KBI Partners with AOAC to Develop New Ethanol-Testing Protocols for Kombucha


Kombucha Brewers International (KBI), a  trade association for the kombucha industry, has teamed up with the Association of Organic Analytical Chemists (AOAC) to develop a new set of protocols for testing ethanol levels in kombucha. KBI today announced the news, with president and co-founder Hannah Crum calling the latest initiative “the next logical progression for an industry that is proactively self regulating.

The news comes nearly six months after the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) issued a reminder that companies manufacturing kombucha, a fermented beverage, need to ensure that it measures at or below 0.5 alcohol by volume throughout its production.

The TTB published its note in a March 27 newsletter stating as follows:

“In the past, our tests of kombucha in the marketplace revealed that many of these products contained at least 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. These products are alcohol beverages are are subject to TTB regulation. Regardless of the alcohol content of the finished beverage when it leaves the manufacturing facility, when kombucha contains 0.5 percent alcohol or more by volume at any time, it must be produced on qualified premises subject to TTB regulation.”

KBI’s new venture, led by its Legislative and Government Outreach Committee, came out of that subdivision’s ongoing work on the verification program that KBI announced in July when the trade group published its best practices for commercial brewers. Now, KBI — along with five of its member breweries GT’s Health-Ade, High Country, Humm and Live Soda — will join forces with the AOAC to develop “an analytical method to accurately measure the low levels of ethanol in kombucha.”

Their work will begin later this month at the AOAC’s Annual Meeting & Expo in Los Angeles. KBI has also recruited Cathy Halverson, chief of the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau’s (TTB) Beverage Alcohol Laboratory to serve on the stakeholder panel of the development of the new testing protocols.

KBI and its membership aren’t the only ones taking an active role in the regulation of kombucha industry. In May, probiotic beverage brand KeVita pledged to commit up to $100,00 to fund a truth-in-labeling initiative that would go towards creating and implementing a third-party product testing protocol and a “Verified Non-Alcoholic” emblem for kombucha products. KeVita co-founder and CEO Bill Moses credited the TTB reminder as the impetus and “tipping point” for KeVita when announcing its funding of the truth-in-labeling initiative.

KBI’s full press release can be found below:

Los Angeles, CA – September 16, 2015 – Kombucha Brewers International (KBI) and 5 member breweries – GT’s, Health-Ade, High Country, Humm, and Live Soda – have joined the Association of Organic Analytical Chemists (AOAC) to develop a new internationally approved testing method that can accurately, consistently and repeatably measure the trace amounts of ethanol present in Kombucha, a process that begins Sept 27th at the annual AOAC Annual Meeting & Expo in Los Angeles.

The initiative was spearheaded on behalf of KBI by the Legislative and Government Outreach Committee, led by Daina Trout of Health-Ade, Susan Fink of Karma and Mike Beshore of Humm, and stemming from work on the new KBI Verification Program, currently scheduled to debut next year. “Product compliance is top priority for stabilizing the industry and building the KBI Verification program,” said Trout. The development of a new standard that will take into account the organic acid profile, high sedimentation, and low LOQ (level of quantitation) unique to the popular health beverage is critical for a growing industry to build trust with customers, retailers and distributors. “There is no current AOAC INTERNATIONAL standard method performance requirement (SMPR®) for an analytical method to accurately measure the low levels of ethanol in Kombucha.  AOAC is pleased to be working with the Kombucha industry, regulatory bodies, and other stakeholders to develop such a standard,” stated E. James Bradford, Ph.D., Executive Director of AOAC INTERNATIONAL.  

According to the AOAC website, partnering is an opportunity to work closely with scientists, academics, as well as government agencies to “find appropriate science-based solutions through the development of microbiological and chemical standards. AOAC standards are used globally to promote trade and to facilitate public health and safety.” To that end, KBI actively recruited the TTB (Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau) to join the voting Stakeholder Panel for AOAC process and is pleased to announce that Cathy Halverson, Chief of the TTB’s Beverage Alcohol Laboratory, has been named to the panel.  

Additionally, in March KBI published a new Approved Testing Method for Ethanol in Kombucha, developed by KBI member Live Soda in conjunction with Cornerstone Labs, that has been shown to produce more accurate results than any currently developed AOAC method. Since its inception 18 months ago, KBI has striven to develop Best Practices and standards in order to ensure compliant and safe Kombucha products are on the shelves. “This step forward is the next logical progression for an industry that is proactively self-regulating,” said Hannah Crum, President and Co-Founder of KBI.

While the entire process may require 1 – 2 years before a method is fully vetted and accepted by the AOAC, KBI members and the industry in general are committed to seeking viable solutions to any and all potential issues that would also be accepted by Federal regulatory agencies such as the TTB.



Kombucha is naturally sparkling fermented tea. For more information about the testing protocols or to learn more about the Kombucha industry, please contact KBI President Hannah Crum at info@kombuchabrewers.org.