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Green Living,  Kombucha

7 Clever Ways to Use Sour Kombucha Vinegar

Last Updated on August 9, 2023

Uh oh. Did you forget about your kombucha brew again? Has it turned from perfectly tangy and sweet to something far too tart to drink? Been there, done that! When kombucha is left to ferment for too long, it quickly turns into kombucha vinegar. But wait – do not throw it out! There is no need to waste it, because kombucha vinegar has several awesome uses. Read along to learn about seven creative, healthy, and handy ways to use kombucha vinegar.

What is Kombucha Vinegar?

Kombucha vinegar is essentially over-fermented kombucha. When a batch of kombucha is bottled at the ideal time, the finished kombucha liquid is separated from the SCOBY and bottled, halting the primary fermentation process. The average kombucha brew duration is from one to two weeks, and results in a well-balanced semi-sweet, slightly tart, probiotic-rich beverage. To learn how to brew kombucha at home, check out this tutorial.

However, if the kombucha brew is left for several weeks or even months beyond that target time, the SCOBY continues to feed off the liquid in the fermentation vessel. Meaning, it will eat up every bit of available sugar and tea that it can, converting it into acetic acid instead – aka, vinegar. Bottled kombucha (removed from the scoby) can also become quite vinegary during second fermentation, but not usually as strong or quickly as the primary brew.

If your primary kombucha brew becomes sour vinegar, bottle and save it! 

Three 32 ounce flip top bottles full of kombucha vinegar are lined up slightly staggered on a dark wood coffee table. There are many varieties of lush, green houseplants in the background.

Acetic Acid & Kombucha Vinegar

As gnarly as it may sound, acetic acid is actually a very natural and healthy type of acid! It is the same good stuff that is in apple cider vinegar. In addition to beneficial bacteria, acetic acid is what makes raw apple cider vinegar so good for you. So, how do they compare? Drinkable kombucha usually contains around 1% acetic acid, while kombucha vinegar has about 2 to 3%. ACV has an average of 5%.  (Interested in making your own apple cider vinegar at home? We do! Learn how easy it is here)

Acetic acid has many noteworthy health-promoting properties. When combined with a meal, acetic acid helps to slow gastric emptying and reduces blood sugar spikes dramatically. See uses 1, 2 and 3 below for ideas on how to consume kombucha vinegar in a pleasant manner.

Furthermore, studies show that acetic acid aides in reducing cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease risk, and has anti-carcinogenic effects! It is also naturally antimicrobial, and can be used to treat various infections, skin irritations, and candida overgrowth.

So, kombucha vinegar doesn’t sound so distasteful or weird after all, right? Right. So let’s take full advantage of that neglected booch – and make excellent use of the awesome stuff you accidentally created!


1) Make Fire Cider

If you have toodled around on Homestead and Chill or my Instagram, you’ve most likely heard me talk about fire cider by now. If not, here is the low-down: Fire cider is a natural immune-boosting, crud-fighting tonic that can help prevent, reduce symptoms, or help you recover more quickly from colds or the flu. We sip on fire cider and elderberry syrup regularly all cold-season long. Especially if we have been around someone who is ill. Guess what? We haven’t been sick in three years! I kid you not.

Traditionally, fire cider is made by infusing garlic, ginger, onions, horseradish, and other optional healing ingredients (such as citrus, turmeric, or herbs) in raw apple cider vinegar. After a few weeks it is strained and honey is added to the final liquid. Hey, don’t knock it until you try it!

As we’ve already established, kombucha vinegar is very similar to apple cider vinegar in many ways, and thus makes a great substitute for ACV in homemade fire cider. You can find our recipe and instructions for how to make Fire Cider here. Simply swap out all or some of the called-for ACV with your kombucha vinegar instead! 

Three half gallon mason jars of fire cider are sitting on a barn wood coffee table. The jars have been filled in layers with grapefruit, lemon, onion, oregano, garlic, turmeric, ginger, chili peppers, and dried calendula flowers. Once full of the prepared ingredients, apple cider vinegar or kombucha vinegar is poured over the top for infusion.
Homemade fire cider can be made with either apple cider vinegar, kombucha vinegar, or a little of both!

2) As Salad Dressing

Do you like to use apple cider vinegar as salad dressing? We sure do! Our go-to salad dressing is simply a drizzle of raw ACV along with a little extra virgin olive oil. Kombucha vinegar tastes very similar and makes a great salad dressing too.

Even if you don’t love it straight, kombucha vinegar can easily be incorporated into various homemade salad dressing recipes in lieu of other vinegars. For example, a mix of kombucha vinegar with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, fresh or dried herbs, and perhaps a little fresh-squeezed lemon juice or a dash of aged balsamic vinegar?

3) Take it as a “Gut Shot”

Because of all the health benefits of acetic acid, it is increasingly common for health professionals to recommend a small daily dose of apple cider vinegar with meals. Or kombucha vinegar, in this case. Yet ACV or booch vinegar aren’t things most people want to guzzle down, nor should they! A little goes a long way. Just a few teaspoons of apple cider vinegar is awesome to promote general wellness, or to improve specific health concerns.

