Kombucha is a really unique drink, and because of that many people don’t understand exactly what’s in it. One common question I get when I tell people about kombucha for the first time is “does it have any sugar in it?”
All kombucha begins the brewing process as sweet tea, with about 1 cup of white cane sugar per gallon. Much of this sugar is eaten by the living culture of bacteria and yeast as fuel during the process of fermentation and turned into alcohol, acids and carbon dioxide. Leaving the final kombucha with around 12g of sugar per bottle.
In this article I’ll walk you through exactly why kombucha has sugar in it, how much and what kinds of sugar is in it, and give you a few sugar free kombucha options. Lets get started!
What is Kombucha
Kombucha is a probiotic drink made from fermented tea that has become quite popular in recent years due to its great taste and many health benefits such as improved digestion and gut health, detoxification, and immune system strengthening.
Why Kombucha has Sugar in It
Because sugar is the primary fuel for the bacteria and yeast fermentation in kombucha, it is an essential ingredient to the drink. So there is sugar in almost every bottle of kombucha, usually around 12g. For reference, a can of Coke has 39g of sugar in it.
The interesting thing about the sugar in kombucha is that there’s actually much more sugar in kombucha at the beginning of the brewing process than there is at the end. This is because of fermentation
All kombucha begins the brewing process as sweet tea. This sweet tea has about a cup of sugar in it per gallon which, if left unchanged, would leave the final booch with around 25g of sugar per bottle.
The reason that the final kombucha has much less sugar than this initial amount is because much of the sugar is eaten by a living culture of bacteria and yeast known as a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast)
These bacteria and yeast use the sugar and caffeine from the sweet tea as food, and then convert it into alcohol, acids, and carbon dioxide. The brewer ends the fermentation once enough sugar has been eaten to create a bitter, acidic taste, while still retaining some of the sweetness.
How Much Sugar is in Kombucha
Now that you know that there is sugar in kombucha, you’re next question is probably “how much?”
The length of fermentation, activity level of the SCOBY, and type of flavoring used can all affect how much sugar ends up in the final kombucha.
To help give you an idea of the amount of sugar in different brands, I’ve created a chart of the most popular kombucha brands and how much sugar is in a bottle (16 oz) of their kombucha.
Grams of Sugar per 16 fl oz of Kombucha in Popular Brands
What Kind of Sugar is in Kombucha
White cane sugar is the most common type of sugar used to brew kombucha. Part of the reason for this is that cane sugar has a lot less GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) than the other common type of sugar: beet sugar.
It’s still being debated whether GMOs harm the body, but we do think that because of how sensitive the kombucha SCOBY is, GMOs could affect the health of our kombucha.
Other sugars and syrups like brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, agave, and coconut palm sugar are generally not used to brew kombucha since they all add noticeable flavors to the drink and may damage the SCOBY over time because the bacteria and yeast don’t digest these sugars as well.
Where to get Sugar Free Kombucha
With all this talk about sugar, I have to at least mention the option of sugar free kombucha.
I know I said earlier that all kombucha has to be made with sugar, so then how is sugar free kombucha made? Well sugar free kombucha is still brewed with sugar. The difference is that after the brewing process the sugar is removed and is substituted with artificial sweeteners to retain the sweet taste while making it as healthy as possible.
I have yet to see sugar free kombucha in stores, so if you'd like to try it out you're probably going to have to get it online. The two most popular sugar free kombuchas on the market right now seem to be Humm Kombucha Zero Sugar and Remedy Raw Organic Kombucha.
I was surprised at how many different flavors of Humm Kombucha Zero Sugar and Remedy Raw Organic Kombucha there are on Amazon and how cheap it is to get a pack of either.
In summary, kombucha does have sugar in it because sugar is necessary for the bacteria and yeast to do the process of fermentation and turn sweet tea into kombucha. The most common type of sugar in kombucha is white cane sugar, and the standard practice is to use 1 cup of sugar per gallon of kombucha.
If you’d like to learn more about kombucha, including brewing and buying tips and tricks, be sure to check out the rest of my website! Thanks for reading!