With sugar in almost everything we eat these days, many people are trying to reduce the amount of sugar that they consume. And while kombucha is a pretty healthy drink, most bottles do have 10-20 grams of sugar in them.
One common way to cut down sugar consumption is through the use of zero calorie artificial sweeteners. However, because kombucha’s living bacteria culture needs sugar to ferment, are you able to use sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, and erythritol to make low or zero sugar kombucha?
Kombucha’s living culture of bacteria and yeast known as the SCOBY needs sugar as fuel for fermentation, so artificial sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, and erythritol can not be used to ferment kombucha. They can, however, be added to a finished batch of low sugar kombucha to sweeten it and reduce the bitter, vinegary flavors.
Confused? Don’t worry. I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about making kombucha with artificial sweeteners properly so that you can reduce your sugar consumption while still enjoying healthy and tasty kombucha. Let’s get into it!
Can You Make Kombucha With Sweeteners Like Monk Fruit, Stevia, and Erythritol?
So you like making and drinking kombucha but want it to use artificial sweeteners in place of sugar to make it healthier. Can it be done? Yes and no. Let me explain.
All kombucha needs to be made with sugar, because sugar is a necessary ingredient for the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) to use as fuel for fermentation. Without sugar we have no fermentation, and without fermentation we have no kombucha.
However, while kombucha can’t be fermented with artificial sweeteners like monk fruit, stevia, and erythritol, they can be added to the booch after it’s finished to sweeten it up. So while you can’t make zero sugar kombucha, you can alter the brewing process of your booch to make it lower in sugar, and then add sweeteners in the end to replace the lost sugar.
Let’s walk through how to do it.
How to Make Low Sugar Kombucha with Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are useful when making low sugar kombucha because without them, a kombucha low in sugar is going to taste too bitter, vinegary, and acidic. So we’re not making the kombucha with them, we’re just adding them to the finished kombucha to make it taste better.
So how do you make your kombucha low in sugar? Heres a few tips.
1. Use ¾ Cup of Sugar per Gallon of Kombucha
The general rule in home brewing is to use 1 cup of sugar per gallon of kombucha. The finished kombucha won’t have this much sugar in it since most of it will be eaten by the SCOBY, but some will be left over.
It’s important that you use enough sugar so that the living SCOBY has enough food to stay healthy and fight off mold. However, if you’re trying to create a low sugar kombucha, you can probably get away with only using ¾ cup of sugar per gallon of kombucha.
Only using ¾ cup of sugar per gallon should lower the final sugar content a little bit, but it's probably the least amount of sugar you should ever use. Since if you go any lower your SCOBY may not have enough food to stay healthy.
2. Use a Longer 1st Fermentation
The 1st fermentation of kombucha is a 1-2 week period when the SCOBY sits in the sweet tea that kombucha starts as, and ferments the sugar to create kombucha.
At the end of the 1-2 weeks, enough of the sugar should have been eaten to give the kombucha its signature bitter and vinegary taste, but there’s still some sugar leftover to keep it sweet.
The longer the booch ferments, the more time there is for the SCOBY to eat the sugar. So if you want less sugar in your kombucha, giving it a few extra days of fermentation could help.
The trick is not letting the kombucha ferment too long or else it will get too vinegary tasting and become undrinkable.
If you’re trying to ferment your brew as long as possible to lower the sugar content, while still retaining a hint of sweetness for taste I recommend taste testing the brew at least once a day to prevent it from fermenting too long and becoming undrinkable.
3. Use Low Sugar Flavorings
One part of kombucha that can increase the amount of sugar in a bottle quickly is the type of flavoring used. To keep the amount of sugar in the finished kombucha as low as possible, avoid using fruit, juice, and other high sugar flavorings, and instead use low sugar flavorings like herbs, roots or spices.
Some good no to low sugar flavorings you can use are herbs, roots, and flowers such as ginger root, peppermint, basil, or hibiscus flowers.
4. Water Down the Finished Kombucha
If you’ve only used ¾ cup of sugar to make your kombucha and fermented it longer than usual, it’s probably going to taste pretty bitter. So to help smooth out the taste, I recommend watering down your low sugar kombucha when it’s finished.
5. Sweeten the Finished Kombucha with No Calorie Sweeteners
Even after watering down your low sugar kombucha, it’s still probably going to taste more sour than usual. And although we’re happy that our kombucha is lower in sugar and healthier than normal, we still want it to taste good.
So to help restore that balance between sweet and sour, we’re going to add a no calorie sweetener like stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit.
But which sweetener is best to use in kombucha you ask? Let’s quickly cover each one.
Which No Calorie Sweetener to Use in Kombucha
Monk fruit is a fruit found in southeast Asia that is 150-200 times sweeter than sugar. It has zero calories, zero carbohydrates, zero fat, and doesn’t impact blood sugar levels.
There isn’t any evidence of negative side effects of monk fruit and the FDA recognizes it as “generally safe.”
The only bad thing about monk fruit sweetener that I could find is that some people don’t like it’s fruity taste.
Stevia is a zero calorie, natural sweetener that is about 200 times sweeter than sugar. It’s approved as safe by the FDA, however, there was one study that found that it alters beneficial gut bacteria. These are the bacteria we are hoping to consume by drinking kombucha, so drinking stevia sweetened booch could actually be counterproductive.
Erythritol is a low calorie sugar alcohol that is used as a substitute for sugar. It doesn’t increase blood sugar levels, may even reduce your risk of heart disease, and is considered very safe, but if you have a weak stomach it could cause some digestive issues.
So which sweetener should you use in your kombucha? Well I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three, but I personally would start with monk fruit and see how you like it.
Stevia is the most common of the three to find in your home, however the study that found it may negatively impact gut bacteria makes me a little hesitant to use in kombucha, a drink that is supposed to be improving these same bacteria.
Where to Buy Zero Sugar Kombucha
So what if you really want the kombucha you're drinking to have zero sugar in it, or are just too lazy to make low sugar kombucha yourself? I have 2 great options for you!
The popular kombucha brands, Humm Kombucha and Remedy Raw Kombucha, have a process they use to remove the sugar from their kombucha post fermentation, which allows them to make kombucha with zero sugar in it.
Just like our low sugar kombucha recipe above, both Humm and Remedy Raw sweeten their zero sugar booch with some type of artificial sweetener. Humm Kombucha Zero Sugar uses allulose and monk fruit, while Remedy Raw Sugar Free Kombucha uses a combination of stevia and erythritol.
Humm’s zero sugar booch is called Humm Zero, you can find it for cheap and in the flavors Peach Tea, Raspberry Lemonade, and Blood Orange on Amazon here.
And you can find Remedy Raw’s No Sugar Kombucha in the flavors Ginger Lemon, Raspberry Lemonade, and Cherry Plum on Amazon here.
So there you have it! If you’re someone who wants to keep their sugar low while still enjoying kombucha, no calories sweaters like monk fruit, stevia, and erythritol are a great way to do it!
If you found this article helpful and would like to learn more about kombucha, including homebrewing and health tips, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Have a great day!