How to Brew Kombucha with Evaporated Cane Juice
A full guide on how to use evaporated cane juice in your kombucha.
Is it possible to brew kombucha with evaporated cane juice? Yes, it most certainly is.
What is Evaporated Cane Juice?
Evaporated cane juice is another term used to describe raw sugar. Such as Sucanat, piloncillo and muscovado. Raw sugar / evaporated cane juice is made by by extracting the juice from sugar cane. This juice is then heated, until the liquid has evaporated. What remains behind is evaporated cane juice – or raw sugar as it is more commonly called.
Regular sugars are made in the same way, however the evaporation process is done at much higher temperatures, after which they go into through further refining which involves additional heat and chemicals. All of the molasses is stripped away leaving what we know as white sugar behind. To make treacle sugar or brown sugar, manufacturers then add some of the extracted molasses back into the white sugar to give it a darker color and richer taste.
Will Evaporated Cane Juice Alter the Taste of My Kombucha
Brewing kombucha with evaporated cane juice will change the taste of it somewhat, if it is of good quality. This is because evaporated cane juice contains a certain amount of residual molasses. The molasses will give your kombucha its signature taste, but in a diluted state. This can result in almost caramel like tones.
If you like the taste of molasses, then you will probably enjoy flavor in your kombucha. If however you are averse to molasses, then you may want to consider going for a raw sugar which is has a minimal amount, such as turbinado sugar.
How Difficult is it to Brew Kombucha with Evaporated Cane Juice?
As you may know, brewing kombucha with alternative sugars such as raw sugar, honey, date syrup etc, is termed ‘experimental brewing’. This is because these more complex sugars are harder to break down for the SCOBY than white refined sugar. Refined sugar is made up of 100% sucrose. Which means that converting it is a breeze for the SCOBY. Less refined sugars on the other hand present a bit more work for the SCOBY.
Besides the complexity of evaporated cane juice, it also contains minerals. These minerals are great for us – but so good for the SCOBY. SCOBYs do not like to be exposed to minerals, and they can be damaged or weakened by them over long periods of time.
These two areas (sugar complexity and minerals content) need to be considered when brewing kombucha with evaporated cane juice, as they can cause brewing problems. Most commonly, stalls in fermentation. There are a few methods you can follow to avoid brewing problems, and we will get into them below.
First off however, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it might be a good idea to start brewing your kombucha with evaporated cane juice.
Why Use Evaporated Cane Juice in Kombucha?
Evaporated Cane Juice is Less Refined than White Sugar
The standard recipe for kombucha calls for a seemingly staggeringly amount of sugar, especially to those who are aware of the health hazards which refined sugars pose. Fortunately, a portion of the initial sugar is processed away by the yeast and bacteria. Depending on how long you brew your kombucha for, there should a significant decrease in the amount of sugar present at the end of the fermentation cycle.
This remaining sugar however is comprised of completely empty calories. Pure sucrose can be harmful to the body, and most kombucha drinkers are conscious of their health. For this reason, many brewers are now starting to look more and more at alternatives forms of raw sugar, such as evaporated cane juice for their kombucha.
Raw Sugars Contain Minerals and Associated Health Benefits
If you use a raw sugar in your kombucha, then you will be making sure that the leftover sugar in the end product has some value. Raw sugar contains varying amounts of the following minerals:
Medium levels of –
Low levels of –
Besides as well as because of the minerals that raw sugars contain, they also have some linked health benefits.
Although refined white sugar has been indicated to be harmful to the liver – one study (1) has indicated that raw sugars on the other hand is a protectant and tonic to the liver.
As mentioned above, raw sugars contain small amounts of iron. Although the levels present seem to be too low to be of significant advantage to those suffering an iron deficiency, science has indicated (2) that this is not so. It would seem that the balance of minerals within raw sugar make for full and efficient uptake of the iron contained within it.
Raw Sugar is Good for Your Teeth
Another interesting contrast: While white sugar is detrimental to the integrity of our teeth, it would appear that raw sugar is good for our teeth. The first study (3) on this was done in 1937, and reported a protective effect of raw sugar on the decalcification of teeth.
