What Is Hard Kombucha and Is It Actually Gut-Friendly?

Kombucha has surfed the health craze wave right into the 21st century. Also called mushroom tea (even though there are no mushrooms in the mix), there are a number of purported health benefits—it allegedly cures everything from constipation to arthritis and anything in between. Why not make it alcoholic so you can feel really chill out while you are supposedly fixing your gut? (More on that theory later.) Yep, hard kombucha exists and it is taking up more and more real estate in the grocery store all the time. So, let’s talk about it.  

What is hard kombucha?

Regular kombucha is a fermented tea that has some bubbles in it, similar to seltzer. Due to its fermentation process, there is a negligible amount of alcohol produced in the tea; it’s as little as 0.5% ABV, hardly enough to feel any of the effects. But sometimes, bottled kombucha would have wildly different alcohol contents, which led to many producers of the beverage to recalibrate their recipes so they wouldn’t get nabbed illegally selling “alcohol.” Of course, capitalistic ingenuity stuck its little finger in the kombucha bottle and said, “Hey, let’s actually make a hard version of this.” And hard kombucha was born.

Hard kombucha has an ABV of 3.5% to 8% on average—about the equivalent of a standard beer. And it has grown in popularity so much that massive companies like PepsiCo and Molson Coors are producing their own brands.

How is hard kombucha made?

Kombucha is made first by brewing tea in sugar water. Once it is steeped, brewers add a combination of yeast and bacteria to the mix, which initiates the fermentation process. The yeast and bacteria eat the sugar in the tea, creating both alcohol and effervescence. After a few rounds of fermentation, the tea is strained and bottled for consumption.

Since this process already naturally produces alcohol, it’s an easy step to make kombucha even more alcoholic. Longer fermentation and more sugar naturally creates more alcohol in the kombucha. Think of hard kombucha as the Charizard to kombucha’s Charmeleon. It’s just the next step in its evolutionary phase.

Does hard kombucha have caffeine?

As a tea, hard kombucha is naturally caffeinated, but it is significantly less caffeinated than regular tea and other caffeinated beverages. You’re looking at about 15 mg of caffeine versus a cup of tea which can have over 40 mg, or a 12-oz Coke’s 34 mg. So if you’re worried about drinking a hard kombucha close to your bedtime, you’re probably in the clear.

Is hard kombucha gluten free?

Nearly all commercially produced hard kombucha is gluten free, which makes it a great alternative to beer. However, as is the case with all mass-produced food, check the labels. 

Does hard kombucha have probiotics?

The drink is advertised as having probiotics thanks to the bacteria added during the fermentation process, which has made it very popular for gut health. However, there’s so little research to back up this claim, so if you are basing your entire gut health and wellbeing on kombucha, you might want to rethink that. 

Regardless, it is believed that hard kombucha has little to no probiotics because the bacteria cannot withstand the alcohol content. And it has been extensively proven that alcohol is not good for gut health. So, when you choose a hard kombucha, have it because you like the taste or because it has fewer calories than a beer, but don’t kid yourself about the health benefits. Sorry to be such a kombucha downer!

best hard kombucha

Best Hard Kombucha

Now that you know all about hard kombucha, find out what the best hard kombucha is. We cracked open fizzy can after fizzy can to find the best ones for you.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

Thoughts? Questions? Complete disagreement? Leave a comment!

Your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *