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Types of sugar for water kefir

One of the commonly asked questions we have is 

What Sugar is best for Making Water Kefir

For the large part it is simply personal preference but there are a few things to consider when choosing your sugar. 

Brown Sugar


When choosing a sugar for making water kefir, always read the label. Some sugars may contain anti-caking additives or other ingredients that could affect the health of the water kefir grains. You want to use a plain sugar with no added ingredients. 


Below we list the various types of sugar available and how suitable they are and what kind of result you can expect.

  • Refined white sugar

    • Pure white, free of minerals
    • Makes a sweet water kefir, 
  • This kind of Sugar makes a nice fizzy and quite neutral tasting kefir so is ideal if you are looking to flavour your kefir and produces good fizz. This is however the least popular choice due to it being refined. 

white sugar

  • Organic Cane Sugar

    • Sugar that is spun to have most of the molasses removed. 
    • Makes a sweet water kefir
  • This is the most common form of organic sugar available and looks just like a golden cane sugar. Organic evaporated cane juice (sugar) is a completely natural sugar made from sugar cane. Because it is not processed as much as table sugar, evaporated cane juice retains more of the nutrients from the sugar cane.
  • This type of sugar is very commonly used for water kefir and makes a sweet (ish) water kefir that is fizzy and good to flavour. 

organic cane sugar

  • Turbinado or Raw Sugar

    • Slightly less refined than OCJC; medium mineral content.
    • Makes a less sweet water kefir than white sugar or OCJC
  • Sometimes, turbinado sugar is called raw sugar . Turbinado sugar is partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses from the sugarcane and has a subtle caramel flavor. It may cost up to three times as much as white sugar
  • NOt my favourite to use as its expensive and the taste is much dryer and less sweet and can be harder to get a good fizz. 

raw sugar


  • Rapadura or Sucanat

    • Sugar cane juice that has been pressed and dried; high mineral content
    • Makes a stronger-flavored water kefir
  • This is basically the same as organic cane sugar it just has most of the molasses still in it. it's more moist than other unrefined cane sugars and quite sticky, but it looks just like dark brown sugar. 
  • I find that kefir grains love this sugar but it can be quite rich so the flavour is not to everyone's taste and the high mineral content usually means the grains grow fast with. 


  • Brown Sugar (light and dark)

    • White sugar with molasses added back; high mineral content
    • Makes a stronger-flavored water kefir
  • This sugar is still refined but does make a nice but ricjer flavoured ater kefir and generally gives good grain growth. 

Brown sugar


  • Coconut Palm Sugar

    • Sugar extracted and dried from coconut palm trees; very high mineral content
    • Too rich for water kefir and can damage water kefir grains. Use small amounts only in combination with cane sugar.
  • Lots of people do use this kind of sugar to make kefir but it is not recommended as it makes a very acidic kefir that can cause damage to the grains. It should only really be used in combination with another sugar or as a one off brew every now and again. I would never recommend using this as a long term sugar. 

coconut 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.
  • Basically the same as coconut sugar, only use occasionally or in combination with another sugar.

maple syrup

  • Honey

    • Natural sugar made by bees; high 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  EVER recommend using this for making water kefir. It is not worth the risk.


  • Molasses

    • Very high mineral content
    • Use on its own, molasses can be damaging to water kefir grains.
  • This is another sugar that can be used in conjunction with a lighter cane sugar but should not be used on its own as it can damage the grains. YOu can add 1/2 teaspoon per batch if you are looking to supplement minerals but it would not be recommended to use only molasses to brew with. 


  • Agave, stevia, monk fruit, Splenda

    • Sugar substitutes
    •  Basically these are not sugars and therefore cannot be used. Unfortunately, as these are not an actual sugar tthese substitutes do not provide the food necessary for water kefir grains and to support fermentation. We DO NOT recommend using these for making water kefir. Mold will very likley be the outcome of using these.
  • They can however be used to sweeten up a brew AFTER you have removed the grains and are simply adding flavour. DO NOT ADD TO THE BREW add to the bottle once the kefir is made. 



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