Whether you’re new to the wonderful world of kombucha or you’ve been enjoying it for some time now, there’s a question that comes to mind from time to time: is my kombucha bad?
Of course, we don’t mean whether or not you enjoy it. We mean that somewhat common and completely valid question of whether your kombucha is still good for you. We’ll help you with how to tell if your kombucha is bad, so you can make sure you’re having it at its best - and best for you. If you find yourself asking yourself “why isn’t my kombucha fizzy?” and whether that means it’s gone bad, allow us to explain.
You’ve stashed some kombucha in your fridge and now you’re wondering if it’s gone bad. Maybe it’s been there longer than what seems reasonable, or perhaps you’ve opened it up and something doesn’t seem quite right. Maybe you’ve taken a sip and you’re wondering, “why isn’t my kombucha fizzy?”
Don’t worry — we’ll tell you how to tell if your kombucha is safe to drink or if you should toss it out. Here’s a sneak peak into signs your kombucha has gone bad or may not taste so great, but stay with us to understand more about each of these:
First, we always recommend keeping Brew Dr. Kombucha refrigerated for best taste and quality. Since our product is raw, it needs to be kept cold at all times — Around 40° F is ideal. Because the naturally occurring bacteria are alive, they need to remain in a stable environment with consistent temperature levels.
Although kombucha does not spoil in a traditional sense, unrefrigerated raw kombucha can continue to ferment if left out too long. This extra fermentation can result in kombucha that is more vinegary, more acidic, more carbonated, or even contains a little extra alcohol. Storing your kombucha in the fridge ensures that it will stay tasty and fresh until its “Best By” date.
Since kombucha is a fermented product, it naturally has a unique, slightly vinegary taste and smell. The tartness only means your kombucha is mature. The stronger the vinegar smell and taste, the longer the kombucha has likely fermented. The overall flavor profile should be balanced and lightly sweet — not as strong as say, a bottle of vinegar or salad dressing. As mentioned, the fermentation process is accelerated if the kombucha is left unrefrigerated.
If your kombucha has been stored in the refrigerator or an iced cooler and still has a strong vinegar smell or flavor, it’s completely safe to consume. If you find the vinegar flavor isn’t to your personal preference, all is not lost! Kombucha is great for cooking, too. The tart and sour notes can add a little extra zing to sweet or savory recipes. Try it in everything from a Superfood Smoothie to a Spicy Salsa.
The brewing process inherently has some safeguards built into it to prevent bad bacteria and mold from forming. Because of kombucha’s acidity, bad bacteria tend to have a hard time surviving. Additionally, commercial breweries follow strict sanitation procedures and temperature checks to ensure there is no risk of contamination.
However, if your kombucha was brewed at home, you may be at a higher risk for harmful bacteria and mold forming. In a home kitchen, it is much easier for kombucha to get too hot or too cold, or for brewing tools and utensils to become contaminated.
If your kombucha doesn’t smell or taste right, we recommend trusting your senses. Fresh, living kombucha should be fizzy, tart, and lightly sweet. It should be refreshing and tasty, not off-putting in taste or smell. If in doubt, toss it and try again, perhaps opting for a different flavor or brand next time.
Sometimes, you may notice “stuff” floating around in the kombucha bottle. If your kombucha hasn’t gone bad, these brownish, stringy stuff is called SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) or “the mother” and isn’t an indication that the kombucha is bad. In fact, it’s quite the opposite! It means your kombucha is alive and well, full of beneficial live bacteria.
The floating SCOBY you may see in some kombuchas typically forms during a process called secondary fermentation. After the primary fermentation, you can further carbonate kombucha by leaving it at room temperature for a few days to ferment a little more, which adds a little extra fizz. This secondary fermentation also creates that little floating bit of SCOBY.
But, if you see greenish or pinkish “stuff” floating, it can be a sign of mold and that your kombucha has gone bad. It’s best to just toss it and buy a new bottle.
At Brew Dr., you’re not likely to see floating SCOBY in our bottles. That’s because we use a different process to carbonate our kombucha, similar to craft beer. Our kombucha is put into chilled “brite” tanks and gently carbonated overnight. Because of the chilled temperature, further fermentation does not occur and the SCOBY typically does not develop further.
Part of the reason we carbonate in brite tanks is that secondary fermentation also produces some alcohol. Since we go to the trouble of removing the alcohol from our kombucha, we wouldn’t want to just let it back in again! Gentle carbonating in the brite tanks allows our kombucha to stay non-alcoholic and safe for all ages to enjoy.
If you’ve found your once-effervescent kombucha has gone a little flat, we have an answer for why that could be! It comes down to a bit of a science lesson.
In the process of creating kombucha, the brew sits at room temperature. This allows live yeast to feast on the sugar used to sweeten the tea and feed these live little creatures. As the yeast eats the sugar, it creates carbon dioxide bubbles which then create that familiar bubbly sensation in your kombucha.
If you’re asking yourself “why isn’t my kombucha fizzy?” this question may have come up after you’ve pulled a bottle from the fridge. The cold temperatures can cause the yeasts to go dormant and the carbonation to settle down. Oftentimes, you can reactivate this consumption process happening inside the bottle by sealing it up and setting it out for a few hours.
The best way to ensure every sip is tasty and refreshing is to keep your kombucha refrigerated or chilled at all times. It’s perfectly fine to store your kombucha in an iced cooler or chilled lunch bag while you’re on the go, but you want to avoid allowing it to come to room temperature or warmer to ensure the best taste and quality.
Raw kombucha is a live and active beverage, a playground for active yeast and healthy cultures. By nature, if left unrefrigerated your kombucha will continue to carbonate. In some extreme cases, it may even foam or burst. Storing your brew in the fridge means you are more likely to ask yourself why your kombucha isn’t fizzy but don’t forget you can reactivate this process by removing it to room temperature.If you properly store your Brew Dr. Kombucha in the fridge, it has a long shelf life – months, in fact. But most of our fans can’t keep it around that long. It’s too good to leave alone!