How to Brew Kombucha with Fruit Juice Instead of Tea (Fruitbucha, a more fruity flavored Kombucha)
Fruit Juice Kombucha! If you think it sounds delicious, it is!
While Kombucha brewers are cautioned against using substances other than tea and sugar for their kombucha ferments, due to the impact that foreign substances can have on the kombucha culture, the SCOBY, there is a way out experiment which one can try which goes against all of these cautions. And that is fruit juice kombucha.
This involves completely replacing the tea with fruit juice for the primary fermentation.
Yes, it’s possible. And yes, it’s delicious.
We call this invention ‘Fruitbucha‘ and boy is it tasty.
Keep in mind that this is an EXPERIMENTAL kombucha.
Fruit Juice Kombucha – Flavoring the primary ferment
The fermentation of fruit juice with a kombucha SCOBY to produce a ‘fruit kombucha’ falls under a kombucha brewing practice termed flavoring the primary ferment. This process of flavoring the primary ferment basically covers all the different ways one can introduce flavors into your kombucha during the initial ferment when the SCOBY is still in the tea base doing its good work. Just to give you an idea, these flavoring methods can be any of the following:
- Using an alternative source of sucrose, such as honey, maple syrup, molasses, etc.
- Using a herbal tea or tisane in place of regular tea.
- Making a blend of tea and herbal tea.
- Adding in fruit to the ferment, diced, chopped or pureed.
- Adding in spices or other flavoring agents.
- Playing with the brewing time.
- The fermentation of juice, coconut water, or some other alternative beverage.
So as you can see, while fermenting and brewing up a batch of orange juice into a ‘Kombu-gina’ might sound real wacky, it is merely one of the various ways one can achieve unusual batches of kombucha through flavoring the primary ferment.
Will a Kombucha SCOBY Really Ferment Fruit Juice?
Yes, a kombucha SCOBY is able to ferment fruit juice. How cool is that! In fact, a SCOBY can most probably – to some degree – ferment any liquid which has an adequate amount of sugar or sucrose present. Fruit juice might sound a bit exotic, but some people even ferment Kombucha with coffee instead of tea! So you can ferment a surprising amount of things with a Kombucha SCOBY, if you experiment.
However, while fermenting fruit juice with a kombucha SCOBY is definitely possible, fruit juice is not the preferred medium for a SCOBY to ferment. Therefore you might experience some brewing problems. As such, this is an experimental technique and something you should try only when you are well comfortable with brewing regular kombucha and making second ferments!
Potential Problems When Fermenting with Juice Instead of Tea
When fermenting fruit, while there is a good chance that you will have a successful brew which tastes great and is perfectly fermented, there is also the possibility that you encounter some brewing problems. These can include:
- Premature souring, where your ferment goes sour and slightly flat, all of a sudden and before the expected fermentation period is up.
- Lack of fermentation. This is the opposite end of the brewing spectrum, where fermentation does not take place at all, and if it does, it is slight. You will be left with a flat, stale brew, which lacks the benefits of fermentation that kombucha brings.
- When fermenting or flavoring with alternative ingredients, you should keep your eyes peeled for mold. Because the fruit juice is more difficult for the SCOBY to work with, it means that fermentation can be inhibited (as mentioned above) and when fermentation is not taking place as usual, this is when mold has the opportunity to take hold.
- Damage to the SCOBY. SCOBYs can suffer a drop in health and brewing power when they have to ferment substances other than tea and sugar. This is actually the root cause of the above three problems.
Do not be alarmed by these points, but keep them in mind while monitoring what is going on with your ferment. In the case of mold, it is especially important to take action quickly.
What to Do to Avoid Brewing Problems
Although there are problems which can crop up when substituting sweet tea for fruit juice in your kombucha, there are also two measures which you can take combat them.
#1) Use a heavy hand on the starter liquid
When putting your batch of fruit juice kombucha together, a really good thing to do to protect it from mold and other brewing problems is to add in additional starter liquid. This has the effect of upping the acidity level of the assembled batch, thereby making it very difficult for mold and foreign bacteria to enter the ferment. Mold and pathogenic bacteria cannot survive in acidic enough conditions. This is why kombucha and other ferments and fermented products do not go off or rotten.
#2) Use Super Strong Starter Liquid
When selecting starter liquid for your fruit juice kombucha batch, try and use the strongest kombucha that you have on hand. The best place to get some super duper mater and acidic starter liquid is from your SCOBY Hotel.
