Does Kombucha Go Bad or Expire? How Long Can It Last?

image of Kombucha

Fun Fact: Kombucha is the only tea that sounds like the word that pops out of the screen when Batman punches a guy. -Jimmy Fallon

Just kidding here, Kombucha lovers!

We’re fully aware of the fact that this fizzy drink has taken the world by storm.

It became so controversial that it even prompted the multi-billion company to halt the distribution and production of this drink because of alcohol content regulations.

Does this mean that Kombucha contains alcohol? If this is the case, does it last forever, or does Kombucha go bad?

Big News: Kombucha doesn’t expire in the technical sense, but its flavor will go bad over time.

While there’s no doubt that Kombucha is one of the most famous beverages in the world, how much do we know about it?

Well, you should read this article if you wish to learn more!

In this article, we’ll also talk about:

  • What is Kombucha (and how it’s made)?
  • How long does Kombucha last?
  • How to tell if Kombucha has gone bad?
  • How to properly store Kombucha?

Are you ready to find out the answers?

Then, let’s get to it!

What is Kombucha?

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To put it simply, Kombucha is a fizzy fermented tea. The fermentation process makes the drink slightly alcoholic and gives it a light and fizzy texture. In addition to its enjoyable taste, Kombucha’s main reason for its popularity is its supposed health benefits.

What are the Benefits of Kombucha?

There are a lot of purported kombucha health benefits. These include:

  • Better digestive health due to its probiotic content (a byproduct of fermentation)
  • An anti-oxidant rich formulation that can fight off free radicals that cause signs of aging and other chronic conditions
  • Lower risk of heart diseases
  • Protection against cancer
  • Better management of diabetes type 2
  • Improved energy levels
  •  … and a whole lot more (*)

How is Kombucha Made?

Kombucha is produced using the process called double fermentation.

To jumpstart the fermentation process, symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeasts (more commonly referred to as SCOBY) are added to the drink. The SCOBY consumes the sugars in the tea, causing Kombucha to become acidic and giving it its distinct tart taste. Another byproduct of this process is the release of CO2.

Once the fermented tea has reached the desired tartness, it’s then bottled for up to 2 weeks to allow carbonation.

After that, it’s placed in a refrigerated environment to impede the growth of bacteria.

Does Kombucha Go Bad?

Now, let’s answer the most important question: does Kombucha expire? To be honest, as long as it’s properly stored, Kombucha doesn’t expire. Due to good bacteria and yeast in the fermented drink, bad bacteria or mold won’t thrive in it, so it has a long shelf life.

However, it will continue to ferment when stored in the fridge.

Here’s some bad news: Unlike wine, Kombucha doesn’t get better with age.

This is because the continuous fermentation will make the drink more acidic up to the point where it will be converted into vinegar.

So Kombucha won’t expire and will still be safe to drink, but over time, it will become a low-quality version of your favorite drink and will start to taste like vinegar.

How Long Does Kombucha Last?

While Kombucha has an indefinite shelf life, its flavor has a shelf life limit. So with that said, when can you enjoy Kombucha at its best quality?

To determine that, we have to look at the expiration date on the bottle of Kombucha. But since Kombucha doesn’t expire, the printed date is not an expiration date but rather a best by date.

The best by date indicates when the manufacturer guarantees that you can enjoy the drink at its best quality as long as it is stored properly.

Here’s the best part: Since Kombucha is shelf-stable, you can still enjoy it a few months past the best by date.

To help you figure out if your Kombucha is still good to drink, here are the shelf life information you need to know about:

  • Commercially bottled Kombucha (Unopened): Best by Date + 2 to 3 months
  • Commercially bottled Kombucha (Opened): 1 week
  • Homemade Kombucha (Unopened): 1 to 3 months
  • Homemade Kombucha (Opened): 2 to 3 days

Please note that these guidelines are just estimates and only apply if the Kombucha has been stored properly.

How to Tell if Kombucha Has Gone Bad?

However, there are some instances when you should throw away this drink because you’ll no longer enjoy it.

Fact: There are a few signs that some people find concerning but are perfectly fine for Kombucha. These include lack of or less fizz, floaties in the liquid, and sediment.

Since Kombucha is fermented, it’s already technically bad. Because of this, it can be challenging to determine if the Kombucha has already gone bad. To help you out, here are some of the signs of bad Kombucha that you should look for:

1. Mold growth

Yes, we know. We’ve already mentioned that the highly acidic environment of the drink prevents mold growth.

However, there’s still a slim chance that mold will grow in the bottle’s opening or at the bottom of its cap. This occurs when the floating substances in the drink coagulate to form a new yeast and bacteria colony, giving birth to a new baby, Kombucha SCOBY.

If this is the case, you need to discard the fermented product immediately.

Pro Tip: You can easily differentiate mold from SCOBY because mold has a fluffy texture and blue-white to black color, while the texture of SCOBY is almost the same as flan or pudding.

2.   Off Smell

Ahhh, foul smell—the telltale sign of spoilage. While it’s true that Kombucha doesn’t already smell great, to begin with, it’s still not normal for it to give off a strong acidic and vinegar-like odor upon opening the bottle. If it has molds, you can also notice a mild musty smell.

Either way is not good, so if your Kombucha doesn’t smell, as usual, you have to get rid of it as soon as possible.

3.   Vinegar-Like Taste

As mentioned, Kombucha will be converted to cider vinegar once it continues to ferment. Because of this, it will have a highly acidic or sour taste.

If your Kombucha already tastes like vinegar, we don’t recommend drinking it anymore.

Pro Tip: The good news is you can still use it as a vinegar which is a better option than throwing it out.

How to Properly Store Kombucha?

If you want Kombucha to remain fresh for as long as possible, you need to store it the right way. Here are some tips on how to do that:

1.  Follow the storage instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Some brands recommend refrigerating store-bought Kombucha, while others are best stored at room temperature. We recommend checking out the bottle label to determine the best way to keep Kombucha.

Pro Tip: After being fermented, homemade kombucha must be refrigerated at all times.

2.  If there are no storage instructions, keep Kombucha refrigerated.

Unless the bottle says to store at room temp, always keep store-bought Kombucha in the fridge. This is because the bottle will ferment faster, which may lead to a more tart taste and excess carbonation when exposed to light and higher temperatures. On the other hand, cold temperature slows down fermentation.

But if the Kombucha bottle indicates that it should be stored at room temperature, they formulated it to remain safe even without in the refrigerator.

Pro Tip: Opened kombucha must be stored in the fridge and must not be stored at room temperature.

3.  Filter out the flavoring agents.

While raw Kombucha can last indefinitely, flavored Kombucha won’t. This is because the fruity bits in the drink may develop their mold colony.

To prevent this, we suggest filtering out these ingredients.

4. Transfer kombucha into a glass before drinking.

Instead of drinking it straight from the bottle of Kombucha, pour it into a glass first. In this way, you can reduce the chances of bacterial contamination.

The Bottom Line

Yes, there are a lot of questions and controversies surrounding Kombucha, but at least we were able to answer one crucial question: does Kombucha expire?

Since the probiotic drink is fermented, it doesn’t expire technically, and it has a long shelf life. However, its flavor and quality will change over time.

And even if it’s safe to drink, we think you may no longer want to since there’s a high chance that it has been converted into vinegar already if you stored it past its shelf life guideline.

So what can you do to enjoy Kombucha at its best quality?

Keep it refrigerated (unless the manufacturer says to keep it at room temperature). In addition to that, consuming Kombucha before its expiration date is also a good idea. It’s that easy.

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