How to Brew Kombucha with Coconut Syrup
A full guide on how to use coconut syrup in your kombucha.
Have you been wondering if it is possible to brew kombucha using coconut syrup? If so then you will be happy to know that you can absolutely brew kombucha with coconut syrup.
Coconut syrup has been gaining popularity as a healthier and less refined sugar alternative to white cane sugar. With all of the findings coming in on the potential health hazards that white refined cane sugar poses – some kombucha brewers have been turning to using alternative sweeteners their kombucha. One of which is coconut syrup!
What is Coconut Syrup?
Coconut syrup is a sweet syrup which is derived from the nectar of the flowers of the coconut palm. The nectar is tapped off of the flowers, and then heated. The reduced syrup is the final product.
Thanks to the minimal processing that coconut syrup goes through, it is not denatured. It also contains a certain nutritional value.
What Does Coconut Syrup Taste Like?
Coconut syrup sounds like it should taste like coconut… but it does not have a definitive coconut flavor. Coconut syrup has a taste which some people compare to molasses or maple syrup. While this may disappoint the coconut lovers, it does make coconut syrup a more versatile sweetener. And this means that your kombucha will keep more of its signature flavor when made with coconut syrup.
What Does Kombucha Made With Coconut Syrup Taste Like
Coconut syrup will not make your kombucha taste of coconut, but it will impact the flavor profile somewhat. Most people report pleasant, slightly caramel tones. Similar to kombucha made with a brown sugar or raw cane sugar.
On a negative note, coconut syrup can sometimes make one’s kombucha taste bitter. This can be due to increased yeasts in the SCOBY. To counteract this, have a look at this post on how to de-bitter your kombucha.
Why Use Coconut Syrup in Kombucha
Kombucha is generally made with regular white cane sugar. The SCOBY does well on regular sugar, and it is a cost effective ingredient. Especially seeing as kombucha calls for quite a lot of sugar per gallon – 1 cup to be exact!
It is this high amount of sugar which poses one of the reasons why kombucha brewers switch over to using healthier sugar alternatives such as coconut syrup in their kombucha.
Fortunately, it is true that during fermentation a portion of the original sugar amount that the kombucha recipe requires is converted away into organic acids. There will however always be some residual sugar left behind. Unless of course you brew your kombucha to the point where it is kombucha vinegar (very very strong kombucha that can be used in place of vinegar in cooking and recipes). At this point there will be very little sugar left in the kombucha, but it will also be too strong to drink.
Health Benefits of Coconut Syrup
Like any sweetener, coconut syrup consumed in excess is not good for you. However, less highly processed sugars and sweeteners, of which coconut syrup is one, tend to have a decidedly better nutritional profile than refined cane sugar, which is 100% sucrose. The other benefit which they hold is that they often have a lower reading on the GI index. This means that they are more slow absorbing than regular white cane sugar. Which in turn means that many of the negative effects that are linked to the super fast uptake into the bloodstream of refined sugar, are lessened.
Nutritional Content of Coconut Syrup
Thanks to its minimal processing and exposure to heat, good quality coconut syrup has a generous compliment of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes.
Coconut syrup contains the following beneficial nutritional components.
- Wide spectrum of B vitamins
- Vitamin C
- All 9 essential amino acids
- Live enzymes (in brands which do not use high heat processes)
Take note that good quality brands of coconut syrup will not use temperatures higher than 110°F to reduce their coconut blossom nectar into syrup. Some brands which are not as committed to quality use temperatures as high as 250°F to thicken their syrup faster. Exposure to these high temperatures will kill all enzymes, and destroy much of the coconut syrup’s other nutritional elements such as a portion of the B vitamins, and the vitamin C and inositol content.
Coconut Syrup Has a Low GI Index
The other big thing that coconut syrup has going for it, is its low GI index reading. The super high GI index reading of sugar is what makes it so bad for one’s blood sugar levels and pancreas, which in turns maximises the risk of the development of diabetes.
Coconut syrup has been tested to have a GI index reading of 35. This is very good when compared with the GI reading of regular sugar which is 65.
The reasons for coconut syrup’s low GI reading is thought to be due in part to the inolin component which is found in coconut syrup and sugar. Inolin is a form of soluble fibre which significantly inhibits and slows down rapid uptake of sugar into the bloodstream
Is it Difficult to Brew Kombucha with Coconut Syrup?
