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The sugar you put into your fermentation isn’t for you, of course, it’s for the cultures. So don’t be tempted to reduce the quantity to make it healthier—it will only cause your ferment to fail. Remember, most of the sugar has been processed out by the time it’s ready to drink.

On average, fermented water kefir contains the same amount of sugar as in one green apple—just 3 grams. If you add fruit juice to your fermentation, the sugar content can go up to 5 grams. Not bad compared to 72 grams of sugar in a root beer.

You can experiment with different kinds of sugar and if you’ve had trouble fermenting, sometimes a different sugar could yield greater success in your water. When choosing a sugar, always read the label. Some sugars may contain anti-caking additives or other ingredients that could inhibit fermentation. Look for plain sugar with no added ingredients for best results.

Use the following table as a guide to sugar use and its effects.

Sugar Type Description Results and Recommendations
Refined white sugar Pure white, free of minerals Makes a sweet water kefir
Organic Cane Juice Crystals Less refined than white sugar; very low mineral content Makes a sweet water kefir
Turbinado or Raw Sugar Sugar that is spun to have most of the molasses removed; medium mineral content Makes a less sweet water kefir than white sugar
Rapadura or Sucanat Sugar cane juice that has been pressed and dried; high mineral content Makes a stronger-flavored water kefir
Brown Sugar White sugar with molasses added back; high mineral content Makes a stronger-flavoured water kefir
Coconut Palm Sugar Sugar extracted and dried from coconut palm trees; very high mineral content Use small amounts only in combination with cane sugar.
Maple Sugar or Syrup Made from the sap of the sugar maple tree Too rich for water kefir and can damage water kefir grains. Use small amounts only in combination with cane sugar.
Honey Natural sugar from bees; high in mineral content Raw honey has its own bacteria that can compete with water kefir grains; some honey is contaminated with high fructose corn syrup. We DO NOT recommend using this for making water kefir.
Molasses Very high mineral content Used on its own, molasses can be damaging to water kefir grains. We recommend using only ½ tsp. as mineral supplementation per batch, as needed.
Agave, stevia, monk fruit, Splenda Sugar substitutes Unfortunately, these substitutes do not provide the food necessary for water kefir grains. We DO NOT recommend using these for making water kefir.

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