Is that sugar in my kombucha bad for me? In this week's installment of Booch News we will go into a topic often presented to us in our taproom:
Sugar - the good, the bad and the ugly.
We won't really dive too much into the bad or ugly as there are many, many searches you can do to find the answer to that question. We are going to focus on how and why sugar is essential and necessary for kombucha and fermentation.
"Sugar" comes in various forms but all natural sugars are derived from plants and most end in "tose." Sugar from corn is called dextrose, sugar from fruit is called fructose, sugar from malted barley (used to make beer) is maltose, sugar from beets or cane plants is sucrose. Many plants have multiple "tose"'s. Sugars are simply chemical compounds, like water or vinegar. Now that we have had a simple chemistry lesson let's move on to sugar in kombucha.
Kombucha at it's simplest is three ingredients:
• Tea (made from tea leaves and water)
• A kombucha culture (SCOBY)
Kombucha is a fermented food, in order for fermentation to occur you need a fermentable. The kombucha SCOBY's overwhelming fermentable of choice is cane sugar - or sucrose. When we make Lucky Elixir kombucha we use organic cane sugar because we believe in how it is sourced and how it makes a better kombucha.
Why is sugar needed? Great question - sugar is necessary for the kombucha culture to do it's work. A kombucha culture is really a marvelous thing, both yeast and bacteria harmoniously working together side by side thriving and living. In kombucha, the yeast consume the sugars (sucrose) in the sweet tea mixture to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide (carbonation). After a couple of days the bacteria in the culture start working to consume the alcohol produced by the yeast and produce many beneficial organic acids while at the same time lowering the alcohol content.
Our kombucha has up to 10 grams of added sugars, this is kind of a misnomer. Here at The Brewkery we do not add any additional sugars or sweeteners to a finished, fully fermented kombucha. However, after the primary fermentation, we do add a small amount of fruit (fructose) to impart a subtle flavor. So, why does our label say 10g of added sugars? Well, the FDA considers kombucha to be "tea" so any sugar mixed into the tea and water before fermentation is "added." However, a large portion of that sugar is consumed by the yeast in the magical fermentation process described above. So while our kombucha does contain up to 10g of sugars in 12 ounces, rest assured we do not add cane sugar or any other sweetener after initial fermentation is complete. And we never will.
Other kombuchas may be made in different ways or labeled differently but one thing remains the same: In order for true kombucha fermentation to occur, you need a "tose." If you take the time and spend the money to purchase kombucha you undoubtedly are a label reader. Not all labels are created equally and not all companies are transparent. Just because you do not see "organic can sugar" on a kombucha label does not mean the bottle you are holding has no "tose." There is no such thing as sugar-free kombucha.
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