Kevita Kombucha: A Dietitian’s Honest Review
So Kevita’s kombucha is also called their 'Master Brew' kombucha. With a name like that, it can feel like we’re drinking something kinda magical...like Harry Potter and his special Butter Beer. Well, in this article, we’re going to put Kevita under the Essential Stacks spotlight and see if it really does live up to all the hype. That means we’re going to look at everything from how they brew their kombucha to exactly which probiotic species are in their drinks. And since our research team spent months analyzing the leading kombucha brands for you, we’ll even look at how Kevita compares to other popular kombuchas. Finally, you’ll be able to work out which is best for you. Let’s go!
Table of Contents
So before we get into it, I just want to say that like all product reviews here at Essential Stacks we receive zero compensation or incentive from the company we are reviewing, which means we are completely unbiased.
And as you’ll see in this review, we don’t hold anything back when analyzing companies in the digestive health space. And that’s because our mission here at Essential Stacks is to help you discover what truly works & what doesn’t for good gut health.
So with that out of the way, let’s get into our findings.
1. Who's behind Kevita?
So Kevita was founded in California back in 2008 by a Certified Nutritionist named Chakra Earthsong, which may be just about the most California-sounding startup story we’ve ever heard.
Chakra was soon joined by Will Moses, an entrepreneur, along with a motley crew of other experts, such as Geoff Pfeifer, their Chief Science Officer and long-time fermenting fanatic.
Since then, Kevita has become a BIG business, and following their 2016 sale to Pepsi for $220 million, it is now wholly owned by PepsiCo.
That said, Chakra Earthsong remains a part of the Kevita team in the role of Chief Formulator. And far from being a mere figurehead, she is still active in influencing the company as shown by their recent introduction of an apple cider vinegar tonic.
2. What products does Kevita sell?
Kevita has expanded its product range over the years and now has several distinct categories. I’ll quickly run you through them, so they make sense, and also show you what we're focusing on in this article.
- So first up, they have a sparkling probiotic water line (they call it Kevita Sparkling Probiotic Drink). This is basically a water kefir based drink. Funny enough, this is actually the very first product Kevita launched. Meaning, the company’s roots are in the kefir world, as opposed to the kombucha world.
- Of course, soon enough they created their Master Brew kombucha line. And this is a kombucha-tea-based drink, and the focus of this article.
- Kevita has 2 other product lines. They are rather recent additions to the brand and will likely take some time to reach mainstream adoption. They include…
- An apple cider vinegar tonic, which is basically water kefir plus apple cider vinegar.
- As well as prebiotic shots, which are an interesting mix of water kefir, apple cider vinegar and prebiotic fiber in the form of inulin from Jerusalem artichoke.
Anyways, enough about these new products. It’s time to focus on Kevita’s kombucha!
In the rest of this article, I want us to take the gloves off and really shine a spotlight on what’s actually inside Kevita’s kombucha, so we can answer 4 questions…
- How well is it made?
- Does it taste good?
- Is it in fact good for you?
- Is it worth your money?
Of course, to make this analysis even more useful, we’ll also look at how Kevita compares to other kombucha brands.
Naturally, to make this a FAIR comparison, we need to make sure that we’re comparing apples with apples. And after a bit of research we found that all major brands have 1 flavor in common with Kevita's, which is ginger. So in other words, we’re going to compare ginger with ginger.
In this analysis when we’re comparing brands on things like flavoring agents used, sugar content etc, we’ll be referencing Kevita's Ginger Kombucha.
3. How well is Kevita kombucha made?
Unsurprisingly, given Kevita is a Pepsi-owned brand, they arguably approach kombucha with a more commercial mindset, than their more traditional-focused competitors.
For starters, while most of the industry is quite proud to talk about how long they ferment their kombucha, Kevita is pretty quiet on the issue.
So, for example, while GT’s Kombucha passionately writes on their website “Fully fermented for 30 days”, or Health Ade tells stories of how they ferment for “a few weeks”, Kevita is not so forthcoming.
Thankfully though, when it comes to how Kevita brews the tea that goes into their kombucha, well, they’re doing it fairly similar to everyone else. Which means they’re using a combination of organic black tea and organic green tea. That said, they appear to be using the extract version of each tea.
