Drinking Kombucha is refreshing and nourishing, however, drinking Kombucha laden with sugar is not the goal and can be counter productive. Those with diabetes or those who follow a ketogenic protocol need to have the lowest sugar content Kombucha can provide. Testing these levels is easy and can be inexpensive. Kombucha uses sugar in the fermentation process but it digests the sugar as it brews, however, residual sugars remain. Doing a second ferment with fruit or fruit juice adds more sugar to an otherwise completed product. Testing for sugar content is a simple solution to the sugar content question.

Many variables create different sugar outcomes. The amount of Kombucha used as the starter is a determining factor to the remaining sugar, the more Kombucha used as the starter, the faster it eats the sugar. The size of the SCOBY is a determining factor as a larger SCOBY digests more sugar. The temperature of the brewing location is a determining factor as a warmer temperature ferments faster. Different flavors also determine the sugar content. Five different gallon jars of Kombucha can be brewed at the same time, each using the same amount of sugar, the same amount of starter and the same amount of tea, while fermenting in the same location of the house – yet each gallon ferments at a different rate. Measuring the level of sugar is easy and valuable. 

Kombucha can only ferment into Kombuch with some form of sugar. The sugar content of Kombucha is so valuable that adding more sugar prior to fermentation is how alcoholic Kombucha is made. Nobody wants to feed their child Kombucha laden with sugar and no one wants to feed their child alcohol. Click here for a Kombucha starter kit.

The sugar content of Kombucha can be measured in four ways. A brix refractometer can be used, a hydrometer can be used, sugar test strips can be used and tasting the Kombucha for sweetness can be used. Each method has a different reliability and each has a different cost. Finding the right choice for you is easy.

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The sugar content can be measured using a brix refractometer. “A Brix refractometer uses light to understand sugar content measured in grams/100ml,” says Oddity Kombucha. 

“1 Brix = 10g/L of sugar,” says Hancocks, Wine, Spirit and Beer Merchants since 1859.

Measuring with a refractometer is easy and often classified as more reliable and accurate sugar content readings. To measure the sugar content of Kombucha, simple place a drop or two of Kombucha on the prism, which looks like a glass plate. For best results, the Kombucha, or other liquid being tested, should be room temperature, or the same temperature as the prism. Close the protective plastic cover down over the drop of Kombucha and look through the eye piece while looking at a window or a light. As your eye looks through the refractometer, you will see a chart of numbers with a blue line depicting the sugar content. As stated above, the sugar in grams per 100 ml is the measure, meaning, the measured amount is grams of sugar for every 3 ounces of Kombucha. This means if your refractometer reads 5, that’s 5 grams of sugar for every 3 ounces of Kombucha, 15 grams of sugar for just over a cup of Kombucha. Measuring for the lowest number is important for some. Measuring water first can show you the blue line hovers at zero, no sugar. The goal for Kombucha, for someone on GAPS, is for the line to be below 4 on the chart. Checking the reading with water first is called calibrating the reader – a screw is in the side wall of the refractometer and can be tightened and loosened to zero with a water test. Click here for a refractometer.  

Refractometers only use one to two drops of Kombucha for testing and can be used for many, many, many years without added expense. 

The Hydrometer is an easy method of testing but uses a little more Kombucha for testing. The hydrometer kit comes with a tube which is filled with the Kombucha. The hydrometer, which looks like a floating thermometer, is then set in the tube. It will float, depicting a reading of the sugar content level marked on the side of the hydrometer. In comparing the refractometer with the hydrometer, the hydrometer is easier to break and uses more Kombucha for testing.  Testing with a hydrometer takes 250 ml of liquid, which is one measured cup for each test. Both are good choices. Click here for a hydrometer.

Sugar test strips can be used by simply dipping the test strip into the Kombucha and reading the measure. If you’ve ever measured chlorine in a pool or tested urine on a pee strip, it’s nearly the same testing process. It’s easy, yet more expensive, at just over a dollar per test strip. Accuvin test strips test 0.1 to 2.0 grams per Liter, so if the sugar is too high, it will not create a reading. Click here for Accuvin sugar test strips. 

Testing the sugar content by tasting the product is done by sticking a straw down into the Kombucha. Then put your finger on the top of the straw and pull it from the liquid and drop it into your mouth, tasting for sweetness. If the mixture is sweet, it’s not ready for consumption. If the mixture tastes like Apple Cider Vinegar, it’s over brewed. Kombucha is best right in the middle. The problem with this testing method is it is unreliable for those who are diabetic or Ketogenic. 

Click here to read more about Kombuca. Click here to learn how to make a Kombucha SCOBY from a store bought bottle of Kombucha. Click here to read how Kombucha is a Stage One GAPS food. Click here to see healthy SCOBYs, click here to see moldy SCOBYs.

*Nourishing Plot is written by Becky Plotner, ND, traditional naturopath, CGP, D.PSc. who sees clients in Rossville, Georgia. She works as a Certified GAPS Practitioner who sees clients in her office, Skype and phone. She has been published in Wise Traditions, spoken at two Weston A. Price Conferences, Certified GAPS Practitioner Trainings, has been on many radio shows, television shows and writes for Nourishing Plot. Since her son was delivered from the effects of autism (Asperger’s syndrome), ADHD, bipolar disorder/manic depression, hypoglycemia and dyslexia, through food, she continued her education specializing in Leaky Gut and parasitology through Duke University, finishing with distinction. She is a Chapter Leader for The Weston A. Price Foundation. [email protected]

“GAPS™ and Gut and Psychology Syndrome™ are the trademark and copyright of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. The right of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Patent and Designs Act 1988.



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