Largely, the very reason why humans have developed different kinds of fermented foods has been to preserve food stuffs which are in abundance and if kept can be used as a food source in later months when food scarcity is more likely. With the advent of modern day preservative fermentation has mostly fallen away as a method of food storage, and fermentation is now gaining popularity purely for its probiotic and other health benefits.
#3) Use a Spare SCOBY
When brewing with fruit juice, or doing any other kind of primary fermentation flavoring, you must ensure that you have back up SCOBYs and are using a ‘spare’ culture. This is very important, because of the danger of your SCOBY culture becoming damaged and unable to carry out fermentation or create a new ‘baby SCOBY or new layer of culture.
If this does happen, and you lose the culture your are doing your new experimental brew with, you want to be able to continue your kombucha brewing activities, and not have to source a new culture to go on with. If you conduct all primary ferment flavored batches with spare SCOBYs, then you can happily experiment to your heart’s delight without worrying overly about the health or your culture.
What Kind of Juice Can You Ferment With
Anything and everything. It’s an open book with what kind of juice you use. Each juice type will completely change the end flavor, and you may find some juice fermented a lot better (and tastes better too).
Some starter suggestions:
- grapefruit juice
- orange juice
- apple juice
- coconut water
- peach juice
Try any kind of juice you like and see what results you get. You may like the end result, or you might not. But that’s part of the fun.
Fresh or Concentrate?
Fresh fruit juice is by far the best, but you can substitute fresh with concentrate juice if you wish (though reduce the quantity as it’s stronger as you will mix the concentrate with water). For a real treat, use a juicer to make fresh juice and use this — it’s by far the most ‘potent’ fruit juice and, I’ve found, gives the best end flavors.
How to Make Kombucha with Fruit Juice
This recipe is for a standard 1 gallon batch of kombucha, made from the fruit juice of your choice. You can use fresh or store bought juice. Avoid highly processed juices and ones which say ‘light’ or have some form of added artificial sweetener.
Note that by changing up the type of fruit juice in your fruitbucha, you get a completely different tasting drink each time. So this is an ‘experiment’ you can run over and over, and get completely different tastes (and results) with each brew. I recommend, if you have a few containers and a few extra SCOBYs, to run multiple fruitbucha batches using different fruit juices! This is a fast way to find the best tasting one!
The Ingredients & Equipment
Assemble the following:
- 3/4 of a gallon of fruit juice. Fresh is the best! (any fruit juice can be used)
- ¼ of a gallon of starter liquid. This is about two big cups (not baking cups).
- 1 healthy SCOBY culture (make sure you have a backup SCOBY)
- 1 glass brewing vessel.
- Small quantity of spirit vinegar.
- A cloth covering & piece of string or rubber band.
- Optional: bamboo or other straw with which to test the brew for maturity or sweet/sour levels.
How to Make Fruit Juice Kombucha
Here’s the basic steps:
Step 1: Rinse the brewing vessel with the spirit vinegar and hot (not boiling) water.
Step 2: Pour in the starter liquid, insert the SCOBY and then add in the fruit juice. This is so that any additional juice which might not fit into the brewing vessel can be left over to drink.
Step 3: Now seal up with your cloth covering, and leave to ferment as per a normal Kombucha brew.
Step 4: Fermentation may turn quicker than when you use tea. Check after 3 days. Ferment may be done in 5-6 days rather than the normal 7 to 14 days, but results can dramatically vary.
Step 5: You can, if you wish, try an optional second ferment. Put the liquid into a sealed bottle and let site for 1-3 days. This will build up carbonation and change the flavor. You won’t need to add any other fruit flavorings, since there is already flavor here. Depending, you may add a bit of sugar to enhance the carbonation, but this is only a suggestion.
How to Monitor Your Fruit Juice Kombucha
Keep an eye on your batch. You can do this by smelling the batch to see if you can detect the tangy tart smell typical to kombucha and fermented products. You can also taste the batch with a straw to see how the flavor and rate of fermentation is going.
- Have Patience: If the batch is taking its time to really get going, have some patience.
