You may have seen the expiration date on a bottle of store bought kombucha and wondered, how long does kombucha last? Answering all your kombucha expiration date questions here!
In order to understand how long kombucha will last (and if it goes bad), it’s important to understand what kombucha even is!
At its core, this fizzy drink is fermented tea. Specific bacteria and yeasts (known as a SCOBY) are added to sweet tea, which is then transformed by these microbes into the kombucha we know and love! (Learn how to make kombucha here).
As the SCOBY eats the sugars in the tea, the kombucha becomes acidic (which gives it that distinct tart taste). When the kombucha has reached the perfect level of tartness, it is bottled (and often carbonated) then refrigerated.
Refrigerating the kombucha slows down the fermentation dramatically, meaning the SCOBY virtually stops the reaction and the kombucha can be stored without changing flavor anymore. Which brings us to the question of the hour – how long does kombucha last?
How long does bottled kombucha last?
Due to the acidity and presence of good bacteria and yeast, there should be no “bad bacteria” or mold in the kombucha. This means it can safely be stored in the refrigerator for many months – generally 6 to 8 months. (Even the fruit in kombucha should stay good!)
Note that if you store the kombucha outside of the refrigerator, the fermentation will continue to make the kombucha more acidic, to the point where it becomes vinegar. While this is not unsafe to drink and also has a very long shelf-life, it won’t be nearly as tasty!
So why do store bought brands of kombucha have a “Best By” or “Sell By” date on the bottle? While not required by federal law, many companies are part of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, which require an expiration date to be printed on the bottle. Kombucha is generally safe to drink, even after the expiration date (though it may be more tart, and you should always use your best judgement when it comes to any off flavors or smells).
How long does an open bottle last?
Once you pop open a bottle of kombucha, either from the store or homemade, it may lose carbonation. You can leave it outside of the fridge for a day or two – sealed in its bottle – to rebuild carbonation, then place it back in thee fridge.
Opened bottles of kombucha may have a shorter shelf life, especially if bacteria have been introduced (like from your mouth while drinking).
How do I know if kombucha has gone bad?
While it is not common for kombucha to go bad in the second fermentation (i.e. when it is in an airtight bottle), here are some tips for determining if your kombucha has gone bad:
- Mold, which is usually fizzy and colored, is a sign that your kombucha has gone bad. See pictures of kombucha mold here.
- Vinegary or overly tart kombucha is simply over fermented. It is safe to drink, but not very tasty.
- Floaties or brown stringy things floating in the kombucha are normal. These are strands of yeast, a natural component in kombucha.
What happens if you drink bad kombucha? Read more on the side effects of kombucha here.