How to Brew Kombucha with Molasses
Can I Make Kombucha With Molasses?
Why Use Molasses?
Most of the time, people who brew kombucha at home are interested in nutrition and are trying to live and eat as healthfully as possible. Molasses is considered one of the superfoods, and packs a punch nutritionally speaking.
In fact, a 2009 study ranked Molasses as the second healthiest sweetener in the world, in terms of antioxidant content, when compared to all other sugar and sugar alternatives available. In fact, blackstrap molasses had 500 to 600 more antioxidants than refined white sugar.
Even though it is a lot more expensive that sugar, wanting to include it or use it as your sweetener and energy source for your SCOBY makes sense if you are looking to significantly up the nutritional and antioxidant content of your brews.
There are however some considerations.
It is possible to brew kombucha using molasses instead of sugar, but you need to be careful that you do not compromise your SCOBY culture. And you need to be prepared for a significant flavor change — something you may love, or may hate, depending on how you feel about the taste of Molasses.
What to Be Careful of When Brewing Kombucha with Molasses
There are two things that you want to avoid when brewing kombucha with molasses, and using it for food for your culture rather than sugar. One is that you do not damage the SCOBY and the second is that you do not alter the taste so much that it is unpleasant.
Molasses has a strong and bitter taste which will come through in your brew even once fully fermented. The flavour can be nice — even delicious — but also overpowering if you are not wild about the taste of molasses. Chances are if you don’t like the flavor of gingerbread cookies, you are not going to like a molasses flavored Kombucha either.
The SCOBY Health
Kombucha SCOBY cultures usually adapt themselves to what ingredients they are given to work with, and once adapted work better with what they are used to. This means that if you suddenly change the sugar source, to something drastically different (for instance switching from highly refined white sugar to strong blackstrap molasses) the culture will probably suffer and go down in condition.
The other side to SCOBY adaption is of course that once given a chance to gently adapt to a different tea, temperature, or food/sugar source, the SCOBY can sometimes do fairly well with the new element, even if it is not ideal.
Molasses is categorized as a ‘not so ideal ingredient’ when it comes to the maintaining SCOBY health.
This is because it contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals. These same high concentrations of minerals which give molasses its rep as a superfood are what can sometimes damage your brewing culture. This is also the reason why hard water can cause SCOBY problems, as hard water usually contains high amounts of minerals (For guidelines on the best and worst waters to use for kombucha making, see our article: What is the Best Water For Kombucha).
Molasses is harder for your SCOBY to break down and extract the sugars than regular sugar. It still can, but it will take longer to ferment than if you use sugar.
Not All Molasses is Created Equal
As with sugar, there are different levels of refinement when it comes to molasses. Which type of molasses you are going to be using for brewing will influence the quantity required. Molasses consists of basically everything which is removed from cane sugar to get it into its refined form. That is why molasses contains so many minerals while sugar (depending on the level of refinement) contains almost none. The browner the sugar the more molasses it still contains, and the whiter and more refined the sugar, the more molasses has been removed.
All molasses contains some residual sugar, that is why molasses is sweet. The sugar content per cup however will of course be less than that of pure sugar. This means that you will have to use more molasses per batch of kombucha than sugar.
The Three Types of Molasses’s
Molasses is generally divided into three main types; light molasses, dark molasses and blackstrap molasses. The darker the molasses, then further along from the sugar refining process it comes from, and the more concentrated it is mineral wise. The lighter the molasses, the more sugar it contains. Depending on which molasses you want to use, you will have to adjust the quantity.
- Light Molasses: Light molasses consists of about 65% sucrose. This means that you will need to use slightly less than double.
- Dark Molasses. Dark molasses consists of about 60% sucrose, so again, slightly less than double the amount of sugar is required.
- Blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses consists of about 50% sucrose. Use slightly MORE than double the amount of sugar required.
Be generous when using molasses instead of sugar, as it will be more difficult for your kombucha SCOBY culture to process.
You can also expect a prolonged brewing period, as it will take more time for the yeasts to digest the molasses’s sucrose and turn it into alcohol for the bacteria.
This is not a bad thing, as slow ferments usually result in better quality end-product kombucha than rapid ferments. But just be prepared for the increased brewing time, and if you are already struggling with ferments which take abnormally long periods of time to mature, then maybe introducing molasses is not such a good idea at this stage.
For info on slow ferments and what to do check out What To Do If My Kombucha Is Brewing Too Slow.
How to Brew Molasses Kombucha
It’s pretty simple: just replace the sugar amount with roughly 1.5-2 times the molasses and give another few days to a week for fermentation.
Here are some specific steps though to make things easier.
1. Use a Backup Scoby (or make sure you have one)
If you want to try out molasses in your kombucha sweet tea base, then make sure you have a backup SCOBY on hand. This is always wise when brewing with an unfamiliar ingredient. As long as you have a replacement SCOBY in the wings, you can experiment away without any worries.