- Look Out for Mold: Make sure to inspect the surface of your SCOBY culture. If mold does start to develop, it will show itself as dry looking ‘furry’ spots. Color can vary. It can be really tricky to accurately identify mold. If you want to know more about what mold looks like, check out this guide The Ultimate Guide to Figuring Out if Your Kombucha SCOBY Has Mold (or NOT). If you think that your brew has contracted mold, the best thing is to dump the whole lot, SCOBY and all. Check out this post for info on cleaning up after mold What To Do If Your Kombucha Has Mold.
- Watch Out for Premature Souring : While experimental brews might need more time to get going, they can also sometimes go sour at the drop of a hat. This is another reason why it is good to keep watch over your batch. This is not a brew to leave sitting alone for a week. Check it every day and taste test. This way you can stop it as soon as you feel that it is ready.
Kombucha Sweetner GuideThe complete tabulated guide to flavoring Kombucha through sugar replacement...and the effects of each sweeter on the brewing process. For more information about the types of sugar and Kombucha brewing, please read our Types of Sugar to Use for Brewing Kombucha article.
|Sugar Type||Brewing Time||Amount to Use||Effect on Flavor|
|White Sugar||Temperature dependant – the average brewing time for white sugar kombucha is 7 to 10 days||1 cup to 1 gallon of tea.||White sugar results in regular tasting kombucha, and steady fermentation results. Good levels of carbonation etc.|
|Honey||Shorter than white sugar, apt to sour quickly – 5 to 8 days.||7/8 of a cup to every 1 cup of pure cane sugar.||Can produce light bubbly ferments which carry the flavor of the honey used – citrus, almond, etc.|
|Molasses||Usually longer than white sugar – 7 to 14 days.||Same as that of regular refined sugar: 1 cup to 1 gallon of tea.||Can produce a strong tasting and sometimes slightly bitter brew. The overall taste: malt.|
|Raw Forms of Cane Sugar||Usually longer than white sugar – 7 to 14 days.||Same as that of regular refined sugar: 1 cup to one 1 of tea.||Raw forms of cane sugar can add in a richer flavor profile, but not as intense as that of molasses|
|Evaporated Cane Juice||Very similar to ordinary processed sugar.||Same as that of regular refined sugar: 1 cup to 1 gallon of tea.||Good choice for great tasting ferments and good SCOBY Health|
|Maple Syrup||Similar to that of white sugar – 5 to 8 days||1/2 - 2/3 of a cup to every 1 cup of pure cane sugar.||The taste is – you guessed it! Yummy maple syrup.|
|Agave Syrup||Shorter to that of white sugar – 5 to 7 days||2/3 of a cup to every 1 cup of pure cane sugar.||Can give really nice flavors that hint of caramel|
|Raw Sugar Cane Juice||Slightly longer than that of white sugar - 7 to 10 days||Recommended: Mix with 25% of sugar usually used.||Neutral, similar to regular sugar. Mostly unprocessed and a healthier source of sugar.|
|Coconut water||Often quite a bit shorter than white sugar - 5 to 8 days.||When fermenting coconut water, the naturally occurring sugar acts as the sugar source. You can also aid the fermentation by mixing in 25% of usual amount of sugar.||Coconut water flavored kombucha which has fermented successfully can be a beautifully light and refreshing ferment.|
|Raw Fruit (pureed or diced)||Shorter - 5 days usually.||Fruit replaces the sugar. Use about 1 cup of fruit in lieu of the 1 cup of sugar.||Completely changes the flavor, giving it a strong, fruity flavor with a hint of a fermented bite. This is a good experiment for those who want to try a completely 'natural' combucha|
|Fruit Juice (freshly juiced, store bought, concentrate)||Shorter - 5 to 7 days||The juice replaces the sugar & tea OR is blended with existing tea, but replaces the sugar. Use 1 cup of raw or store-bought fruit juice per 1 cup of sugar. If concentrate, use 50%. Make sure you use double the starter and / or stronger started from a SCOBY hotel.||You get something like a second fermented, but a deeper version due to the longer fermentation time. The flavor will vary depending on the type of juice you use and if you completely replace the tea with the juice or blend the juice. If the later, you get a fruity tasting Kombucha. If the former, you get a fermented fruit juice drink that does NOT taste like Kombucha.|
The Final Word
Fruit Juice Kombucha (aka Fruitbucha) is something you definitely want to try, provided you have some spare SCOBYs to experiment with.
If you have a hassle-free ferment and harvest your batch on time, you should be left with a delicious and unique beverage! If you give this fun kombucha variation a go and want to share your results, don’t be shy to use the comments facility.