Kombucha, a fermented tea, has gained a lot of popularity in recent years for its touted health benefits and delicious taste. However, one question that often arises among kombucha lovers is how long it can sit out before it goes bad or loses its potency.
How long can kombucha sit out? Kombucha can sit out for a few days to a week, depending on the environment and fermentation conditions. However, it is important to store it properly, monitor its pH levels, and prevent contamination to ensure its safety and quality.
While kombucha can continue to ferment and improve in flavor even after prolonged storage, it is important to understand its shelf-life and safety concerns.
In this blog post, we delve into the science behind kombucha fermentation, its shelf-life, and how to ensure its safety.
What Is Kombucha?
Let’s start by breaking down the components of kombucha. The main ingredients of kombucha are tea, sugar, and a SCOBY (a living culture of bacteria and yeast that ferment the tea and sugar), creating a fizzy and tart beverage.
Kombucha can be made with many different types of tea, including black tea, green tea, or a combination of both.
One of the most significant benefits of drinking kombucha is that it contains probiotics, which are essential for gut health. Kombucha contains a ton of probiotics that can help enhance the beneficial gut bacteria in our body.
Another benefit of drinking kombucha is that it can boost your energy levels. The caffeine in tea combined with B vitamins in the drink can provide a natural energy boost.
Additionally, the antioxidants in tea are excellent for fighting free radicals in our body, which can help prevent chronic illnesses.
But how is kombucha made? Making kombucha involves a simple process that can be done at home. Firstly, brew your desired tea and allow it to cool down. You then add sugar and the SCOBY to the tea, cover it with a cloth, and let it ferment for a few days.
During fermentation, the SCOBY consumes the tea and sugar, producing ethanol (alcohol) and acetic acid, giving it a fizz and tangy taste. The alcohol gets converted to organic acids, giving kombucha its signature tart flavor.
When it comes to drinking kombucha, it’s essential to take it slow and steady. Kombucha is a fermented beverage, meaning it has a slight alcohol content.
Drinking too much kombucha too quickly can cause bloating, gas, and other digestive issues. It’s recommended to start with a small portion and gradually increase your intake until your body can tolerate it.
How Long Can Kombucha Sit Out?
Kombucha fermentation is a delicate process that involves the interaction of bacteria and yeast cultures with the tea and sweeteners. As the yeast makes its way through the sugar, it produces carbon dioxide and alcohol, which are then converted into organic acids by the bacteria.
The resulting mixture is a slightly fizzy, tangy drink that is packed with probiotics, enzymes, and antioxidants.
However, the fermentation process is highly sensitive to temperature, humidity, and exposure to light, which can affect the growth of beneficial microorganisms and promote the growth of harmful ones.
As a general rule, kombucha that is left out at room temperature for more than a week, especially in warm and humid climates, is at risk of developing mold, bacteria, or yeast overgrowth. This can result in off flavors, cloudy appearance, and health hazards.
Therefore, it is important to store kombucha in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and strong odors.
The ideal temperature to ferment kombucha is between 65-75°F, and some commercial brands even recommend refrigerating the tea once it reaches the desired levels of fizz and flavor to prevent over-fermentation.
Another factor that affects the shelf-life and safety of kombucha is its pH level. The acidity of kombucha can inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms and preserve the drink for longer.
However, if the pH level drops below 3.0, it can become too acidic and tart for human consumption. Similarly, if the pH rises above 4.5, it can become too alkaline and lose its beneficial properties.
Therefore, it is important to measure the pH of kombucha regularly using a pH strip or meter and adjust the acidity if necessary by adding more tea or sugar.
Kombucha can also be affected by the presence of contaminants, such as chemicals, pesticides, or heavy metals, in the tea, sugar, or flavorings.
Therefore, it is recommended to use organic, high-quality ingredients and to filter the water and tea leaves before use. Furthermore, it is important to sanitize all brewing vessels, utensils, and hands before handling the ingredients to prevent contamination and spoilage.
