What is Kombucha?
Kombucha Tea is originally from Northern China and was also served in Russia and eastern Europe. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink. Based on black or green tea for its potential health benefits.
In the beginning, it was mostly a product of health food stores. Now, that Kombucha Tea has become commercial it is available in many grocery stores.
The is described as a mix of vinegar and carbonated apple cider. So, it is not the taste why people buy the fermented drink. It is more for its health benefits.
All fermented foods like Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Kefir or Yogurt contain live microorganisms. Probiotic bacteria can help to balance the gut microbiome in humans and support regular digestion.
Kombucha Tea also contains antioxidants, they can kill harmful bacteria and can help fight several diseases.
During fermentation, sugar converts into ethanol (alcohol) and acetic acid. The acetic acid gives Kombucha its unique bitter taste.
What is fermentation?
Fermenting is the process of converting sugar into acids or alcohol with the help of special bacteria. The bacteria support converting sugar into acid. Fermentation only works in anaerobic conditions (that means with no oxygen).
For a better understanding of the process, here are some examples below.
This is a product from milk and it´s the most common example for fermentation. Add lactobacillus bacteria to milk. After resting in anaerobic conditions for a few hours you can enjoy your freshly made curd.
Like you probably know beer is made of grains. The dried grains are mashed properly and then mixed with hot water plus yeast. The fermentation process then needs a few weeks to work in anaerobic conditions. During that time the yeast eats the carbohydrates or sugar to form alcohol. That´s how you make beer. The final steps are to filter it and fill it up into bottles.
To make Kombucha you need 2 things. First, you need black or green tea and to start the fermentation process you need a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). It has a gelatinous texture and looks like a pancake. If you look up the definition for SCOBY in Wikipedia it says:
“SCOBY is a syntrophic mixed culture wherein anaerobic ethanol fermentation (by yeast), anaerobic organic acid fermentation (by bacteria), and aerobic ethanol oxidation to acetate (by bacteria) all take place concurrently along an oxygen gradient.”
8 incredible Kombucha health benefits
If you ever wondered “What does Kombucha do?”, here are the answers:
1. Keeps your gut healthy
The outcome of the fermentation process are acids, probiotics, amino acids, and enzymes. This power package is highly beneficial to your whole digestive system and keeps everything moving smoothly. It can also help with some abdominal disorders, constipation or diarrhea for example. The included acids help with the break down of proteins and saccharides. As a result, the digestive system works more efficiently.
2. Might help with depression
For a healthy nervous system, you need several things and a lot of them are in Kombucha. The fermented drink contains a wide range of amino acids, caffeine, vitamin C, and several of the B vitamins (B1 (Thiamine), B6 (Pyridoxine), B9 (Folic Acid), B12 (Cobalamin)). The high content of vitamin B12 is one reason supplements sometimes contain dry Kombucha products.
They aid to prevent the release of cortisol (stress hormone). Depression can have many roots and causes and one of them lies in the gut. It´s definitely worth a try if Kombucha can help to level the symptoms of a leaky gut.
3. Strengthens your immune system
Kombucha is rich in several antioxidants. That builds solid support for the immune system. And by the way, it will boost your energy levels too. The antioxidants will support the reduction of inflammation. Inflammation is often times the root of most diseases.
In case you didn´t know fast food causes inflammation! All the processed food will cause oxidative stress that will damage your cells. With all the bad food plus all the chemicals, it contains you can use as many antioxidants as you can get to prevent your body from damage.
4. Helps with Asthma
This might be a surprising benefit. Kombucha has ingredients that help to reduce the effects of bronchitis. It helps to control chronic asthma due to its anti-inflammatory effects. Chinese scientists came up with the idea to inhale Kombucha. That way the lungs are a direct target. But nowadays inhaling Kombucha is not recommended.
5. Liver protection
The liver is the largest digestive gland in the human body. It has key functions in more than 500 metabolic processes. It filters out harmful compounds from your body. That is a significant part for smooth digestion and overall health. And once again the antioxidants come in handy as they protect the liver from oxidative stress and damage.
6. Controls Diabetes
Regarding diabetes, there are opposite statements. Some say Kombucha is helpful to manage diabetes and others say it does not help. It depends on the sugar level your drink has. The sugar level will vary from brand to brand. So make sure to check the nutrition label before you buy your favorite fermented drink. With its low calorie and low sugar profile, Kombucha is a great alternative to soda. It´s an all-natural product with many health benefits.
7. Positive effect on the cardiovascular system
Cardiovascular disease is one of the most causes of death worldwide. Everything that helps to lower the risk of cardiovascular problems is worth trying. The possible benefits of Kombucha on the heart might be the contained flavonoid antioxidants. They have been shown to lower cholesterol levels and also triglycerides.
8. Detoxifies the body
As you saw already before, Kombucha is rich in organic acids and a variety of antioxidants. They help to prevent oxidative damages. The effects of free radicals will be neutralized. Chronic diseases, as well as inflammation, will be reduced. The immune system gets stronger and is better prepared against the harmful effects of pollution like pesticides or heavy metals.
