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Does Kombucha Go Bad If It Gets Warm? (Why Temperature Matters)

Does Kombucha Go Bad If It Gets Warm? (Why Temperature Matters)
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Out of all the different drinks out there, there are very few that are as finicky as kombucha tends to be.

Not only does kombucha have a double fermentation process, but you often need to care for it well after the time when you have finished with the fermentation, unless you want to deal with a health drink becoming something that nobody wants to drink.

In fact, even between brands, the way that you should store and care for kombucha is going to vary wildly.

If you are just getting into kombucha, there are a few things that you are going to need to note. First, you will want to make sure that you know how to care for your kombucha.

This means that you should have a good idea of where you want to store the kombucha and you will want to have the space for it. Second, you will want to make sure that you know the dos and don’ts of storing kombucha, because of how finicky it can be.

For many people who are first getting into kombucha, one of the biggest problems is going to be making sure that the kombucha stays at the right temperature.

Because of its nature, kombucha almost always needs to be stored in a cold environment once it has been properly fermented for the first pass.

This means that if you leave your kombucha out for too long, you may no longer have kombucha in the bottle. The only question then becomes, how long is too long?

Before you can work on answering that question, you need to have a firm understanding of what is going on inside the kombucha, and why it is so important for you to store your kombucha in the fridge for as much time as you can before you plan on drinking it.

Why Does the Temperature Matter So Much?

If you did not know about how kombucha is made, the process is very similar to that of beer or wine. The beginning part of the fermentation is where you will introduce a SCOBY into your kombucha base (often sugar and either green or black tea).

A SCOBY quite literally stands for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria (and) Yeast,” and it is composed of exactly that.

Adding the SCOBY to the base and allowing it to sit at room temperature for one to three weeks is going to be the first part about fermenting kombucha. The fact that it needs a room temperature to ferment is going to be key, as this is the temperature where the bacteria and fungi that turn kombucha into what it is thrive the most.

This is why it is so important not to disturb the kombucha during this phase either, as you will want to ensure that it properly ferments so that you can get all of the health benefits from it.

Once the kombucha has been properly fermented, the bacteria inside of it aren’t going to know when it is time to stop so that you can put it into bottles that are ready to go with you anywhere you need to go.

If you let the kombucha ferment for too long, you are going to end up turning the kombucha into vinegar, and this is not the kind of drink that anyone wants to deal with. This is where the cold temperatures become as important as they do when it comes to kombucha.

When bacteria and fungi are in temperatures that are too low for them to be active, they don’t simply shut down and stop moving. Instead, when introduced to the environment of the fridge, they will slow down immensely.

This is what allows you to keep the kombucha in the fridge for a while without needing to filter out any of the SCOBY that still remains. This is also the reason why, despite not necessarily ever going bad, most people add a best-by date to kombucha, as the SCOBY is still active, just slowed down.

As you might be able to imagine, because of how important it is for you to keep the kombucha cold after the first bout of the fermentation process, when you leave the kombucha out in a warm environment for too long, you can assume what the problem would be.

Without the cold environment to keep the SCOBY underactive, it will begin fermenting again, and you are brought back to the same problem of over fermentation leading to a bottle of vinegar, rather than a bottle of kombucha.

This is also why, while the kombucha will no longer be what you wanted it to be, it will never necessarily “go bad” in the sense of becoming moldy or inedible.

Instead, it will become a product far from what you originally wanted, although it would be completely safe to drink or utilize the vinegar that came from a failed kombucha.

A Note About Brands and Homebrews

When it comes to making your own kombucha, you may not know what to expect at first, and this is perfectly fine. After all, you don’t have to know everything when you are first starting on a project.

With the context of making sure that your kombucha stays the right temperature, whenever you are making your own kombucha, you will want to err on the side of caution and you will want to make sure that you always keep the kombucha in the fridge until you are ready to drink it.

On the other hand, you may not always have to do this with certain brands of kombucha. Because kombucha and the other teas associated with it are becoming more and more popular for people all around the world, more and more companies are looking for ways to make kombucha more accessible to the public.

This means that some companies may add ingredients or filter out the SCOBY entirely from their kombucha to say that the kombucha doesn’t require refrigeration.

Chances are that if a brand of kombucha says that it does not require refrigeration to stay fresh, you can usually believe this. If you can, you will still want to try and drink the kombucha whenever you can, as this will prevent anything else from growing inside of it, as it has been shown that kombucha has quite the hospitable environment.

As long as your kombucha doesn’t clearly state that it can be kept outside of a fridge, you should always opt to be on the safer side and choose to put your kombucha into a colder environment when you are not planning on drinking it at the time.

How Long Can You Keep Kombucha Out of the Fridge?

Disregarding the brands of kombucha that brag about how they do not require constant refrigeration in the same way that most other kombucha drinks do, you may want to keep in mind a rough estimate of how long you could keep your kombucha out of the fridge.

Everyone has those days where they might leave a drink in the car or may forget to put something back.

Usually, leaving your kombucha out for a day or even two days at a time is not going to have immediate and drastic results, such as turning the kombucha into pure vinegar. The process of fermentation takes a lot more time than that, and it is more likely that your kombucha will simply have a higher amount of carbonation after these days.

Keep in mind that when fermenting kombucha for the first time, you will usually need to wait between one and three weeks before it is complete. Compared to that timeline, leaving your kombucha out overnight is not going to be that dangerous.

With that being said, if you accidentally leave your kombucha out in the car during a summer afternoon, you may have more to worry about than the kombucha having a bit more carbonation than normal.

At temperatures that are exceeding 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius), the SCOBY will begin to die off. This will leave only the yeast in the brew, leading to a disgusting taste and not something that anyone should ever have to experience.

In fact, there are many people who argue that 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) is going to be enough to kill off the SCOBY, and in many cases, this may very well be true.

Some variants of the SCOBY, depending on its health, may be able to withstand this type of temperature for a little bit at a time but this is not something that you should count on.

This means that if you have left your kombucha in the car on a hot summer midday, you may have to worry about filtering out the dead SCOBY and potentially starting anew with your kombucha.

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