How to Make Hard Kombucha (with Alcohol)

by Karl S Updated on September 6, 2021

Slightly sweet, tart and refreshing, hard kombucha has become a popular drink these days. And with all my kombucha making experience, I had to try and make some of my own.

Easy to make, this delicious fermented beverage can be made with any flavor combo you like.

I’m Trent Musho, and this is the Bru Sho. Let’s make hard kombucha.

After having made regular kombucha, Jun, and Koffcucha the next logical step is to bump up the ABV and make some hard kombucha. And I had plenty of scobys around to do so.

If you’re not familiar with kombucha making, I’ll give you a quick recap. Kombucha is a fermented tea made by using a SCOBY, which is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.

And it helps convert the sugars in the sweet tea, into probiotics that are great for your gut health.

And they also provide minimal amounts of alcohol, but not enough to be considered an alcoholic drink. And fermentations like cider or wine in order to get more alcohol, you need to add more sugars for the yeast to convert.

But for kombucha, it doesn’t work like that. The SCOBY can only convert so much sugars and eventually it will become more like vinegar than a strong Booch. So in order to get a bump in ABV, we need to add some brewers yeast.

Essentially, we’re going to do two fermentations. First, the regular kombucha fermentation, and then an alcohol fermentation. It took me quite a while to develop this recipe. A lot of research, experimentation and failed baches in order to tweak the recipe to just the right level of sweetness, tartness, and easy drinkability.

So I’m really excited to finally share this one with all of you, without any further ado, let’s Booch! I’m making a one gallon batch, but feel free to scale this up to any size you want. To begin, you need a freshly fermented batch of kombucha.

If you never make kombucha before I recommend you check out my how to make kombucha video, where I show how to make it from scratch using only a single bottle of store-bought kombucha. If you enjoy drinking this probiotic rich beverage, then you have to make some for yourself. Plus you’ll save a lot of money.

With the fresh kombucha in hand, pull aside two and a half cups and set aside for now.

This is what we call a kombucha starter. Next, we need to make a fresh batch of sweet tea to inoculate with our kombucha starter and yeast. For that I’m brewing 10 grams of black tea and a small amount of water to make a concentrated tea. I’ll let that brew for about 15 minutes.

After the 15 minutes, while the tea is warm, I’m going to add in two cups of sugar, any sugar will work. I had a cup of dextrose or corn sugar on hand. So I use one cup of that and one cup of regular table sugar.

Also, while the tea is warm, I add in some yeast nutrients to support a healthy fermentation, five grams of DAP, and 1.5 grams for Fermaid O.

There are some nutrients in the kombucha base, but I want to be sure our brewers yeast has all it needs for a strong fermentation, especially with the competing bacteria and yeast present in the SCOBY.

This is my go-to combo, and I found fermentation is faster and cleaner when nutrients are used. Once it’s all mixed in dissolved, I add it into the fermentor. You can use any fermentor you want, glass or plastic, as long as it’s clean and sanitized, I’m using the same glass fermentor jag that I used in my other kombucha videos.

Next I add in 12 cups of filtered water, or about three fourths of a gallon. At this point, you can take an original gravity reading.

It should be about 1.050, which is the perfect amount for a moderate strength, hard kombucha.

If the tea mixture is cooled down to about room temperature, you can now add in the kombucha starter. Lastly to this mixture, you can sprinkle in the yeast. I’ve tried all kinds of yeast, and I found the best results when using Safale US-05 ale yeast. It’s a clean fermenting ale yeast that works perfectly for this, but if you’re going for a stronger hard kombucha, you might want to go with a wine yeast.

Just sprinkle it in, close the lid, give it a light shake to mix things in and then add an airlock and set it in a cool dark place for about one week to ferment. Making the fresh batch of tea with this ferment is key.

Having done other test batches, where I don’t add any more fresh tea, the kombucha always came out super harsh and sour. So don’t skip that step.

Fermentation was really active. If you have a larger fermentor than one gallon, it might be a good idea so you have some extra headspace. After about one week fermentation activity had slowed down. So I took a final gravity reading and got 0.997, which means this hard kombucha comes in at 5.2%. ABV.

Finally, we have hard kombucha. And if you wanted to, you could drink this as is, but it will be still and relatively flavorless. So let’s take it to the next level with some carbonation and flavoring.

This is really where you can get creative, any flavor combos you like with your normal kombucha. Blueberry Bazell, pineapple mint, you could even add some hops, get crazy with it.

Today, I’m going to keep it relatively simple and use a bag of frozen cherries. I’m hoping for a nice refreshing cherry sipper for the summer days ahead. If you make this and try it, any fun flavors, let me know on Instagram @thebruhsho

Depending on how you plan to carbonate will impact how, and when you add your flavor additions. If you’re bottling, you should probably they’re using a secondary fermenter that you put the fruit in and then add your fermented hard booch on top to infuse for a couple of days, then just rack into a bottling bucket with the proper amount of priming sugar and bottle them up.

As always, I recommend using a priming calculator, so you don’t have any problems with your bottles exploding. Now, if you’re kegging, it’s a lot easier. All you need to do is put your flavor additions into a sanitized mesh bag like this, and then put it into a keg and then just rack into the keg.

I use frozen fruit, because freezing helps break down the cell walls with the fruit to make infusing the flavor easier. And that’s it.

Once the fruit and booch is in, set the pressure regulator to the desired pressure, for me, that’s about 20 PSI to be nice and bubbly. And after about one week, this hard kombucha is ready to drink.

It came out a beautiful light red pinkish hue. And the carbonation is just as I hoped, crisp and sparkling. On the nose, I’m getting that fruity cherry flavor immediately followed by a bright citrus note from the kombucha base.

And on the taste, it’s so refreshing, crisp and light bodied with a sweet cherry flavor and a light tartness at the end.

Unlike regular kombucha, it’s not as sour. It only has a bit of that sourness to make you realize that you’re not just drinking a cherry soda, but this is the perfect summer drink. You can have a few and not feel weighed down. I could even see this working great in some sort of kombucha cocktail.

After all those failed attempts, it really feels so good to finally sit here and taste the final product. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. I can’t wait to try out more flavors in the future.

I think my wife might want this one as a regular on tap. You have to try this out if you or a loved one are a fan of kombucha.

Thanks for watching and cheers. And while you’re here, why not check out one of my other videos? I do a ton of other great fermentations that are easy for beginners.