Kombucha Vs. Beer – Do You Know The Difference?

A mug of beer with froth, with a glass of beer, a pitcher of kombucha with a scoby, and a pitcher of beer and kombucha combined.

Everybody likes a refreshing cold beverage on a hot summer day, and nowadays, there are so many different drinks to choose from. Some prefer a nice strong beer, and others might enjoy a lighter, healthier drink like kombucha. So, which one will you choose? Both are fermented; both contain alcohol, and you can use each one in other ways than the purpose it is intended for. So, what is the difference between kombucha and beer?

Kombucha is made from sweet tea fermented with a SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Beer is made from barley or malt. When beer is made, the yeast is used to consume the sugar and convert it into an alcoholic beverage. Kombucha is a drink better known for its health benefits.

When kombucha is made, the yeast consumes the cane sugar, but it is a fermented drink that contains little to no alcohol. This article will discuss the differences between beer and kombucha in detail, from their properties to how they are made.

What Is Kombucha?

Kombucha is a beverage made using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) to ferment sweet tea. The Latin name Medusomyces gisevii refers to a sweetened fermented green or black tea that is slightly effervescent and makes for a delicious and refreshing drink.

Kombucha is a beverage that has been available for centuries and is mainly consumed for its many health benefits. To achieve different flavors and promote various benefits, kombucha can have different types of:

  • tea
  • fruit
  • spices

Kombucha ferments at between 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Fermenting kombucha at lower temperatures is a slower process because it takes longer to form the necessary organic acids. A warmer environment will make it ferment faster and makes a stronger brew.

To produce kombucha, the yeast in the SCOBY breaks down the sugar that is in the tea, and this reaction produces probiotic-friendly bacteria. The probiotics in kombucha can enhance a person’s immune system and health.

Once the fermentation process is complete, the tea is a beverage that is:

  • probiotic
  • delicious
  • fizzy

The Origin of Kombucha

The exact origin of kombucha is unknown. However, archeological evidence of fermentation using clay pots 9000 years ago has been found.

Another origin theory dates back to Qin Dynasty, 221BCE, China. It is believed that the emperor Qin Shi Huangdi was the first person to make kombucha. Teas and fermentation were very popular in China at that time.

Kombucha Ingredients

Basic Kombucha requires five primary ingredients:

  1. A SCOBY: can be purchased on Amazon, get one from a friend, or grow your own.
  2. Water: must be filtered unchlorinated water, I like to use a Berkey filter which you can buy on Amazon.
  3. Starter tea: unpasteurized, unflavored, kombucha from a store, a previous batch, or a friend.
  4. Black tea: I opt for organic, it’s easy to find on Amazon.
  5. Sugar: I like to use organic cane juice crystals, but any white cane sugar works. Both can be easily purchased on Amazon.

Optional ingredients that you can add for different flavors are: 

  • Other variations of tea: green, black, black currant
  • Spices: cinnamon, nutmeg
  • Fruit or fruit juice: any kind you prefer
A pitcher with a spout labeled kombucha, with a jar of kombucha with a SCOBY, as well as several glasses and a bottle with kombucha in them.
Kombucha has 2 phases of fermentation

The Fermentation Process for Kombucha

Kombucha goes through two fermentation phases. The first phase takes between 7-12 days, and the second phase is when it has been flavored and bottled for 2-4 days at room temperature for the carbonation process. To learn more about how to flavor kombucha during the second ferment, read my full guide to flavoring kombucha.

Level Of Alcohol in Kombucha

Store-bough Kombucha is labeled as “non-alcoholic” because it contains less than 0.5% alcohol. Homebrewed Kombucha could have much higher alcohol levels, but it is hard to know for sure.

Kombucha can also be made into a ‘hard kombucha.’ If you manipulate the sugar and yeast levels and extend the brewing time, kombucha can achieve much higher alcohol levels of between 4.5-8% ABV.

Health Benefits Of Kombucha

Most people make and consume kombucha because of its many health benefits. Here are some of the many ways kombucha can give you a health boost.

#1: Kombucha Can Benefit Gut Health

Diarrhea caused by antibiotics, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and inflammatory bowel disease are stomach-related ailments caused by bad gut health. During the fermentation process, acetic acid with antimicrobial properties is produced. It kills microbes and harmful bacteria before the body can absorb them, helping to boost your immune system.

NOTE: Even though it is believed to be accurate, the probiotics in kombucha have not been proven 100% scientifically as of yet. 

#2: Kombucha for Mental Health

The anti-inflammatory properties present in kombucha can alleviate some of the symptoms of depression and can help to boost your mood.

