How to Make Hard Kombucha

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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!

How air locks for in kombucha fermentation on white background

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 produces 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 a hard kombucha beverage with a higher ABV (alcohol by volume), around 5%!

After much experimentation (and years of brewing non-alcoholic kombucha to help guide me), I’ve finally landed on the method of brewing hard kombucha that’s both easy and reliable. Let’s brew!

Bottles of green tea kombucha on a white counter with a plant in the background

Main Ingredients & Supplies needed for alcoholic kombucha

Kombucha from a first fermentation

First up, you’ll need some kombucha! Take your batch of kombucha straight from the first fermentation to make hard buch. (Here’s how to make kombucha in the first fermentation.) You can use kombucha made from green or black tea here.

Yeast

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:

EC118 yeast for making hard kombucha on white background

Airlock

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.)

A lid won’t work here because you need to allow for air to leave the bottle!

Air locks in kombucha fermentation on white background

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!

  1. 1st Fermentation: Make the kombucha (6 to 10 days). This is when you turn sweet tea into kombucha!
  2. 2nd Fermentation: Make it boozy by adding yeast and sugar, then let alcohol develop (7 to 14 days)
  3. 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 as usual. You’ll just put sweetened tea, starter kombucha, and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) 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)
  • Airlocks

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, until bubbles form and the yeast is frothy.

2. Bottle: Meanwhile, transfer kombucha to bottles or a growler (or any vessel with an opening that will fit your airlocks. 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 airlocks). 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 on to the next step (adding flavor), seal the 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 to give your hard kombucha a fun taste. This is the equivalent of the “second fermentation” in traditional kombucha brewing. You’ll just add whatever flavors you want to your bottle (like pureed fruit, fruit juice, ginger, herbs, or spices), 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 how much sugar you added in the 2nd fermentation. Typically each 1 cup of sugar will give you about 4% ABV. Increasing this ratio and adding more sugar will result in a higher alcohol level.

Bubbly lavender kombucha on a white background with blackberries

How To Make Hard Kombucha

Servings: 16 cups
Author: Sarah Bond
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!
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp champagne or ale yeast
  • 1 gallon unflavored kombucha from a first fermentation

Instructions 

  • 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, until bubbles form and the yeast is frothy.
  • Bottle: Meanwhile, transfer kombucha to bottles or a growler (or any vessel with an opening that will fit your airlocks. Portion yeast slurry equally into each bottle of kombucha.
  • Airlock: Fill airlocks with water (to the designated line – you may need to read the instructions for your particular airlocks). Place airlocks onto each bottle.
  • 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 on to the next step (adding flavor), seal the bottles shut and transfer to the fridge to stop the fermentation process.
  • Flavor (optional): At this point you can flavor your bottles however you want! See our favorite kombucha flavors here.

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137 thoughts on “How to Make Hard Kombucha”

  1. Hi Sarah!
    Thank you for this post and all of your info! Can I just substitute 1 cup of honey for the 1 cup sugar? I would like to make hard jun and cannot seem to find a recipe or instruction anywhere specifically for jun. Thank you!

    Reply
  2. How do I know when the yeast slurry is ready? Also how much yeast slurry do you make per 1st ferment buch? I’ve tried a couple times with a gallon bottle but not sure it’s being done right

    Reply
    • Let the slurry sit for about 5 minutes, or until it’s frothy and active! The proportions are all in the post under “2ND FERMENTATION: MAKE IT BOOZY” 🙂

    • Thanks! Re proportions I was referring to the 1 tsp of alco yeast to booch. Is that 1tsp for an entire gallon of booch? I got 24 cups of booch and did the 1 cup of activated yesterday but was wondering if I was supposed to use the entire packet for the gallon

  3. Hi Sarah, i allways get yeasty taste in my f2 of hard kombucha. And if i wait until all yeast ferments and dies it is impossible to do f3.
    Does it happened to you. What to do with yeast taste in kombucha that is strong after 14 days???

    Reply
    • Hi Lora! There should be some yeast left (just natural kombucha yeast) for F3, but if it’s really all dead you could try adding a little but of already made kombucha to F3 when you add your flavors?

