How to Brew Kombucha with Coconut Palm Sugar
A full guide on how to use coconut palm sugar in your kombucha.
We are busy covering how to brew kombucha with raw sugars. Today’s sugar that we are dealing with is coconut palm sugar.
What is Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar is often confused with palm sugar. Palm sugar is made from the sap of species of a variety of palms, coconut sugar on the other hand is made from the sap of only the coconut palm.
How Coconut Palm Sugar is Made
Coconut palm sugar is made via a pretty simple set of steps which do not involve extreme heat or chemicals. The basic process consists of tapping off the coconut palm sap from the trees. The sap is then heated at a low heat to evaporate out the moisture content. Once the evaporating process has finished, what is left is a crystallized form, which is what we call coconut palm sugar.
Because of this simple manufacturing process, coconut palm sugar is a true raw sugar.
Why Brew Kombucha With Coconut Palm Sugar?
Because coconut palm sugar is a better quality sugar than refined white sugar, it is more expensive. In order to calculate if it is worthwhile using it in your kombucha, let’s take a look at some of the advantages to be had by brewing with it.
Coconut Palm Sugar Can Make Good Quality Kombucha
Because of being a raw and more complex sugar, coconut palm sugar can be more tricky to brew with than refined sugar (we will get into why this is below). However if you get the brewing process right, then complex sugars can actually produce a better quality of kombucha. This is because they usually slow down the fermentation process somewhat. This is good because kombucha which matures at a slower rate usually has a better depth of flavor, and is thought to contain a higher amount / diversity of beneficial microbes.
If you are struggling with your kombucha fermenting too fast, then a raw sugar like coconut palm sugar can be a great way to slow down your ferments.
Coconut Sugar Can Yield Nice Flavors in Kombucha
Because coconut sugar is not highly refined it retains some of its natural flavor. These tones can come through if you use it in place of regular sugar in your kombucha.
Coconut Sugar is Considered Healthier Than Refined Sugar
Besides tasting nice, coconut sugar also is considered to be a healthier alternative to white refined sugar. Thanks to its minimal processing, coconut palm sugar retains most of its vitamins, minerals, inulin and phytonutrients.
Vitamins & Minerals Found in Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut palm sugar has been measured to contain trace amounts of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and potassium. It also contains the B vitamin inositol.
The concentrations of the vitamins and minerals found in coconut palm sugar are not high enough in relation to its calorie and sucrose density to make it something you should consider a main source of these nutrients. However when following a healthy lifestyle, many people like to make sure that they are not consuming ’empty calories’. White refined sugar is number one source of empty calories, whereas coconut palm sugar will at least provide trace amounts of nutrients for the body.
Phytonutrients are compounds which are found in plants and help the body with a myriad of functions such as reducing blood pressure, inflammation and blood sugar. They are best derived from natural sources, and according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute coconut palm sugar contains decent amounts of various different phytonutrients.
Coconut Palm Sugar is Has a Lower GI Index than Refined Sugar
One of the reasons for coconut sugar’s popularity is its low GI index. Exactly how low is debatable. The Phillipines released a study which put coconut sugar at an extremely low reading on the GI index of 35. The study however was only conducted on 10 people, and it is now thought that coconut palms sugar’s GI is somewhere a little above this. GI readings also depend largely on individuals, and therefore is not always the best way to ascertain what effect a food has on the sugar levels within the blood.
Coconut Palm Sugar Contains Inulin
Inulin is a type of fibre which is thought to slow the absorption of sugar during digestion. Studies (1,2,) are indicating that this is so, and the second one shows that it could be effective on women with type 2 diabetes.
Besides being thought to slow down the rate at which the body takes up sugar into the bloodstream, inulin also has the ability to support and stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria. If you are making and drinking kombucha then you probably know all about the health benefits of a healthy gut containing good levels of probiotic bacteria. But just for interest, here are some of our articles on the topic:
So, now that you know what all the pro’s are for using coconut palm sugar in your kombucha, let’s take a look at the cons.
