The Do’s and Don’ts of Kombucha (2024)

By Alexandra Peyton

Kombucha continues to monopolize refrigerator space in stores. Why is this beverage so popular? With its refreshing fizzy flavor, numerous alleged health claims, and ease of making it at home, kombucha continues to be a choice drink for many. But is it as healthy and safe as many make it out to be? Read on to learn the health and safety nuances of kombucha.

What is Kombucha?

Kombucha is considered a probiotic drink. It is made from a process that involves bacteria fermentation of tea and sugar. The most common teas used to make kombucha are green, black, and oolong. Once the tea has been brewed and the appropriate amount of sugar has been mixed in, a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) is added to begin fermentation. The SCOBY converts sugar to alcohol (yeast fermentation) and then the alcohol is converted to acetic acid (bacterial fermentation) to create a fizzy carbonated drink.

Is Kombucha Healthy?

Kombucha is rich in probiotics, which can help keep gut flora healthy and functioning properly, decrease inflammation, and support the immune system. Polyphenols are also present in kombucha, which are considered antioxidants. Research has shown that kombucha may have health benefits such as reducing cholesterol levels, decreasing the spread of cancer, improving liver and gastrointestinal functions, and boosting the immune system. While some studies have demonstrated these positive health effects, more clinical studies are needed before we can say these health claims are definitely true. Also, kombucha in itself cannot resolve health issues if the rest of the diet is unhealthy. Another point to take into consideration is that every kombucha is unique and the degree of benefits may vary depending on the polyphenol concentrations in the tea used. So yes, when combined with a healthy diet, kombucha is a hydrating and healthy beverage choice, but we can’t promise miraculous health outcomes with the existing research.

Safety Tips for Making Kombucha at Home

If you are hooked on kombucha, making it at home can be cost-effective. Because Kombucha is created from a fermentation process, there are food safety precautions to keep in mind to create an overall safe product. Follow this recipe and these safety tips for the best outcome.

Kombucha Recipe: Food Smart Recipe

Keep the temperature at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), or below, when adding the SCOBY

A warmer environment can lead to an overproduction of bacteria, making it unsafe to ingest.

Clean tools and workstation to prevent unwanted bacteria growth

Regardless of what you are making at home, it is always best to keep your work area as clean as possible to decrease the possibility of food-born illness.

Maintain pH level of 4.2 or lower

If the pH level goes above 4.2 during fermentation, too much acetic acid may be produced, which can put the brakes on bacteria growth. A product with too much acid can lead to adverse health effects. Use pH strips to verify pH levels in your homemade kombucha.

Pasteurize or preserve the final product

It is best to heat the kombucha to 180 degrees Fahrenheit /82 degrees Celsius and hold that temperature for at least 30 seconds to pasteurize the kombucha before it can be cooled. While pasteurization kills off most of the bacteria (good and bad), this process is recommended to prevent adverse effects from harmful bacteria. To maintain the drink’s probiotic benefits, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate are great alternatives to pasteurization because they preserve the kombucha by stopping the fermentation process.

Always keep kombucha refrigerated

It is best to keep finished kombucha at about 39 degrees Fahrenheit (average refrigerator temperature) to keep acetic acid and bacteria levels low. The shelf life of your kombucha is determined by the pH level, yeast growth, and alcohol content. The pH needs to stay between 2.5 and 4.2 and the alcohol content should not exceed 0.5%. Signs of yeast growth include mold that could be black, gray, brown, green, or even blue.

Glass is the best container for producing kombucha

Some clay containers may be safe for storing kombucha, but always check for warning labels as clay can contain lead, which can seep into the kombucha. If you are unsure if the container is safe, you can buy a lead testing kit at a hardware store.

Start with drinking a smaller portion of kombucha (12 ounces a day, or less)

It is important to start with drinking small quantities to see how your body reacts to the beverage. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that four ounces of kombucha can be safely consumed one to three times a day. Overconsumption can lead to headache, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, or ketoacidosis.

There are a few populations that should never ingest kombucha. Pregnant and breastfeeding women, children, and individuals with liver or kidney disease, HIV, impaired immune systems, and alcohol dependency should avoid kombucha. For others, kombucha is a wonderfully refreshing beverage that has many benefits, when made safely and consumed moderately.

Get to know our author:

Peyton is a senior majoring in Nutrition and Food Science/Dietetics and Nutrition Management. She is interested in pursuing medical nutrition therapy. Specifically, she is interested in the effects that cancer has on an individual’s metabolism. Peyton hopes to find an opportunity where she can mainly work with individuals who are afflicted by cancer through opening up her own practice or partnering with an oncology-specific medical center.

More Information

For additional resources to healthy eating, check out these programs from our registered dietitian nutritionists. More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Kombucha (2024)

FAQs

The Do’s and Don’ts of Kombucha? ›

Kombucha contains alcohol. The body breaks down alcohol to get rid of it. Disulfiram decreases the break-down of alcohol. Taking kombucha along with disulfiram can cause a pounding headache, vomiting, flushing, and other unpleasant reactions.