No. It is not difficult to brew kombucha with coconut syrup. However, succesful fermentation can be a little less straight forward than when brewing with regular sugar.
The reason for this is that raw sweeteners and sugar like coconut syrup are more challenging for the SCOBY to process than refined sugar. Raw sugars are more complex in makeup and do not convert as fast and as easily as refined sugar. Their mineral content can also present hurdles for the SCOBY, and can even damage cultures over the long term.
These factors however do not mean that it is not viable to brew kombucha with coconut syrup. Most SCOBYs are adapted and used to feeding on and converting refined sugar. However, they can adapt themselves to fermenting raw and more complex sugars, especially if the raw sugars are introduced slowly.
Can I Brew Kombucha With Coconut Syrup on a Long Term Basis?
Even though coconut syrup is a little more difficult for the SCOBY to ferment than refined sugar, it is possible to achieve long term successful brewing with it.
The key is to introduce SCOBY to the new coconut syrup slowly, and to keep backups of your cultures. This is in case they suffer any mineral damage.
Which brings us to SCOBY hotels. Most of you probably already have a SCOBY hotel going where you keep extra SCOBYs – but for those of you who don’t please read this section.
Why You Need a SCOBY Hotel When Brewing With Coconut Syrup
Brewing kombucha with a raw sugar like coconut syrup is known as experimental brewing. When doing experimental brewing it is particularly important to make sure that you have a place to keep spare backup SCOBYs. And this place is your SCOBY hotel!
SCOBY hotels are easy to make, and even easier to maintain. All you need to do is put together a regular batch of kombucha, and place your spare SCOBY or SCOBYs into this. You will need freshly brewed sweet tea, a big glass jar, starter liquid, a cloth cover and a sealing lid to the jar.
Once you have combined the sweet tea, starter liquid and the SCOBY, cover the top of the jar with your cloth and secure it with a string or rubber band. Now place the jar in a darkened place, such as a kitchen cupboard. The dark will help to slow down the cultures and bring them into a slight state of dormancy. This is good, because then you do not have to feed them as often! Just make sure that the cupboard is clean and free from dust and bugs.
After a couple of weeks you can replace the cloth covering with the jar’s lid. Because the cultures will have slowed down a little by this stage, there should not be any risks of pressure build ups or explosions. It is still a good idea however to crack the lid every so often to make sure that pressure is not on the rise inside your SCOBY hotel.
How to Feed the SCOBY Hotel
Every few weeks it will be time to feed the SCOBY hotel. The SCOBYs in the hotel will not need very frequent feeding as they are usually in a dormant state. However from time to time it will be neccesary to give them a fresh batch of tea to feed off.
If you have not fed your SCOBY hotel in ages, and but do not have time to made tea – you can also stir in a glug of extra sugar into the hotel. This will keep the cultures going until you are ready to make the new tea.
Tip: The old tea from the hotel makes great starter liquid for new batches of kombucha.
These are merely the rough guidelines for making a SCOBY hotel. Please read our full guide before setting yours up.
Once you have made a SCOBY hotel and have a SCOBY or two as backups, it is time to get into how to introduce your brewing SCOBY to coconut syrup.
How to Change Over to Using Coconut Syrup in Your Kombucha
As mentioned earlier, coconut syrup can be a little harder for the SCOBY to process than regular cane sugar. Because of this we are listing two different ways you can start using coconut syrup in your kombucha. A fast way, and a slow way!
The fast way consists of simply swapping in the same amount of coconut syrup as the sugar that you would usually use. Within a week or two you should have a finished batch of 100% coconut syrup kombucha. This is good to try if you simply want to test out how coconut syrup will taste in your kombucha, or you just feel like making a novel batch of booch.
The other slow way to change over to using coconut syrup in your kombucha is suited to if you are looking to brew with coconut syrup on a long term basis. The gradual change to coconut syrup gives the SCOBY a chance to adjust, and gives the best chances of good brewing results.
How to Gradually (and safely) Change Your Kombucha Over to Coconut Syrup
This ‘slow and steady’ way of changing your kombucha over to coconut 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 coconut syrup and white sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to coconut syrup, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the coconut 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 coconut 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 coconut syrup in 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 syrup in 1/8 cup increments (will take 8 brewing cycles to switch)
Larger Batch: 3 gallons (uses 3 cups of sugar) – swop in coconut 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 coconut syrup.