It Can Be Difficult to Brew Kombucha with Coconut Palm Sugar
As mentioned above, using coconut sugar in your kombucha can be trickier than than using regular white refined sugar. The reason for this is that coconut palm sugar is more complex in structure and contains vitamins and minerals.
Coconut Palm Sugar is More Difficult for the SCOBY to Breakdown
Because coconut palm sugar is more complex in make up, it is harder for the SCOBY to process it. This is why brews made with coconut palm sugar often take longer to ferment. This is not a bad thing, as long as the fermentation process is not overly slowed down. If the SCOBY struggles too much to convert the complex coconut palm sugar, fermentation can stall completely. If this goes on long enough, the batch of kombucha can go off.
The Minerals in Coconut Palm Sugar Can Damage Your Brewing SCOBY
For some reason SCOBYs do not generally like prolonged exposure to minerals. Sometimes they can handle it fine, but there is a chance that the minerals can cause a decline in their brewing power. This is not such a big problem, if you make sure to keep spare SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel. If you notice that your brewing SCOBY seems to be having trouble, you can swop it out for a fresh one.
Let’s take a look at the basics of setting up a SCOBY hotel – in case you do not have one already. Then we can get into how to brew successfully with coconut palm sugar.
How to Setup a SCOBY Hotel
It is always a good idea to keep a SCOBY hotel. By keeping spare SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel you will be making sure that you always have a backup in the wings in case your brewing one gives problems or does not produce babies / new layers. If you are doing experimental brewing, then a SCOBY hotel is an absolute must. And brewing with coconut palm sugar is classified as experimental. If you already have one skip, this section. Otherwise read on.
Make a Regular Batch of Kombucha
A SCOBY hotel is set up exactly the same way you would make a new batch of kombucha. You will need:
- A large glass jar (with a lid that seals – this is for storage)
- A cloth covering and elastic band
- Freshly made sweet tea
- Starter liquid
Simply combine the starter liquid and sweet tea in the usual ratio as for a batch of kombucha. Put your spare SCOBY(s) in and cover with the cloth covering. Now place your jar in a slightly darkened spot, such as a kitchen cupboard. The cupboard must be clean and free from dust and insects. After 1-2 weeks you can remove the cloth covering and screw on the lid instead.
Feed Your Hotel Every Few Weeks
Your SCOBYs will go into a state of mild dormancy in their SCOBY hotel. This is good, because it means that they do not need fresh tea as often. You can feed them by giving them a batch of new sweet tea every few weeks, or if you are pressed for time you can even just add in a glug of sugar to keep them going. The liquid which comes out of the hotel can be used as super potent starter liquid for new batches of kombucha, or as kombucha vinegar in your kitchen!
These are general and quick guidelines on how to make and feed a SCOBY hotel. Before you set your’s up, take a look at our in depth guides:
And now it is time to get into how to brew for success with coconut palm sugar!
How to Change Over to Using Coconut Palm Sugar in Your Kombucha
There are two ways to switch to a coconut palm sugar kombucha. In one batch, or slowly over many. If you simply want to experiment and see what a batch of kombucha tastes like made with coconut sugar, then you can try switching the sugar in one batch. If however you are looking to starting brewing your kombucha with coconut palm sugar on a permanent basis, then we highly recommend you do the slow and gradual switch over. This method gives the best guarantee of successful brews made with coconut palm sugar, with the minimum of fermentation hassles.
We will start with this method.
How to Gradually (and safely) Change Your Kombucha Over to Coconut Palm Sugar
This ‘safe’ way of changing your kombucha over to coconut palm sugar is not too complicated, it just takes time. For an average sized batch of kombucha this should take about 8 brewing cycles to complete. However, at the end of changing over, it will probably be worth it, because you should be able to brew your kombucha with coconut palm sugar indefinitely, without too many brewing problems.
