Does Kombucha Go Bad?

There’s a bottle of kombucha sitting in the fridge for quite some time. It’s nearing the date on the label, and you’re not quite sure if it’s still safe to drink. Does kombucha go bad?

Or maybe you’re making kombucha using a starter, and you aren’t sure how long you can store the fermented drink.

There are quite a few brands offering kombucha. And storage and shelf life information about kombucha can get a little confusing.

Some producers ask you to keep unopened bottles refrigerated, while others say it’s okay to keep them in the pantry

In this article, I try to straighten out these issues. We will go through storage, shelf life, and going bad of kombucha.

If you’re interested, read on.

Bottle of kombucha in hand

How to Store Kombucha?

Let’s start with store-bought kombucha. As I already noted in the intro, storing commercially bottled kombucha can be confusing.

Some brands, like Cathy’s Kombucha, say you can store it at room temperature for half a year without any ill effects. On the other hand, we have GT’s kombucha and many others, that require refrigeration.

The best way to go about that is unless the bottle says you can leave it at room temperature, keep it refrigerated.

Tip

If you don’t refrigerate kombucha, keep the bottle away from sunlight and any sources of heat. Both can compromise the living cultures in the drink.

Glass of kombucha
Glass of kombucha

Kombucha is a cultured food rich in probiotics, similarly to kefir and yogurt.

Those cultures tend to get much more active at room temperature, and that can result in excess carbonation and a tart taste. In extreme cases, kombucha can literally turn into vinegar, and that’s definitely not what you want.

Please note, however, that if the producer says you can keep their drink (which is basically fermented tea) in the pantry or the kitchen, feel free to do so.

That means they’ve processed the kombucha in a way that makes it safe to store at room temp for a prolonged period.

Kombucha after pouring
Kombucha after pouring, notice the foam on top

When it comes to homemade kombucha, you store it in the fridge, just like you do with most brands of its store-bought counterpart.

Of course, you transfer it to the refrigerator once you’re done fermenting it. That’s because the cold temperature slows down the fermentation process significantly (and that’s why we typically store the kombucha in the fridge).

Bottle of rooibos kombucha
Bottle of rooibos kombucha

How Long Does Kombucha Last

Store-bought kombucha usually comes with a best-by date on the label. Since it’s already a fermented product, it can easily last quite a long time past the date on the label.

With time, its flavor will gradually alter – it will turn more acidic.

Tip

If your kombucha is room temperature friendly, and you expect to store it beyond the date on the label, put it in the fridge. There it should retain its flavor for at least a few months past that date.

Once you open the bottle, you should probably drink the beverage within a week or so for optimal flavor and carbonation level. It won’t go bad if stored properly, but the taste will degrade over time.

Two glasses of kombucha
Two glasses of kombucha

When it comes to homemade kombucha, you should find the shelf life in the recipe or starter kit you’re using.

Generally, it’ll probably be a few months when stored in the fridge. For example, Oregon Kombucha informs that you can store it for at least 3 months in the fridge.

If a specific period isn’t given, you can assume that the quality should be good for at least a month or two, and over time it might start to taste old and not that flavorful.

 Fridge
Commercially-bottled kombucha (unopened)Date on the label + 2 – 3 months
Commercially-bottled kombucha (opened)1 week
Homemade kombucha1 -3 months

Please note that the periods above are estimates and for the best quality only. Kombucha can last much longer if stored properly, although the flavor might not be that great.

Kombucha sediment near the surface
Kombucha sediment near the surface, perfectly normal

How to Tell If Kombucha Has Gone Bad?

Since kombucha is fermented, it’s already “bad,” at least technically.

But over time certain qualities of the drink change, and in some situations, you might prefer to either discard it or use for other purposes.

While mold forming in the bottle or near the cap occurs very rarely, if it happens, just discard the beverage.

Kombucha sediment on bottom
Kombucha sediment on the bottom, nothing to stress about
Info

The fermentation of kombucha never stops.

Any floaties and strands are living cultures, and their presence is perfectly normal. It’s just like with vinegar that’s stored for a long time, where it starts to form vinegar mother on its own.

All in all, if there aren’t any obvious signs of spoilage, like mold or off odor, feel free to take a sip to check its taste.

If it’s overly tart and almost vinegar-like, you probably won’t want to drink it. Unless, of course, you’re into really acidic beverages.

Fortunately, there are other ways you can use over-fermented kombucha.