How to Brew Kombucha with Jaggery Sugar
Wanna start brewing your kombucha with jaggery sugar and wondering if it is possible and how to go about it? In this guide we take a look at the benefits of brewing with jaggery, the challenges, and how to switch over to using it in your kombucha.
Howdy kombucha makers! Today we are going to be talking how to brew kombucha with jaggery. Jaggery is a form of raw sugar, which can be used successfully in kombucha making.
Kombucha has been made using white refined sugar as its sucrose source for as long as we know. Lately however, as we become more aware of the health hazards that refined sugar poses, some kombucha makers are turning to using raw sugars in their brews.
These raw sugars, of which jaggery is one, can however be a little more tricky to brew with. So we are doing a set of posts detailing how to brew kombucha with some of the main types raw sugar. If you are interested in brewing with any of the other types, so far we have covered:
But, today we are talking jaggery, so let’s get to it. First off….
What Is Jaggery?
Jaggery is a form of raw sugar which is minimally processed and still retains much of its molasses content. Traditionally made and used in areas in Asia, Africa, and some countries in the America’s, jaggery is made from cane juice or date palm sap.
Jaggery comes in a variety of forms, from solid cakes to a smoother honey-butter consistency.
Why Use Jaggery in Kombucha?
The standard recipe for kombucha calls for about 1 cup of white refined sugar. This is quite a lot of sugar. Fortunately, during fermentation, a certain portion of the sugar will be processed away by the SCOBY into natural acids. However, unless you ferment a batch of kombucha until it is as tart and acidic as vinegar, there will always be residual levels of sugar in your finished kombucha.
Most people who start brewing their own kombucha do so with kombucha’s health benefits in mind. When they find that they have to add cupfuls of refined sugar to their kombucha, this can be a little concerning. White sugar has become the notorious queen of empty calorie foods, with some terming it nowadays as toxic to the body.
As said above, if you ferment your kombucha to a high level of maturity, where it is pretty tart tasting, then you will avoid quite a lot of the sugar which was initially part of the brew. However if you like your kombucha on the sweeter side, then you will be drinking a fair amount of the sugar. In both cases it makes a lot of sense to brew your kombucha with a raw sugar such as jaggery.
Jaggery Sugar Contains Minerals
For a start, raw sugars like jaggery contain certain levels of some minerals. Because sugar, no matter how unprocessed, is still a high calorie food item, it should not be eaten for its mineral content alone. However, if you need to use sugar anyway (and in kombucha you can’t get away without it) then why not use one which actually has some nutritional value?
Depending on the amount of molasses left in the jaggery which you buy, it will contain varying amounts of the following minerals and vitamins:
- B vitamins
Some of these minerals are present merely in small quantities. However, it is interesting to note for example the some studies indicate that raw sugar is a great source of iron, due to the fact the that iron more easily taken up by the body than from other plant based sources.
General Health Benefits of Jaggery
Besides containing minerals and vitamins, jaggery also has some specific associated health benefits.
Unlike refined sugar which is harmful to the liver, raw sugars like jaggery have been proven by science (2) to be a support and a tonic to the liver.
Due to its iron content, raw sugars like jaggery are prescribed in the Ayurvedic system of medicine for cases of anaemia. By western standards, raw sugar does not contain high enough levels of iron to be of any benefit to an anemic person. However it appears that the combination and balance of minerals within raw sugars are such that the iron that they do contain can be absorbed by the body with the maximum of efficiency. Iron is a notoriously tricky mineral to absorb.
Blood Sugar Normalizer
This is strange considering that refined sugar spikes blood sugar levels. However when sugar is in its raw form like in the case of jaggery, it actually has a stabilizing effect on the blood sugar. Studies (3)have shown that the high molasses content of raw sugars can result in lower than usually blood sugar levels when ingested together with high carbohydrate foods.
It is apparent from taking a closer look at the health benefits of raw sugars such as jaggery, that they can in fact be valuable in the diet. If you are making kombucha for health reasons, as well as enjoyment, then using jaggery instead of refined sugar is a great choice.
