As kombucha becomes increasingly popular the number of myths continues to pile up. Because kombucha is easy to brew at home, a lot of amateur brewers are starting to offer advice that is just plain wrong. When you begin to combine the popularity with the sheer number of homebrewers the line between fact and fiction begins to blur.
While some of these myths are harmless, some are actually costing people money (for example, cultures that don’t work) or discouraging them from trying kombucha altogether.
This is a shame and completely unnecessary. Let’s set the record straight.
1. Kombucha Is High In Sugar
I can see why this myth exists. For anyone brewing their own kombucha at home, it’s hard to ignore the amount of sugar you use during the fermentation process. But the truth is, this sugar is primarily used for feeding the yeast during fermentation.
In fact, around 90% of the sugar is used up during brewing, only leaving around 10% left over for taste.
Of course, with the recent commercialization of kombucha, there have been a number of different brands that have been pushing up the sugar content. That’s why I usually recommend most people just try brewing their own. It doesn’t take too much effort and you will be saving money in the long run.
Plus, you get to control exactly what goes into your brew!
2. Kombucha Is Full Of Caffeine
This is the second most common myth I see floating around the brewing community. Again, it almost makes sense. The most common tea used in brewing kombucha is black tea. And when black tea is brewed outside of kombucha it contains a significant amount of caffeine. But again, the brewing process comes to our rescue.
I should note that the amount of caffeine is going to vary from each recipe and brewing process. But as a general rule of thumb, the brewing process usually cuts the amount of caffeine by 2/3.
The sugar and caffeine amounts in your kombucha are going to depend on how long you let it brew. If you want a reduction in both, just keep the brew running for a little longer.
You can also try using herbal teas if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine.
3. Kombucha Is An Alcoholic Drink
Alcohol and fermentation go hand in hand. So again, this myth is partially based in reality. The truth of the matter is that the alcohol levels in kombucha are so small that they can’t be considered an alcoholic drink. National standards dictate that the alcohol content in the beverage can’t go over 0.5% – which is usually the case for kombucha.
You may find the odd homebrew that has around 1% alcohol content, but if you are sensitive then I just recommend cutting back on the brewing time.
4. Scoby Will Go Bad If Not Refrigerated
It’s natural for us to think that something eatable will turn bad if we don’t refrigerate it. But the truth is, when it comes to scoby, nothing is further from the truth. In fact, placing scoby in the fridge will likely do a lot of harm than good.
I sometimes hear people suggesting that placing the scoby in the fridge will put the scoby “to sleep” and allow you to store it for much longer time periods. Or, the scoby will “pickle” itself over time so you should refrigerate it to slow this process. Unfortunately, this is not true. It’s far more likely that your scoby will develop mold if refrigerated. This is the easiest way to totally ruin your batch of kombucha.
It turns out that the scoby is already “asleep” and will only be reactivated when fed a bunch of sugar.
It’s much more preferable to store the scoby is a dark, warm, dry place.
If you’ve happened to store your scoby in the fridge it doesn’t mean it is beyond repair. I recommend bringing them back to room temperature and feeding them sweet tea. Try a few batches and see if they bounce back!
5. It’s Okay To Use Dehydrated Scoby
Similar to placing your scoby in the fridge, the most likely outcome of using dehydrated scoby is mold. Remember, scoby is a living organism. It has natural protections in place against mold. Depriving the scoby of water, or cooling it down too much, will weaken this natural protection and allow mold to develop during the brewing process.
Not to mention that the rehydration process usually takes around 4-6 weeks to fully complete.
If your batch starts to develop mold, it is most likely because your scoby was stored in a cool environment, or it was deprived of water. Remember, try to only source your scoby from a trusted source who knows how to treat it right!
6. Raw Vinegar Can Be Used To Replace Kombucha When Storing Scoby
If you can’t use mature kombucha tea to pass on your scoby babies some people have suggested that raw vinegar can be substituted instead. Raw vinegar is full of its own cultures of bacteria that aren’t likely to get along with the bacteria in the scoby. This has the potential to lead to strange tasting batches.
Pasteurized vinegar doesn’t contain any bacteria, but it doesn’t support the new culture nearly as well as a healthy batch of kombucha tea. Instead, it provides an acidic environment that prevents the growth of mold.
If you have to you can use distilled or pasteurized vinegar, but don’t expect the kombucha to taste the same.
7. All Ceramic Brewing Vessels Are Bad
Certain ceramic brewing vessels can be very unhealthy to use to brew your kombucha. These include any pottery pieces or ceramics that contain glazes. The interaction between the kombucha and the container may result in lead, or other contaminants, leaching into the brew.
This is the same for any metal containers other than food-grade stainless steel.
If you would like to use ceramics, make sure you sure stick with food-grade porcelain.
Most of the myths above are partially correct. It seems they easily get blown out of proportion or exaggerated by fearful homebrewers. Brewing kombucha at home is completely safe as long as you are preventing any mold from entering your brew.
I hope this post has help disspelled any of the missinformation being passed around the community. If you have any others, please leave them in the comment section below!