Step 2: Increase the ratio of coconut syrup to white sugar in each cycle
Every cycle, increase the ratio of coconut syrup to white sugar by 1 X. So in the second batch you will double the coconut syrup, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. In the third bath, triple the coconut 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% coconut syrup.
As mentioned above, this slow method of switching over to brewing with coconut syrup is the best way to make the change over. Especially if you are wanting to brew with coconut syrup indefinitely.
If however you just want to try out coconut 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 Coconut Syrup
Not intending long term brewing with coconut syrup? Or simply want to give it a shot to try out the taste before committing to the gradual switch over? Not a problem. You can give a batch of kombucha a test run making it with all coconut syrup, and see how it goes.
Simply set up a regular batch of new kombucha. However instead of using sugar in the tea, replace with the equal volume of coconut syrup. Assemble kombucha as normal and leave to ferment.
Keep An Eye on Your Coconut Syrup Kombucha
You may find that your batch of coconut syrup kombucha brews up just fine with no hassles. Or, if the SCOBY is struggling with the coconut syrup, you may find that fermentation will stall. There are some tell tale signs which will let you know that fermentation struggling. If you keep an eye on your fermenting kombucha, you will be able to gauge how the SCOBY is handling the coconut syrup by monitoring the following:
When fermentation is underway, carbon dioxide bubbles will be produced. These bubbles rise to the surface, but some usually get stuck and collect either on the sides on your brewing vessel, on the underside of the SCOBY, or onto any yeast strings.
If you see a some bubbles getting stuck or rising from time to time, then this is a good indication that fermentation is underway. If however there is very little or no bubble action – then this is a sign that fermentation has stalled.
Tart Smell / Taste
As kombucha ferments, its level of tartness from the natural acids which are produced increases. If fermentation is underway, then you will notice that your brew smells and tastes slightly tart. If however there is no tartness developing, then this can mean that fermentation is not happening.
Spots of Mold
Mold is a far gone sign of retarded fermentation. Mold will most likely only occur after the above two signs have been noticed. If you see mold developing on the surface of your SCOBY – then you will need to throw out the batch of kombucha, as it is very difficult to rid a brew of mold. Word of caution however, make sure that it is in fact mold. Mold will always be dry and furry looking.
What to Do if There are Fermentation Stalls
If fermentation has by all appearances stalled, you can still leave your batch of kombucha for a week or so to see if it recovers. If however there is no improvement, then it might be time to throw in the towel for that batch. You may want to then rather try the slow change over method – or a speeded up version. For example you could try changing over in three brews, by swapping out a third of the white sugar for coconut syrup with each new brew until your are brewing with all coconut syrup.
Keep a Cane Sugar Fed SCOBY Hotel
If you were wondering if you should change your SCOBY hotel over to coconut syrup, I would suggest not. The reason is due to the minerals present in the coconut syrup. Because SCOBYs do not like minerals particularly, there is a chance that your brewing SCOBY could decline in vitality over time when fermenting the coconut syrup sweetened tea.
If this happens, you simply need to select a replacement from your SCOBY hotel. However, if the SCOBY hotel is also fed with coconut syrup, then there is a chance that the SCOBYs in there are also suffering from overexposure to the minerals.
Therefore, it would probably be best to keep on feeding the SCOBY hotel with white cane sugar.
Stock the Hotel with Babies from Your Coconut Syrup Kombucha
If you need a new replacement brewing SCOBY, then you will also want it to be somewhat adapted to the coconut syrup. So, for this reason, try to stock your SCOBY hotel with some babies which formed in the coconut syrup kombucha brews. This way the cultures will be pre-adapted to feeding on the more complex coconut syrup.
If you are considering brewing your kombucha with coconut syrup, you should now have all you need to know to get started. Coconut syrup is a great choice of raw sweetener, which is minimally processed and has a low GI index reading. Brewers have also reported good results when brewing with coconut syrup. So give it a try and see what you think.
For long term brewing with coconut syrup we recommend the slow changeover method. So that the SCOBY can have a chance to adapt itself to the new and more complex sugar source. This will help to ensure that you have hassle free brews.
All the best with your switch to coconut syrup, and let us know how it goes!