But of course we also want our kombucha taste good, so let us take a quick look at how jaggery will affect the flavor of your kombucha.
The Flavor of Kombucha Made With Jaggery
Using jaggery in your kombucha in place of refined sugar will result in some changes to the flavor. This is because jaggery has a molasses content. Pure molasses has a powerful and strong flavor. If you have tasted molasses before, then imagine hints of the taste mixed in to your kombucha. As long as the taste of molasses is one that you like, then you will probably enjoy the flavor that jaggery brings to kombucha.
If you are a fan of molasses, then you may want to try brewing with a raw sugar which has a lower molasses content, such as turbinado sugar. Take note however that the molasses flavor will be a lot weaker than what pure molasses tastes like. In your kombucha, the jaggery will probably produce more caramel or treacle like notes of flavor.
The Difficulties of Using Jaggery Sugar for Kombucha
If you like the taste of darker sugars and of molasses, and are excited about using a healthier form of sugar in your kombucha, then brewing your kombucha with jaggery is definitely a good idea. Before we get started however, there is one area that we need to talk about.
The SCOBY on Jaggery Sugar
Brewing kombucha with raw sugar which contain molasses and minerals can be tricky. Kombucha SCOBYs are adapted to living off of white refined sugar. Refined sugar is 100% sucrose and is easy for them to process. Raw sugars on the other hand are more complex in structure and contain minerals.
Jaggery Sugar is More Complex
The more complex sugar is harder for SCOBYs to break down. If they are introduced to it all at once, they may have so much trouble trying to convert it that they starve. This will result in a drastic stall in fermentation and a brew which just does not want to get going. If left for too long like this, your batch of kombucha could go rotten, as there is no fermentation taking place.
Jaggery Contains Minerals
The other thing which can affect a SCOBY, on the long term, are the minerals contained in jaggery. While the extra minerals are great for us, they are not always so good for the SCOBY. Prolonged exposure to minerals can cause SCOBYS to weaken. This is why it is always a good idea to keep a SCOBY hotel while brewing with jaggery or any other raw sugar.
Although brewing kombucha with jaggery sugar is not always as straight forward as when using refined sugar, it definitely is possible. Also, there is a ‘safe’ way to switch over to jaggery, which we will outline below. Before we get into that, let’s quickly take a look at how to make a SCOBY hotel, in case you do not have one already. And then we are all set to start the process of changing over to brewing with jaggery sugar.
Make a SCOBY Hotel Before Switching to Jaggery Sugar
SCOBY hotels are where you keep your extra SCOBYs. It is always a good idea to have one, even if you are not trying out a new sugar. This is because if you ever lose your SCOBY to something like mold or vinegar fly eggs – no problem. You can simply take out a backup SCOBY from your hotel.
How to Make a SCOBY Hotel
Making a SCOBY hotel is very simple. You will need a large jar, some spare SCOBYs, starter liquid and some cooled sweet tea. Place the SCOBYs into the jar with the tea and starter liquid, just like you would when making a batch of kombucha. This jar you can then store in a suitable place – which can be dark, say in a cupboard – but free from dirt, dust and bugs.
How to Maintain a SCOBY Hotel
The spare SCOBYs in the hotel will need feeding. You can do this by changing out their tea, or by simply adding a scoop or two of sugar to keep them going. You will only need to do this every few weeks, because the SCOBYs will go into a state of slight dormancy while they are in the hotel.
These are the very basic guidelines for making and maintaining a SCOBY hotel. For our full and detailed guides, check out these posts, How to Create a Kombucha SCOBY Hotel (to Store Extra SCOBYs) and How to Make and Maintain the Perfect SCOBY Hotel.
Once you have set up your SCOBY hotel, you are ready to rock and roll with switching to making your kombucha from jaggery sugar.
