Decaf Kombucha

Rob and I quit caffeine about 3 months ago (for these 50 reasons). So I put my Kombucha Scoby to sleep until I could figure out a way to make decaffeinated Kombucha. There is much controversy about how much caffeine is left in the finished batch of tea, and I wasn’t about to take a chance on getting hooked on the stuff again. Some people say that all of the caffeine is consumed by the bacteria in the Kombucha. Some people say 50%…I have even heard that none of the caffeine is consumed by the bacteria, and that Kombucha is full of caffeine. According to Energy Fiend an 8 oz glass of Kombucha contains approximately 24 mg of caffeine. What to believe? Honestly, I couldn’t find any hard research that convinced me either way, so I decided to make my own decaf tea and test it out myself.

First of all, I use regular old Lipton black tea bags and plain white table sugar to make Kombucha. Doesn’t sound like a very healthy beverage right? I have called the Lipton company twice, and the assured me that they have never sprayed their fields, or used any preservatives in their tea. Tea is naturally very resistant to pests and disease so there is no need.  You can use organic tea if you like, or green tea. According to the experts you cannot use herbal or flavored teas. Herbal tea contains no caffeine, which the Scoby needs. Flavored teas contain oils and additives that harm the Scoby.

As far as the sugar is concerned, the bacteria DO eat that. There is very little sugar left in the finished batch of Kombucha, and this I have tested out plenty of times. If you don’t have white sugar around (I buy it specifically for making Kombucha) you can use sucanat, rapadura, or evaporated cane juice. Do not use honey, as it contains its own colony of bacteria and  yeasts that compete with the Kombucha.

To remove caffeine from a regular black tea bag:

  • Place 5-6 tea bags in an empty bowl or coffee mug
  • Boil 1 gallon of water for Kombucha
  • Ladle out 1 cup of water and pour it over the tea bags
  • Steep for 30-45 seconds
  • Remove the tea bags, and place them in the large 1 gallon pot of hot water
  • Steep until dark. Adding 1 cup sugar
  • Make Kombucha as you normally would.

Up to 80 percent of the caffeine is released in the first infusion of water so only minimal amounts will remain when you add water the second time. This method eliminates very little of the tea’s flavor and aroma. I decided to go with this method, because I believe that the Kombucha Scoby needs a small amount of caffeine to grow and thrive properly. I am hoping that it eats up the remaining 20% of caffeine!

I have been making it this way for 3 weeks now. When the first batch was done, I waited until 30 minutes before bedtime and drank 16 ounces of Kombucha. I am normally very sensitive to caffeine, even when I was drinking large amounts of coffee, I always had to cut myself off by 3pm or I’d be awake all night. I noticed no sleep disturbances after drinking the Kombucha. I know that is not very scientific, but at this point anecdotal evidence is all I’ve got 🙂

So if the 24 mg in an 8 oz glass statistic from above is correct than an 8 oz glass of naturally decaffeinated Kombucha should contain around 4.8 milligrams of caffeine.

Has anyone else made it this way? Have you been able to find any solid research on the caffeine needs of a Kombucha Scoby? Why isn’t anyone studying this stuff?

Cherry Kombucha Soda

P.S Sometimes we like flavored Kombucha Soda in the summer. I wait until the Kombucha is all done fermenting for 7 days. I line up several glass bottles (I had people from work save me their old glass, juice bottles) and I add 2 ounces of juice to each bottle. Fill each bottle with Kombucha and screw the lids on tight. Wait 24 hours and then put them all in the fridge. Very bubbly and delicious! Try grape, pomegranate, cherry or pineapple juice. This would be an excellent way to shake a soda pop addiction!

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9 Comments

  1. May 7, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    Interesting! I always wondered if the scoby “needed” caffeine, too, but it sounds like your attempt has been successful. I’m going to try making a decaf batch next! Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. May 7, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    YES thank you! Going to try this soon! Just need to get me a container large enough to make a batch! Any suggestions?

    • May 7, 2012 at 6:47 PM

      I have two, 1 gallon glass jars that I found at a yard sale a while back that i use. But anything glass will work. I wouldn’t use plastic or any kind of reactive metal though. You also don’t need to worry about a lid, because you’re just going to cover the jar with a cloth anyway.

  3. NANCYRUSSELL said,

    September 27, 2012 at 10:40 AM

    IS THE MUSHROOM THAT FORMS EDIBLE OR IS IT REMOVED BEFORE BOTTLING?

    • January 29, 2013 at 4:57 PM

      It is removed before bottling. Some people to eat the mushroom, it is edible, but I don’t imagine it tastes very good 🙂 You save the mushroom and reuse it for the next batch….

  4. March 7, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Are you still making decaf KT? How is your SCOBY doing? I am way sensitive to caffeine & love KT so I’m wondering how your experiment went.

    • April 1, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      Yes i am drinking decaf Kombucha. It is working just fine, I haven’t noticed any difference in my scoby, and it ferments just as well as before!

  5. Ginger said,

    September 9, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    All the caffeine is gone by the time the Kombucha is ready to drink. If it wasn’t I would not be able to drink it. You also need to use organic tea bags not Lipton or some other brand, you will be making some pretty nasty Kombucha with non-organic tea.


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