Does Kombucha contain alcohol?
“Can you get drunk of Kombucha?” is something you might have asked yourself. The brewing process of Kombucha is the same way as wine or beer. Therefore it could be an alcoholic beverage. The fermentation process results in only a trace of alcohol. The alcohol level is highly dependent on the amount of sugar that is added. That includes sucrose as well as sugar from added fruits. Every brand uses their individual recipe to produce the fizzy drink.
In conclusion, you can say that Kombucha does contain alcohol. But the amount is not high enough to consider it an alcoholic beverage. The range is usually between 0.2 – 1.2%. To have a better understanding of what that means, here are some more numbers:
- beer: 4-6%
- wine: 9-14%
- liquor: 35-60%
If you feel like going wild with drinking Kombucha you have to drink about 30 bottles in one hour to reach the drink and drive limit. The number of bottles you need will also depend on your physical constitution (body weight, height, male/female). And to have that drunk feeling like from beer or wine you have to drink a lot more. And a lot means about 100 bottles. I don´t know about you but I can´t picture myself drinking 100 bottles of Kombucha in one hour.
Keep in mind that a flavored Kombucha has a higher trace of alcohol than the plain version. Flavoring with fruits or juices adds additional sugar. This will increase the alcohol content over time.
Here is a video from Dr. Axe that sums up the benefits of Kombucha very well!
Kombucha side effects
Now, it is important to remember that every human is different. Everybody has different sensibilities to certain nutrients. There is no guaranty if the benefits of Kombucha will affect each and every person in the same way. Some will see stronger effects and others will not even see any results at all.
There are many potential health benefits of Kombucha Tea. However, it is important to remember that research is going on. Not all Kombucha health benefits have been verified in studies with human participants.
While drinking Kombucha is mostly tied to health benefits people can be tempted to overconsume it.
Overconsumption can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels and add to your calorie intake.
Possible side effects can be:
- weight gain (some brands can be high in calories and drinking too much can lead to weight gain)
- bloating (Kombucha is carbonated which means CO2 is brought into your digestive system; if you are sensitive it can lead to digestive problems)
- you can feel jittery (Kombucha is made of green or black tea and both contain caffeine)
Kombucha side effects could include stomach problems. It is important to be careful when making Kombucha Tea at home. The drink can ferment for too long. It is also possible for Kombucha to be contaminated when not made in a germ-free environment.
In stores, the bottled versions are produced in carefully controlled environments and are likely safe.
Homemade ginger kombucha recipe
This is by far my favorite kombucha recipe of all time. It tastes like ginger beer with a pinch of spice in it.
Let’s get started.
- 14 cups (3.3 l) clean water
- 1 cup (200 gr) white sugar
- 8 bags black or green tea
- 2 cups (470 ml) unflavored starter tea (either from a previous batch or unpasteurized, unflavored )
- 1 or 2 SCOBYs (depending on how many containers you’re using, 1 per container)
- large (two jars holding at least ½ gallon (1.9 l) each
- tightly woven cloth (coffee filters, paper towels, napkins, )
- Bring water to a boil in a clean pot. Remove from heat and dissolve sugar into it.
- Add the tea and allow to steep while water cools to room temperature (a few hours). Again, MUST be room temperature. Don’t risk killing your SCOBY in hot water.
- With clean hands, gently remove your SCOBY from the tea and place on an equally as clean plate. You can rinse out the jar if you want (without soap), but it’s not necessary.
- Pour the sweetened tea into your jar(s), then pour in starter kombucha (if you’re using two jars, pour ½ of the starter kombucha into each).
- Gently place SCOBY into the jar then cover with a few layers of the tightly woven cloth and secure with a rubber band.
- Set the jar(s) somewhere dark, still, and room temperature (70-75 degrees F, 21-24 C) for anywhere from 6 to 10 days. Begin tasting the tea at about 6 days by gently drawing out some of the tea with a paper straw (using your finger to hold the tea in the straw, don’t use your mouth). It should be mildly sweet and slightly vinegary. The warmer the air temperature, the faster the kombucha will ferment. The longer the tea ferments, the more sugar molecules will be eaten up, the less sweet it will be.
- Reserve 2 cups from this batch to use as starter kombucha for your next batch (just leave it in the jar with SCOBY(s)). The rest can move into the second and final fermentation.
- Puree: Blend together the ginger and sugars to form a puree. The more surface area of the ingredients that are exposed to the tea, the more flavor, and fizz you’ll have in the end!
- Bottle: Transfer kombucha to fermentation bottles, adding your ginger mixture evenly into each bottle, and finishing with a few slices of pepper.
- Ferment: For 3 to 10 days, until it reaches the carbonation level you like.
- Enjoy: Strain out ginger fibers and peppers (optional), then chill in the fridge before serving.