How to Switch Over to Using Jaggery Sugar for Your Kombucha
There are two ways you can switch over to using jaggery sugar in your kombucha. You can either do it in one batch, or you can slowly swop out the white sugar for jaggery over a number of batches. This last method is the recommended one, as it will set you up to have the minimum of brewing hassles and hiccups. As mentioned above, SCOBYs can struggle a little in the beginning to process jaggery. If they have too hard of a time then fermentation can become erratic or stall completely.
However, if you just want to try a batch of kombucha made with jaggery to see how it goes and what it tastes like, by all means go ahead and swop out the sugar in one foul sweep. If you run into fermentation difficulties, you can of course still try the long and slow change over method.
The Slow Change Over to Jaggery (recommended)
The nature of the game with this changeover technique is simple. You will be swapping out a small portion of white sugar for jaggery in your first batch. This quantity will increase with each new batch until you are brewing with 100% jaggery sugar. For an average sized batch of kombucha this should take about 8 brewing cycles to complete.
Step 1: Mix Jaggery Sugar and White Sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to jaggery sugar, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the jaggery 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 Jaggery 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 jaggery 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 jaggery 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 jaggery 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 jaggery.
If your jaggery is in a very solid form, then you may want to measure out your sugar, white and jaggery, using weight. Rather than cup measurements, as this can be tricky if the jaggery is in hard blocks.
Step 2: Increase the Ratio of Jaggery to White Sugar Each Cycle
Every cycle, increase the ratio of jaggery sugar to white sugar by 1 X. So in the second batch you will double the jaggery sugar amount, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. In the third bath, triple the jaggery 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% jaggery sugar.
This slow method of switching over to brewing with jaggery sugar is the best way to make the change over, if you are wanting to brew with jaggery sugar indefinitely.
If however you just want to try it out 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.
Switching Immediately to Jaggery Sugar
This method could not be easier.
Simply swap out the white sugar that your normally use for your kombucha with jaggery, following a 1:1 ratio.
Once you have set up your ferment, keep an eye on how it does. It could well be that that your SCOBY is in such great condition that it ferments the jaggery without missing a beat.
If however you notice that fermentation is not progressing as it should (no bubbles, no increase in tartness etc.) then it could be that fermentation is not happening. In this case, you can give the batch a week or so in which to come right. But if after 5-7 days there is no sign of change then you may have to consider starting again. And using the slow change over method.
Keep a Refined Sugar Fed SCOBY Hotel When Brewing Long Term with Jaggery Sugar
If you are going to be brewing long term with jaggery sugar, then make sure that your SCOBY hotel is still fed with white sugar. The reason for this is due to the minerals in jaggery and their ability to sometimes weaken SCOBYs.
If your brewing SCOBY is weakened by long term brewing in jaggery sugar, then you can simply swop in a SCOBY from your hotel. If your hotel is fed with jaggery however, then this might mean that the stored SCOBYs could have been weakened as well.
Stock Your SCOBY Hotel with Jaggery Raised Babies
In order to make sure that the cultures in your hotel are pre-adapted to jaggery sugar, stock the hotel with babies from your jaggery brews. Even though they will have a diet of refined sugar in the hotel, they should retain some genetic memory of how to process complex raw sugar. Due to having been born in tea made with jaggery.
Jaggery sugar is a great choice of sugar to try out using in your kombucha. It contains minerals and has some associated health benefits. It can also imbue kombucha with tasty caramel tones!
However although jaggery is a lot better for us human’s to eat then refined sugar – this is not necessarily so for the SCOBY. SCOBYs can have a hard time processing raw sugars because they are more complex than refined sugar and contain minerals.
To combat this, you can use the long and slow change over process which we have outlined. This will give the SCOBY a chance to get used to the complex sugar. While still providing it with some refined sugar that is easy for it to consume and convert.
Of course, if you wanna just test out a batch of kombucha made with all jaggery sugar and do not feel like having to do this over 8-12 batches, you can do an immediate switch. There is a chance that this will work fine. And if it does not, then you know you must rather do the gradual switching.
2. Arruzazabala ML, Carbajal D, Mas R, Molina V, Valdes S, Laguna A. Cholesterol lowering effects of policosanol in rabbits. Biol Res. 1994;27:205–8.