both green and black teas are used to produce kombucha. Homebrewers typically prefer to use black tea, as it ferments faster.
Black tea varieties typically have a deeper flavour. In contrast, green tea kombucha has a more delicate flavour and an almost grassy quality that some drinkers love.
What does kombucha taste like?
Kombucha is a mildly fizzy, fermented cold tea drink with a slightly sour flavour. It’s made from sweetened tea and a live culture known as a kombucha SCOBY (short for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.)
The origins of the drink are estimated to go back as far as 2000 years.2
Also, kombucha can be made in a range of flavours, from refreshing raspberry to ginger and lemon.
But the soar in popularity in recent years in the UK is likely to be down to rising interest in the role of fermented foods in gut health.
This has led to pre-bottled versions of this ancient brew becoming more widely available.
Why is kombucha popular?
Fermented drinks have grown in popularity over the past decade as emerging science highlights the benefits of probiotics.3
The world consumed over 18 kilotonnes of probiotics in 2018!4
Kombucha has likely benefited from its association with the probiotic food trend.
This fermented tea has become increasingly fashionable in the United Kingdom, so much so that an estimated 1,000 British pubs sell kombucha to health-conscious consumers.5
What is kombucha good for? 6 benefits
Kombucha has been linked to a whole host of health benefits. This is how kombucha can support you in your healthy lifestyle:
Source of probiotics
Thanks to its bacteria content, Kombucha tea may help to maintain a healthy population of microorganisms in your gut.
This could have benefits for your digestive health and overall wellness.6
Fermented foods are made from bacterial cultures which produce probiotics during the fermentation process, and kombucha is no exception. Although probiotic content is linked to better health outcomes, no current evidence proves kombucha provides effective probiotics for health.7,8
Both green and black tea contains antioxidants called polyphenols, which have been linked to cardiovascular health.9
Although studies show kombucha’s fermentation process enhances tea’s antioxidant properties, there’s no conclusive evidence which proves kombucha’s polyphenol content positively impacts health.10
Vitamin and mineral content
Kombucha contains essential minerals, including zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, nickel, and cobalt. Vitamins B1, B6, B12 and Vitamin C are also present.11
It’s a great alternative to less healthy beverages
In today’s more health-conscious age, people are choosing kombucha instead of sugary, high calorie carbonated drinks or alcohol.
May help you lose weight
Kombucha may offer some of the same weight loss benefits as green tea, all thanks to its polyphenol content.
While the polyphenols in kombucha specifically require more research, scientists in 2010 found that foods and drinks with polyphenols in them may facilitate weight loss and even prevent weight gain going forward.12
May have antibacterial properties
Kombucha made from green tea, in particular, has been shown to possess microbial properties.
Specifically, it was found to inhibit Staphylococcus epidermidis, Listeria monocytogenes and Micrococcus luteus.
Not only this, but it may also have anti-Candida potential, against infection causing bacteria and Candida yeasts.13
How to make kombucha
Are you ready to test the benefits of kombucha? Do you fancy a mini microbiology project of your own?
Following a simple 7 step process, you can ferment your own fizzy tea drink brimming with healthy bacteria.14
What is in kombucha?
Kombucha is usually made using 5 core ingredients. Here is what you’ll need to make 1 litre of the drink.
- Cold water – 1 litre. Filter out chlorine first by boiling and allowing to cool
- Tea – 1 bag (or loose tea equivalent) Black or green tea both work
- Sugar – 50-100g Cane sugar is normally used, with the exact amount to suit your tastebuds
- A kombucha SCOBY – 1 small A disk-shaped culture which creates the fizz during the fermentation process
- A starter tea – 100ml This is kombucha reserved from a previous batch to kickstart your new brew. Your SCOBY should come sitting in this liquid.
What else you’ll need
- A large, glass jar (clear so you can see what’s happening.)
How to make kombucha
A quick word of advice, be careful to keep everything clean, and if there is any sign of mould in your mixture discard it (that’s the SCOBY and the liquid.)
Put on a brew
Steep the tea and sugar in 250ml of boiled water and leave to cool for 6-10 minutes.
Create the right environment for the SCOBY
Remove the tea bag (try not to squeeze it) and add the remaining 750ml of cold de-chlorinated water.
Add the SCOBY and the starter tea
To allow for SCOBY growth and other fermentation effects, make sure to leave at least 5cm space at the top.
Cover the liquid
Use a cloth or a paper towel and an elastic band to prevent dust and fruit flies from getting in. But don’t seal the jar as the SCOBY needs to breathe.
Leave for 6-9 days
The ideal temperature range for fermentation is 26-27°C. But room temperature should be fine as long as it’s above 21°C.
It’s better to leave your fermenting kombucha out of a cupboard but avoid direct sunlight.
