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 your kombucha has gone bad. Maybe it’s been there longer than what seems reasonable or perhaps you’ve opened it up and something doesn’t appear 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.

What’s That Stuff Floating in My Kombucha?

One of the first things people notice about kombucha is “stuff” floating in the 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. If your kombucha is missing the SCOBY and is clear, it is most likely pasteurized and filtered.

Some manufacturers pasteurize their kombucha to ensure there are no harmful bacteria in their kombucha. In doing so, however, they kill off the beneficial bacteria at the same time. They may supplement their pasteurized kombucha with probiotics, but those bacteria strains are not a natural byproduct of the fermentation process.

Raw kombucha, on the other hand, is never pasteurized or filtered. This means you are getting an unadulterated kombucha that is brewed using traditional methods more akin to the ancient brewing techniques. Brew Dr. Kombucha is 100% raw and never pasteurized.

My Kombucha Smells Like Vinegar

Kombucha naturally has a slight vinegar taste to it. That, too, is part of the fermentation process. The tartness only means your kombucha is mature. The stronger the vinegar smell and taste, the longer the kombucha likely fermented. The fermentation process is accelerated if the kombucha is left unrefrigerated.

Related: Kombucha Brewing: How Is Kombucha Made?

If your kombucha has remained refrigerated or in an iced cooler and still has a strong vinegar smell and/or flavor, you can still drink it as it is completely safe to consume. Many people, however, dislike the strong vinegar flavor. But guess what? Your vinegary kombucha isn’t all lost! The sour, tart qualities make it a perfect addition to salad dressings, marinades and any recipe that calls for an acid, like vinegar or citrus.

We offer some great recipes that would be ideal for kombucha that has become more vinegary than you may like.

My Kombucha Doesn’t Taste Good

The brewing process inherently had some safeguards built into it to prevent bad bacteria and mold from forming. Because of its acid content, bad bacteria have a hard time surviving. If kombucha was made in a home kitchen, on the other hand, you are at a much higher risk for harmful bacteria and mold forming. This is usually because the kombucha got too hot or too cold, or the utensils and equipment used to brew the kombucha were contaminated.

If your kombucha doesn’t taste right, it may not be right. Fresh, living kombucha should be slightly fizzy, slightly tart and mostly sweet. It should be refreshing and yummy, not off-putting in taste or smell. If you are in doubt, toss it and try again. We recommend trying a different flavor or brand and buying it from a retailer. This way, you can determine whether you simply don’t care for kombucha or if you got a bad batch.

The Best Way to Keep Your Kombucha Fresh

The number one best way to ensure every sip of kombucha is just as wonderful as the last is to keep your kombucha refrigerated or chilled at all times. Because the naturally-occurring bacteria is alive, it needs to remain in a stable environment with temperature and acid levels at a near constant. While unrefrigerated kombucha may never go bad, it will continue to ferment and become more vinegary, more acidic and contain more alcohol.

Related: Alcohol in Kombucha: What You Need to Know

It’s perfectly fine to ice down your kombucha in a cooler or keep it in a chilled lunch bag, but you want to avoid allowing it to come to room temperature or warmer if you don’t want to alter the taste and quality.

If you properly store your kombucha in the fridge, it has a long shelf life – months, in fact. But most of our fans can’t keep it in their fridges that long. It’s just too good to leave it alone!


Find out where you can buy raw, organic kombucha from Brew Dr.