Acetic acid aids in digestion, and improves insulin sensitivity. As we briefly discussed above, it also slightly slows down gastric emptying – which is the time it takes for food to move from your stomach into your small intestine. Because of all this, acetic acid helps stabilize or reduce post-meal blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar is great for everyone,, but especially for those with diabetes. Type 1 Diabetic here! 

By slowing gastric emptying and reducing sugar spikes, it can also lead you to feel more satiated and less likely to overeat. This could be very helpful for those struggling to maintain healthy portions and weight. 

An easy way to get your daily dose of acetic acid is to take a small shot of apple cider vinegar or kombucha vinegar before dinner (or other large meal). If taking a straight shot is too tangy for your tastebuds, dilute 1-2 tablespoons of kombucha vinegar in water or your beverage of choice instead. 

4) As a Natural Hair Rinse

Say what? Yep! Here goes kombucha vinegar, copying ACV again…. Believe it or not, apple cider vinegar is popularly used as a natural hair rinse. Acetic acid helps to clarify hair, remove build-up, reduce scalp itching or dryness, re-balance your natural pH, provide deep conditioning, reduce breakage and frizz, and re-seal cuticles. The result is shiny, smooth, healthy hair! I do either an ACV or kombucha vinegar hair rinse once every month or so. It really helps reduce the build-up and dullness created by our very “hard” (high mineral) city water.

To create a kombucha vinegar hair rinse, simply mix 1-2 parts kombucha vinegar to 4 parts water. For example, by diluting a half a cup (or just over) of booch vinegar in 2 cups water.

If you make an apple cider vinegar hair rinse, it is recommended to dilute it even further since ACV has a higher acetic acid content. In that case, use 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar per 2 cups of water. Some online sources recommend stronger solutions, but I say start light, see how your hair responds, and increase the concentration if you desire. 

After washing your hair, apply the kombucha vinegar either using a spray bottle or by gently pouring it over your head. Lean your head back and be careful to not get it in your eyes! Let the kombucha vinegar solution sit for a few minutes, and then thoroughly rinse your hair. 

A diagram showing a microscopic image of a healthy hair follicle next to a damaged hair follicle.
Kombucha vinegar and apple cider vinegar can help to smooth and seal raised hair cuticles. Photo courtesy of The Eco Well.

5) As a Facial Toner or Make-Up Remover

Like raw apple cider vinegar, kombucha vinegar is gaining popularity as a natural skin care product. Some people swear that using ACV or kombucha vinegar as a facial toner has drastically improved their complexion, making skin glow! The strong antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties of acetic acid make it excellent at healing acne or other infections. Because acetic acid is also quite astringent, it provides a deep clean and removes impurities.

Using an organic cotton round, I often use kombucha vinegar as a facial toner – straight and undiluted! Then I follow it up with homemade calendula oil with argan and jojoba for added healing and moisture. If you have sensitive or extra-dry skin, you may want to try diluting your kombucha vinegar half-and-half with water first. Just like the hair rinse, you should dilute an ACV facial toner even further – and use caution around your eyes!

6) Natural Kitchen or Bathroom Cleaning Spray 

We avoid using bleach and other chemical products on this homestead as much as possible. Instead, we use a variety of natural and non-toxic cleaning products, such as hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, or vinegar.  Vinegar is a great multi-purpose cleaner that can disinfect surfaces plus remove grease, grime, and odors. We use it on everything from the kitchen sink to laundry. Check out this article for more details on our go-to homemade vinegar and citrus cleaning spray. 

To make a kombucha vinegar cleaning spray, simply add strong sour kombucha vinegar to a spray bottle, and spray away! You could also infuse the vinegar with citrus or herbs, as shown in the tutorial linked above. Because the acetic acid concentration in kombucha vinegar is significantly lower than white vinegar, it admittedly won’t have quite the same disinfecting power. However, that doesn’t mean it still can’t be used to spiff things up when a stronger sanitizer isn’t otherwise needed!

Please note that acidic vinegar-based cleaning solutions should be avoided on some sensitive surfaces. It is NOT recommended to use vinegar to clean granite, marble, or other sensitive stone surfaces. The acid can cause staining and etching to them. We use it on our laminate “wood” floors, but would avoid using vinegar on natural hardwood floors or wood furniture.

A glass spray bottle of homemade lemon vinegar cleaning spray is shown. There are whole lemons scattered about the area around the spray bottle, while a 16 ounce mason jar sits full of extra lemon vinegar spray in the background net to a half gallon mason jar half full of lemon peels.
Use kombucha vinegar straight on its own, or create a homemade vinegar & citrus cleaning spray!

7) Starter Culture or SCOBY Hotel

Last but not least, these are probably the most obvious ways you can use kombucha vinegar. Your brew of booch got too tart, so you probably need to start a new batch right? Keep a cup or so of the over-fermented kombucha vinegar to use as the “starter culture” liquid to kick-start the next batch! 

Furthermore, one “side-effect” of brewing kombucha is the large colony of SCOBY babies you’re bound to accumulate. With every new batch of kombucha, a new layer of SCOBY forms. It is best to routinely thin out large layers of SCOBY to keep your kombucha brew in balance. 

