Hard Kombucha: What to Know & Brands to Try

Published March 17, 2020
Kombucha fermented drink

All kombucha contains a small amount of alcohol (less than 0.5% alcohol by volume) as a byproduct of the fermentation process, so it is categorized as a non-alcoholic beverage unless it's hard kombucha. Hard kombucha adds an extra few weeks of fermentation, raising the alcohol by volume (ABV) to between 4 and around 7%, so it is an alcoholic beverage.

Facts About Hard Kombucha

Hard kombucha is a tea intentionally fermented to be an alcoholic beverage. Its alcohol by volume is similar to that of beer after the additional two weeks of fermentation time.

  • Kombucha originated in China around 2,000 years ago.
  • Kombucha relies on a different type of bacteria and yeast for fermentation than other fermented products, which is why it may confer health benefits.
  • Kombucha is fermented with a mixture called SCOBY which stands for symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
  • SCOBY is the same culture used to ferment milk into yogurt and cabbage into kimchi.
  • To get the additional alcohol content, extra sugar and yeast are added to further the fermentation process in order to create an alcoholic beverage.
  • While kombucha is sometimes called mushroom tea, it doesn't actually contain any mushrooms. The SCOBY looks like a mushroom.
  • While hard kombucha is NOT a beer, in some cases, laws require manufacturers to use the word "beer" on the label.

Ingredients in Hard Kombucha

Different manufacturers may add different ingredients to their hard kombucha, but most have some general similarities in ingredients. Likely ingredients in hard kombucha include:

  • Tea
  • Water
  • Some type of sugar (honey, cane sugar)
  • Yeast
  • Alcohol
  • Flavorings

The sugar and yeast ferment to make the alcohol, and some sugar may remain or be added to add sweetness to the beverage. However, added sugar won't continue to ferment into a higher alcohol by volume unless more yeast is added as well. Hard kombucha may also contain a small amount of caffeine from the tea used to make it, as well as anything associated with the ingredients used to flavor it.

Hard Kombucha Is Naturally Gluten-Free

Unless gluten-containing ingredients are added to flavor the kombucha, or it is manufactured on equipment that also manufactures gluten-containing products, hard kombucha is a naturally gluten-free alternative to beer, which does contain gluten.

Calories and Carbs in Hard Kombucha

The number of carbs in hard kombucha depends on how much of the sugar remains after fermentation and whether the manufacturer adds additional sugar for sweetness. In general, you can expect hard kombucha to have around 5 to 13g of carbohydrate per serving, so it is not a low-carbohydrate alcoholic beverage. Calories may range depending on the manufacturer and type of hard kombucha, but you can anticipate each 8 ounce serving will have around 100 calories.

Health Benefits of Hard Kombucha

While hard kombucha isn't a miracle beverage, because it is fermented, it may have some health benefits as a result of the fermentation. The fermentation process produces probiotic bacteria, which can be beneficial for gut health. It also helps to recolonize your gut with good bacteria, which can be killed off because of the standard Western diet as well as due to ingestion of antibiotics. Other potential benefits of probiotics and kombucha:

  • They may help reduce inflammation.
  • They can improve digestion and gut health.
  • They may protect against bad bacteria colonization in your gut.
  • Some studies suggest kombucha may help reduce cholesterol.
  • Some studies show kombucha contains antioxidants that may help improve liver function.

Health Risks of Hard Kombucha

Of course, hard kombucha is an alcoholic beverage, so all risks associated with consuming alcohol are inherent with hard kombucha. Additionally, homemade hard kombucha may be over fermented, or it can be contaminated by pathogens if it is incorrectly brewed at home or not enough attention is paid to equipment sterilization processes. It may also contain as many as 13g of sugars, so it may not be appropriate for people who need to manage sugar or carb intake.

3 Hard Kombucha Brands

There are several brands that make hard kombucha. The brand you choose may depend on what's available locally. However, the following brands do make various types of hard kombucha.


Kombrewcha makes organic, fair trade hard kombucha with an ABV of 4.4%. It contains 120 calories and 7 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can. Flavors include:

  • Berry hibiscus
  • Royal ginger
  • Lemongrass lime

Wild Tonic Jun

Wild Tonic Jun is a hard kombucha fermented with SCOBY and honey. It has 5.6% or 7.6% ABV and contains prebiotics and probiotics. Flavors include:

  • Blueberry basil
  • Raspberry goji rose
  • Mango ginger
  • Blackberry mint
  • Tropical turmeric
  • Hoppy buzz
  • Wild love (blackberry lavender)
  • Dancing naked (Zinfandel)
  • Mind spank (coffee, chocolate, and maple)
  • Backwoods bliss (toffee, caramel, maple)

KYLA Hard Kombucha

KYLA kombucha contains 4.5% ABV. It has 100 calories and 2 grams or fewer of sugar, so it's a lower carb hard kombucha. Flavors include:

  • Ginger tangerine
  • Hibiscus lime
  • Pink grapefruit
  • Berry ginger

Try Hard Kombucha

Hard kombucha is an effervescent tea. Sometimes, it may have a slight vinegar taste depending on the brewing process. However, with interesting flavors and moderate ABV, it's a great, flavorful, gluten-free alternative to beer.

Hard Kombucha: What to Know & Brands to Try