Most people who drink kombucha are well aware of the negative effects of sugar. So it’s no wonder many people are questioning how much is actually in their kombucha.
This is especially true if you brew your own at home. Adding 1 cup of sugar to 1 gallon of kombucha seems like a lot!
But what many people don’t realize is how much sugar is actually in their kombucha at the end. I’ll talk more about that below.
But for those who just want to have a sugar free kombucha is it even possible?
Technically, no. Brewing kombucha requires yeast. That yeast requires food to grow. So if you don’t feed your yeast you won’t feed your bacteria. If you don’t feed your bacteria you won’t get the healthy acids that give kombucha its unique taste.
But if you really want to brew your kombucha without sugar, here’s how you do it:
Only use 1/3 cup of sugar per gallon of kombucha. You will definitely get a more acidic tasting brew, but it will be very low in sugar. Next, add stevia to the second ferment. You won’t need much. Use at most 1/32 tsp pure stevia extract (pure stevia means the only ingredient is stevia). This cuts back on the sugar while still giving you the regular kombucha flavor.
Alternatively, you can use a sugar alternative. I recommend pureed fruit. You’ll want something with a little bit of natural sugar in order to keep your yeast happy. Apples, mangos, strawberries will all do the trick. You can be as creative as you like. I recommend using at least 2 cups of pureed fruit for each gallon of kombucha.
Another alternative is maple sugar. It gives the kombucha a very unique flavor profile and provides you with additional health benefits.
There are plenty more ways to reduce the sugar in kombucha – keep reading to find out more!
How Much Sugar Is In Kombucha Anyway?
Before you decide to reduce your sugar in kombucha it’s a good idea to know exactly how much sugar is in your kombucha anyway.
Some online resources will tell you it’s only 1 gram per 8 ounces of kombucha. This is just wrong. While it does depend on how much sugar you add into your first ferment, as well as how long your F1 is, the average amount of sugar is usually around 9 grams per 8 oz.
One of the community members did her own experiment where she boiled down her kombucha and weighed the remaining solids.
She ended up with just over 9 grams per 8 oz. Much more than most people think.
What about the other solids in the kombucha? Well, she boiled down regular tea and subtracted the number for the kombucha concentrate. After she calculated how much sugar she originally put in (1 cup per gallon) it came out to a reduction of 15% of the sugar.
That means the yeast and bacteria only need 15% of the sugar you add to the brew. The rest is there just for the taste!
How To Brew Kombucha Without Sugar
The fact is, you can’t. Sugar is a crucial part of the brewing process. What you can do, however, is significantly cut down on how much sugar you use.
As I mentioned above, it appears the yeast only really digest 15% of the sugar you add to your brew. That means there is plenty of room for you to cut back on sugar while still giving the yeast everything they need.
For starters, I recommend only using 1/2 cup of sugar for 1 gallon of kombucha.
The only issue is taste. If you are okay with having a slightly acidic and more tart tasting kombucha then cut back drastically on the sugar.
If you really want to push the boundaries, you can cut it down to at 1/3 cup of sugar per gallon.
See if you are able to enjoy the kombucha if you cut the sugar in half.
When I tried this the kombucha was much too acidic for my liking, even though I flavored the second ferment with strawberries.
The Best Alternatives For Sugar In Kombucha
There are a number of sugar alternatives that people regularly use for their kombucha. The most popular ones are:
- Fruit Puree
- Maple Syrup
- Coconut Sugar
Using Fruit Puree Instead Of Sugar
The fruit puree is one of the healthier options. The fruit brings the natural sugars (fructose) that will keep the yeast happy. The only downside is this can be a pain for repetitive brewing.
The best way is to use a separate SCOBY from your SCOBY hotel. This way, you can mix and match the type of fruit you use for each brew.
I like using at least 2 cups of fruits that are high in natural sugars. Some fruits I’ve used are:
It also allows for interesting fruit combinations during your second brew.
Just blend up the fruit into a fine paste and dump into your brewing vessel for the first ferment.
The best way to prevent mold is by having a strong starter tea – make sure your starter tea turns to kombucha vinegar before trying this out!
The second most popular way to sweeten your kombucha without sugar is using maple syrup. Now, there isn’t actually that much difference between using maple syrup and regular sugar.
The benefit comes from the additional health benefits of maple syrup and the fact that you can use less.
I find that I can get away with only 1/2 cup of maple syrup for a 1 gallon batch of kombucha.
Many nutrients are naturally found in pure maple syrup, including zinc, potassium, manganese, thiamine, calcium, iron, magnesium, and riboflavin.
Just a 1/4 cup serving of maple syrup provides 41% of your daily requirement of zinc.
A 1/4 cup of maple syrup also provides 100% of your daily requirement of manganese, which is linked to HDL, or good cholesterol, and also known for its ability to improve overall mental stability.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to refined sugar then maple syrup is the way to go!
Another popular alternative is to use honey. Just note, use only pasteurized honey!
Use pasteurized honey only! Raw honey contains bacteria that will harm the natural bacteria produced by the kombucha.
Similar to maple syrup honey produces a very unique flavor profile. Have fun with mixing and matching different flavors. I recommend a blueberry, mint, honey combination. It’s one of my favorites!
Use 3/4 cup of pasteurized honey for every gallon of kombucha.
The final alternative to sugar is coconut sugar. I suggest this as a last option because the differences between coconut sugar and regular sugar aren’t that significant.
This sugar is derived from the coconut palm tree and touted as being more nutritious and lower on the glycemic index than sugar.
Because regular sugar doesn’t contain any nutritional value it is usually deemed empty calories.
The difference between regular sugar and coconut sugar is coconut sugar retains quite a bit of the nutrients found in the coconut palm.
Most notable of these are the minerals iron, zinc, calcium and potassium, along with some short-chain fatty acids like polyphenols and antioxidants.
It also contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption and explain why coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than regular table sugar.
Use the same amount of coconut sugar as you have been using with regular sugar (1 cup for every gallon.)
The best way to cut down on the sugar in your kombucha without sacrificing the taste is to give the yeast all the sugar they need while replacing the sugar meant for flavoring with stevia.
Only use the stevia in the second ferment. Ideally, the same day you will be drinking the kombucha.
Alternatively, you can try one of the many sugar alternatives I’ve listed above.
Hope this helps!