Organic & non-GMO
One trend we saw throughout the entire industry, which is worth highlighting here, is that pretty much all brands exclusively use Organic, non-GMO ingredients. And indeed, most labels bear the USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified badges.
Now, in terms of how they prepare their tea so it can be fermented, Kevita is doing it similar to most of their competitors. That means they’re adding simple cane sugar to their tea.
And given that the sugar is largely just fuel for the fermentation process and that most of it will be eaten up during fermentation, it is a suitable source.
Pasteurization, filtering & dilution
Okay, so the next big thing we want to look at, is how Kevita treats their kombucha AFTER it has been brewed. And from all of our research it seems that Kevita is not exactly following the traditional process that other brands like GTs follow.
Instead, after brewing their kombucha, they pasteurize it, filter it and dilute it with sparkling water.
Now the most controversial part of this process is the pasteurization. Obviously, this is a pretty hot topic and can be complicated, so just to be clear - right now we are talking about it only as it relates to kombucha.
So in case you aren’t familiar with it, pasteurization involves heating the liquid to kill off any potentially harmful microorganisms, like bad bacteria or yeast.
But in doing so, the process can also kill off beneficial bacteria and yeast created through the kombucha fermentation process. This is a bit of a catch-22 as the live and active cultures one might hope to get from kombucha may be gone.
So why on earth is Kevita pasteurizing their kombucha?
- Well, for starters Kevita would argue it doesn’t really matter, since they add supplemental probiotics back into the kombucha AFTER pasteurization. And this is an interesting point - something we’ll talk about later in the article.
- Kevita might also say that their low heat pasteurization process - about half the temperature of UHT processing - doesn’t destroy all the natural goodies in their brew. But we haven’t seen any studies showing this to be true or not.
- Of course, Kevita might also argue that pasteurization increases product safety. And that is true. But one does have to wonder, if many of their competitors can deliver a product that is safe for consumption without resorting to pasteurization...is it really that necessary?
- Now, Kevita would probably also argue that pasteurization helps to prevent additional alcohol being created after fermentation. And they would be correct in saying so. But with formulation changes and cooler storage, unpasteurized kombucha can also remain under 0.5% alcohol, as evidenced by other leading brands achieving this, such as GTs.
- Of course, Kevita might then argue that pasteurization is important for delivering a consistent product in terms of taste, smell and effervescence, as well as making it shelf stable and easier to transport. And again, they would be correct.
But... this is where we hit a fork in the road. If you see kombucha as a natural, living fermented product, this approach will probably NOT be to your liking. Whereas, if you see it as a simple alternative to soda, then it might be just fine.
Okay, that’s probably enough on the pasteurization debate! Finally, let’s now look at how Kevita flavors their kombucha once it has been brewed - focusing specifically on their GINGER kombucha.
As you can see, Kevita’s Ginger Kombucha is flavored with ginger extract, stevia leaf extract, as well as ‘natural flavors’. They also add tea essence to the drink.
And just as interestingly, no actual ginger juice is added. In other words, they’re resorting to using a variety of flavoring ingredients - MORE than most of their competitors - while NOT using the primary flavoring ingredient their competitors use, being ginger juice.
For example by contrast, GTs only uses fresh ginger juice to flavor their ginger kombucha. Nothing else. No extracts. No stevia. No natural flavors.
But to be fair to Kevita, some of their other competitors do rely on ginger extract, like Brew Doctor, or stevia like Remedy, or even natural flavors, like Humm.
All in all, we think this is a missed opportunity by Kevita to pack in the health benefits of ginger root. In other words, choosing ingredients that deliver on more than just taste, would be ideal.
4. What does Kevita taste like?
Okay, so we’ve just had an in-depth look at the Kevita's kombucha brewing process...and we got a little into the weeds there. So I think it’s time for a quick break. And I bet you’re wondering…what does it taste like?
I hear you! So let’s pour a glass of Kevita’s Ginger Kombucha and give it a try.
So in doing this taste test, a few things are notable about Kevita’s kombucha:
- First up, the BUBBLES. They’re big and deliver a hit of that effervescence goodness. Unfortunately, they likely don’t come naturally from the fermentation process. And the reason we believe that, is the first ingredient listed on the label of Kevita is NOT “kombucha cultures”, which we see on most of their competitors’ labels, but instead is sparkling water. It does beg the question...why can’t their brewing process naturally deliver the same level of fizz as other kombuchas?
