How to Lower Sugar Levels in Kombucha
Are you concerned about the sugar levels in your kombucha? In this post we take a look at the main ways in which one can reduce the amount of sugar present in kombucha.
With time and popularity kombucha has become widely known as a health drink / tonic. While kombucha does contain a whole host of healthful elements – it also contains sugar. Many people who drink kombucha for its health benefits do not want to include any extra sugar in their diet.
Unfortunately it is not possible to brew kombucha without incorporating any sugar into the sweet tea base. This is because the SCOBY requires the sugar. SCOBYs use sugar as their food source. Without a source of food, the SCOBY will starve and fermentation will not be carried out.
However this does not mean that there aren’t ways to reduce the sugar levels in your finished kombucha. You might not be able to brew kombucha without providing the SCOBY with some form of sugar or sweetener to feed on, but there are a couple tricks you can pull to make sure that the end result kombucha is not overly high in sugar.
3 Ways to Lower Sugar Levels in Kombucha
The below methods are the two most guaranteed tricks for reducing the sugar levels present in your kombucha before you drink it.
# 1 Extend Your Kombucha Brewing Time
This is the most common and sure way of dropping sugar levels within your kombucha. If kombucha is left to get very mature, the yeasts eat up a lot of the sugar. However, as this is happening, the bacteria in turn produce natural acids. These are super good for us – but they are what makes mature kombucha so shockingly sour!
How to Extend Brewing Time While Minimising Souring in Your Kombucha
Most people who brew kombucha have a liking for its tartness – but there is a limit. Overly sour kombucha can be unpleasant to drink. Really mature kombucha which has turned to what is known as ‘kombucha vinegar’ is almost impossible to drink!
Leaving your kombucha to brew for extended periods of time will cause souring. This cannot be avoided. But it can be minimized. And the way to do this is to slow down your kombucha!
Slowing Down Your Fermenting Kombucha
Slowing down your kombucha means to decrease the rate at which it is fermenting. This will result in a mellower ferment – and usually less sharp, but still with lower sugar levels.
The number one way to slowing down kombucha is to drop the temperature at which it brews. For more info on how to effectively reduce the brewing temperature of your kombucha, and to get cooling ideas, check out the cooling section of How to Counter Extreme Seasonal Temperatures.
For more detail on how to slow down a ferment and increase brew times, you can also have a look at these two posts, What to Do If My Kombucha is Brewing Too Fast and How to Increase Fermentation Time.
# 2 Dilute Mature Kombucha
If you are really keen on drinking a super low sugar / calorie kombucha – but can’t handle the concentrated tartness, this is a great method to put into practice. Sometimes I forget about a batch of kombucha, or am away, and it gets so sour I can hardly drink it! My favorite thing to do is to combine it with sparkling water or juice. Fruit juice of course will bring with it additional sugar. However the sparkling (or still) water option will give you a kombucha drink which has all of the probiotics and benefits – but with very little sugar content.
If you want to try this out, do the following:
Brew your kombucha until it is very sharp
The time that this will take will depend on what the temperature is where you live. Just keep smelling and/or tasting your kombucha while it brews. Once it gets super sharp – you can stop it.
Dilute with a liquid which is low in sugar
Once you have got your mature kombucha, select a beverage that you want to combine it with. This could be still or sparkling water, cooled tea, coconut water etc.
If you come up with any awesome combos let us know! : )
# 3 Do a Second Ferment
Second ferments are essentially a couple extra days of fermentation, tacked onto the main one, without the SCOBY present. Second ferments are a great way to lengthen the brewing cycle, while still producing a more mellow brew at the end. Because the SCOBY is not present within second ferments, these tend to mature the kombucha is a less vigorous fashion.
Second ferments are also a good time to play with additional flavorings. Just be careful that you do not inadvertently increase the sugar too much with flavoring such as fruit, juice etc. If you are looking for a kombucha that is slightly reduced in sugar, then you should look at flavorings like spices, herbs and teas.
How to Do a Second Ferment
Second ferments might sound complicated if you are not familiar with the term – but they are fairly simple. The basic process is as follows:
- Transfer the kombucha (without its SCOBY) into a glass vessel (or vessels) which seals.
- At this point you can add in a flavoring such as spices, herbs, other teas and so on.
- Allow the kombucha to sit at room temperature for one day, and then transfer it to the refrigerator for 7 days.
This seven day fermentation at a low temperature in the refrigerator will mature your kombucha without giving a hard and immature sharpness.
While it might not be possible to brew 100% sugar free kombucha, there are ways and means by which you can make sure that you are drinking a kombucha which has the minimum of sugar preset – while still being palatable to drink.
Extending brew times within reason, and implementing second ferments can achieve a moderately lower level of sugar in your kombucha – depending on how long the ferments go for.
If you want a kombucha that is super low in sugar, then you can ferment your kombucha until it almost becomes a kombucha vinegar. Then dilute it with a low sugar / low carb beverage such as water or cooled herbal tea.
If knowing the exact level of the sugar in your kombucha is important to you, then you can measure it using a hydrometer. For info on measuring sugar levels, have a look at this post How to Test For Sugar Concentration in Kombucha.
That’s all for now folks – happy fermenting. : )