Is Kombucha Safe for Children?
Kombucha has become wildly popular in the last few years and can be found at most grocery stores (and Target!). But, as with many newer health food items, there can be concerns about whether this probiotic drink is safe for children.
Why are people uneasy about underage consumption? Most apprehension comes from the trace amounts of alcohol that can be found in kombucha.
During the fermentation process, bacteria and yeast consume sugar from a mixture of sweet tea. This gives kombucha its acidity, as well as the vitamins and probiotic content that promote a healthy gut and brain.
What the Experts Say
Alcohol is a natural side effect of the fermenting process. A bottle of store-bought kombucha contains less than 0.5% of alcohol. This is similar to the amount found in certain fruit juices, ripe fruits, and vinegar. With that in mind, many dietitians believe drinking moderate amounts (4-8oz) of kombucha daily or throughout the week is safe for children and adults. Parents should always use their discretion for what their children consume.
Note: Individuals with chronic illness or auto-immune issues should always refer to a doctor before consuming probiotic foods.
How to Lower Home-Brew Kombucha Alcohol Content
Store-bought kombucha is regulated to ensure alcohol content stays below 0.5%. Homebrewers have a harder time monitoring alcohol levels.
Here are 4 tips to lower the alcohol level when homebrewing:
Shorten the 2nd Fermentation
The longer the kombucha ferments, the higher the alcohol level will be. When brewing at home, shorten the second fermentation phase and refrigerate sooner. Although this may sacrifice some of the carbonation, it will keep the alcohol content at a safe amount. The kombucha will still absorb flavors of fruit, honey or herbs inside while refrigerated.
Limit the Amount of yeast
In general, increased amounts of yeast in your homebrew will mean higher alcohol content. You can ease up on the yeast by using a clean SCOBY and filtering out excess amounts of stringy yeast from your mixture.
Use Weaker Starter Liquid
Another way to keep the alcohol at bay is to use starter liquid from the top of your last batch. This way none of the stronger sediment that usually sits at the bottom of the brew will be included. You can also use a weaker tea. Experimenting with a mixture of green and white tea or using fewer tea bags will mean lower tannins and less alcohol content.
Control the Brew Temperature
Brewing at an average temp of 72-73F will also help lower the alcohol content of your kombucha. Yeast flourishes in higher temperatures so keeping your brew at the lower range will slow the yeast from growing and allow the bacteria and probiotics to become stronger. This will slow alcohol build up as well.
Caffeine in Kombucha
There are also concerns about the amount of caffeine found in kombucha drinks. Generally, each batch of kombucha ends up with 1/3 the amount of caffeine the brew started with.
On average, kombucha made with black tea will have 10-20mg of caffeine. Green tea kombucha may have closer to 2-3mg of caffeine. For reference, a tall Starbucks decaf coffee will have 15mg of caffeine.
We recommend brewing with organic green tea for your family kombucha if you are concerned about the caffeine content. The tannins in tea feed the culture and are necessary for healthy acidity levels. But for children or teens, the best option is to buy kombucha brewed with green or white tea. Consuming it earlier in the day will give a healthy boost of natural energy and won't hurt sleep patterns.
Kombucha Benefits for Kids and Teens:
The sugar used during the fermentation process is actually food for the SCOBY culture. So, by the end of the process, you have a yummy drink that’s low in sugar.
This makes kombucha a great alternative to soda. Kombucha is a carbonated drink with a fun, bubbly taste. But, it’s also high in nutrients. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals, and a ton of other gut-healthy probiotics.
Soda drinks can cause inflammation, obesity, and disease. Not what we want our kids to be dealing with.
Kombucha can actually help control sugar cravings and increase natural energy levels in children. It is also an easy way to get an extra serving of fruits loaded with antioxidants!
Many store-bought kombucha brands pack their drinks with fruits and herbs. Reach for one of these and your body will thank you.
Note: Here's another great way to introduce kombucha into your child or teen’s diet. Add a few ounces of cold-pressed organic juices to a few ounces of store-bought kombucha. This ensures more vitamins and immune health while slowly incorporating kombucha.
Also good to note: hard kombucha brands like Boochcraft and June Shine have an alcohol content between 3 to 8 percent. They are sold as alternatives to beer and cider. Save these for Netflix and chill after the kids go to bed!