How to Brew Kombucha with Brown Rice Syrup
A complete guide on how to use brown rice syrup in your kombucha in place of regular refined sugar.
Are you considering brewing kombucha with brown rice syrup? If so, you will be happy to know that it is possible to brew kombucha with brown rice syrup, and that good brewing results can be achieved.
This guide is part of a series on how to brew kombucha with raw and alternative sugar types. If you are interested in how to brew with some of the other main types of raw sugar, check out this post.
With increased awareness of the harmful effects that refined cane sugars have on the body, more and more kombucha brewers are turning to using raw and less processed forms of sugar or sweetening for their kombucha. Most kombucha makers are health aware, and therefore the idea of using cups and cups full of white sugar often doesn’t sit well.
Fortunately, it is true that during fermentation the SCOBY eats up and converts away a portion of the original sugar in the sweet tea. This is especially true if you let your kombucha ferment to quite a mature level where it is fairly tart. However, unless you leave your kombucha to ferment until it has formed what is known as kombucha vinegar, there will always be some residual sugar quantities left.
Why Use Brown Rice Syrup in Kombucha?
Before we get into how to start brewing kombucha with brown rice syrup, let’s quickly take a look why one would want to change over to using it in your kombucha.
Brown Rice Syrup is Fructose Free
One of the main reasons why people buy and use brown rice syrup is because it is a complex and fructose free source of sweetening. If you are trying to avoid fructose and refined sugar as well, then brown rice syrup might be a good sweetening for your kombucha. SCOBYs can feed on brown rice syrup as their source of sweetening as well, so brewing with brown rice syrup is a sustainable brewing practice.
What Does Kombucha Made With Brown Rice Syrup Taste Like?
According to brewers, kombucha made with brown rice syrup tastes very similar to kombucha made with white sugar. Unlike other raw sugars, which can often give kombucha a strong molasses flavor.
What can happen when brewing with brown rice syrup is that your harvested kombucha might be sweeter than usual. This is because kombucha tends to brew slower when made with brown rice syrup. To counteract this, you can extend brewing time by 1-2 days.
Is It Easy to Brew Kombucha with Brown Rice Syrup?
Brown rice syrup is considered an ‘experimental’ sugar type to use for kombucha. This is because it is more complex in make up than white sugar. Most SCOBYs are accustomed to a diet of white sugar, and therefore might need a little time to adapt to becoming efficient rice syrup eaters.
If your SCOBY really struggles to brew any rice syrup brews that you make, then you can run into brewing problems. These include slow ferments, stalled ferments, and if this goes on long enough, even mold.
On the other hand, while there is a chance that problems crop up, rice malt syrup is relatively easy for the SCOBY to ferment as opposed to other ‘raw’ or ‘natural’ forms of sweetening. So most likely you should not have a problem switching over to brewing your kombucha with rice malt syrup.
Setup a SCOBY Hotel if You Do Not Have One Already
Before we get going on how to substitute the refined sugar in your kombucha for brown rice syrup, a word on SCOBY hotels. (If you already have a SCOBY hotel skip this section.)
It is always a good idea to have a SCOBY hotel to keep extra spare SCOBYs in. If you ever have any problems with your brewing culture, such as mold, or a fruit fly infestation, then you can simply swop in a new culture.
If you are doing experimental brewing of any kind (such as brewing with a complex sugar source like rice malt syrup), then having spare SCOBYs in the wings is doubly important. Think of it as backing up your cultures.
How to Setup and Feed a SCOBY Hotel
The basics of creating a SCOBY hotel is the same as setting up a batch of kombucha. You will need a glass jar of a suitable size, some brewed fresh sweet tea, a cloth cover, and a lid for the jar.
Place your spare SCOBY(s) into the jar, pour in the sweet tea and cover with a square of cloth (you can also use kitchen towel) and a rubber band.
Now place the jar in a dark-ish place, such as a kitchen cupboard. The dark helps to slow down the SCOBY into a slight state of dormancy, which means that you will not have to feed it/ them as often. Just make sure that the cupboard is dry and clean and devoid of insects.
After 1-2 weeks you can remove the cloth covering and screw on the lid of the jar.
Every few weeks you will need to feed your spare SCOBYs in their SCOBY hotel by giving them fresh tea.
By the way: The mature kombucha that you harvest from the SCOBY hotel makes excellent start liquid.
If you are pressed for time but know that your SCOBYs need some food, you can also simply scoop some new sugar into the hotel. This will keep them going until you have time to change the tea.
These are the general guidelines for making and feeding your SCOBY hotel. Please go and read our full guide on setting up SCOBY hotels before you start.
How to Change Over to Using Brown Rice Syrup in Your Kombucha
There are two strategies to use when wanting to make kombucha with brown rice syrup. You can either do an immediate switch, or slowly switch out the regular white sugar you have been using, for the brown rice syrup.