Note on different types of evaporated cane juice: The term evaporated cane juice has become a buzzword lately, and some manufacturers have utilized it to push the prices up on their sugar products. It is important to note that not all brands which claim to be evaporated cane juice are in fact raw sugars. Raw sugars are evaporated at low temperatures, which helps with the retention of minerals and other beneficial compounds. As all sugar goes through an evaporating stage, technically any sugar can be termed ‘evaporated cane juice’, even if it has been evaporated at extremely high temperatures, and exposed to chemicals. As the health conscious consumer, you of course want to buy a brand which has actually been minimally and gently processed.
Evaporated Cane Juice / Raw Sugar Can Make Better Brews
Although raw sugars can be trickier to brew with than refined sugar, if done right they can produce better kombucha. The reason for this is that refined sugar can tend to speed up brews, especially in warm climates or seasons. Fast fermenting kombucha is not ideal. Fast ferments usually have flatter flavor profiles and taste ‘immaturely mature’.
It is also thought that longer and slower ferments result in higher concentration of beneficial microbes within the kombucha.
So, if you find that your kombucha ferments pretty fast, say within a week, then the added benefit of using a raw sugar / evaporated cane juice is that your brews should slow down a little.
When Brewing Kombucha with Evaporated Cane Juice, You Need a SCOBY Hotel
Because of the mineral content and complex makeup of raw sugars, when brewing with evaporated cane juice, you can stand a risk of losing your SCOBY. To guard against being left without a culture to go on brewing with, you must have some spares before beginning to experiment with a new sugar.
Spare or backup cultures are usually stored in what is termed a SCOBY hotel. If you do not have one already, get one started before doing your first batch of kombucha using evaporated cane juice.
How to Setup a SCOBY Hotel
Setting up a SCOBY hotel is quite simple. You will need the exact same things required for regular batch of kombucha. A glass jar, a batch of sweet tea, starter liquid, SCOBYs, and a covering. You will a lid to seal the jar with.
Set up the batch just like you would a regular ferment of kombucha. Next find a darkened place for it to stand. A clean cupboard which is free from dust and dirt is fine. The darkness helps the cultures to slow down a little. This is good because ideally you want them to go into a slight state of dormancy. This way you will not have to feed the hotel as often.
Once 1-2 weeks have passed, you can then remove the cover of your hotel and screw on the lid. To keep the cultures alive, you will need to feed them every few weeks. This can be done by changing out their tea for fresh tea and starter liquid, or by simply adding in some sugar.
These are the basics. For our full guides on how to make and keep a SCOBY hotel check out these two posts, How to Create a Kombucha SCOBY Hotel (to Store Extra SCOBYs) and How to Make and Maintain the Perfect SCOBY Hotel.
Now, it is time to get started on how to brew your kombucha with evaporated cane juice.
How to Switch to Brewing Kombucha with Evaporated Cane Juice
As mentioned earlier, brewing kombucha with raw sugar like evaporated cane juice can cause brewing problems. There is a method however which can minimise these. This method we have called the Slow Changeover Method. By making a slow switch from refined sugar to evaporated cane juice – you will be giving your SCOBY a chance to get used to the more complex sugar, while still allowing it to feed on the refined sugar it is used to. This method is best used if you are intending to switch to using evaporated cane juice permanently in your brews.
If however you simply want to try out a once off batch of kombucha brewed with evaporated cane juice, then you can do an a immediate and switch out of sugars in one go. You may encounter some brewing stalls – or the batch might brew up as usual. Your success will depend largely on the SCOBY you have and how resilient it is.
How to do the Slow Change Over to Evaporated Cane Juice (recommended)
The nature of the game with this changeover technique is simple. You will be swapping out a small portion of white sugar for evaporated cane juice in your first batch. This quantity will increase with each new batch until you are brewing with 100% evaporated cane juice. For an average sized batch of kombucha this should take about 8 brewing cycles to complete.
Step 1: Mix evaporated cane juice and white sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to evaporated cane juice, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the evaporated cane juice 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 evaporated cane juice 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 evaporated cane juice 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 evaporated cane juice 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 evaporated cane juice 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 evaporated cane juice.
