Kombucha has gained immense popularity in recent years as a probiotic beverage with many purported health benefits. The fermented tea drink has a slightly sweet, tangy flavor and contains beneficial bacteria and yeasts. While traditional kombucha contains only trace amounts of alcohol, a new style of kombucha has emerged – hard kombucha.
Hard kombucha is brewed to contain higher alcohol levels, creating a probiotic alternative to beer, wine, or mixed drinks. As kombucha gains mainstream popularity, many wonder – is hard kombucha good for you? What are its benefits and drawbacks compared to other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages?
What Is Hard Kombucha?
Hard kombucha is a type of brewed kombucha that contains higher alcohol content, usually ranging from 3-10% ABV. This is similar in alcohol strength to many beers and ciders. Hard kombucha starts out brewed like traditional kombucha, by fermenting sweetened tea with a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast).
Before bottling, brewers add extra yeasts or even fruit juices to trigger a secondary fermentation. This second ferment converts the kombucha’s remaining sugars into carbon dioxide, alcohol, and organic acids. The finished product retains the signature tangy flavor of kombucha with the buzz of an alcoholic beverage.
How Is Hard Kombucha Made?
Making hard kombucha requires a few more steps than typical homemade kombucha brewing:
1. Brew and ferment tea following standard kombucha procedures, with black, green, or herbal teas.
2. Remove the SCOBY and as much starter liquid as desired once the kombucha reaches the desired tartness. More starter liquid retained means less alcohol potential later.
3. Add extra sugars, fruit juices, or flavorings at this stage if desired. The sugars bolster the alcohol content during the second ferment.
4. Pour the sweetened kombucha into an airtight jar and add brewer’s or champagne yeast. Allow to ferment for 1-3 weeks until reaching desired carbonation and alcohol levels.
5. Pour into swing-top bottles, leaving room for carbonation, and allow to carbonate and build pressure for 2-3 days before refrigerating.
6. Refrigerate and enjoy hard kombucha within a few months. Unrefrigerated, the yeasts will continue converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, possibly causing bottles to explode.
Is Hard Kombucha Good For You? Possible Benefits
Hard kombucha offers a few potential health upsides:
Probiotics – The fermentation process creates a rich cocktail of probiotics shown to benefit digestion, immunity, and gut health. The alcohol may damage some probiotics, but hard kombucha retains more than many commercial beers.
Antioxidants – Tea contributes polyphenol antioxidants that combat cell damage and inflammation. Fermentation may increase the bioavailability of antioxidants.
Vitamins – Hard kombucha provides B vitamins, vitamin C, and small amounts of other vitamins from the tea, yeasts, and bacteria. B vitamins in particular aid metabolism and brain function.
Lower sugar than cocktails – While hard kombucha contains more sugar than regular kombucha, it has substantially less sugar and calories compared to sweet cocktails, soda, and juices.
Gluten-free – Most hard kombucha is brewed from gluten-free ingredients, making it suitable for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
Possible prebiotic content – Some research indicates the polysaccharides contributed by the SCOBY may function as prebiotics that further enhance gut microbiome health.
Potential downsides of hard kombucha include its alcohol content for those avoiding or limiting alcohol, and risks for those with yeast sensitivities or gut issues that may react poorly to yeast, bacteria, or high acidity levels.
Overall, hard kombucha appears to be a relatively healthy and microbe-rich alternative to other alcoholic drinks, though regular kombucha likely packs a stronger probiotic punch.
Hard kombucha bridges the gap between the rising popularity of probiotic drinks and alcoholic craft brews. Early research shows its unique fermentation process may provide more nutrients than typical beer, wine, or liquor.
The combination of tea, yeasts, bacteria, organic acids, B vitamins, antioxidants, and a modest alcohol content creates a beverage that is both health-conscious and socially enjoyable for many consumers.
For those looking to cut back on alcohol or who have sensitivities to fermented foods, regular kombucha is likely the better choice. But with moderation and precautions, hard kombucha can be a gut-friendly new option on the drink menu.
Frequently Asked Questions
In most cases, yes. Hard kombucha is brewed from tea, sugar, yeast, and bacteria. Unless ingredients like malt or wheat are added, it does not contain gluten. However, those highly sensitive should verify ingredients and check for certification.
Hard kombucha generally ranges from 3-10% ABV. This is similar to many beers and ciders. It is higher than most traditional kombucha at under 0.5% but lower than most wines at around 12-15% alcohol.
Potentially. The fermentation process may retain more vitamins and probiotics compared to wine, beer, or liquors. However, overconsumption of any alcoholic drinks has health risks, which should be considered.
Hard kombucha does contain trace amounts of alcohol, so it is not recommended during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises avoiding all alcohol while pregnant. Enjoy traditional kombucha or hold off until after pregnancy.
Hard kombucha is generally lower in calories and carbs than beer, wine, and mixed drinks. But any alcoholic drink adds extra calories which can lead to weight gain if consumed in excess. Moderation is key.