Does Kombucha Go Bad? – Grow Your Pantry

Does Kombucha Go Bad?

by Susan Grey on September 18, 2019
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Does kombucha go bad? Sort of. Kombucha continues to ferment, so after six months it will have fermented so much that the taste will become very acidic and vinegary. This will render it unpleasant in flavor, but as long as it is not moldy or spoiled and has been stored correctly, it can be consumed.
Store bought kombucha will include storage instructions and a best before date as required by law and we recommend to follow the instructions of the manufacturer. The label indicates when the kombucha is at its optimum taste and texture.
Homemade kombucha is more likely to go bad earlier due to possible contamination while handling the fermented drink. The contamination could be foreign bacteria and fungi which disrupt the symbiotic balance between the yeast and the bacteria leading to mold.
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Does Kombucha Expire?

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Kind of, kombucha can taste bad as it will continue the fermentation process. For homebrewed kombucha after the six months, the bitterness is more likely to unsettle the sweet, fizzy flavor. After the kombucha becomes too acidic to consume, it can be used as a vinegar substitute.

How To Tell If Kombucha Has Gone Bad?

  • Inspect

    Although rare kombucha can grow mold on the top, this looks like the mold you would find on regular food. It is usually blue, black, grey, furry, and grows in circular patterns with veiny edges on the upper surface. If you do notice mold on your kombucha, and be sure that it is and not just the SCOBY, you must dispose of it immediately as it can cause adverse effects, such as illness and allergic reaction.

  • Smell

    Kombucha has a sweet-sour smell that's rather pleasant. If you notice the scent is overly acidic and vinegary, it can indicate that it is past its best.

  • Taste

    The final test should be tasting. Having an acidic taste, almost like vinegar is a significant indication that the kombucha has gone bad.

  • pH

    The acceptable range is 2.5 - 4.6. However, once bottled the range is normally somewhere between 2.5 - 3. Give the pH of the brew a test and if it’s outside of this critical range, don’t drink it.

What To Do With Kombucha If It's Too Vinegary 

Hair Rinse
Kombucha vinegar can remove gunk and residue from the hair and is much softer on your scalp. You can dilute it and add your favorite herbs to improve the aroma.
Salad Dressing
Use kombucha vinegar as a salad dressing, by adding spices to improve the flavor. Add the spices to the jar of kombucha and wait for about two weeks before straining them out.

What Influences The Shelf Life Of Kombucha Out Of The Fridge?

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The life of kombucha will be determined by a couple of factors that affect the symbiotic balance of bacteria and yeast in the fermenting kombucha.
Brand
There are many varieties of kombucha, depending on the type of growth media used, such as coffee, green tea, and black tea. As a result, each brand has a different expiry date from 3 months to a year.
pH Levels
Kombucha relies on having low pH levels for preservation hence the long life span. The FDA recommends a 4.6 pH or below. When the PH level rises above this threshold, the kombucha begins degrading quicker, thus reducing the shelf life.
Temperature
Kombucha brews best around 68 to 78 degrees F (20 to 25 degrees C). While a slight temperature increase will speed up the culturing process, if it exceeds beyond 85 degrees F (29 degrees C) the SCOBY (see information below) will be damaged, resulting in early spoilage and molding. 
SCOBY is an acronym for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. This gelatinous biofilm will form on the upper layer of the kombucha and can be used as a starter on the next batch. The biofilm is formed by the mass of bacteria and yeast growing symbiotically whereby the bacteria oxidize the ethanol produced by the yeast during fermentation. After you have filtered out the SCOBY, it should be transferred to a SCOBY hotel for storage.

Commercial vs. Home Brew

Commercial
Home Brew
Lifespan In The Fridge Open
1 week
2 weeks
Lifespan In The Fridge Unopen
As per best before date
3 months
Lifespan In The Pantry Open
2 days
3 days
Lifespan In The Pantry Unopen
As per best before date
1 month

Storage

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While kombucha can be stored in the pantry for up to 3 days, it should be moved to the refrigerator for long term storage. As kombucha will keep fermenting, it is recommended to store in the fridge, the temperature in the refrigerator helps to slow the rate of fermentation which prolongs its life. Avoid storing opened kombucha in the fridge for more than two weeks as the initial exposure to air can trigger the growth of mold spores.

Tips On Storing Homemade Kombucha

Store in sanitized bottles
Use hot water to sanitize the bottles. Alternatively, you can use white vinegar; however, avoid using soap as it will kill the SCOBY.
Use glass bottles
Kombucha has a low pH making it react to anything metallic.
Remove the SCOBY before storing the kombucha
To avoid overpopulation of the bacteria and fungi in the kombucha its recommended to remove the SCOBY before long-term storage.

FAQs

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What happens if you drink kombucha that has gone bad?
While it might not taste great, kombucha that has gone bad will not have a significant effect on the body, unless it has harmful bacteria such as botulinum species.
Should I shake the kombucha before drinking?
No, kombucha is like a carbonated drink. If you shake it, it will fizz and loses the dissolved carbon dioxide.
Is it safe to drink the floating matter at the bottom of kombucha?
Yes, this nebula like matter is a byproduct of the fermentation and is made up of yeast.

 

 

Interested in learning more about fermenting & preserving?
Check out these articles:
What is Canning?
How Long Does Sauerkraut Last?
What Does Sauerkraut Taste Like?
How Long Does Kimchi Last?
What Does Kimchi Taste Like?
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