#3: Kombucha is Antioxidant

Kombucha can help promote good liver health with its antioxidant nature. There are molecules in the body that can damage cells, but the antioxidants in kombucha can help:

  • fight damage
  • protect the cells
  • detoxify the liver

Kombucha can aid in promoting good liver health and reducing the risk of liver inflammation.

#4: Kombucha Has Good Bacteria

The beverage can also help to lower the risk of bacterial infections. The probiotic properties in kombucha help the body keep its good bacteria. It is not antibacterial, but it does add and help maintain the healthy bacteria in your body that is essential for a strong immune system

HOT TIP: Drinking kombucha daily gives a plentiful supply of B vitamins!

A jar of kombucha with a SCOBY floating in it, on a natural colored cloth with a bottle of kombucha in the background.
Kombucha can be flavored with different natural ingredients

Different Flavors Of Kombucha

Kombucha does not have different styles, but it can have different flavors, depending on what you add to your batch of kombucha. There are, however, four types of SCOBYs used to make kombucha including:

  • Heirloom or Vintage  
  • Homegrown   
  • Island Girl
  • Tibetan  

How Kombucha Is Made In 4 Steps

Step #1: Prepare the Tea

Boil 10 cups of water and turn off the heat. Add 8-10 tea bags and 1 cup of sugar to the water and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Let the tea steep for the recommended amount of time (usually 3-5 min), then allow it to cool down to room temperature.

Step #2: Add More Teas

In a gallon jug made for brewing kombucha (sold on Amazon), add:

  • the cooled tea
  • 2 cups of kombucha starter

Step #3: Ferment the Kombucha

Cover the jug with a thin cloth like this jar cover set from Amazon, so air to can flow. Let the kombucha ferment on the countertop for 7-30 days.

Start taste testing the kombucha after seven days. If it is left to ferment for an extended period, it will have more probiotics. Be careful you don’t leave it for too long or it will turn to vinegar!

Step #4: Bottle and Second Ferment Option

The kombucha is now ready to be bottled (I like these flip-top ones sold on Amazon) and placed in the refrigerator. If you leave it for a while longer at room temperature, the kombucha will become more carbonated. 

Alternative Uses For Kombucha

As we now know, kombucha is used not only for its delicious taste but also for its many health benefits. However, kombucha vinegar has use for many other purposes. 

If kombucha is left to ferment for 30-60 days longer, it becomes more acidic until it is too sour to drink and is classified as vinegar. Let’s take a look at some of the alternative uses for kombucha vinegar:

  • When diluted 50% with water, kombucha vinegar can be used as a hair tonic, wash or rinse. The acetic acid in the vinegar is gentle on the hair, helps to strip any gunk from previous treatments, and gives the hair a natural sheen.
  • Kombucha vinegar can be used as a face toner because it stimulates the capillaries under the skin, assisting cells in regenerating.
  • Use kombucha vinegar as a cleaning agent alternative. It works well to reduce soap residue in the bathtub or the shower.
  • A mixture of kombucha vinegar and a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil makes an effective surface spray for your kitchen.
  • Adding ½ cup of kombucha vinegar to your laundry will soften your clothes and brighten the colors.
  • Kombucha vinegar is also a lovely addition to salads as a dressing or in a marinade.

Side Effects Of Kombucha

People who have a compromised immune system should drink kombucha in moderation. Since it contains bacteria, there is always some risk.

Homebrewed versions of kombucha hold a higher risk for contamination. Store-bought versions are believed to be very safe for a pregnant woman or anyone with immune system problems.

The fermentation process also creates alcohol. If you are sensitive to alcohol or don’t drink any alcohol altogether, then drinking kombucha should be avoided.

Global Kombucha Consumption Statistics

In 2020, the global market for Hard Kombucha was valued at $99,030 million. In 2026 the value is expected to increase to $120,385 million. This is a significant growth at a CAGR of 42.4% after Forbes Magazine estimated kombucha to reach sales of $1.8 billion by 2020. It has also been called the fastest-growing beverage in the world.

Glasses of different beers lined up on a bar countertop.
Beer is made from malted barley by fermentation

What Is Beer?

Beer is an alcoholic beverage made from malted barley and is produced through the process of:

  • extracting raw materials
  • boiling water
  • fermentation

The Origin of Beer

There have been plenty of artifacts that prove that beer is one of the oldest drinks consumed by humans. Ancient Chinese artifacts show that in 7000BC, people brewed beer with:

  • hawthorns
  • honey
  • rice
  • grapes

In the 5th millennium BC, in Godin Tepe, Central Zagros Mountains of Iran, the first barley beer was chemically confirmed. This was documented in the writing of Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt.

