The Purpose of Sugar in Water Kefir Ferments - Happy Gut Pro

The Purpose of Sugar in Water Kefir Ferments

You may be wondering why water kefir needs so much sugar.

Without sugar, water kefir cannot ferment.  Sucrose is most easy to digest by the yeasts; they consume the sugar and put out CO2 (carbon dioxide, i.e. the bubbles in your water kefir) and ethanol. Then, as part of the symbiosis, the bacteria consume the ethanol and express the trace vitamins and minerals.

The standard water kefir recipe is 1/4 cup of sugar per 4 cups water. If you leave your ferment longer, for 48-72 hours, sugar levels in water kefir may be even lower. People with diabetes and others with low sugar tolerance have had luck with this method. However, if you add too little sugar, you are inhibiting the brew’s normal healthy development. Too much sugar and the yeasts will either become slimy and overrun the bacteria or fall completely asleep and do nothing.


Take a 1/4  measuring cup and add 1 tablespoon of coconut sugar and top up the rest of the measuring cup with cane sugar.

Organic cane sugar and coconut sugar have higher levels of calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. These healthful elements are passed on to the water kefir drinker.

Check out our sugar guide to read more about the types of sugars to avoid fermenting with.

Does it matter if it’s organic sugar?

Not to the water kefir, but it may matter to you. Organic sugar is unprocessed, which is important to some people. However, plain white sugar will get the job done just fine.

Why do some bottled water kefir and kombucha drinks have 0 sugar on the label but the drink is still very sweet tasting?

Since the cultures continue to eat up the sugar while in the bottle on the shelf of the supermarket, it depends on how many days since the water kefir was bottled as to how much sugar is present in the drink.

Health Canada requires water kefir and kombucha producers to label the amount of sugar in the bottle that is present on the expiry date, not on the date that the drink was bottled.

Ultimately, as long as you are buying a LIVE probiotic drink and it hasn’t been pasteurized to kill all of the beneficial bacteria, you are getting a much lower sugar drink than any syrupy laden soda on the market and reaping numerous health benefits.


The reason your body will begin to despise regular soda after consistently drinking water kefir is because it won’t be able to tolerate the sweetness of the regular soda. Even the sweetness of diet soda will effect your taste buds. As your taste buds begin to adjust to less sugar in your system, you will consciously begin to read labels and choose drinks that are less than 10 grams of sugar.

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