Recently in the news, we learned of a local kombucha maker producing non-alcoholic kombucha with alcohol levels almost the same as beer. What gives? By New Zealand law, a non-alcoholic drink must have less than 1.15% alcohol by content. Anything more than that is considered alcoholic and must be sold in the beer/wine section of the supermarket. This particular kombucha maker got into a lot of trouble by allowing alcohol levels to climb so high, not once, but twice! So, what happened?
Where Does the Alcohol Come From?
Natural kombucha is made by fermenting tea. During the fermentation process, yeast consume sugar and produce gas (the bubbles in your drink) and some alcohol. The more sugar in the drink the more alcohol the yeast will produce. By keeping sugar levels very low, we avoid this problem of having too sweet of a kombucha with the risk of higher than desired alcohol production.
It Can Still All Go Wrong in the Bottle
The other area we pay particular attention to is our bottling process. All our bottles are first purged of oxygen before they are filled with kombucha. The yeast in kombucha need oxygen to ferment so by carefully purging each bottle we remove that element and fermentation stops. If there is oxygen in the bottle the kombucha will continue to ferment – and continue to produce alcohol, lots of alcohol if there is lots of sugar.
We don’t mass produce our kombucha and we take extreme care in the brewing and the bottling process to keep alcohol at safe levels. We know this is true as we regularly lab test our alcohol and it ranges between 0.4 and 0.8%, so low you don’t even know it is there.