2. Choose the Correct Molasses
You’ll want to make sure you choose molasses that a) you find adds a level of flavor you enjoy and b) provide you with the desired health benefits
Molasses comes as Sulphured and Unsulphured. Sulfur Dioxide can be used in cheaper molasses to lighten the dark color and to extend shelf life. But there are potential health risks associated with Sulfur Dioxide in food. As such, we absolutely recommend you go with Unsulphured Molasses.
You also have molasses that comes from organic sugar cane or non-organic. Choose the Organic version.
Choose the Molasses Type
You have three types of molasses’s, which come from different ‘boils’ of the sugar cane in which the sucrose is extracted from the other stuff (with molasses being the other stuff).
1. Light Molasses (also called ‘First Molasses’). This is the sweetest molasses and the type commonly used in baking cookies due to the sweet taste. It comes from the very first boil of the sugar cane where the sucrose (table sugar) is removed from the other stuff (molasses) during the boil.
2. Dark Molasses (also called ‘Second Molasses’). This is sweet molasses with a slight bitter taste. It’s also used for baking cookies, cakes, breads, and other recipes that call for a stronger molasses taste. You’ll often find dark molasses used in strong gingerbread cookies. It comes from the second boil where the left over stuff from the first boil (sucrose + molasses) is boiled and sucrose is extracted again, leaving a more dense molasses behind with less sucrose in it.
3. Blackstrap Molasses. This comes from the third round of boiling and is the least sweet of the molasses. It’s very strong, almost bitter, but packs the most nutrients. You often can only find this in health food stores. Blackstrap molasses is often referred to as as superfood due to how nutrient packed it is.
Remember, you’ll need to adjust the amount of molasses you add depending on the TYPE of molasses you use.
3. Replace Sugar with Molasses for the Tea
You’ll want to directly substitute molasses for sugar. This is roughly double the amount of molasses as you would put in sugar. The stronger the molasses grade, the more you’ll need as it contains less sucrose.
Here’s the molasses-to-sugar replacement ratios you’ll want to roughly follow (though you can adjust to taste):
- Light Molasses: Use roughly 1.5-2 cups per 1 Gallon of Kombucha (I recommend Golden Barrel Supreme Baking)
- Dark Molasses: Roughly 2 cups per 1 Gallon of Sweet Tea. (I recommend Grandmas Unsulphured Molasses, Original, 11.5 Ounce)
- Blackstrap Molasses: Roughly 2 – 2.5 cups per 1 gallon of sweet tea (I recommend Plantation Molasses, Blackstrap)
4. Ferment Your Kombucha as Normal
Once you have your basic sweet tea with SCOBY added (as per our kombucha recipe), simply ferment it as usual. Note that the fermentation time will likely be increased due to increased effort required for the SCOBY to break down the molasses as a fuel.
Expect a few more days to a week more of fermentation time. But make sure you taste test for best results.
Adapting Your Scoby to Molasses for Better Results
If you have tried out molasses as the sweetener and sucrose source for your sweet tea base, really enjoy it and decided that you would like to brew with it all the time, perhaps you should consider gently acclimatizing your SCOBY to full time molasses brews.
Simply start by reducing the amount of sugar slightly, and replacing it with a small portion of molasses. With each successive brew, increase the molasses slightly and decrease the sugar slightly.
Remember that depending on which type of molasses you have, you will need to use roughly double the amount of molasses than that of sugar, as molasses is only 50-65% sucrose.
So for example, if you have reduced the sugar by 1/8 of a cup, you will need to add 1/4 of a cup of molasses.
If you have decreased the sugar by 1/4 of a cup, then you will need to add 1/2 of a cup of molasses.
Keep on analysing the taste of your brews while you implement this changeover strategy. If you reach a point where you do not want any more of the molasses flavour, you can stop there and keep that sugar/molasses ratio.
If Molasses-Brewed-Kombucha Does Not Work…
If the above changeover strategy does not work, and your SCOBY starts to degrade, this does not mean that you cannot brew with molasses.
In that case you will just have to keep a store of SCOBYs and swap them out into tea that contains sugar so that they can feed and recover.
You can either swop them out into your SCOBY hotel (if you do not know what a SCOBY hotel is, check out How to Create a Kombucha SCOBY Hotel) or brew batches of tea with molasses, and tea with sugar, side by side, so that while one culture is being exposed to the molasses, the backup one(s) are recovering in the tea which contains refined sugar. Alternating the SCOBYs should keep them fed and in good condition.
You might also try mixing in half molasses and half sugar rather than pure molasses. This will still provide the SCOBY enough easy sugar to process and ferment the tea as regular; the molasses will be used by the SCOBY along with the regular sugar. This may give you a faster ferment (maybe – you’ll have to test it!) and may alleviate any health issues you may have with a SCOBY. You won’t have as nutrient as packed kombucha vs only using Molasses.
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.|
Make sure you check out our other advanced Kombucha sugar-replacement guides: