The Best Sugar For Kombucha (+ Sugars To Avoid!)

Which sugars should you use for making homemade kombucha? And which sweeteners should you avoid? Breaking down the best sugar for kombucha here!

It can be tempting to cut out the sugar when brewing kombucha. I mean, do we really need to add that much sugar? (Answer, yes) (but here’s how to make keto kombucha, if that’s your thing).

Sugar is one of the most important ingredients in your fermentation, and choosing the right sugar is just as important (along with choosing the right tea for kombucha and best water for brewing).

Sugar plays the integral role of feeding the yeast. The yeast in the SCOBY eat the sugar, transforming it into ethanol. The bacteria feed on this ethanol, turning it into acidity and giving kombucha its distinctively sour taste.

So which sugar is best for brewing kombucha?

Closeup photo of white sugar granules

The best sugars for brewing kombucha

While there is a long list of tea you can play around with in kombucha, the list of potential sugars is a bit shorter. As always, feel free to experiment with different sugars, but keep in mind that your SCOBY and fermentation could be affected.

White Table Sugar: This is simply pure white sugar, made from either cane or beets. It’s our favorite sugar for brewing kombucha for its predictability and consistency.

Organic Cane Juice Crystals: For the folks who prefer organic sugars, this unbleached sugar does the job, while also having trace amounts of minerals (unlike the white table sugar, which has none).

Raw or Whole Cane Sugar: These sugars are recommended with reservation. They are less refined and can be hard on your SCOBY, but many brewers like using them.

Closeup photo of brown sugar granules

Sweeteners to avoid when making kombucha

Brown Sugar: With added molasses, brown sugar produces inconsistent batches and can harm the SCOBY over time.

Honey: This natural sugar can contain botulism bacteria (especially raw honey), which could create a dangerous brew.

Agave, Maple, Coconut, Palm Sugar: These plant extracts can be hard on the SCOBY while also influencing the flavor of the kombucha.

Sugar Substitutes: Sugar-free alternatives like stevia, xylitol, or aspartame should not be used, as they don’t provide the energy needed for the yeasts and bacteria to thrive. If you want to create a lower sugar kombucha, simply let the first fermentation run for a longer period of time, giving the yeast more time to eat up the sugar.

Powdered Sugar: Otherwise known as icing sugar, this powdery sweetener contains cornstarch.

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32 thoughts on “The Best Sugar For Kombucha (+ Sugars To Avoid!)”

  1. Hi, probably too late to comment, but I’ve been making kombucha for a long time now and have always used raw sugar. So I read with interest what you said about raw sugar. I have had no problems using it, maybe my scobys are used to it….

  2. I’ve been brewing kombucha for several years now and always used regular table sugar for primary and secondary ferments. I’m wondering what you know about powdered dextrose? I’m getting ready to bottle for secondary with ginger

  3. My wife is intolerant of any kind of processed sugars (cane, table, corn syrup, dextrose, etc) and so they make her really scik, even in very small amounts, so I need another option for the first ferment. I am currently trying maple syrup, but wondered if you could give me any idea of how to make the most of less optimal sugars?

    • Oh no! That’s a really tough question honestly. Could you try using cane sugar but then letting it ferment for longer? The sugar is really there for the bacteria and yeast to consume – if you ferment it for longer there won’t be much (if any) sugar left.

  4. I love that you’ve included sugar in your list of ingredients for kombucha! I’ve been using a sweetener called Stevia in my kombucha lately and it’s been working great.

    • I’m making kombucha for the first time. I would like to substitute organic stevia. Do you use liquid or powdered stevia and how much do you substitute when a recipe calls for 1/2 cup? TY so much.

    • You can’t use sugar substitutes in the first fermentation – the kombucha needs real sugar to feed on (if you want a lower sugar kombucha, just let the fermentation run longer so the yeast have more time to eat up all the sugar!)0

    • What Sara said, but also know, stevia can be used in the amount equal the sugar measurement. So if your recipe calls for one cup of sugar you can use one cup of stevia but remember sugar is the food for the scoby and stevia does not have that ability to feed the bacteria to make a good kombucha

    • I’m a bit late here, but this might still be useful for people who use this site as a reference 🙂
      TLTR: Fruit juices/honey/maple syrup etc. don’t have a standardised amount of sugar in them, so you have to work out how much to use by yourself.

      When fermenting, the key to sugar is consistency. You would need to calculate the percentage of SCOBY compatible fermentables in the kiwi juice as well as their effectiveness and up the amount accordingly. Table sugar (sucrose) is basically 100% fermentable and the recommended ratio here is 100g/1.6l. Work out how much sucrose is in your juice and you have a rough idea how much to use. Bear in mind other sugars in the juice will interact with the SCOBY differently – it will prioritise some sugars over others, affecting the flavour.

  5. I know from reading the label on the GT brand kombucha that they use kiwi juice instead of sugar for their first ferment. Any thoughts on using kiwi or other fruit juices for the first ferment?

  6. Funny that you recommend against using honey. Jun tea is a SCOBY-based ferment that similar to regular buch. It is made with green tea and honey. Having brewed buch on and off for several years, usually with 50/50 green & black teas, I was pleased to find out about Jun tea. When looking for a starter scoby to start my Jun, I opted for a ‘regular’ buch scoby, instead of paying 3-4x the price for a Jun one (ohh, the monetization of novelty!!). First go with green tea & raw honey has had amazing results. Even my 2nd ferments are growing their own little scoby-s!! Never had that happen before.

    In your post about different types of tea, I was happy to see rooiboos and hibiscus, some of my favorite drinks. Hibiscus flower is the basis for the Latin American flavored water (aka iced tea) called Jamaica! Getting excited about starting another 1st ferment jug with hibiscus flower!

    What is a good thing to do with the several extra scoby-s? With so many pp making buch, even small craft brewers selling locally, there’s GOT to be a plethora of new scoby-s. I hate to throw them away. Any suggestions?

  7. Your video tells people to discard the starter liquid from growing their first pellicle which is incorrect- that has all the scoby active ingredients in it! The pellicle is just a by- product of the fermentation process. No wonder people are confused!

  8. Hi
    I’ve found that brewing sugar (Dextrose Monohydrate) both in the first and second fermentation works at least as well as white sugar and perhaps even better. Certainly in the 2nd fermentation the fermentation is quicker and stronger than when using white or cane sugar.


    • Paul, have you tried using (anhydrous) dextrose? It appears to be more readily available on the web. where did you find your monohydrate?

    • Hi Paul,
      I am interested in trying your suggestion. Is it a straight 1:1 dextrose compared to white sugar? Or do you use less or more dextrose?


  9. Soooo….I’m getting the impression that the second fermentation doesn’t “convert” that much of the
    sugar, and, therefore, our best option would be raw honey or Maple syrup or even a mix with stevia?