Kombucha is a pretty unique and somewhat bizarre drink that humans have been drinking for thousands of years. Made by fermenting a sweet black or green tea using a “SCOBY”, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, the result is a lightly fizzy and delicious drink. Though the drink has been around for millennia, it is only relatively recently that it has begun to be mass-produced and distributed around the globe. There is also a large culture (pun intended) of home-brewing this drink for both its health benefits and simply for its unmatched taste.
However, because kombucha is such a novel ingredient, many of us may not know how to safely store it yet. It also doesn’t help that the various different manufacturers of kombucha advise using contradicting storage techniques. Some say it absolutely has to be refrigerated, while others claim that it will do just fine in a pantry. And that’s before we even get into how to store the homemade variety! So, whether there is an opened bottle of store-bought kombucha sitting in the fridge nearing its best by date, or you’ve made gallons of the stuff and want to know how to store it, we’ve got you covered! So, without further ado, let’s get into the best ways to store kombucha.
The Best Way to Store Kombucha
In the opening paragraph, it was stated that storing kombucha can be confusing due to the fact that many manufacturers give conflicting advice on how best to do it. There actually is a logical reason for this, which I’ll aim to get to the bottom of now.
The reason that some brands of kombucha state that they can be stored in the pantry as opposed to in the fridge is centered on the way it is produced. Kombucha, being a fermented drink, will continue to ferment at room temperature. This is unless the manufacturer has added something into the mix to stop the fermentation process before the bottle leaves the factory. This means that a bottle that says that it needs to be stored in the fridge definitely needs to be stored there. This is as a preventative measure to halt the fermentation process. If the cultures in these kinds of bottles are allowed to sit at room temperature, they will continue to thrive. This can effectively mean that your kombucha will continue to ferment until it turns into vinegar. As such, there is no way to sidestep this, so if your bottle states that it needs to be stored in the fridge, the only option is to do so. However, if the manufacturer states that storing the kombucha in the pantry is safe, this means that they have taken preventative measures to stop this from happening.
Homemade kombucha is much easier to advise on as the chances are that you won’t be adding any extra agents to stop its fermentation. Given that it is the case that room temperature is ideal for fermentation, the best way to halt this process is to keep it below this temperature. So, always store homemade kombucha in the fridge. It may take up an unreasonable amount of space but there really isn’t any other way to do it.
How Long Does Kombucha Last?
To get to the bottom of this one, let’s begin by looking at the commercially available variety of kombucha. These types pretty much always come with a best by date printed on the label, but what they don’t tell you is that kombucha can easily live long past that date if treated correctly. This is of course until you open the bottle. As soon as that bottle is opened, the carbonation it contains will slowly begin to seep out, leaving you with a flat and basically lifeless kombucha. There really is no joy to consuming it at this point, even if it is totally safe to do so.
With commercially produced bottles that state that they can be stored in the pantry, there may still be a good reason to put them into the fridge anyways. Keeping them in the pantry won’t do any harm, and they will live up until their stated date. However, if you’re in the mood to buy yourself a few extra months, this can be achieved by refrigerating it anyways. This won’t harm the kombucha in any way as it will have already completed its fermentation process. We reckon that, in this case, a bottle of kombucha can be enjoyed up to 3 months beyond its stated best by date. But, just to be sure, it is best to familiarize yourself with the signs that your kombucha may be unsafe to drink.
Signs That Your Kombucha May Have Gone Off
Kombucha is pretty unusual as a drink because it kind of already looks like it has already gone off. One could also suppose that by the mere fact that it is fermented in the first place means it actually has gone off! Bits of debris and active cultures floating in the bottle aren’t that uncommon. In fact, they are totally normal and nothing to worry about, so don’t throw the bottle away just yet! The most obvious sign of spoilage is the presence of mold. If you notice any of this, there is no way to save the contents and it is best to discard all of it.
Generally, there is no better method to test whether your kombucha is still good than trusting in your senses. First, have a sniff of the contents. If there is a strong vinegar-like scent emanating from the bottle, the taste of the kombucha will be the same – not at all pleasant. If there is any doubt, it is safe enough to take a little sip and all will be revealed.
Should Kombucha be Refrigerated?
There is no simple yes or no answer to this one. Some manufacturers state that their kombucha can be stored in the pantry, while others require you to store them in the fridge. However, in the case of kombuchas that state that they should be kept in the pantry, you can extend their shelf life by placing them in the fridge instead. Naturally, as soon as a bottle has been opened, it should then be stored in the fridge.
Kombucha Storage, Sell-by Dates, and Other Related Questions
Can I make kombucha at home?
The practice of making kombucha at home has become increasingly popular in the last few years. This is great news for kombucha lovers everywhere as there are now easy to use homebrew kits available at the click of a button.
Is kombucha healthy?
Kombucha is packed with B vitamins, probiotics, and antioxidants, which are all undoubtedly excellent for the body. However, the amounts of these present in kombucha can vary dramatically between manufacturers. Unfortunately, when it comes to stating whether all kombucha is healthy, the jury is still out as there just isn’t enough research out there to confirm or deny the claims.
Does kombucha contain caffeine?
Seeing as kombucha is made from tea, it does tend to have caffeine in it. However, the amount of caffeine is far less than regular tea, coffee, or many other carbonated beverages. This is because the fermentation process removes up to 2 thirds of the caffeine.
Does kombucha contain alcohol?
Fermentation by its very nature produces alcohol as sugar reacts with yeast. But this doesn’t mean that it is anywhere near the strength of a typical beer and that you can’t drive after drinking some. Most commercial varieties are regulated by law and have to contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume. In other words, you would have a hard time getting drunk on kombucha!