The sugar and water you use to make water kefir can impact the flavor and carbonation level of your finished kefir and may even affect the health of your water kefir grains!

If your water kefir is too sweet for your taste or too flat after bottling the finished water kefir, you may want to try a different type of sugar.

If your water kefir grains do not appear to be active, you may simply need mineral supplementation or a different sugar and water combination.


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.

Look for plain sugar with no added ingredients, for best results.

Type of Sugar

Description & Mineral Content

Effect on Water Kefir

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. Slightly less refined than OCJC; medium mineral content

  • Makes a less sweet water kefir than white sugar or OCJC

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-flavored water kefir

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.

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.


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.


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.


What to Use

Water kefir grains may benefit from water sources with higher mineral content. Some water sources such as well water or spring water can be naturally high in mineral content and are ideal for making kefir.

What to Avoid

On the other hand, distilled water, reverse osmosis water, and water which has been filtered through an activated carbon filter (such as a Britta or Pur) often have extremely low or non-existent mineral levels.

If using one of these types of water, and your water kefir grains seem sluggish or inactive, it may help to either use a high mineral sugar (see above) or add a mineral supplement to your water.

Structured, alkalized, or pH-adjusted water is not appropriate for culturing water kefir.

Mineral Supplementation Options

How to Use Mineral Supplements

When using a mineral supplement, it's important to start by using just one supplement to avoid overloading the grains.

Try adding one of the above supplements to your next batch of water kefir and see how your kefir and grains react.

Using Tap Water for Making Water Kefir

If using tap water, we do recommend filtering the water to remove as many additives, chemicals and contaminants as possible.

If filtering is not possible, aerating or boiling the water for 20 minutes may help remove at least the chlorine. This process will not remove chloramines and fluoride though, so you must use special filters to remove these. You can also let your tap water stand for 24 hours to help the chlorine to evaporate.

You can learn more about other treatment methods for tap water in our tutorial: Choosing a Water Source for Making Cultured & Fermented Foods.

What's Next?

Now that you know more about the sugar and water options you have for making homemade water kefir, be sure to consider which starter culture will best fit your lifestyle.

Make sure you have the supplies you'll need, (nothing too complicated, you may already have them at home), and then check out our How-Videos and instructions for making water kefir at home.