Ever wonder how to make hard kombucha (i.e. kombucha with more alcohol in it)? We’re breaking down the basics to alcoholic kombucha. It’s easier than you would think!
The basics of hard kombucha
Kombucha naturally contains some alcohol (about 0.5%). This is due to the reaction between the naturally occurring yeast in the kombucha, which produce trace amounts of ethanol (alcohol).
Typical kombucha yeast strains do not produce much alcohol on their own, so what do you do if you want to increase the amount of alcohol in your kombucha? Add a different kind of yeast!
By adding a different strain of yeast, such as champagne yeast, to your kombucha, you can make hard kombucha with a higher ABV (alcohol by volume), around 5%!
And after much experimentation, I’ve finally landed on the method of brewing hard kombucha that’s both easy and reliable. Let’s brew!
Main Ingredients & Supplies needed for alcoholic kombucha
Kombucha from a first fermentation
First up, you’ll need some kombucha! Take your kombucha straight from the first fermentation to make hard buch. (Here’s how to make kombucha in the first fermentation.)
Adding an additional strain of yeast (different from the kombucha yeast) will help drive up the alcohol content of your kombucha. The type of yeast you choose to use will impact the finished flavor. Some options include:
- Champagne yeast (like this EC-1118 dry wine yeast), which gives a distinctly champagne flavor to your hard kombucha
- Ale yeast (like this SafAle US-05), which has a more neutral flavor
The final extra piece of gear you’ll need to brew hard kombucha are airlocks. These effectively let carbonation escape without letting oxygen in.
“But doesn’t kombucha need oxygen?” Good question! When making kombucha in the first fermentation, the bacteria need oxygen to ferment properly. But once the kombucha is finished and you’re ready to booze it up, you’ll want to prevent oxygen from getting to the bacteria so that the bacteria don’t eat the alcohol you’re making! (More on the relationship between bacteria and alcohol in kombucha here.)
How to make hard kombucha
The process of making hard kombucha is a little different from making traditional kombucha in that we’re adding an extra step in the middle. It goes something like this!
- 1st Fermentation: Make the kombucha (6 to 10 days)
- 2nd Fermentation: Make it boozy by adding yeast and sugar, then let alcohol develop (7 to 14 days)
- 3rd Fermentation (optional): Add flavors and seal shut to carbonate (3 to 10 days)
Easy enough, right? Let’s dig into the details!
1st Fermentation: Make the kombucha
In the first step, you’re making kombucha just like you usually would. You’ll basically just put sweetened tea, starter kombucha, and a SCOBY into a large jar and let it ferment for 6 to 10 days until you reach your desired flavor (a mix of sweet and tart). Get instructions for the first fermentation here.
2nd Fermentation: Make it Boozy
In the second step, we’ll add a slurry of yeast, sugar, and water, which will increase the alcohol content of your brew. You’ll need:
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp yeast (champagne or ale yeast, see notes above)
- 1 gallon of kombucha (from first fermentation)
1. Yeast Slurry: Stir together the hot water and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Let it cool to lukewarm, then stir in yeast. Allow the yeast to activate for 5 minutes.
2. Bottle: Meanwhile, transfer kombucha to bottles or a growler (or any vessel with an opening that will fit your air locks. Portion yeast slurry equally into each bottle of kombucha.
3. Airlock: Fill airlocks with water (to the designated line – you may need to read the instructions for your particular air locks). Place airlocks onto each bottle.
4. Ferment: Set bottles somewhere dark and room temperature, and let ferment for 7 to 14 days. It’s ready when the flavor is somewhat dry and boozy! If you’re not moving onto the next step (adding flavor), seal bottles shut and transfer to the fridge to stop the fermentation process.
3rd FERMENTATION: Add flavor
In this final (and optional) step, you can add flavors. This is the equivalent to the “second fermentation” in traditional kombucha brewing. You’ll just add whatever flavors you want to your bottle, then seal it shut. Let sit for 3 to 10 days, until bubbly and carbonated. Transfer bottles to the fridge to stop the fermentation process. Check out all of our flavor recipes here!
How much alcohol is in my hard kombucha?
The amount of alcohol in your finished hard kombucha will depend on the amount of sugar you added in the 2nd fermentation. Typically each 1 cup of sugar will give you about 4% ABV.