Being aware of how many calories are in what you're drinking is really great way to prevent unnecessary weight gain and other health issues, especially because it can be so easy to drink a lot of calories without even noticing.
With a health focused drink like kombucha, it's especially important to know how many calories there are, where they're coming from, and what brands have more than others.
Most store bought kombucha has around 60 calories per bottle (16oz). The number of calories in different brand’s kombucha will depend on the length and speed of fermentation, type of flavoring used, and whether or not there is any added sugar.
Later in the article you'll find a table of all the most popular kombucha brands and how many calories are in each one. But first let's talk about what the heck a calorie even is and why they are in kombucha.
What are Calories?
A calorie is a unit of measurement that measures the amount of energy in food and drinks. If you want to get technical, the real definition of a calorie is “the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 degree celsius.”
With so much talk about weight loss these days, especially here in the U.S. where I live, calories are many times looked at as a negative thing that we are supposed to consume as little of as possible. But the truth is that our body needs the energy from calories to function well and survive.
The only time calories actually lead to weight gain is when we take in more than we burn off. These excess calories are stored as fat. For example if you were to eat 2,000 calories in a day but only burn off 1,900, the 100 calories that were not used for energy would be stored as fat.
Having some fat on our bodies is important because fat allows us to store energy for later use. The health problems come when someone is eating more calories than they burn off regularly and developing a lot of fat.
Too much fat on your body can lead to:
High blood pressure
Fatty liver disease
Type 2 diabete
Why Calories are In Kombucha
In order to understand why the calories in kombucha brands differ, we need to understand why they're in kombucha in the first place.
All booch begins as sweet tea. What turns this sweet tea into sweet and sour probiotic kombucha is a living culture of bacteria. This culture of bacteria, known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast), eats the sugar and caffeine from the sweet tea and produces acids, carbon dioxide, and alcohol.
So some of the calories come from this original sugar in the tea, but because a lot of the sugar is eaten by the SCOBY, there are much less calories in the finished kombucha than there are at the beginning of the brewing process.
Once it has eaten enough sugar to make the kombucha bitter tasting, the SCOBY is removed and the 1st fermentation is complete. At this point the kombucha can be drunk, but it's not carbonated or flavored yet.
The carbonation and flavor is added in a 2nd fermentation. During this stage, the kombucha is sealed in glass fermenting bottles that are filled with fruit, juice, or herbs for flavoring.
A more sugary flavoring like fruit juice will give more calories to the kombucha than a low sugar flavoring like a root or herbs.
Over the course of a few days, the kombucha in the bottles develops carbonation and flavor. It’s then refrigerated and ready to be drunk!
How Many Calories are in Kombucha?
Most store bought kombucha will have around 60 calories per bottle (16oz). The amount of calories in kombucha will differ based on 2 main things, the sugar it’s brewed with, and the flavoring that is used.
Length of Fermentation
The really interesting thing about kombucha’s calories is that when the drink is first being brewed, it has more calories in it than when it’s finished. This is because when kombucha begins the brewing process as sweet tea, it has a lot of sugar in it. But during fermentation, the SCOBY eats a lot of this sugar and turns some of it into gas which is released into the air.
A big influence on the difference of sugar and caloric content between different kombucha brands is the length of their fermentation. If the brand ferments their kombucha longer, more sugar will be eaten and there will be less calories in the final booch. If a brand ferments their kombucha for less time, less sugar will be eaten and the kombucha will have more sugar and therefore more calories.
The other thing that influences the amount of calories in a bottle of kombucha is the flavoring that is used.
If a brand uses a fruit or fruit juice flavoring, there is going to be more sugar in the kombucha and therefore more calories than if a brand uses herbs, roots, or spices for flavoring, which have much less sugar.
Since the length of fermentation and type of flavoring used can differ greatly between kombucha brands, I found out the amount of calories in all of the most popular brands and organized them into the table below.
Table of # of Calories in Popular Kombucha Brands
What is the Lowest Calorie Kombucha?
As you can see in the table above, the lowest calorie kombucha on the market is Humm Kombucha Zero Sugar. Although it says 15 calories per 16 oz above, every can is actually only 11 oz, which means there are only 10 calories per can!
Although Humm Zero is low in calories, it's still packed with probiotics and made with real fruit flavoring!
You probably won't be able to find Humm Zero at your local grocery store, but I was surprised at how cheap you can get it on Amazon. You can find a Humm Kombucha Zero Variety Pack that includes 4 of the Raspberry Lemonade flavor, 4 Peach Tea, 4 Blood Orange, and 4 Ginger Lemonade on Amazon here.
How Many Calories are in Home Brewed Kombucha
If we’re going to talk about kombucha, we have to talk about home brewing.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t an easy way to find out the amount of calories in a batch of home brewed booch. But as long as your brewing process is pretty normal, I would assume that the amount of calories in your home brew is similar to that in store bought kombucha: around 60 calories per 16oz.
How to Make a Low Calorie Kombucha
Calorie free kombucha is impossible to make, but there are a few adjustments you can make to get your kombucha as low in calories as possible.
Longer 1st fermentation
With a longer 1st fermentation, more sugar will be eaten by the SCOBY and released as gasses into the air, and less sugar means less calories. The hard part is fermenting your kombucha longer while still keeping it tasting good, since less sugar also means a more bitter, vinegary taste.
If you’re trying to ferment your brew as long as possible while still retaining a hint of sweetness for taste, I recommend taste testing the brew at least once a day so it doesn’t ferment too long and become undrinkable.
Use a Low Sugar Flavoring or No Flavoring at All
Another thing that you can do to lower the amount of calories in your home brewed kombucha is use a low calorie flavoring, or no flavoring at all.
Using no flavoring is probably the best way to get the calorie count of your kombucha lower. You can still have it go through second fermentation for carbonation, just don’t add any flavoring to the brewing bottles.
If you still want to use a flavoring for your low calorie kombucha, try to avoid fruits and high sugar juices. Use low sugar ingredients like roots, herbs or spices. One of my favorite low calorie healthy flavor combinations is ginger turmeric.
How Kombucha Can Help You Lose Weight
If you're reading an article about calories, there's a chance you are also interested in weight loss, or at least in avoiding weight gain.
It turns out kombucha is a really awesome tool that can be used in a ton of different ways to aid in weight loss. I wrote an entire article on how kombucha can help you lose weight that you can check out here if you'd like.
Hopefully this article could help you learn more about the calories in kombucha and how different brands compare.
Because most brands have a similarly low amount, when choosing a kombucha I'm more focused on how much sugar there is, whether or not there are probiotics, and how it tastes than on the number of calories.
If you’re interested in learning more about these things and how to choose what kombucha to drink, how to make kombucha at home, and other kombucha related tips, be sure to check out the rest of my website!