What’s the Difference Between Kombucha and Vinegar
Mature Kombucha and Vinegar Taste So Similar, is There Any Difference?
When kombucha matures fully, and becomes extremely strong and sour, people often call it ‘kombucha vinegar’. It can be used like vinegar, or as a substitute, in cooking, cleaning and for cosmetic purposes.
If you have some very sour booch on your hands and you need some ideas – check out this post, What to Do if Kombucha Smells Like (strong) Vinegar.
While very strong, sour kombucha and vinegar may taste similar, there are some key differences between the two products.
What is Vinegar?
Vinegar is basically a fermented liquid made up of acetic acid (between 5 to 20 percent), water, and other various chemicals (some which come from the flavorings and materials used to make the specific kind of vinegar). The acetic acid (CH3COOH) is produced by fermentation of ethanol, caused by a type of bacteria.
Vinegar has a variety of uses, including consumption, flavoring, and household and even industrial uses.
There are many types of vinegar out there that come from different sources.
‘White Vinegar‘ (also called Spirit Vinegar or Distilled Vinegar) is produced by fermenting distilled alcohol. That alcohol is produced (usually) from malt or corn. But in some cases, can be sourced from petroleum.
In the health circles, the there’s a big craze regarding Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). There’s a lot of literature out there about this form of vinegar and how beneficial it is for your health. And a lot of it is actually true I suspect. My own brother swears by Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider Vinegar which (combined with Kombucha), has cured his irritable bowel syndrome. He takes a teaspoon a day in the morning and it’s done WONDERS for his digestion. Note, you need RAW Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, NOT pasuturized. The raw stuff has the beneficial bacteria and the fermentation by products your body can benefit from.
What is Kombucha
Kombucha is a fermented tea that contains a variety of bacteria and yeast cultures + other organic chemicals left over from any extra materials added to the fermentation process (such as fruit, herbs, minerals, etc). You can read our full article on what makes up Kombucha for more info.
The Difference Between Vinegar and Kombucha
There’s a great deal of differences between Kombucha and Vinegar, even though Kombucha can smell like vinegar, especially if you let it age too long.
Kombucha Has Only a Little Acetic Acid
The component which is responsible for vinegar’s sourness is acetic acid. Acetic acid is also found in kombucha, but in smaller concentrations.
Kombucha has Acetic Acid
Besides acetic acid, kombucha tea also contains gluconic acid. Gluconic acid is responsible for a lot of kombucha’s health claims, particularly those concerning detoxification and eradication of heavy metals and petro-chemical deposits.
Kombucha Comes from Tea + Sugar
Kombucha –as I am sure you know – is made from tea and sugar. There are numerous different types of vinegar, but none of them are made from tea.
Vinegar is usually derived from alcoholic beverages, sugar, or fruit.
Kombucha Contains a Yeast Culture while Vinegar Does Not
There are a number of ‘vinegars’ out there that come from a variety of different products. Even Kombucha can be made into a vinegar. Typically though, with regular household vinegar, there is no yeast culture present in this while Kombucha will have yeast — even Kombucha Vinegar.
Kombucha is produced by the SCOBY while (natural) Vinegar comes from a MOV
Look at our Mother of Vinegar vs Kombucha Scoby article for more info
The Similarities Between Kombucha and Vinegar
Besides that fact that very mature kombucha and vinegar are extremely sour and acidic, there are some other similarities as well.
Vinegar and Kombucha are Fermented Products
Both kombucha and vinegar are made using fermentation processes.
Vinegar and Kombucha have a Mother Culture
Both will form new SCOBY (or in vinegar’s case it is termed ‘Mother of Vinegar’) cultures if in their pure states and left to stand long enough.
Both Contain Cultures of Bacteria (but not the SAME type)
Both vinegar and Kombucha contain bacteria cultures (though vinegar does not contain yeast like Kombucha). The bacteria cultures are NOT the same, however, though they do produce some of the same fermentation by products, though in different amounts.
Both Contribute Health Benefits
Another similarity is that vinegar, like kombucha, has been promoted as a health tonic if diluted with water and drunk regularly.
Apple cider vinegar is perhaps the most celebrated type of vinegar, but the other vinegars which are produced through a fermentation process are also health promoting, and contain beneficial microbes and their by products.
Note that spirit vinegar (distilled from alcohol) is thought not to be as health promoting, as it is comprised of acetic acid diluted in water, and is not a product of natural fermentation of fruit.
Kombucha can be made into a vinegar called ‘Kombucha Vinegar’, if you let it ferment long enough (a month or two). This vinegar has a variety of household uses is particularly good when used as the base to make a tasty vinaigrette.
Which is Better for Your Health?
As with all of the super-foods, one is then presented with the question, well which one is the best!
Both kombucha and naturally fermented vinegars contain pro-biotics and aid with digestion. They both contain acetic acid. Kombucha is unique in that it contains gluconic acid, but vinegars contain their own array of nutrients particular to them. As there are so many different types of vinegars, the exact composition and benefits will vary from one type to another. Apple cider vinegar contains potassium, pectin, and calcium for instance.
When comparing regular old distilled white vinegar to Kombucha, then without a doubt, Kombucha is the healthier choice! Kombucha includes living yeasts and bacteria and products of fermentation while white vinegar is simply just acetic acid mixed with water, directly distilled from alcohol.
However, when comparing Kombucha to the natural vinegars (such as Apple Cider Vinegar), it’s not such a cut and dry choice for which tonic is better for your health.
Apple Cider Vinegar vs Kombucha
This is one of the best vinegars for health. Of all the vinegars, it’s probably the most similar to Kombucha in terms of how it’s made and what’s inside of it.
You can think of Apple Cider Vinegar as an Apple, and Kombucha as an Orange — they are similar yet different. And while the benefits are similar and may intersect, there are enough significant differences that one does NOT necessary replace the other in your diet.
Some people may not react well to Kombucha, but may be more tolerant of Apple Cider Vinegar.
Both kombucha and natural vinegars contains health promoting elements and can be used as general health tonics. The usual method of using vinegar (such as ACV) as a health drink is to dilute it with water.
The best vinegar for pure health is Apple Cider Vinegar (we recommend Bragg Organic Raw Apple Cider as the best brand to buy). This is the brand both me and my brother consume and I absolutely recommend it if you suffer from indigestion, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or general stomach pain. And yes, you can consume it even if you take in Kombucha!
The bottom line is that there is certainly room enough in your life for BOTH organic natural vinegar and Kombucha. They both have different nutrients and they can both benefit your health, your digestion, and your overall well being. So don’t make it a choose between either vinegar or Kombucha.
If you wish to enjoy the benefits of drinking both kombucha and natural vinegar, you can either take them together or, when you wish to have a break from kombucha, but still want that pro-biotic cleansing boost, switch over to Apple Cider Vinegar or another one of the numerous natural vinegars available. For the experimental types, you can even use Raw Apple Cider Vinegar in place of your Kombucha Starter, and add the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar directly into your SCOBY culture — a sort of living Apple Cider and Kombucha hybrid!