  4. I love this idea…. but considering the fact that I’m not really one to drink much (due to past drinking history) and that I normally drink at least once a week, how should I present this at a traditional dinner party? If this few amount of details helps, I’m a Norse Pagan, and for a Samhain celebration I would like to host a traditional dinner; any ideas would be helpful and greatly appreciated.
    -Jessica M.

    Reply
  5. Thank you very much for the easy to follow instructions. I really love the taste of the end product. I’ve gone to making it in 5 gallon batches and kegging it. People tell me it’s as good as any they’ve had anywhere and keep coming back for more.

    Cheers!

    Reply
  6. Hi there,

    Is there anyway to measure the ABV content in kombucha since 2 and 8% might be a big difference? So far I have seen refractometers and hydrometers don’t work since de acidity of de booch spoils the measurement. Do you know any measure methods which are good?

    Reply
  7. Hi, great resource.
    The thought that’s rattling around my pea brain is; commonly for F2 people add fruits or purees and ferment further. You say that the Kombucha yeast isn’t able to handle a higher alcohol environment, however there is naturally occurring yeast all over fruits that definitely can handle higher alcohol environments. As we know it is not strictly necessary to add yeast to make fruit wines and similar beverages that can hit pretty high ABV’s so even with the Kombucha yeast converting some of the ethanol in F2, the other yeasts might be raising the ABV by themselves. My rudimentary understanding is that this would also be a mixture of ethanol and methanol.
    Of course making simple syrups would eliminate this issue but I can’t see how using fruit pieces couldn’t raise the ABV considerably. I definitely noticed the alcohol in my Strawberry/melon F2 and even more in Orange. It is the reason I instinctively switched to simple syrups for F2 flavouring.
    Can anyone tell me how incorrect I am?

    Reply
  8. Hi Sarah. So I have been brewing hard booch for several months now. I’ll use champagne yeast, also I’ve used safale us 05 yeast. Question I have is this; Why do some brews develop a secondary non- viable scoby and some don’t? I’ve consumed the hard booch with no adverse effects. Why does this happen and is it safe? Info on hard booch brewing is slim. Thank you!

    Reply
    • A SCOBY is a normal product of all kombucha fermentation, and happens when the bacteria have access to air. So if there’s more or less air in your fliptop bottles, that could mean more or less SCOBY formation!

  9. Hi Sarah! Thanks for the great info! What would happen if you added fruit to the 2nd ferment? I’m just starting with hard booch brewing but I’ve been brewing soft booch for a while now and typically flavor in the vessel during F2 and then strain before bottling for F3. I’m using an airlock on a gallon jar…can I throw fruit in with the sugar or could that lead to disaster?

    Reply
    • I think it could just interfere with the fermentation of the right kinds of yeasts. Worth a shot, but I’ve stuck to adding fruit in F2 for hard buch!

  10. I’m making my first batch. Wish me luck.
    I also have several bottles of plain kombucha that have been through the second fermentation. Can I use that to make boozy bouch? Or must I use a 1st fermentation batch (as I am doing now)?
    And I bought the airlocks from your link and they are too big for my bottles. I’ve taped them on with Duck Tape. Since the pressure is released through the airlock I’m hoping this will be ok. I guess I’ll find out!

    Reply
  11. Hi Sarah, thanks for the awesome site!

    Do you use airlocks attached to 750ml glass bottles for the second fermentation? If so, did the bungs that came with the airlocks fit the 750ml glass bottle openings? Reason I ask is that most airlock bungs seem to be for carboys.

    Thanks,
    Emlyn

    Reply
  12. Hi there,

    Brewing my first batch of boozy booch but it’s a 5 gallon batch. Should I use the same ratio of sugar/yeast for 1 gallon just multiplied by 5. So 5cups sugar and 5 tsp yeast for 5 gallons?

    Reply
  13. Hi. I am on day 10 of the second fermentation. There is still a lot of champagne yeast sitting at the bottom of the jar. Would you strain this out before bottling for the 3rd fermentation? Thank you.

    Reply