- The next big thing worth noting is that Kevita's kombucha range tends to be a lot sweeter and a little less vinegary than other brands. And this Ginger kombucha is no different. All of this is not surprising, given Kevita uses many flavoring agents, as well as sugar, which I’ll touch upon soon. All in all, Kevita tastes more like a KOMBUCHA-SODA LOVECHILD, than traditional kombucha!
- Of course none of this should surprise us, given Kevita’s core focus has been on making kombucha...in their own words... “more accessible”. Said differently, they have always set out to make a SWEETER kombucha that is EASIER for your Average Joe to drink. And on that front, they’ve succeeded.
5. Is Kevita good for you?
So we’ve already touched on a few things that relate to the healthiness of Kevita's kombucha. But now let’s go even deeper to find out whether Kevita's kombucha is really good for us or not.
So I want to cut straight to the chase here, and look at the probiotic count inside Kevita’s Master Brew Kombucha. After all, these are perhaps the Number 1 reason people are drinking kombucha these days.
If you look at Kevita’s marketing over the years, you’ll know they claim “BILLIONS” of LIVE probiotics are present in 1 bottle, which is approximately 15.2 fluid oz or 450 mils.
But we aren’t really satisfied with such vague claims - since “billions” could mean 5-10 billion, or it of course could mean just 2 billion. So we actually contacted Kevita for clarification and this is what they said:
“We test regularly and aim to have 2 billion live CFUs in every 12oz serving”.
So given each bottle of theirs is 15.2 oz, we can see that you would expect to get around roughly 2.5 billion CFUs per bottle.
And given the benchmark for a probiotic effect is 1 billion CFUs, Kevita is delivering a reasonable amount.
Type of probiotics
So, back to the types of probiotics in Kevita's kombucha...well as you can see, Kevita's probiotics come from 1 type of bacteria, being Bacillus Coagulans.
We’re going to go a little bit into the weeds here, but it is quite important so bear with us.
The specific type of B Coagulans in Kevita is listed at MTCC 5856. And the brand name of this is LactoSpore. It is made by a company called Sabinsa and is something you can find in probiotic supplements as well as fortified foods & beverages.
In other words, it appears the probiotics stated on Kevita's label are added into the kombucha AFTER it has been brewed and pasteurized. Meaning, they are not naturally produced by the fermentation process itself.
Some people find it surprising that the probiotics proudly marketed with commercial kombuchas don't actually come from the kombucha itself. And that’s why we spent a lot of time talking about this in our review of the most popular kombucha, GTs.
Now, just before I talk more about the probiotics in Kevita, we found something interesting when investigating Kevita’s website.
If you look at the label on their website, you can see that when you click this MTCC 5856 strain on the nutritional information panel on their website, it pops up with a message saying the B Coagulans is actually the GBI-30 6086 strain.
But here’s the thing...they are not the same. In fact, they’re made by completely different companies. And while you might find the GBI-30 6086 strain of B Coagulans in other kombuchas like GT’s, it is not what is actually in Kevita’s kombucha.
Now in Kevita’s defense, studies do show both versions of B Coagulans do offer similar benefits and in similar amounts. But nevertheless, it is disconcerting that Kevita’s official marketing materials confuse the two as one and the same. Especially since they are in the business of probiotics.
To put this in perspective, it would be like a dog breeder confusing a labrador and a golden retriever as one and the same.
Unfortunately, we see this all too often in the digestive health space. And we understand the subject matter is complicated, but we also expect more from leading probiotic beverage manufacturers like Kevita.
Since we have raised this issue, we imagine it will be fixed by the time you read this article.
B Coagulans review
Now, enough of putting Kevita in the naughty corner. Let’s look at HOW GOOD the B Coagulans strain is in their kombucha.
- For starters, it has been clinically studied to confer benefits on humans when administered in adequate amounts, and thus meet the WHO’s technical definition of a probiotic.
- In terms of acid resistance, it will likely stand up well to the low PH or highly acidic environment of both kombucha and your stomach. Meaning it will likely make its way to your GI tract.