If you are wanting to brew kombucha on a long term basis, then we would recommend that you use the slower switching out method to change over. This is because the slow method will give the SCOBY the best chance to adapt itself well to the brown rice syrup.
If however you merely want to try out a batch or two of kombucha made with brown rice syrup, then you can use the immediate method.
How to Gradually (and safely) Change Your Kombucha Over to Brown Rice Syrup
This ‘slow and steady’ way of changing your kombucha over to brown rice syrup is not too complicated, it just takes time. For an average sized batch of kombucha this should take about 8 brewing cycles to complete.
Step 1: Mix the brown rice syrup and white sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to brown rice syrup, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the brown rice syrup you want to switch to. The amount to swop out will depend on the sized batch of kombucha which you are making.
How to mix the brown rice syrup and the white sugar:
First up, analyze what size batch you are making. Here are some examples to give you an idea.
Small Batch:1/2 gallon (uses ½ cup of sugar) – swop in brown rice syrup 1/16 of a cup increments (will take 8 brewing cycles to switch)
Medium Batch: 1 gallon (uses 1 cup of sugar) – swop in brown rice syrup in 1/8 cup increments (will take 8 brewing cycles to switch)
Larger Batch: 3 gallons (uses 3 cups of sugar) – swop in brown rice syrup in 1/4 cup increments (will take 12 brewing cycles to switch)
If your brews fall in between any of these volumes listed above, you can simply use this formula:
Calculate what is 13 % of the total sugar that your batch size calls for. Substitute in this amount of brown rice syrup.
Step 2: Increase the ratio of brown rice syrup to white sugar in each cycle
Every cycle, increase the ratio of brown rice syrup to white sugar by 1 X. So in the second batch you will double the brown rice syrup, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. In the third bath, triple the brown rice syrup amount, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. You get the idea.
If all goes well, then by between batches 8 or 12, you will have changed over to full time brewing with 100% brown rice syrup.
As mentioned above, this slow method of switching over to brewing with brown rice syrup is the best way to make the change over, if you are wanting to brew with brown rice syrup indefinitely.
If however you just want to try out brown rice syrup for one or two brews to see what the taste is like, or for novelty then you can rather try the immediate switch.
Making an Immediate Switch to Brown Rice Syrup
The above slow changeover trick is great to follow if you are planning on brewing with brown rice syrup for the foreseeable future. But what if you simply want to make a few brews to see what a batch of kombucha made with brown rice syrup tastes like?
If this is your case, then you can do one or two batches of kombucha using just brown rice syrup as a sweetener and see how they come out.
If you find that you like the results, and there are no brewing issues, then you can continue these brews made with all-brown rice syrup. You may never have any troubles, and can skip the long / slow change over.
If however you do encounter brewing issues with the immediate switch in of brown rice syrup, then it is best to start afresh with the slow change over method.
Keeping an Eye on Your Experimental Brown Rice Syrup Kombucha
Whichever method you are using to make your brown rice syrup kombucha – whether the fast or slow – it is important to keep an eye on your fermenting kombucha. If your SCOBY is struggling to ferment the tea, then you will probably notice the following:
Not Much Bubble Action
Fermenting kombucha will usually be producing enough bubbles for these to be visible stuck in places to the SCOBY, sides of the glass jar, yeast strings etc. If you see no bubbles, than this could mean that fermentation has become retarded.
No Tart Smell
Another sure fire sign that fermentation is happening is kombucha’s signature tart smell and taste that begins to develop. If there is no tartness to the smell (or taste) midway through fermentation then this means that fermentation has slowed, stopped, or never really got started.
Mold will usually be only an advanced indication that your kombucha has not been fermenting. If you have been keeping a faithful eye on your batch, then you will probably notice the other two signs above before mold has a chance to develop. Or, if mold develops suddenly, while fermentation is underway, then this could indicate that you did not use enough (or strong enough) starter liquid.
As you can see, for those wanting to brew kombucha with brown rice syrup, this is completely possibly, and you are likely to get good results.
Depending on whether you want to brew your kombucha with brown rice syrup on a long term basis or merely for a batch or two, you can either use a slow or immediate method of switching over to your new sweetener.
If you try out the immediate switch method, and find that you get great brewing results and no fermentation hiccups, then you could simply continue to brew with all brown rice syrup.
If however you find that you are experiencing slowed down, retarded, or completely stalled brews, then it would be best to revert to the long and slow switch over method.
Lastly, you may find that brewing with brown rice syrup will produce brews which have a slighter slower rate of fermentation than those made with refined white cane sugar. This is because the brown rice syrup is a more complex form of sweetening and therefore the SCOBY takes longer to process it. What this means for your ferment is that the harvested kombucha might be slightly sweeter than usual. To counteract this, you could leave your kombucha to ferment for slightly longer, say 1-2 days.
Happy brewing all, and may your brown rice syrup trials be a success.