Ingredients for Brewing Beer

The most common ingredients for brewing beer can be found on Amazon, they are: 

Additional ingredients that you can easily purchase most of on Amazon and use include:

How to Ferment Beer

It takes 2-6 hours to brew beer. Afterward, the beer goes through various fermentation phases and is ready for consumption after six weeks.

If beer is fermented at the same temperature as kombucha, you will have a beer that smells like acetone due to the high ethyl acetate and alcohol levels

Brewing tanks used to make beer are fitted with cooling jackets to control the temperatures from getting too high during the fermentation process.

Level Of Alcohol

Even though there are non-alcoholic beers on the market, a beer typically has an alchol by volume between 4-7% depending on beer style.

A wood surface with hops and barley on it for making beer.
Beer is made with hops and grains

Different Styles Of Beer

There are various styles of beer available shown in the table below:

Style of BeerDescriptionColor & TasteBrand Name
LagerPrimarily an American, European or German drinkLight amber-hued, delicate hops, nut, chocolate, coffee and bread flavors, bitter American: Heroes
European: Mythos-Hellenic Lager
German: Weihenstephaner
PilsnerSlightly effervescentPale, bitter, dryPilsner, Urquell, Grolsch
Wheat BeerGermany, America and Belgium are well known for their wheat beersGerman: Sweet-tart, full-bodied, with spicy notes
American: Golden hued and straightforward 
Belgian: Slightly spicy, fruity, and refreshing
German: Hefeweizen American: Deschutes Belgian: Hoegaarden
Belgian AleDifficult to generalize because they are unique and complexYeasty, sweet, strongSaison Dupont Farmhouse Ale
PorterKnown for their dark color due to the brown malt usedDark, malty, roasted, flavors of nuts and coffeeSierra Nevada Imperial Porter
Pale AleIntense flavors and bitter hopsAmerican: Citrus notes, amber-hued
Indian: Hoppier, drier and higher in alcohol, amber-hued
American: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Indian: Fullers Pale Ale
StoutCoffee-like and low in alcohol, they come in various types, such as milk stout, oatmeal stout, dry stout and imperial stoutRegular Stout: Coffee-like flavors, creamy, bitter and dry
Imperial Stout: Higher levels of alcohol, an intensely bitter, dark taste, robust
Guinness, Black Swan Imperial Stout, Kalamazoo Stout
Brown & Amber AleKnown for their dark brown and amber huesBrown Ale: Slightly sweet, nutty, malty flavor
Amber Ale: Red hue, somewhat sweet, nutty
Brown Ale: Newcastle
Amber Ale: Okanagan Spring Cloudy

How Is Beer Made?

Beer Making Equipment

All equipment that is used for brewing beer at a commercial standard needs to be FDA approved. Metal tanks such as copper and stainless steel are used. It would be best to avoid brass, as it contains lead.

For tubing, the types of food-grade plastics that are acceptable are:

  • High-temperature silicone rubber
  • Polyethylene plastic
  • Neoprene rubber
  • Polysulfone plastic

Any vinyl or PVC tubing must have “FDA Approved†printed on it. The fermentation process requires the equipment to be sterilized before a new batch is started.

Different types of chemicals and acids are used to sterilize and maintain the equipment. A powered brewery washer, sold on Amazon, is used to wash the machines clean before sterilization. 

Step #1: Mashing the Malted Barley

Malted barley, also known as malt, is placed in a mash tun with hot water and soaked for 1 hour. This process called “mashing” is where sugars are released from the grains.

During the fermentation process the yeast consumes the sugar to produce alcohol. Without sugar, there will be no alcohol. Malt is also the ingredient responsible for the beer’s:

  • flavor
  • body
  • aroma

Step #2: Sparging the Grains

The grains are rinsed in hot water, which helps to extract the remainder of the sugar. Next, the hot water and the grains are separated, mashed and sparged in a lauter tun.

The liquid that is produced is called wort, which is sent to the final brewing stages. The grains are discarded as they are no longer needed.

Step #3: Boiling the Wort and Hops

The wort is placed in a boil kettle to get rid of all microorganisms. Boiling takes 1 hour, and during this process, hops are added to the mixture. The boiling water helps to release the flavor in the hops.

Step #4: Cool and Add Yeast

After boiling, the wort is cooled down to 80 degrees or less before the yeast is added. If the liquid is still hot, it will kill the yeast, and you will need to start the whole process over.

