Can You Make Kombucha Without Sugar?

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You can not make kombucha without sugar. Kombucha needs cane sugar during the first fermentation to ferment properly. However, the SCOBY consumes most of the sugars during the fermentation process. Finished kombucha is low in sugar, with minimal calories and carbs.

Why Can’t You Make Kombucha Without Sugar?

Kombucha needs sugar for the fermentation process. Fermented foods need either natural sugars or added sugars to ferment successfully. Kombucha needs four ingredients during the first fermentation:

  1. Brewed tea (typically white, green, or black tea)
  2. Cane sugar or white sugar (1 cup of sugar per gallon of kombucha)
  3. A kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast)
  4. Starter tea or equivalent

The SCOBY uses sugar to create more good bacteria and yeast. These live cultures infuse the brew with beneficial probiotics, antioxidants, acids, and other nutrients that make it a healthy beverage. The fermentation of the sugar also helps create fizzy kombucha. If the SCOBY doesn’t have sugar, it will die, and the brewed sweet tea will mold.

Kombucha can be quite tangy. Sugar is not only necessary for proper fermentation, but it also helps balance the tanginess of the fermented tea.

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First fermentation

How Much Sugar Is In Kombucha After the First Fermentation?

After the first fermentation, kombucha contains between 6 and 12 grams of sugar per 8 oz serving. Kombucha contains two to three times less sugar than soft drinks or fruit juices.

In comparison:

BeverageGrams of sugar
Energy drink35+
Can of soda30+
A cup of orange juice21
A can of coconut water12

Even though kombucha contains sugar, it also contains nutrients that provide many health benefits. Kombucha also doesn’t have any artificial ingredients or preservatives.

If you are concerned about the amount of sugar in your kombucha, let your first fermentation last longer. The first fermentation typically lasts between seven and thirty days. Let your kombucha ferment for at least fifteen days, and it will have a lower sugar content.

Make sure to taste-test your kombucha after day seven. It may be too bitter and sour to enjoy if you let it ferment too long. Kombucha can also turn into vinegar if it ferments for an extended period.

Can You Use a Sugar Substitute?

The first fermentation requires cane sugar for successful fermentation. During the (optional) second fermentation, you can use an alternate form of sugar to sweeten your homemade kombucha.

Bottle your kombucha after the first fermentation, add sweeteners or fruit, and let it ferment for five to seven more days. The longer you allow it to ferment, the less sugar it has.

If you prefer to add a sugar substitute during the second fermentation, consider using one of the following:

Many sugar alternatives, like monk fruit and erythritol, can be good choices for people with diabetes. These sugars won’t raise your blood sugar like white sugar can.

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Various sugar substitutes

Are Sugar-Free Store-Bought Kombuchas Actually Sugar-Free?

Store-bought kombucha still uses sugar during the first fermentation. There is no other way to brew kombucha. These brands then use a unique process to remove the remaining sugar. They can remove the sugar without removing probiotics or live kombucha cultures. After removing the sugar, they add artificial sweeteners so their product tastes pleasant.

Not all artificial sweeteners are healthy. Some, like aspartame, have been shown to harm your body. Others, like monk fruit and erythritol, are generally considered safe. Read the ingredients on any sugar-free store-bought kombucha so you make the best decision for your body.

8 Sugar-Free Flavorings For the Second Fermentation

Just because kombucha is low in sugar doesn’t mean it lacks flavor. Herbs, spices, and extracts are a great way to add flavor to your kombucha. If you prefer a low-sugar kombucha that still has plenty of flavor, try these options:

  1. Cucumber—add a few tablespoons to each bottle.
  2. Extracts—look for vanilla, caramel, or chocolate with no added sugar.
  3. Fresh herbs— rosemary, basil, mint, or lemon thyme.
  4. Ginger—fresh ginger has about .2 grams of sugar per inch.
  5. Herbal tea—open the tea bag and pour a small amount into each glass bottle.
  6. Lemon or lime slices—these fruits are very low in sugar.
  7. Spices—cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, or turmeric contain no added sugar.
  8. Zest—orange, lemon, or lime add flavor but no sugar.

Sarah Pearce

Sarah first tried kombucha in 2015 and she was hooked. Her favorite flavor is ginger, but cranberry comes in a close second. She made her own for many years and loved experimenting with fruit flavors.

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