What to avoid in kombucha? ›

Kombucha Preparation Process Mistakes
  • Too much cleaning/using harsh chemicals. ...
  • Using Raw Vinegar to Cure Brewing Vessels. ...
  • Steeping the tea too long.
  • Using too much or too little tea.
  • Using too much or too little sugar. ...
  • Adding the SCOBY and Starter Liquid when the tea is too hot. ...
  • Adding Flavors to the First Ferment.

What not to mix with kombucha? ›

Kombucha contains alcohol. The body breaks down alcohol to get rid of it. Disulfiram decreases the break-down of alcohol. Taking kombucha along with disulfiram can cause a pounding headache, vomiting, flushing, and other unpleasant reactions.

What is the best way to drink kombucha for good results? ›

Take it on an empty stomach . That's when you'll take full advantage of its probiotic and detoxifying properties. Recover with a glass of kombucha after training. You will provide minerals, vitamins and enzymes, as well as organic acids that will go a long way to rehydrate and remineralize you.

Why can't you drink kombucha everyday? ›

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that four ounces of kombucha can be safely consumed one to three times a day. Overconsumption can lead to headache, nausea, gastrointestinal distress, or ketoacidosis.

What are the negatives of drinking kombucha? ›

Ailments included liver problems, lactic acidosis (a buildup of lactic acid in the body), allergic reactions, and nausea. For this reason, the CDC recommends drinking only 4 ounces of kombucha daily. Overconsumption can lead to side effects, including headache, nausea, and upset stomach.

Is kombucha bad for your gut bacteria? ›

“Kombucha can really help feed and increase that good, healthy gut bacteria, which can help decrease any bad bacteria,” says Zumpano. “Maintaining that balance can have positive benefits on your digestive system and overall health and longevity.”

Why do I feel weird after drinking kombucha? ›

Some people may experience digestive upset when drinking kombucha, or from drinking too much. Symptoms such as gas, nausea, and vomiting may occur. These side effects may be more likely in people who drink too much kombucha.

What diseases does kombucha fight? ›

Here are the top 7 health benefits of kombucha, based on scientific evidence.
  • Kombucha contains probiotics. ...
  • Kombucha may provide the benefits of green tea. ...
  • Kombucha may benefit liver health. ...
  • Kombucha may kill harmful bacteria. ...
  • Kombucha may reduce heart disease risk. ...
  • Kombucha may help manage type 2 diabetes.

Does kombucha cleanse the liver? ›

Liver Health

While liver detoxification effects have not been proven regarding kombucha, it may offer some form of protection for the liver (hepatoprotection).

Does kombucha clean your bowels? ›

Some studies suggest that it may offer benefits similar to other probiotic foods like yogurt. These probiotic benefits include promoting a healthy immune system and relieving stomach and intestinal issues like diarrhea and constipation.

What is the best time of day to drink kombucha? ›

First thing in the morning

If it takes you a little while to get going in the morning, or you struggle with feeling sluggish, kombucha can provide you with a great natural lift to kickstart your day. It's a great low caffeine alternative to coffee or tea, so you can enjoy a little boost without the dreaded crash!

How long does it take for kombucha to detox your body? ›

Instead of putting your body through an intense and unsustainable process, you can keep your routine intact and supplement your day with kombucha. A typical 10- or 14-day detox allows your body to reap the benefits of kombucha, particularly when it comes to enhancing digestion.

Does kombucha help with belly fat? ›

Does kombucha help you lose belly fat? While kombucha can be a part of a healthy weight-loss journey, there's no magic solution for losing belly fat. Kombucha may support overall weight management by supporting digestion and gut health, but it's not a stand-alone solution for targeting belly fat.

Does kombucha clean you out? ›

Kombucha benefits your body with both its cleansing and detoxification properties related to weight loss and cleansing. It detoxifies the digestive system while simultaneously cleansing the liver.

Can kombucha cause a yeast infection? ›

A diet rich in high-sugar beverages such as kombucha is a breeding ground for bacterial imbalances such as Candida overgrowth. Candida overgrowth causes various health issues, including vagin*l infections, seasonal allergies, digestive issues, skin problems, and nail fungus.

Is there anything bad in kombucha? ›

Kombucha tea has caused stomach upset, infections and allergic reactions in some people. Kombucha tea is often made (brewed) in homes under unclean conditions. This makes it likely that bad bacteria can grow. Also, when the tea is made with ceramic pots that have lead in them, lead poisoning happens.

Who shouldn't drink kombucha? ›

Kombucha is a fermented probiotic tea that may be beneficial to the body. There are some risks to consider, especially when drinking kombucha in excessive amounts. Some people may want to avoid kombucha, such as those with compromised immune systems and people sensitive to caffeine.

Is kombucha an inflammatory food? ›

Kombucha contains antioxidants

Antioxidants are compounds found in food that help protect your body. They can help reduce inflammation, support your immune systems and reduce DNA damage. They also may help reduce your risk for diseases like cancer.

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