Kombucha has been rising in popularity in the United States as a "superfood" with tons of health benefits. It's a fermented tea made of bacteria and yeast, sugar, and green tea. Because of the fermentation process, the beverage does have a low level of alcohol.
Many people have wondered about the effects of Kombucha's alcohol content. Is it safe to drink kombucha while pregnant? Can kids have some? And, importantly, can you get drunk off kombucha?
What is Kombucha?
According to Kombucha Brewers International, "The drink purportedly originated in China in 221 BC... and it has been brewed at home for centuries." Now that commercial production has ramped up, more and more people are hearing about this drink and seeing it in health food stores. It is full of nutrients, probiotic organisms, and healthy acids.
People drink Kombucha for digestive reasons or overall gut health reasons. Some of the health claims backed by research include: (1)
Other consumers say that the drink boosts their immune function, raises energy, and controls hunger levels to help with weight loss. The amount you consume depends on your body. Some people drink small amounts each day for stomach health, while others may drink 16oz or more daily.
How Kombucha is Made
The fermented tea drink is created by making a solution of tea and sugar and adding a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast). After a week or longer, the colony creates a drink that is naturally carbonated, full of vitamins and antioxidants, and has a tangy flavor.
The brew time for these beverages depends on the size of the batch, personal taste, and other elements. At home, makers may allow the thing to ferment for 10-12 days. A company may need 20-30 days for a large batch.
Some brands, such as Health Ade create different taste profiles by adding foods and flavors such as herbs, fruit juice, lemon, or chia seeds. Kombucha must be refrigerated to keep the probiotics alive.
Alcoholic Content of Kombucha
Alcohol is a byproduct of fermentation, and it's necessary to protect against microorganisms that can be harmful. The yeast and sugar combine to create natural alcohol, which the bacteria turn into acid. The average bottle of kombucha has 0.5 to 1% alcohol (compared to the 4.2% found in light beer). (2)
According to food labeling guidelines, bottles with more than 0.5% ABV l must be labeled as alcoholic, and they require ID to purchase them. Most of the Kombucha you find in grocery stores, like the Health Ade brand, will be under this alcohol level and classify closer to soda or regular tea. People who have a low alcohol tolerance can decide for themselves whether or not to consume kombucha.
In the U.S., some companies are creating kombucha with a high level of alcohol and calling it "kombucha beer" or "hard kombucha." These types of drinks may be spiked with hard liquor or brewed in a special way, such as with a longer fermenting time. Even these products don't have an especially high content, but enough of these could help you get drunk off kombucha if your alcohol tolerance isn't high. However, you won't find them in most grocery stores.
Why Does Kombucha Make Me Feel Good?
So, if you don't get drunk, what's up with the good feelings? One reason you may feel nice after having kombucha is due to the vitamin C, B vitamins, and probiotics. B vitamins can improve concentration and mood. Some sources say that consuming kombucha may work to fight depression and anxiety and clear the mind, since vitamin C suppresses stress hormones. (3)
Unlike artificial supplements, the vitamins and nutrients in kombucha are in living form, so they integrate naturally into your body. Since the base is usually made of green or black tea, the beverage does have a small trace of caffeine. This tiny bit may give you a balanced energy along with the rest of the positive qualities of kombucha.
The natural alcohol in kombucha comes from the fermentation process, and the content is not very high. While you may feel a rush or boost of energy due to the nutrient intake, it's unlikely that you will get tipsy or drunk from a bottle of kombucha. Additionally, studies show that drinking too much can have negative effects on digestion and your urine.
Most kombucha you find in health food stores has less than 0.5% ABV, which classifies it as non-alcoholic. This means that anyone can purchase that kind of kombucha For something with more than this volume, you be 21 or older to buy a case, even though it is not inebriating.
If you feel good after consuming a glass of kombucha, that's a sign of the healing properties of it. The amounts of alcohol are not high enough to affect you, but you may experience a reaction to the nutrition uptake or the caffeine from the tea. Some research shows that people who have an intolerance to histamine may feel "tipsy" from kombucha, but this effect is not the same as being drunk from alcohol.
On average, kombucha contains less than 0.5% alcohol-by-volume. This is significantly less than the 4.2% found in light beer or the 12% found in wine. Some brands may surpass this amount, but it's rare for a serving of kombucha to surpass 3% ABV.
In Review - Kombucha's Alcohol Content
Kombucha has been listed as a super immunty-boosting ingredient along with foods such as kale, leafy vegetables, and quinoa. Some people compare the taste of it to medicine, while others say it's more like juice with the quality of vinegar. Either way, it has come under scrutiny for containing alcohol, leading to conversations about who should have it.
Unfortunately for some, kombucha doesn't get you drunk unless you intentionally buy from producers of spiked kombucha. The beverage does serve a long list of health purposes. But if getting drunk is your goal, you're better off making the decision to get a regular alcoholic beverage.
Kapp, J. M., & Sumner, W. (2019). Kombucha: A systematic review of the empirical evidence of human health benefit. Annals of epidemiology, 30, 66-70.
Srinivasan, R., Smolinske, S., & Greenbaum, D. (1997). Probable gastrointestinal toxicity of Kombucha tea: is this beverage healthy or harmful?. Journal of general internal medicine, 12(10), 643-645.
Moritz, B., Schmitz, A. E., Rodrigues, A. L. S., Dafre, A. L., & Cunha, M. P. (2020). The role of vitamin C in stress-related disorders. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 108459.