How Much Sugar Does Water Kefir Contain?

Q. I would love to make water kefir but I’m nervous about using sugar.  How much sugar is left when the water kefir has finished culturing?
A. Water kefir grains are accustomed to being cultured in sugar water although juice or coconut water can also be used.  Keep the following things in mind when making water kefir with sugar water:
Water kefir grains tend to do best with a ratio of 1/2 cup sugar to 2 quarts water (6% sugar solution). We strongly recommend not changing this ratio.  If too little sugar is used, the kefir grains will not work as effectively (and will eventually become damaged and even die) and you may actually end up with more sugar in the finished batch than you would if you had used this ratio (due to inefficient consumption of the sugar by the water kefir grains).
A couple more tips for water kefir sugar:
  • We recommend using organic sugars whenever possible as many non-organic sugars are processed with chemicals that are hard on the water kefir grains.
  • White sugar makes the most mild tasting kefir (we recommend Organic Evaporated Cane Crystals); whole sugars containing molasses such as Rapadura and Succanat will make a stronger tasting kefir.
  • Finished water kefir will taste fairly sweet (but nowhere near as sweet as the sugar water you started with).  This is not an indication that the kefir grains malfunctioned but rather a byproduct of the small amount of fructose that remains.
  • If you want to encourage your water kefir grains to multiply, use either a whole sugar (e.g. Rapadura or Succanat) or add 1 t. of molasses to 1/2 c. white sugar.  The minerals in the molasses promote growth of the kefir grains.  Click here for more information on encouraging kefir grains to multiply.
Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      Generally it can stay drinkable up to a few months but that assumes a couple of things such as the kefir not being contaminated at any point. So we do recommend just using good judgement and only drinking kefir that looks, smells and tastes okay.

  1. Mayette says

    My second batch of coconut water kefir was fermented for 48 hours in the kitchen with an average temperature of 29 deg centigrade. The juice became slimy and there was some slimy bubbles on top. The coconut water kefir also became thicker. Does this mean that it has been contaminated by bad microorganisms? Are my kefir grains dead?

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      Contamination is a possible reason but more likely it may be that the juice over cultured a bit. I’d put the kefir grains back in sugar water for a cycle or two and see how they do before trying coconut water again. At 29 C it’s likely 48 hours was just a little too long. Next time, if the temperature is the same, I’d check the mixture after 24 hours and see if it is ready.

  2. Donna says

    I made the water kefir 3 times and the third time it had small floaties after draining. My jar was clean. Is this normal?

    • Shaina says

      It kind of depends on what the floaties were. They might have been little yeast particles, which shouldn’t be a big deal. They also could have been bits of sugar from the manufacturing process that broke off from the grains and floated to the top. Your best bet is to judge by smell and taste: If it smells or tastes bad, don’t drink it!

    • Shaina says

      There should be about three tablespoons of grains per quart of sugar water. It tends to vary a little bit depending on your grains, but that’s a fair estimate. You can play around with them a bit and see what your kefir likes.

  3. Audrey says

    Hi I have been given some water kefir grains and we have no sugar in the house at the moment and live far from a shop, my kefir grains will have been without sugar for two days! I have put 2tblspns of molasses and some pure apple puree, sultanas and ginger in the water, do you think this will get them through another day, untill a get sugar? Thanks

    • RosalynRosalyn says

      That might work as a temporary measure! Try and keep the grains in a small bag to prevent them from getting mixed up with the added fruit. You can usually keep water kefir grains in the refrigerator for a few days with just water and a few raisins.

  4. kate pet says

    I have 10 tablespoons of water kefir grains in 10 cups of water. how much sugar should I use?

    also, when the water kefir is ready, is there a significant amount of sugar in there? do you think its ok for a cancer patient? (they shouldn’t consume too much sugar)



    • says

      Kate Pet – That sounds like you’d need about 1/2 – 2/3 cup sugar. The remaining sugar in finished water kefir will vary depending on ingredients used and culturing conditions. Generally speaking, water kefir cultured for 48-hours will result in less remaining sugar than water kefir cultured 24-hours under similar conditions.

    • says

      Gen – The 1/4 cup will result in a slightly sweeter kefir, assuming you culture it for the same amount of time. If you are then doing a 2nd fermentation that can help with extra carbonation. Using 1/8 cup is a valid option but be careful when the weather is warm that you don’t let it go to long without another feed.

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