Hard kombucha tends to last longer than kombucha with lower alcohol content. Nevertheless, it should still be refrigerated to slow down fermentation. This will also help maintain fizziness. For best flavor, drink within three months of bottling. You can likely leave your hard kombucha at room temperature for less than 72 hours without too much change in taste. However, please keep in mind, that kombucha kept at room temperature can potentially explode!
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Chemical differences between regular kombucha and hard kombucha
Regular kombucha is also called “sweet tea”. It’s fermented but not as long or in the same way as hard kombucha, so it doesn’t have the same type of probiotic benefits. Regular kombucha has a sweeter taste and often contains fruit juice to make it more palatable. Hard Kombucha sometimes has less sugar than regular kombucha because it has been fermented for longer, giving it a slightly vinegary flavor.
Hard kombucha contains much more alcohol than regular kombucha. Most “non-alcoholic” kombucha has no more than 0.5% ethanol. Meanwhile, hard kombucha can have an alcohol content of around 8%, which is more than most wine! As the alcohol content increases, the rate of fermentation begins to slow down. Thus, hard kombucha won’t ferment much faster if kept at room temperature for a while.
Refrigerating regular kombucha vs. hard kombucha
Regular kombucha must be refrigerated after opening. The process of making hard kombucha is like fermentation and similar to what happens when you let the dough rise for bread or ferment grapes into wine. Similar to both of these processes, we end up with more of the product (such as yeast). These yeasts and other microbes need to be controlled through the course of the process and then halted by refrigeration. If this is not done, they will continue to grow in numbers and cause off-flavors in your final product. So when you open a bottle from your batch that has been sitting out at room temperature, the contents inside have already begun their secondary fermentation.
Regular kombucha still has a long way to go in terms of fermentation; therefore at room temperature, fermentation will speed up more compared to hard kombucha. As a rule of thumb: Your bottle of kombucha can spend 48 hours outside the fridge and still be drinkable. A bottle of hard kombucha can spend slightly longer, likely around 72 hours outside the fridge. Keep in mind, though, there are certain factors that need to be considered here, such as temperature, alcohol content, etc.
What is the ideal temperature to store hard kombucha?
The best temperature for long-term storage of hard kombucha is between 40 and 70 degrees F, or 4.5 and 21 C. Temperatures at the lower end of this range will generally prolong the shelf life and slow the fermentation process, while higher temperatures tend to speed up these processes.
How can you tell if your hard kombucha has gone bad?
For those who have tried hard kombucha before, it is not as simple as just checking the date on the bottle. The fact is, after a few weeks in a refrigerator, a typical bottled hard kombucha can taste almost as good as a fresh bottle! So how do you know if your hard kombuchas are spoiled?
This is a good question, and here are the most common ways to tell:
If your bottled kombucha does not have any bubbles when you open it, this indicates that fermentation has been slowed down or stopped completely. This means the yeast has consumed all of the sugar in the solution, and there won’t be any carbonation left in the final product. Although this is still ok to drink, without the fizz factor it will taste quite flat compared to normal hard kombucha. After opening, you should refill your bottles with fresh sweetened tea so they can continue fermenting.
When I saw a little bit of white fuzz in one bottle, I didn’t think twice about just adding more sweet tea and re-capping it again. Big mistake! A few days later, there were tiny black spots growing all over the inside of another bottle, and it turned out both bottles had been completely overrun with mold. Honestly, I don’t know how they got like this–I always make sure the seal on my caps is tight enough to prevent any air from getting in (which can potentially promote mold growth). If you do find some fuzzy hairs, through it a way!
When you open a bottle of hard kombucha that has gone bad, you will normally notice a vinegary smell. This is usually caused by acetobacter bacteria (They’re naturally occurring in the environment and feedd on alcohol). Acetobacter can cause serious health problems if it grows unchecked inside bottle. If your kombucha smells like vinegar when you open it, there’s no doubt about it: It’s time to throw this batch away!
Another potential sign of spoilage of your best hard kombucha is undissolved sugar at the bottom of the bottle. Normally, after fermentation takes place and most of the sugar was into alcohol or acids, there will be no sugar left in the product. If you find undissolved sugar at the bottom of a bottle, this means that there wasn’t enough alcohol to kill all the yeast cells and fermentation continued after bottling. To resolve this problem, just re-cap your bottles and place them back into refrigeration for another ten days or so.