- It should also be easily tolerated by most people.
- And perhaps most interesting, it is extremely stable - retaining almost 100% of its power over 3 months at room temp or 12 months at a refrigerated temperature. Meaning that by the time you go to drink it, most of the probiotics should still be alive and kicking.
All things considered, Kevita's kombucha contains a solid probiotic strain.
Comparing Kevita's probiotic to other brands
Now with that out of the way, let’s see how Kevita's competitors compare on the probiotic front. And to make this fair, we’ll standardize the serving size to 12oz or 355mils.
So with this standardization, we can see Kevita offers roughly 2 billion CFUs for this amount, and this is…
- More than double the amount in HealthAde
- Slightly more than Humm
- But, only a 1/3 as much as GTs.
In other words, they offer a solid probiotic dose, but GTs still leaves them in the dust with just over 3 times more probiotics per oz.
6. Is Kevita bad for you?
Now, let’s look at the darker side of kombucha and analyze the POTENTIALLY bad stuff you will find in Kevita's kombucha; being alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
So first up alcohol. Yes, there is some alcohol in kombucha, including in Kevita's Master Brew line. But that’s totally understandable given it is a by-product of the natural fermentation process.
However, to really make sure the levels are as low as possible and stay that way - meaning under 0.5% alcohol - Kevita actually filters & pasteurizes their kombucha after fermentation. In addition, they have a 3rd party test and verify this.
Meaning, you can be extremely confident in your Kevita drink meeting the definition of a non-alcoholic beverage.
Now, what about the caffeine? After all, we are talking about a tea based product. Well, on this front Kevita contains the most caffeine out of any kombucha we analyzed - coming in at around 68 mg per 15.2 fl oz or 450 ml.
Which is not that far off the 95 mg of caffeine you would expect to get in 1 cup of coffee.
You might be wondering how is this possible?
Well, the answer is that Kevita intentionally adds supplemental caffeine as green coffee bean extract to their product. In other words, they want these higher levels. And we can only assume this is because they want people to feel a real energy boost when they drink Kevita.
Now, if that’s what you are after, then great. But if you’re NOT looking for your kombucha to replace your coffee, then opting for a lower caffeine kombucha brand might be best.
By contrast, most other kombucha brands have just 10-15 milligrams of caffeine. Said differently, Kevita has 5 to 7 times more caffeine than its competitors.
Lastly, what about sugar? Well, if we look at Kevita's Ginger Kombucha, we can see 16 grams or 4 teaspoons of sugar are present in 1 bottle.
Even if you standardize the serving size against its main competitors, Kevita remains the highest in sugar. For example, on a standardized basis, it’s roughly 30% higher in sugar than Health Ade and 45% higher in sugar than GTs.
7. How expensive is Kevita kombucha?
Finally, let’s look at price...after all, kombucha is one of the priciest drinks you’ll find in the grocery store!
So at the time of this article, we found Kevita’s Ginger Kombucha typically retails for $3 per bottle.
Meanwhile, ALL of Kevita's competitors come in slightly more expensive, with some even going up to $4...hello Health Ade!
So what we’re saying here, is that in the kombucha world, Kevita is one of the most affordable mainstream brands on the market.
It seems the Pepsi distribution powerhouse is doing what it does best!
8. Our verdict on Kevita
So we’ve been on a bit of a journey. And along the way we’ve seen that Kevita has a passionate founder behind it in Chakra Earthsong, who continues to push the company to create new and interesting digestive health-focused products.
And when it comes to their Master Brew kombucha, we saw there are some things we like about it, such as the probiotics, and some things we believe could be improved to bring it closer to the world of traditional kombucha.
For us here at Essential Stacks, Kevita is an affordable commercial kombucha brand, but not at the same level in terms of quality as some of its competitors (hello GTs!).
An evidence hierarchy is followed to ensure conclusions are formed off of the most up-to-date and well-designed studies available. We aim to reference studies conducted within the past five years when possible.
- Systematic review or meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials
- Randomized controlled trials
- Controlled trials without randomization
- Case-control (retrospective) and cohort (prospective) studies
- A systematic review of descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method studies
- A single descriptive, qualitative, or mixed-method study
- Studies without controls, case reports, and case series
- Animal research
- In vitro research