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Why Does Kombucha Taste Like Vinegar?

As is the case for many foods and drinks, kombucha has been around for thousands of years, but thanks to the internet, this fermented drink is gaining popularity worldwide. 

Out of all the drinks we still consume after thousands of years of being around, kombucha is one of the most bizarre. Its combination of yeast, sugar, tea, and bacteria results in a drink in the same league as soda, but with a flavourful acidity, some describe like vinegar.

However, kombucha should not taste entirely like vinegar, so why is it that yours does? 

Your kombucha tastes like vinegar because it has been fermented too long, allowing the build-up of too much acetic acid — a key component in vinegar. Kombucha with more than 1% acetic acid will likely taste like vinegar. 

How Long Do You Ferment Kombucha?

Okay, so if vinegar-adjacent tasting kombucha is due to being fermented for too long then how long exactly should you be fermenting your kombucha at home? 

Most kombucha manufacturers will have their own secret formula and amount of time that they like to ferment their kombucha, so you may not be able to make a drink that resembles the precise taste of the kombucha that you can buy in stores.

However, after so many years of trial and error with homemade kombucha recipes, there is a general consensus that 10-14 days is the perfect time to ferment your kombucha before it turns into vinegar. 

Fermenting Kombucha

How long you leave your kombucha to ferment within that allotted time depends on how you like your kombucha to taste. For a sweeter drink, stick to 10 days, but for a more acidic kick, allow a full 2 weeks. 

How to Know Kombucha Is Ready 

There is really only one way to know when your kombucha is ready to drink and that is to taste test it.

Sure, you could get all scientific and buy various pieces of equipment to check the acetic acid level in your kombucha to determine if your drink is ready, but to ensure that your kombucha is just the right balance of flavours that you love, you should taste test it as it ferments. 

Don’t worry; it is safe to taste-test your kombucha pretty much as soon as you make it, even with the yeast and bacteria that you add to the drink.

It may not taste that different from sweet tea, but it will not harm you. Likewise, it is safe to taste test your kombucha as it ferments, and you should do. Otherwise, you risk over-fermenting your kombucha and having it taste like vinegar. 

What Temperature Should You Ferment Kombucha?

Another big reason your kombucha may taste too much like vinegar could be the conditions in which you fermented the drink.

Like any fermented food or drink, everything from the moisture content of the room to the type of bottle you ferment your kombucha in will affect the final result.

In the case of kombucha, it is the temperature at which you leave the kombucha to ferment that will have the biggest impact on its taste. 

Essentially, the hotter the conditions in which you ferment your kombucha, the quicker that it will ferment.

This is because the yeast and bacteria used to make kombucha thrive in warmer conditions, so speed the fermenting process.

If you have not properly regulated the temperate of the room in which you ferment your kombucha in then it will quickly cross the boundary between an acidic tang and a full-on vinegar taste without you even realising. 

On the other hand, leaving your kombucha to ferment in a place that is too cold will not taste like vinegar. In fact, it will not change its taste at all.

The yeast and bacteria in kombucha are as sensitive to the cold as they are to the warmth, but unlike warmer temperatures, the cold will prevent the bacteria from being to work their magic and will stop the kombucha from fermenting. 

With all that in mind, the best temperature to ferment your kombucha is between 18 C and 24 C. So long as your fermenting conditions do not exceed or fall under these temperatures, you will not have to worry about vinegary or overly sweet kombucha. 

How To Stop Kombucha Tasting Like Vinegar

The good news is that even if you fail to check on your kombucha for a few days or ferment the drink in too warm a condition and your kombucha develops that horrid vinegar taste, there are a few ways to make the drink taste delicious again: 

Sweeten It

By far the easiest way to make kombucha palatable again is to add some extra sweetness to balance out the overly acidic taste.

Sweetness is a natural counter taste for the kind of acidity that vinegar has; better yet, sweetness is a big part of the flavour of kombucha. 

You can add some extra sweetener in any way, from honey to plain sugar. Or you can use some pre-made sweet tea to ensure your kombucha remains tasteful. Remember to taste test your kombucha as you fix it to prevent making the drink overly sweet. 

Dilute It

Like with anything with too much vinegar-like acidity, you can just add some water to dilute the intensity of the acidity. This will save you from having to start the whole drink-making process all over again. 

You will probably still want to add some extra sweetener to the kombucha if you dilute it to ensure the drink doesn’t lose its flavour completely. 

Vinegary Kombucha FAQs

If you still have questions about kombucha and the fact it tastes like vinegar, then these FAQs might help:

What Should Kombucha Taste Like?

Kombucha should taste tart and slightly sweet, with a flavour profile similar to a sour sparkling apple cider or ginger ale. The taste can vary depending on the brand or fermentation length and can range from sour to slightly sweet.

Is Kombucha Basically Vinegar?

No, kombucha is not basically vinegar. While both are fermented, kombucha is made from sweetened tea, sugar, and a SCOBY, while vinegar is made by fermenting alcohol or other sugars.


We have verified the information on this page using the following resources:

Great British Chefs

Holland and Barratt

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