A question that comes up often is whether or not kombucha needs to be kept in the fridge.

Does kombucha need to be refrigerated

Does Kombucha Have to be Refrigerated?

It depends. The answer will vary depending on whether you’re asking about store-bought or homemade kombucha. We’ll cover both. So let’s get started with whether or not you need to refrigerate store-bought kombucha.  

Does Store Bought Kombucha Need to be Refrigerated?

  • Raw kombucha? Yes, it needs to be refrigerated and kept cold even before opening. Treat it with the same respect we give milk.
  • Pasteurized kombucha? No, it does not need to be refrigerated until opened. Treat it like juice from the grocery store shelf, store at room temperature, and refrigerate after opening. 

Raw kombucha: All store-bought “raw” kombucha needs to be kept cold, and it needs to remain cold even before opening the bottle. Raw kombucha contains a live culture and is unpasteurized. Refrigeration is required to keep the culture dormant, basically asleep. If the kombuchas temperature is allowed to rise, the culture will begin fermenting any sugars remaining in the bottle. As it ferments, the flavor profile will change making it more acidic. Eventually, it will resemble vinegar. In addition, the fermentation process will release CO2 in the bottle, and with nowhere to escape, the pressure builds inside the bottle creating a super carbonated drink. If you are lucky and catch it in time, it will just geyser out of the bottle when you open it. In more extreme cases, the bottles will explode creating what we call in the brewing industry a “Bottle Bomb.” The bottom line: keep raw kombucha in the fridge. 

Pasteurized kombucha is shelf-stable and can kombucha be stored at room temperature. It will only need to be kept refrigerated after the bottle has been opened. Pasteurization is a process that uses heat to kill microbes in food products to increase their shelf life. This is a good thing for killing harmful bacteria. The problem is, pasteurization also kills beneficial bacteria and yeast found in kombucha. By removing the living bacteria, it eliminates the health benefits provided by drinking kombucha. Knowing this, some kombucha manufacturers have then added probiotics back into the kombucha after being pasteurized. 

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Does Homemade Kombucha Need to be Refrigerated?

When it comes to homemade kombucha, we get asked about refrigeration on each step of the brewing process. The four main stages consist of storing your SCOBY, primary fermentation, secondary fermentation, and finished kombucha. 

How do I store my SCOBY?

Your kombucha culture or SCOBY is shelf-stable, so it doesn’t require refrigeration. If you just bought a SCOBY, It’s best to keep it at room temperature until you are ready to brew. If you are in-between brews, just store it in a jar with a cloth cover much the same as your primary fermentation. This is the same idea as a SCOBY hotel.

Related Post:

How to Make a SCOBY Hotel

Kombucha First Fermentation, Second Fermentation & Refrigeration

To be thorough, the first fermentation and secondary fermentation are never refrigerated. The optimum temperature for brewing kombucha is between 75-85 F. The kombucha culture will slow as the temperature drops and evenly to a halt when you put it in the fridge. This is called hibernation or dormancy, in the brewing industry. So unless you want to stop fermentation, do not refrigerate. 

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Finished Homemade Kombucha

Once your kombucha has finished the fermentation process and bottled, it is finished. Now, we will treat our homemade kombucha the same as raw kombucha, as that is what we have. So we want to make sure we store it in the fridge to stop further fermentation. Leaving raw homemade kombucha at room temperature in a sealed bottle is a bad idea. It allows your kombucha to continue to ferment at room temperature, and again when this occurs in a sealed bottle, it can and will eventually explode. So get it in the fridge.     

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Kombucha First Fermentation

Kombucha Second Fermentation

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