So – what do you do with all that extra SCOBY? Sometimes, we chop them up and feed them to the chickens. Other times, they may go into the compost. Sharing extra SCOBY with friends is always encouraged too! Even with creative uses and sharing, you will probably find the need to store some. Enter: the SCOBY hotel

Simply store excess SCOBY in a large glass container with finished kombucha or kombucha vinegar. Store the SCOBY hotel in a cool dark place, where they will happily live with minimal maintenance for years on end. The only “care” we give our SCOBY hotel is to add a few cups of fresh sweet tea once every few months. 

A crock of komubha vinegar used as a SCOBY hotel with many layers of SCOBY taking up the top half of the crock.
No, this actually is NOT our SCOBY hotel (though the hotel looks very similar). This was a very neglected batch of kombucha in our primary brew vessel. It was left to ferment for many months, and officially became vinegar.

And that is how you can use kombucha vinegar!

After reading all of that, I bet you want to intentionally allow your brew to over-ferment to create kombucha vinegar, don’t you? It IS pretty rad that there are so many excellent uses for it. I hope you gleaned a few new fun and useful ideas here!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:

Please feel free to ask questions, and spread the booch lovin’ by pinning or sharing this article. Cheers!

DeannaCat signature, keep on growing


    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Pamela, kombucha vinegar can be stored in the fridge for quite a long time, likely much longer than what you would need it to. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Ashley

    Hi there! A friend gifted me her SCOBY hotel and I have no idea what to do with it, haha! Hopefully make kombucha soon, but for now I’d like to use the vinegar as it’s been 3 months since anything’s been done to it. My question is, when I pour our the kombucha vinegar into a spray bottle, do I just need to refill the container with the scoby with filtered water?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Ashley, if you take out the kombucha vinegar from your SCOBY hotel, you need to make a fresh batch of tea with sugar that we outline in our How to Make Kombucha 101: Brewing Basics for the Best Booch Ever article to give to your SCOBY. SCOBY hotels don’t typically have to be fed fresh tea very often but if you take out the kombucha vinegar which acts as a preservative, you need to give it tea which will eventually turn into vinegar once the sugar is consumed. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Patti

    When I made my first batch of kombatcha, I used black tea and I forgot that I am caffeine sensitive so it end up giving me heartburn. I plan on using green tea or a mix of green tea and a diluted black tea next time.

    In this article you were mentioning different uses! Can you use the kombatcha vinegar like you would white vinegar. I use white vinegar for my laundry, and I was wondering if I could use the access liquid this way

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Patti, we found that we enjoyed using half black and half green tea for brewing kombucha and that was our typical ratio that we used. You could use all green tea but we found that the black tea offered a little more in the carbonation department once we finished with the second ferment. Yes, you can also use the kombucha vinegar in laundry as you would regular white vinegar. Hope that helps and have fun brewing!

  • Mag

    I have an open bottle of GTs kombucha that has been sitting in the back of my fridge for about 4 years now.
    Could this be used as a starter for a home brew?
    is it still safe to use as vinegar in salads and cooking?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Mag, it may be fine but I would likely just discard it and not worry about using it, especially so if it is a flavored kombucha. Good luck!

  • Lyndsay

    Thank you for such helpful ideas!! I recently have been neglecting my kombucha batches so this is very helpful. I don’t want to be wasteful! My question is- once you bottle the “vinegar” do you store it in the fridge or room temp? I want to have it available to use for other things like dressings but not sure what the best way is to store it. Thank you!

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Lyndsay, you can store it in the fridge or out at room temperature although the fridge will help halt further fermentation of the vinegar and may prevent SCOBY’s from forming in the vinegar which can be a pain for people wanting to use it in a spray bottle as it can easily clog from there.

  • Kamilah

    great and helpful solutions! The problem i run into is that when I pour the kombucha vinegar into large glass containers to store for cleaning sprays, hair spritz, feet spritz etc. The bottle ends up growing another mini scoby inside?! The scoby continues to grow and grow then I cant get it out and use my sprays. How do you deal with this?

    • Aaron (Mr. DeannaCat)

      Hi Kamilah, that is a common problem as the SCOBYs just seem to keep coming. I would store the vinegar in a separate jar and possibly only take out small amounts of vinegar at at time in hopes that the SCOBY won’t form in time. We have also found that the older the vinegar gets, the less likely it is to form a SCOBY as there is less sugar (food) for the SCOBY to form. Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Joanna

    Thank you for all the nice articles.
    You can use Sour Kombucha also as natural fertilizer for your plants. I tried to water the plants with 1 part kombucha diluted in 10 parts of water. The plants quickly repaid with better growth.

  • Nathan

    Hi! I just found your site while searching what to do with a small kombucha batch I neglected for a few months. It was relatively young as I’m new to the hobby, and it has been on the counter waiting for me to consume the first batches. I’m ready to restart, but in addition to vinegar the vessel has a funky or almost body odor smell! Is this normal, or should I dump it and start fresh? Thanks! I look forward to browsing the rest of your site!

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