Step 1: Mix the coconut palm sugar and white sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to coconut palm sugar, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the coconut palm sugar 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 coconut palm sugar 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 coconut palm sugar in 15 gram (1/16 of a cup) increments (will take 8 brewing cycles to switch)
Medium Batch: 1 gallon (uses 1 cup of sugar) – swop in coconut palm sugar in 25 gram (1/8 cup) increments (will take 8 brewing cycles to switch)
Larger Batch: 3 gallons (uses 3 cups of sugar) – swop in coconut palm sugar in 50 gram (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 coconut palm sugar.
Step 2: Increase the ratio of coconut palm sugar to white sugar in each cycle
Every cycle, increase the ratio of coconut palm sugar to white sugar by 1 X. So in the second batch you will double the coconut palm sugar, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. In the third bath, triple the coconut palm sugar 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% coconut palm sugar.
As mentioned above, this slow method of switching over to brewing with coconut palm sugar is the best way to make the change over, if you are wanting to brew with coconut palm sugar indefinitely.
If however you just want to try out coconut palm sugar 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 Coconut Palm Sugar
If you just want to try out a batch of kombucha made with all coconut palm sugar, this is by all means possible.
Swop in the same amount of coconut palm sugar:
When making your sweet tea, simply swop out the white sugar that you usually use, and substitute in the same amount of coconut palm sugar.
Keep an eye on the fermenting kombucha:
A sudden change to a new sugar can cause fermentation to be uphill work for your SCOBY. You should allow for extra time for the batch to mature. Also, keep an eye on it to make sure that it is fermenting. Signs of fermentation happening are bubbles forming and collecting, and of course a tart smell and taste developing. If none of these occur within 1-2 weeks, the batch has stalled or never gotten going. You can allow up to 7-10 more days to see if something happens. If however at this point the brew still shows no sign of fermentation – then it is best to stop it.
Also keep an eye out for mold, particularly if you can see that fermentation is not at full swing. Not sure what mold looks like on a SCOBY? Check out this guide:
Keep a Refined Sugar Fed SCOBY Hotel
If you are going to be doing long term brewing with coconut palm sugar, then you might be thinking of switching your SCOBY hotel over as well. I would vote against this. This is why:
If over time the minerals within your batches of kombucha (from the coconut palm sugar) start to impact your brewing SCOBY negatively, you will want to switch it out for a fresh one from your SCOBY hotel. If the SCOBYs in your hotel have been living in sweet tea made with coconut palm sugar, then they will be:
a) Pre-adapted to the coconut palm sugar (which is a good thing)
b) Will have been also exposed to the minerals (not such a good thing)
You may find then that the very SCOBYs you want to use to replace the flagging brewing one, are also in the same state. So, keep on feeding your SCOBY hotel with refined sugar. Just in case.
Stock Your SCOBY Hotel with Coconut Palm Sugar Bred Babies
Make sure that once your coconut palm sugar brew starts forming baby SCOBYs, that you stock your SCOBY hotel with these. This will hopefully meant that they are pre-adapted to the more complex coconut palm sugar.
Coconut palm sugar has become a popular raw sugar, and it would seem that it is definitely a superior sugar to white refined sugar. As a kombucha drinker you are not doubt health conscious, and therefore switching to using coconut palm sugar in your kombucha makes a lot of sense.
The downside is that it can be slightly more difficult to brew kombucha using coconut palm sugar. This is due to the sugars complexity and mineral content. Both of these things are not however insurmountable problems. With a gradual switch over to coconut palm sugar you will be almost guaranteed of successful brews with a minimum of fermentation issues. And by creating a refined sugar fed SCOBY hotel, you will make sure that you never lose a culture.
And of course, if you want to simply try out a once off batch of kombucha made with coconut palm sugar, by all means do it! You will then be able to see what it tastes like. Just be aware that fermentation might be slow. And that if it stops completely, there is a chance of mold occuring.