We've all gone searching in the fridge or pantry for a snack, only to stumble across something that has been sitting there for far too long. While some foods clearly show sings of spoilage, not all food expires at the same rate. In fact, foods like honey and sugar will last forever as long as they're properly stored.
But what about kombucha? Does kombucha go bad? We're here to give you all the facts about the shelf-life of kombucha.
Best Before Doesn't Mean Expiration Date
On any bottle of kombucha that you buy in the store, you will find a best before date. Now, many people view the best before date as another way to say expiration date, but this isn't correct. Generally, the best before date is the date that manufacturers recommend that the item be consumed, but it doesn't always represent the expiration date. When it comes to kombucha, the best before date is the time period that the manufacturer guarantees quality flavour, according to RISE Kombucha.
In fact, kombucha does not actually expire in the technical sense. Due to it's low PH levels creating a highly acidic environment, kombucha naturally eliminates the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms. What this means is that kombucha could have an indefinite shelf life. The only factor to be aware of is that flavoured kombucha can contain bits of fruit which potentially could develop mould over time. In it's most pure state of raw kombucha, like vinegar, can last forever.
Now, this doesn't mean you should go off and drink any kombucha you find lying around. In reality, kombucha continues to ferment the longer it sits, which means the microorganisms in the drink will continue to consume the sugar in the brew. Consequently, the flavours will change as it will become more vinegary the longer it passes its best before date. This generally won't lead to a drink that is dangerous to consume, but it isn't something we would recommend a person drink as the kombucha will be extremely sour and bitter. But to answer the question: Does kombucha go bad? The answer is yes, but not in the way you may think.
What about Refrigeration?
Since kombucha is a fermented drink that is packed full of microorganisms, proper storage is essential. According to RISE Kombucha, "If [kombucha] is not refrigerated, the content will become vinegary, continue to ferment and will create more C02." Much like we discussed above, it is not wise to drink kombucha that over-ferments because it will lead to off-putting flavours and a ruined product.
Moreover, there is also another danger to unrefrigerated kombucha when it continues to fermentation. As the carbon dioxide levels continue to build up, bottles are at risk of exploding suddenly from the build up of the excess gas. You may be enjoying your favourite T.V. show in the living room when your pantry sounds like its being bombarded with artillery. And you'll be stuck cleaning a sour, vinegary mess. Thus, it's important to keep your kombucha in the fridge to greatly slow down the fermentation process.
What if I'm a Home Brewer?
If you brew your own kombucha you have probably wondered does kombucha go bad? and how long it is safe to sit in your fridge? The answer is as long as you like depending on your preferences. Since there are no health risks other than visible mould (the same blue and fuzzy bits you would find on any food) you could drink a bottle of kombucha that is a year old and not be too concerned.
However, in our experience, the kombucha you brew will retain the flavor you desire for at most 2-3 months in the fridge. Longer than that, your kombucha will have fermented out all of the sugar and become quite sour. If vinegar tea is your kind of drink, then you are in luck. Our recommendation is to drink your kombucha quickly and often, fresh is always best. But if you need to keep it longer, rest assured that you are not damaging your body in doing so.
One Important Note
It's important to note that in our quest to answer the question: does kombucha go bad, we have been assuming that the kombucha has been properly stored. All of this information goes out the window if you're storing your kombucha in a heated room or in direct sunlight. Under those unfavourable conditions, there's no telling what kind of funky things will be happening in your brew. So, make sure you store your kombucha in the fridge, or in a dark, cool place at the very least.
If you're interested in brewing your own kombucha, please visit our shop page. We have kits that will fit all your brewing needs.