Kombucha has become a popular option for non-drinkers largely because its fermented flavour offers a long, complex finish that is commonly associated with alcohol. Given that it is fermented, however, a common question arises: does kombucha contain alcohol?
We set up REAL Kombucha as we were frustrated with the lack of sophisticated, healthy alternatives to alcohol. Our kombucha has rich flavours which are produced not by adding any fruit or extracts, but by using high-end loose-leaf teas. Through the fermentation process, we are able to produce a low-sugar but flavour-rich drink which contains only a trace of alcohol. Without the fermentation process we would not be able to give our Dry Dragon that citrus kick, or draw out those white peach, vanilla or rhubarb flavours that make our Royal Flush so popular.
If you want natural flavours, you’ve got to know your fermentation process inside out. It can be vastly transformative to any food, drink or ingredient. As you may or may not know, fermentation is a natural process in which sugars are converted to alcohol by yeast. The novelty of kombucha is that the drink contains bacteria (which end up being very good for our guts – they’re known as probiotics) and these are responsible for converting the alcohol into organic acids.
So what does that mean in scientific terms? If we make the claim that REAL Kombucha is a viable alternative to alcohol, why are we also able to say that it contains a trace of alcohol? Does kombucha contain alcohol or not?
Does kombucha contain alcohol? If so, how much?
The simple answer to this question is that, yes, it does, but the amount is so small that it is does not build up in your bloodstream. The amount of alcohol in most kombuchas is usually very low, ranging between 0.2 – 1.2 % ABV (alcohol by volume, which simply means the amount of alcohol per 100 ml). If you are brewing your own kombucha at home or buying it from home brewers then this often tends to be on the higher end of the spectrum.
Our brews at REAL Kombucha contain around 0.5% ABV, which is extremely low and is often the trace level that you will find in a non-alcoholic beer. This is why you’ll find us alongside the non-alcoholic beers and wines in no/low sections at your local supermarket.
In isolation, 0.5% ABV does not make much sense, so let’s give it some context. Most lagers in pubs and bars today will range between 4-6% ABV, with some craft ales reaching 8 – 9% ABV. For wines, this can vary between 9-13% ABV, while spirits such as vodka, gin and whiskey can range from 35-60% ABV.
To try and give you a sense of what these trace levels of alcohol mean, it might interest you to know that many of the foods which you’d happily consume on a daily basis contain similar trace amounts of alcohol.
Which everyday foods contain a trace of alcohol?
Leave a piece of fruit to ripen (which usually turns it brown) and you’ll initiate fermentation in the skin of the fruit. Pick up an apple that has fallen from a tree which has browned, smell it and you may notice a faint whiff of alcohol. Take a banana that is super ripe (slightly browned, which in my opinion is the best way to eat them) and it will contain trace amounts of alcohol.
And it’s not just fruit, either.
Who loves a stir fry? I certainly do. A stir fry made at home using fresh vegetables and a little meat can also contain trace amounts of alcohol. If you’re a fan of sweet and sour pork (easily substituted with tofu or seitan), the sauce will often contain trace amounts of alcohol. The addition of alcohol to dishes can sometimes be due to alcohol being used as a flavour or as a regulator of acidity, but in the examples provided these are often from the conversion of sugars by yeast in the process, or through the handling or storage of the food.
So, to return to the question: does kombucha contain alcohol? Yes, but the trace of alcohol in our kombucha is similar to foods you probably don’t think twice about eating.
Does kombucha contain alcohol: references
National Diet and Nutrition Survey 2016 – https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/national-diet-and-nutrition-survey
Gorgus et al. J Anal Toxicol. 2016 Sep; 40(7): 537–542.
Logan et al. J Anal Toxicol. 1998 May/June; 22