Kombucha is one of the most unusual health drinks to become popular in recent years. It’s technically a fermented tea. While some find its taste to be off-putting, others swear by its health benefits.

If you are a kombucha drinker, you’ll know that it has a relatively long shelf life, which means it expires less quickly than many other drinks. While this can be helpful, it can be annoying to find your drink has expired, and it’s essential to know the risks involved with drinking expired kombucha.

If you’re wondering whether expired kombucha is safe, you’ve come to the right place. This article will explain how you can check if your kombucha really has gone bad, or whether it might still be safe to drink.

What is Kombucha?

jars of kombucha
Photographer: Klara Avsenik | Source: Unsplash

Kombucha is a sweetened and fermented tea. Because of the fermentation process, the beverage is slightly alcoholic and has a light, effervescent quality. The drink is best served cold and has been around for over a thousand years, consumed for its supposed health benefits. Usually, kombucha has a sweet, vinegary taste.

Benefits of Kombucha

There are many purported benefits to drinking kombucha. These include:

  • Healthy digestive system thanks to probiotics
  • Improved metabolism with green tea kombucha
  • Reduced toxicity with antioxidants
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • May help manage type 2 diabetes
  • May help protect against cancer

How is Kombucha Made?

Kombucha is made by introducing something SCOBY into a brewed black or green tea. SCOBY stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. The mixture is then left to ferment from anywhere between a week and a month. The sweetness of the drink will depend on the fermentation time.

All About Kombucha Expiry Dates

Despite kombucha being fermented, it does still expire. However, fermentation can make the drink last a lot longer than other drinks. Many will have people have heard that kombucha can be consumed after its expiry date. But if you want to know what happens to kombucha after it expires, here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions.

Best Before vs Use By Date

Firstly, it’s important to distinguish between the best before date and the use-by date. The best before date is the recommended date of consumption. Most stores use this date as a guideline of how long to display the item on their shelves. However, the product should still be safe to eat for several days after this date. The use-by date, on the other hand, tends to refer to the last possible day of consumption. This date is used in products that go rancid more quickly than fermented drinks like kombucha.

Can You Drink Expired Kombucha?

Let’s discuss whether you really can consume kombucha after it expires. The simple answer is yes. However, many different factors can make your kombucha go bad both before and after the official expiry date.

How Long Does Kombucha Last After Expiration?

Most kombucha companies put an expiration date on their bottled kombucha, but the truth is, it is usually safe to consume for quite a long while after this date. How long it lasts depends on a variety of factors. Depending on how the kombucha was bottled, it lasts between six and eight months after the noted date.

How Long Does Kombucha Last After Being Opened?

After kombucha has been opened, things change quickly. Once the beverage interacts with the air, decomposition and nutrient loss will begin to take place in the kombucha. You will notice that the beverage loses its fizz and its strong taste. If you plan to drink from the same bottle after opening, you should always try to store the beverage in a sealed container in the fridge, or it will not last.

How Long Does Kombucha Last in the Fridge After Opening?

If you have a can of kombucha, it is recommended that you consume the drink immediately after opening. If you have a resealable bottle, you may be able to store the bottle in the fridge for 3-5 days after opening without the drink going bad.

Can I Drink Unopened Expired Kombucha?

This all depends on how the beverage was stored and how long it has been “expired”. Because kombucha doesn’t expire, it should be safe to drink if it has been stored correctly and remains well sealed. Refrigeration is important because heat can have adverse effects on the cultured drink. Generally, if you add two or three months to the expiration date, you should be ok. The living cultures in the drink will become more active at room temperature, which can cause excess carbonation and a sour, tart taste. If you notice your kombucha tastes quite vinegary, it may be a sign that it has been stored at a warm temperature for too long or that it is too far past its expiry date.

How Long Does Homemade Kombucha Last?

If you’ve been experimenting with making your own kombucha at home, you will probably be following a kit. This kit should tell you a rough expiry date for your kombucha. In most cases, homemade kombucha lasts between one and three months when stored in a sealed container in the fridge.

How to Spot Bad Kombucha

How can you tell if your kombucha has gone bad? Many people assume that floating bits in the drink are an indication that the drink is no longer safe. However, this is a misconception. These bits are SCOBY and are a sign that your kombucha is still full of healthy live bacteria. Clear kombucha is a sign that the drink is pasteurized or filtered, therefore containing no bacteria at all, good or bad. One sign of a bad kombucha is mold. This occurs very rarely, but, as you can guess, mold is never a good sign. Another important sign is the smell and taste of the beverage. If it’s very tart or vinegary, chances are it’s no longer healthy to drink. Luckily, there are a few other excellent uses for over-fermented kombucha.

Does Expired Kombucha Have More Alcohol?

Essentially, an older bottle of kombucha has fermented for a longer period of time than a newer bottle. During the fermentation process, yeast converts sugar into alcohol. So, yes, the longer a bottle ferments, the higher the alcohol content. Nevertheless, kombucha contains very low levels of alcohol, so in most cases, alcohol content shouldn’t trouble you when you drink an old kombucha.

What Happens If You Drink Bad Kombucha?

So, can you drink expired kombucha? In the rare event that your kombucha has really past its expiration date, what happens to the body? For the vast majority of us, old kombucha doesn’t pose too many threats. However, if you have any health issues, your body may have extra trouble fighting off the bacteria you have consumed. In some cases, old kombucha can contain excessive amounts of bad bacteria, which can result in an allergic reaction, a mild infection, or an upset stomach.

Final Thoughts

Kombucha is far more complicated than many people realize. The fermented drink is filled with bacteria and yeast, which, for some, can seem intimidating. However, usually, kombucha is a very healthy, beneficial beverage. Because of the fermentation process, the drink can last for a few months after its expiry date. Don’t be fooled into thinking that the bacteria suddenly becomes bad when the drink “expires”. Instead, be sure to store the beverage in a refrigerator, and taste test your drink to make sure it isn’t too vinegary. If it tastes quite sweet and bubbly, sit back and enjoy drinking some healthy bacteria!