Is Kombucha Safe? 5 Safety Questions Answered
We get asked all the time if kombucha is safe – safe to drink in general, safe for kids, safe while pregnant, safe if unrefrigerated, safe to drink every day? These are great questions and the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. In fact, there are a few answers to these questions. We’ll explain.
Is Kombucha Safe If Unrefrigerated?
Have you ever wondered why kombucha is always sold from a refrigerated section? The answer may surprise you. Yes, kombucha tastes best cold, but the refrigeration also ensures the fermentation process stops once the kombucha is removed from its cozy environment and bottled. The fermentation process is highly precise. The brew must remain within a specific temperature range and should only ferment for a specific period of time. Ferment too long and the kombucha can taste too vinegary, too fizzy and have too much alcohol to legally sell as a non-alcoholic beverage. Ferment too short of a time and beneficial bacteria may not develop properly and the kombucha may be less fizzy and too sweet.
Related: How to Store Kombucha
In order to keep the community of live and active cultures alive and well in your kombucha, get the right amount of fizz and sweetness, and ensure it isn’t too tart, your kombucha should remain refrigerated. The longer it remains at room temperature or warmer, the longer it will ferment. If, say, one rolls out of your grocery bag in your car and you don’t find it for a day or two, you can safely drink it, but it won’t taste as good as if it had been properly stored. And be careful: the warmer temperatures will promote continual fermentation, producing excess amounts of carbon dioxide. This means when you open your bottle of kombucha, it may explode!
Bottom line: Yes, unrefrigerated kombucha is safe to drink but won’t be as pleasant as it should be.
Is Kombucha Safe while Pregnant?
It depends. If the kombucha is pasteurized and not raw, it may be safer to consume while pregnant. The downside is pasteurizing a fermented product kills all of the beneficial live and active bacteria cultures that develop during the fermentation process. In order to maintain these naturally-occurring colonies, the kombucha must be raw and not pasteurized. Because not all kombucha manufacturers specify if their kombucha is raw or pasteurized, you may not know what you’re getting. Doctors recommend women avoid unpasteurized products during pregnancy.
But there’s another issue with pregnancy. The fermentation process also naturally produces alcohol. Commercially-sold kombucha must contain less than 0.5 percent alcohol, which is far less than alcoholic beverages, most doctors want their pregnant patients avoiding all alcohol to be safe.
Bottom line: No. The pasteurization question and alcohol content make kombucha too risky to drink during pregnancy.
Is Kombucha Safe for Kids?
It’s no wonder kids love kombucha. It’s fizzy, tart, sweet and different! There are a couple of things you should know about kombucha and whether you think it safe for your kiddos. First, kombucha does contain very small amounts of naturally-produced alcohol. We don’t add it in there, but it is a byproduct of the fermentation process. There’s no more than 0.5% ABV in our kombucha and we use a proprietary process for gently removing any excess alcohol to keep that level steady and the live bacteria happy. For comparison sake, the average, standard five-ounce glass of wine is around 12 percent alcohol and a regular beer has about 4-5 percent alcohol.
Kombucha also contains small amounts of caffeine. Our kombucha contains less than 15 mg of caffeine per bottle. That’s about the same amount of caffeine in a cup of decaf coffee. A 12-ounce can of Coca Cola has more than double the caffeine (34 mg) of our kombucha and way more sugar.
Bottom line: It’s up to you as the parent to decide if the amount of alcohol and caffeine in kombucha are safe for your kids.
Is Kombucha Safe to Drink Every Day?
Yep. Just be aware that like most things, kombucha should be enjoyed in moderation. There’s this thing called “lactic acidosis” that can be dangerous. It’s a build-up of lactic acid in the bloodstream when the body can’t metabolize it quickly enough. There are only two reports of this happening, more than two decades ago, potentially due to the consumption of home-brewed kombucha and both involved immunocompromised individuals. While extremely rare when it comes to drinking kombucha, it should at least be mentioned, particularly if you have any health issues that compromise your ability to metabolize lactic acid. For most people, however, a massive amount of kombucha would have to be consumed in a short period of time for this risk to be of concern.
Many of our customers love to switch up their kombuchas daily, trying different flavors and adding them to recipes. Get creative and adventurous!
Bottom line: Yes. Unless you have a specific medical issue or drink many bottles of kombucha a day, you can enjoy it every day.
Is Kombucha Safe to Drink, in General?
As you can see, we can’t say a simple yes or no to whether kombucha is generally safe to drink. Pregnant women should probably avoid it and parents must determine if it’s a good option for their kids. If you have certain medical conditions or food sensitivities, you should speak with your physician. Our kombucha is organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and made with botanicals versus artificial anything, so you can know for certain you’re getting the very best kombucha when you choose Brew Dr.!