Step #5: Ferment the Beer

In this step, the yeast eats the sugars released from the grains and converts them into carbon dioxide and alcohol. This process takes about 1-2 weeks, and this is where the alcohol remains in the beer, and the carbon dioxide is released into the air.

Step #6: Carbonating the Beer

The beer is almost ready, but it is still flat. In this step, carbon dioxide is injected into the beer to create those lovely tiny bubbles that make a beer refreshing.

Step #7: Packaging the Finished Beer

Finally, the beer is ready for the masses to enjoy and are packaged and distributed to liquor stores and wholesalers in:

  • bottles
  • kegs
  • cans
A group of hands in a circle holding beer mugs up to clink the glasses.
Beer has been quite a popular drink for a long time

Alternative Uses For Beer

Beer is a refreshing cold beverage for after you’ve had a long, stressful day, or if you are hosting a dinner party for some friends. There are many more things that you can use beer for, such as:

  • People claim to have used beer to wash their hair and reported that it makes their hair voluminous and shiny.
  • You can use beer to remove stains instead of using chemical products.
  • Thanks to the acidity in beer, it is often used to polish metal, such as copper.
  • Beer is proven to be a brilliant meat tenderizer.
  • Chefs prefer to use beer in their marinades because it does not alter the taste of wine or vinegar.
  • Beer removes rust from bolts that are stiff and hard to unscrew. Letting the bolts sit in the beer for a while allows the beer’s acidity to dissolve the rust.
  • The antioxidants in beer smooth the skin; therefore, it can be used as a soak in the bathtub. You only need to add a few bottles to the water.
  • You can use it to make a delicious beer-battered fish.
  • Replacing either the milk or water in your pancakes with beer makes them fluffier.
  • Hoppier, darker ales contain a high amount of silicon, adding to the health of bone and collective tissue, which ultimately fights against osteoporosis.

Global Beer Consumption Statistics

In 2020, the global beer market achieved an amount of almost $189 billion. It has been reduced by 1.4% since 2015. However, it is predicted to rise at an 8.2% rate in 2025 and a further CAGR of 5.7% ($370 billion) in 2030.

Can You Combine Beer And Kombucha?

Kombucha and beer combined have also been referred to as a “happy marriage.”

If you blend the suitable types of yeast, which are similar to those in kombucha, then beer and kombucha can be “married” into one drink. Goose Island, a brewery in Chicago, has created one of the first kombucha beers called Fleur.

“Kombucha offers a sourness to balance the natural sweetness of the beer as well as adding fruitiness from the hibiscus.” 

John Laffler, kombucha master brewer at Goose Island

The table below summarizes all the differences between beer and Kombucha:

OriginExact origin unknown. Suggested origin: 5th millennium BC, in Godin Tepe, Central Zagros Mountains of Iran: first barley beer chemically confirmed The exact origin is unknown. Suggested origin: Qin Dynasty, 221BCE, China
IngredientsA starch sort (malted barley), water, brewer’s yeast, hopsBlack tea, starter tea, SCOBY, water, sugar
Fermentation Time 2-6 hours brewing time, after various fermentation phases, it is ready for consumption after ~ 6 weeksPhase 1: 7-12 days
Phase 2: 2-4 days after bottled and flavored (carbonation phase)
Level Of AlcoholBetween 4-7% (depending on the style of beer)Store-bought: 0.5% Homebrewed: can be higher
Styles/TypesLager, Pilsner, Pale Ale, Belgian Ale, Brown & Amber Ale, Porter, Stout, Wheat BeerNone – only different flavors
StatisticsPredicted to increase 8.2% in 2025Predicted to increase $120,385 million in 2026
Top view of beer glasses filled with beer on a gray surface.
Beer and kombucha are similar but different!

In Conclusion

There are similarities when it comes to brewing beer or kombucha. The main priority is to make sure that the yeast in both beer and kombucha are happy. The equipment needs to be:

  • clean and sanitized
  • free of any old product buildup
  • temperatures need to be correct

Although both kombucha and beer ferment sugar, the types of sugar they ferment are different. Kombucha can ferment only simple sugars such as sucrose and glucose. Beer ferments wort (a malt-sugar solution), a combination of simple and complex sugars such as maltose

However, if we look at who the winner is, beer takes the cake! It is, and has been a massive market for centuries and although kombucha has become extremely popular, it has some catching up to do. But whichever one you choose, both will be equally satisfying. So, kick off your shoes and enjoy a cold one!

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