The exact point when your kombucha is ready depends on your personal taste preference. Some people find it’s still too sweet after six days and prefer to wait until nine or 12 days before drinking.
Or you could move on to a secondary fermentation
Are there side effects of drinking kombucha?
Some unpleasant side effects are sometimes associated with drinking too much kombucha.15
- Stomach pain
- Allergic reaction
However, scientific studies show the majority of sufferers either had a pre-existing illness or drank a contaminated batch of kombucha.17,18
Like with any live food or drink, it’s advised to allow your digestive system to adjust by building up the amount you drink gradually.
For example, start with 100ml a day for the first week and increase slowly. Also, it might not suit everyone.
Finally, if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or have a compromised immune system, kombucha may not be suitable for you so ask your GP before introducing it into your diet.
Who should avoid kombucha?
People with gastric and kidney complaints are more likely to suffer an upset stomach from drinking kombucha than non-sufferers.19
Pregnant women may choose to avoid kombucha because of the alcohol content. However, it’s thought to be too low a concentration to affect a foetus.
Is hard kombucha good for you?
The gut-friendly potential of the traditional version of the drink is widely reported. This is down to the live cultures that can help to maintain a healthy population of bacteria in your gut.
This may aid digestion as well as supporting your immune health (but there’s limited research to support these claims).21
But what happens to the live microorganisms as the alcohol levels rise? There are questions and various opinions about whether the good bacteria can survive in a boozier environment.
There don’t seem to be any consistent answers, leaving any suggested gut-friendly benefits of high alcohol kombucha very much up for debate.
However, some of the other wellness perks of kombucha are more likely to withstand the extra fermentation.
For example, the beneficial acids remain in-tact, so the beverage retains some antioxidant capabilities.
And being gluten-free, it can be a less bloating alternative to beer, especially for those with an intolerance to wheat. Finally, it may have a lower sugar and calorie content than more sugary alcoholic drinks.
But all of this varies depends on the specific sugar and alcohol content of a specific brew.
In reality, any wellness boost offered by hard kombucha is likely to be fairly minimal. So, on balance, the boozy brew isn’t considered a health drink.
However, for some people, it can offer some benefits over other alcoholic beverages.
Can kombucha help you lose weight?
Since kombucha contains polyphenols, it may be able to help you lose weight.22
One study from 2010 concluded that foods or drinks containing polyphenols may facilitate weight loss and prevent weight gain.23
Should you drink kombucha every day?
While kombucha does have a few potential health benefits, that isn’t a green light for consuming too much of it.
The Centers for Diseases Control state that 115ml of kombucha, up to three times a day is safe to drink.24
The final say
Kombucha has multiple potential health benefits, due to it’s antioxidant contents and the nature of fermented foods.
But it’s worth noting that studies on the effects of kombucha are limited, so none of the benefits are 100% confirmed.
That being said, both shop-bought and homemade kombucha is a tasty drink to have – so why not give it a try?
The health benefits of kombucha are still to be proven – there’s more research needed to support all of the claims made about this beverage.
But we’ve listed a few of the credentials that have convinced many people to make it a routine part of their diet below.
Making high alcohol kombucha requires the same core ingredients as the regular version of the drink – water, tea, sugar and a SCOBY.
So, what's the difference? It’s all down to the amount of added sugar, a different type of yeast, and the length of the fermentation process.
The non-alcoholic (or low-alcohol) version of the beverage only needs one or two rounds of fermentation. However, to increase the alcohol content, the process repeats several more times. By adding more sugar and another strain of yeast in the additional rounds, the alcohol content of the brew rises.
- Lower calories than some sugary alcoholic drinks
- A gluten-free alternative to beer
- Kinder on the gut (less bloating) than some alcoholic beverages
- It often has a lower alcohol content (some are around 3% but can be higher)
The main difference is that hard kombucha is intentionally fermented to have a higher alcohol content. This means it’s not suitable for children, under 18s, pregnant women, designated drivers and anyone who avoids drinking alcohol.
Whilst many hard kombuchas only have a relatively low amount of alcohol by volume, some of the high alcohol versions have around 8% ABV.
As the alcohol content of pre-bottled varieties varies so widely, it’s wise to check the label before selecting your drink.
And finally, does hard kombucha get you drunk? The raised alcohol content could certainly leave you feeling tipsy. And unfortunately, although hard kombucha may be gentler on your gut than some alcoholic drinks, it can still give you a hangover the morning after.
Yes – both types of kombucha are 100% vegetarian and vegan friendly. However, it’s worth double checking the flavoured varieties to see if they’ve added honey as an additional ingredient.
While there aren’t any major differences between the two, here are a few key things to be aware of:
- Price – homemade kombucha will likely work out cheaper
- Versatility – if you’re making your own kombucha, you may be able to alter the flavour to your tastes
- Convenience – buying your kombucha in store may be more convenient in the short term
Last updated: 15 February 2022