How to Tell If Kombucha Is Bad
Is Your Kombucha Bad?
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. Don’t worry — We’ll tell you how to tell if your kombucha is safe to drink or if you should toss it out.
Keeping It Cool
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!
My Kombucha Smells Like Vinegar
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 likely fermented. The overall flavor profile should be balanced and lightly sweet — Not as strong as say, a bottle of vinegar or 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.
My Kombucha Doesn’t Taste Good
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.
What’s That Stuff Floating In My Kombucha?
Sometimes, you may notice “stuff” floating around in the kombucha bottle. This 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.
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.
The Best Way to Keep Your Kombucha Fresh
The best way to ensure every sip of kombucha 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 best taste and quality.
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!