Kombucha batches that have a strange smell, taste, or appearance or show signs of contamination should be discarded immediately to prevent health risks and detriment to the overall quality of the drink.
How to Store Kombucha So It Will Last
There are three main ways you can keep kombucha fresh and healthy for an extended period- refrigeration, cold storage, and brewing a new batch. Let’s break down these storage methods and how to proceed with each of them.
Refrigeration is the most commonly used method to store kombucha. To store it in the fridge, you will need to transfer your kombucha into an airtight glass container with a tight lid (these ones from Amazon are great). The container should be large enough to accommodate your entire Kombucha batch.
Once transferred, store the container carefully in the fridge, making sure it doesn’t shift or move from its place. If stored under the right conditions, refrigerated kombucha often lasts up to four months.
Secondly, you can also store kombucha through cold storage. This method is similar to refrigeration, but you will need to bring it to a lower temperature. Cold storage can be done in a basement or cellar, where the temperature is cooler than the average room temperature.
You will need to store your kombucha in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dark place. Kombucha kept in cold storage can last for up to six months.
Lastly, the brewing of new kombucha is another effective way of storing the drink for a more extended period. Many Kombucha enthusiasts keep a continuous brewing system in their pantry to enjoy the natural flavor and health benefits.
Once bottled, the new batch should be labeled with the date, and since this isn’t a closed container, it will continue to ferment and produce carbon dioxide bubbles, making it an ideal storage environment.
This process can last indefinitely, but it is vital to start with a fresh Kombucha Scoby.
In addition to storing the kombucha, it’s crucial also to protect it from harmful elements like light, air, and moisture. Light and air cause kombucha to lose its natural fizz, flavor, and nutrients.
Thus, it would help if you stored kombucha in a dark, cool location—avoid storing it near a window or any other place with direct sunlight.
Moreover, the container you use to hold the kombucha should be completely clean and free from any food or detergent residue to prevent contamination.
How to Tell if Your Kombucha Has Gone Bad
Kombucha has gained popularity over the last few years as a healthy, refreshing drink. It is a fermented tea that is rich in probiotics, antioxidants, and beneficial acids.
However, like any other fermented beverage, kombucha can go bad, and you may end up with a bottle of nasty-tasting liquid that can make you sick. So, how can you tell if your kombucha has gone bad?
1. Change in Color
One of the first signs that your kombucha has gone bad is a change in color. Fresh kombucha should have a golden-brown color, and it should be slightly cloudy. As the fermentation process continues, the color of the kombucha will become darker, and it may start to look murky.
However, if you notice that your kombucha has turned dark brown or black or it has developed green or blue patches, this could be a sign of mold growth, and the drink should be discarded.
2. Strange Smells
Another sign that your kombucha has gone bad is the presence of strange smells. Fresh kombucha has a slightly sour smell, similar to vinegar. As the fermentation process continues, the smell will become more pungent, but it should still have a pleasant, tangy aroma.
However, if you notice that your kombucha has a rancid smell or it smells like mold or mildew, this could be a sign of contamination, and the drink should not be consumed.
The taste of kombucha is usually tangy and slightly sweet, with a slight effervescence. However, if your kombucha tastes off, bitter, or metallic, this could be a sign that the drink has gone bad.
This could be due to a number of reasons, including over-fermentation, contamination, or exposure to heat or sunlight.
Fresh kombucha should be slightly sparkling due to the carbonation that occurs during the fermentation process.
However, if you notice that your kombucha has lost its fizz or it is too effervescent, this could be a sign that fermentation has stopped or something has gone wrong during the bottling process.
5. Expiration Date
Finally, if you want to ensure that your kombucha is safe to consume, check the expiration date. If you notice that the expiration date has passed, it is best to discard the drink. While kombucha can last for several months in the fridge, it is best to consume it before the date expires.