It’s normal to be shocked at how much sugar is needed in a gallon of kombucha. The good news is they’re not for you but the SCOBY. So, the best sugar for kombucha is the one that’s gentle on the SCOBY and does not contain bacteria that will compete with them.
Kombucha is sensitive to pathogens and other contaminants, temperature, and ingredients. Since there are microscopic contaminants, you must choose the quality of the ingredients you’ll use – including sugar.
Sugar not only feeds the SCOBY but also sets the flavor of your brew. If you prefer using organic sugars, there are some precautions that you have to consider. In this post, we will share the different types of sugar that are ideal and harmful to the kombucha SCOBY.
What is the best sugar for kombucha?
The best sugars for kombucha depend on your flavor profile and the ability of the SCOBY to survive in the brew. To explain this further we categorized the common sugars in the market depending on their performance in kombucha fermentation.
Ideal sugar for kombucha
Sugars under this category are mild to SCOBY and do not contain other bacteria and contaminants that may hurt the starter culture. These sugars include:
White sugar is the best sugar for kombucha if you’re the type of brewer who wants to have predictable results. It is easy for the SCOBY to break down the granules of white sugar and can ensure the consistent quality of kombucha on every brew. The only downside with white sugar is it lacks nutrients since it is heavily filtered.
Cane juice crystals
Cane juice crystals top the list of the best sugar for kombucha that you can try. It still has some traces of mineral to it, unlike white sugar. It is the brewers-favorite because it amplifies the purported health benefits of kombucha and makes the brew a bit more nutritious.
Several types of cane sugar can be used to brew kombucha. However, some contain too many minerals that make kombucha sour faster than using other sugars. The types of cane sugar crystals are as follows:
Some brewers love the flavor of turbinado in kombucha. On the other hand, muscovado is least preferred because it is too raw for SCOBY to digest.
Good but unpredictable sugars
Sugars under this category can be used in fermenting kombucha. However, they may alter the flavor and change the behavior of SCOBY. They contain high levels of minerals which makes your brew more nutritious but may require the SCOBY to gradually adjust and adapt to them.
These sugars include:
Many are surprised that honey can be used in kombucha. Many brewers are against it but it does work on brewing a booch. You just have to choose the filtered honey to be on the safe side. Raw honey may contain a toxin called botulism, which can make kombucha dangerous to drink.
The resistance to using honey boils down to the botulism bacteria in raw honey that may compete with SCOBY bacteria. Since they’re too microscopic, it can be hard to know which bacteria won and prevailed in kombucha.
The recommended serving is 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of honey for every one cup of sugar.
Coconut sugar or palm sugar
Coconut or palm sugar is rich in minerals and can be used in fermenting kombucha. However, the taste can be more bitter due to the excess minerals in the sugar. It is a nutritious option, but you will need to taste the kombucha frequently to find the flavor that suits your palette.
Oftentimes, kombucha brewed in coconut sugar is fermented in a shorter time to prevent it from getting too bitter to drink.
Sugars that you should not use in kombucha
Not all kinds of sweets make SCOBY happy. Some contain bacteria that may threaten the kombucha culture and some are too hard for kombucha to break down. Here are the sugars that you should not use in brewing your booch:
- Raw honey: Raw honey may contain botulism toxins that can make your kombucha dangerous to drink. It is the type of honey that is directly placed in the bottles from the hive.
- Brown sugar: Though nutritious, brown sugar is unfiltered and difficult to break down for SCOBY. It can alter the flavor of kombucha so you need to experiment more in using it.
- Stevia and artificial sweeteners: If you are on a keto diet or aiming for a low-sugar option, artificial sweeteners like Splenda, stevia, and sucralose will not do the trick. These substances do not have the energy that the SCOBY is looking for.
If you’re eyeing using coconut sugar or honey, experimenting with them may help you acquire the ideal flavor that you want. To avoid harming the starter culture during your experimentation, gradually introduce the new type of sugar to your SCOBY through small increments.
The ratio that you can try is ¼ cup of new sugar in ¾ cup of white sugar. Gradually increase the amount of alternative sugar to train the SCOBY into adapting it until you can fully replace the white sugar.
Raw sugar vs. refined sugar in kombucha: What’s the difference?
Raw sugar means that the sugar did not undergo any processing, filtering, or bleaching. It retains its minerals and all the nutrients but the granules can be bigger and they may also retain some harmful compounds and bacteria.
Refined sugar, on the other hand, undergoes several processes to filter the debris and other unwanted particles and substances. They are more uniform in size and no longer have any bacteria. Refined sugars can be organic like refined cane sugar.
The best sugar for kombucha is refined sugar whether it is organic or not. It ensures the consistent quality and flavor of the brew at the optimal brewing time for kombucha. Unlike in using raw sugar, the taste may become too sour or bitter due to the minerals present in the sugar.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Does honey ferment kombucha faster than sugar?
Honey does not ferment faster than sugar. However, Jun culture or honey-trained SCOBY ferments faster than the regular kombucha. You may taste the brew from time to time to know if you need to extend or stop the first fermentation.
How much sugar do you put in a gallon of kombucha?
A gallon of kombucha needs 1 whole cup of sugar. You may reduce it to ¾ cup if you prefer a low-sugar content. However, you cannot go beyond that because your SCOBY will starve during the fermentation.
Is the sugar in kombucha bad for you?
No, the sugar in kombucha is for the SCOBY and not for you. Though the end product may have a hint of sweetness, it is usually around 2g to 6g of sugar per 8 oz. cup. Compared to the 26g of sugar in soda or fruit juices, sugar in kombucha still makes the cut as one of the low-sugar beverages on the market.
Is pure honey the same as raw honey?
No, pure honey is filtered before bottling while raw honey goes directly into the bottles. To ensure a safe kombucha fermentation, it’s best to use pure honey. If you want to use raw honey, you may add it during the second fermentation.
Is there sugar in kombucha after fermentation?
Yes, there will be a few quantity of sugars left in the brew after a two-week fermentation. However, if you extend your fermentation to 10 weeks all the sugars are consumed by the yeast and your kombucha will become vinegar.