Step 2: Increase the ratio of evaporated cane juice to white sugar in each cycle
Every cycle, increase the ratio of evaporated cane juice to white sugar by 1 X. So in the second batch you will double the evaporated cane juice amount, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. In the third bath, triple the evaporated cane juice 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% evaporated cane juice.
This slow method of switching over to brewing with evaporated cane juice is the best way to make the change over, if you are wanting to brew with evaporated cane juice indefinitely.
If however you just want to try out evaporated cane juice for one or two brews to see what the taste is like, or for novelty then you might want to rather try the immediate switch.
How to Make An Immediate Switch to Evaporated Cane Juice
If you just want to make one batch to try out how the evaporated cane juice makes your kombucha taste, then simply swop out all of the white sugar which you would regularly use with evaporated cane juice.
Set your kombucha to brew as normal. You may find that fermentation is a little slower than usual, but this is fine.
If however you notice that there is very little or no fermentation happening (lack of bubbles, lack of tartness), then this means that the brew is struggling. You can give the ferment an extra week or so, but if after 10 days there is still no activity – then it might be time to scrap the brew.
Keep and Eye Out for Mold
If you see that fermentation is struggling (whether with the immediate or slow change over method), and you are giving your kombucha extra time to ferment the evaporated cane juice, keep an eye out for mold. Mold and other pathogens can enter a batch of kombucha which is not fermenting properly if the ph is not low enough to keep out agents of decay.
If you unsure as to what mold looks like in kombucha – have a look at this post The Ultimate Guide to Figuring Out if Your Kombucha SCOBY Has Mold (or NOT).
Maintain a Refined Sugar Fed SCOBY Hotel
If you are going to be brewing with evaporated cane juice on a long term basis, then you may think of switching over the SCOBY hotel too. Don’t do this. Keep the SCOBY hotel fed with refined sugar.
The reason for this is as follows:
If you find that over time the mineral content of the evaporated cane juice has weakened your brewing SCOBY, then you will need to replace it with a fresh one from your SCOBY hotel. However, if the SCOBY hotel is also fed with evaporated cane juice then the cultures in there could also have suffered the same effects from the prolonged exposure to minerals.
Keep the hotel stocked with baby SCOBYs from your evaporated cane juice brew –
Lastly, make sure that you stock your hotel with some of the babies formed in your evaporated cane juice kombucha. This way they will already have some genetic memory of the complex sugar, and hopefully will adapt back to it quickly again if they become brewing SCOBYs.
Evaporated cane juice is a trendy new sugar which some kombucha brewers are looking at to sweeten their booch with. There are many over marketed refined sugars for sale – which are labeled as evaporated cane juice but cannot be categorized as raw sugar. There is not much benefit to be gotten by brewing with any of these, as they are very similar to refined white sugar, except with a higher price tag.
If however you are able to source a brand of evaporated cane juice which is in fact a raw sugar, then there are advantages to brewing with it. Raw and minimally refined sugars are better for one’s health, contain minerals and vitamins, and even have some interesting health benefits. What is more, they are not empty calories. Raw sugars can also result in slower and therefore better quality ferments.
Brewing kombucha with raw sugars can be a little more tricky than brewing with refined sugar. The complexity of raw sugars and their mineral content can cause the SCOBY to struggle to ferment the tea. If however you employ the slow changeover method outlined in this post you should be able to switch over to brewing with evaporated cane juice with a minimum of problems. This method is the best to use if you are intending to brew with evaporated cane juice on a continual basis.
And if you wish to simply try out one batch of kombucha made with all evaporated cane juice sugar, by all means go ahead. Just keep an eye out for mold.
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- Jaffe, W.G., and A.E. Ochoa. 1949. El papelo´n como fuente de hierro en la dieta popular Venezolana. Revista Venezolana de Quı´mica 21.
- W.B., J.N. Noriskin, and J. Staz. 1937a. Inhibition in vitro of decalcification in teeth. Journal of Dental Research 16: 545–550.