This is how healthy your hard kombucha really is

Maybe you're a fan of kombucha for its fizzy flavor and gut-soothing effects. These days, however, the drink is more than just a daytime thirst-quencher—some varieties have higher alcohol content and are better suited for happy hour. But is hard kombucha good for you, too?

Kombucha, a beverage made by fermenting sweetened green, black or white tea with a specific culture of bacteria and yeast, is known for its gut-strengthening benefits, said nutritional science researcher Dr. Neha Shah. It contains bacteria, which studies show have probiotic effects and help protect against harmful microorganisms. Shah says a good balance of healthy bacteria can go on to improve digestion, immune function, and even mental health. Because it is a fermented beverage, all kombucha (including non-hard varieties) contains trace amounts of alcohol (0.5% alcohol by volume or less).

If you walk into a beverage store or the beer section of a grocery store, you'll find hard kombucha, a higher-alcohol version of kombucha and a beverage category that's booming. This wine undergoes a long fermentation process and has an alcohol content of 4.5% to 7%, which is between the alcohol content of beer and wine. Shah says that while this can help you achieve your desired level of intoxication, the extra alcohol in the drink may kill some or all of the beneficial bacteria kombucha loves. Final Results? There are even fewer of these health benefits.

Shah tells Bustle that while there's a lack of research on whether hard kombucha supports gut health, it may be a better choice than the usual mixed drinks. It's naturally gluten-free and lower in carbs, sugar and calories per serving than beer and common cocktails like margaritas and cranberry vodka. If you're concerned about alcohol content or certain ingredients, be sure to check the label, as recipes can vary from brand to brand. Although the extra alcohol may diminish its probiotic effects, hard kombucha still contains the vitamins and antioxidants found in the regular variety—so it's a good choice if you're looking for a healthier beverage option.

Still, Shah adds, hard kombucha suffers from all the usual drawbacks of drinking alcohol. Drinking too much at one time (which for women means more than one drink a day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture) can give you a nasty hangover. Long-term excessive drinking can cause liver damage and weakened immune function.

If you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or have liver or kidney disease, avoid strong kombucha the same way you would any other alcoholic beverage, Shah says. She also warned not to drink the drink if you are immunocompromised or elderly, as it is not always pasteurized and can cause food poisoning if not handled properly.

"As with anything, moderation is key," Shah said. So remember to enjoy your sparkling wine responsibly.

Research references:

Chakravorty, S. (2016). Kombucha fermentation: microbial and biochemical dynamics. International Journal of Food Microbiology,

Hemarajata, P. (2013). Effects of probiotics on intestinal microbiota: intestinal immunomodulatory and neuromodulatory mechanisms. Advances in Gastroenterology Treatment,

Liangponsaku, S. (2013). What advice do we give people with NAFLD about drinking alcohol? American Journal of Gastroenterology,

Marsh, A. (2014). Sequence-based analysis of the bacterial and fungal composition of multiple kombucha (tea fungus) samples. Food Microbiology,

Murugesan, G. (2009). Hepatoprotective and therapeutic properties of kombucha against carbon tetrachloride-induced toxicity. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology,

Sriramulu, G. (2000). Kombucha fermentation and its antimicrobial activity. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry,


Dr. Neha Shah is a nutritional science researcher and director of the non-profit Pulmonary Fibrosis!

Editor's note: This article was updated from the original version on April 22, 2021