How to Brew Kombucha with Muscovado
Today we are going to take a look at how to go about brewing your kombucha with Muscovado sugar.
What is Muscovado Sugar?
Muscovado sugar is a partially refined sugar which typically has a high molasses content. Because of the levels of molasses present, muscovado sugars are dark brown in color and also strong in flavor.
Why Use Muscovado Sugar in Kombucha?
There has been a lot of research published in recent years focussing on the ill effects that white refined sugar can have on our health, with some people terming it as poisonous. Because of this, many people who are interested in healthy living and therefore kombucha making – are a little alarmed at putting so much of this ‘poison’ into their kombucha!
Although kombucha is traditionally brewed with white, fully refined sugar, some brewers are now beginning to experiment making it with less processed sugars such as muscovado sugar. Not only are they less toxic to the human body, but they also contain levels of vitamins and minerals.
What Will Kombucha Brewed with Muscovado Sugar Taste Like?
Kombucha that is brewed with muscovado sugar will have tones of the molasses present in the finished kombucha. If you like the taste of molasses, then this is great. If however you dislike the taste of molasses, then it might be a good idea to go for a lighter sugar with a lower molasses content, such as turbinado sugar. We have a guide on how to brew with turbinado sugar too, so check that out if you think you would like to have a less strong molasses flavor present in your finished kombucha.
Is it Easy to Brew Kombucha with Muscovado Sugar
Yes and no. Kombucha SCOBYs have been adapted to brewing and feeding off of refined white sugar which is very simple for them to process. Darker and less refined sugars like muscovado sugar is more complex in form, and as such it is more difficult for the SCOBY to break down.
Additionally, the mineral content in the unrefined and raw sugars like muscovado sugar can also have a negative effect on SCOBYs over time.
These two elements can make brewing with muscovado sugar challenging.
However this does not mean that it is impossible to brew kombucha with muscovado sugar, or other forms of raw sugar. SCOBYs can adapt themselves to converting more complex sugars, especially if the changeover is done gradually. In this guide we are going to outline how to do a slow changeover to muscovado sugar, to ensure brewing success. It is however also possible to switch over in one batch, this just increases the chance of possible brewing hiccups.
Health Benefits of Muscovado Sugar
Before we get into how to start brewing kombucha with muscovado sugar, let’s take a look at some of the health benefits associated with muscovado sugar. Raw sugars can be expensive to purchase regularly and in large quantities, therefore it is nice to know what the benefits are that you will be reaping.
Muscovado Sugar Contains Minerals
The first and most obvious benefit of using muscovado sugar in your kombucha is that it contains minerals. Unlike refined sugar, which has no mineral content.
Minerals found in muscovado sugar:
- Phosphorus (P) 3.9 mg max.
- Calcium (Ca) 85 mg max.
- Magnesium (Mg) 23 mg max.
- Potassium (K) 100 mg max.
- Iron (Fe) 1.3 mg max.
The amounts of these minerals is somewhat low, and considering the calorie density of sugar, even a raw sugar like muscovado should not be considered as a main source of minerals. However, making sure that most of the foods in one’s diet have some type of nutritional value is an important part of eating a nutrient dense diet. Choosing to use muscovado sugar in your kombucha means that your kombucha will have minerals that it did not contain before. You will be avoiding consuming completely empty calories.
Raw Sugars Are Slow Release
The thing which makes raw sugars like muscovado better for the body than refined sugar is that they are slow releasing. The sucrose is taken up by the body at slower rate. This is less taxing to the pancreas which has to produce insulin in response to the quantity of sugar which is being taken up. It also means that there is less chance of experiencing blood sugars highs and lows, meaning a steadier stream of energy.
The reason why raw sugars are slow releasing, is because they are more complex in structure than refined white sugar, which is 100% sucrose.
Scientific Findings on the Health Benefits of Raw Sugar
Raw sugar and sugar cane juice have long been considered in traditional schools of medicine to be beneficial to the body. Raw sugars are prescribed in the Unani and Ayurvedic system of medicine for anemia and liver trouble respectively. Now in recent times Western science has been backing this up (1), and suggesting the following benefits associated with raw unprocessed cane sugar.
- Liver protective(2)
- Blood sugar normalizing (3)
- Diuretic activity(4, 5)
- Acetylcholine release (6)
- Anti-inflammatory effects (7)
- Antihypercholesterolemic effects(8)
- Antithrombotic activity(9, 10)
- Contains beneficial microbes that enhance healthy gut flora (11)
- Immunological and redox-anti-oxidant effects(12, 13)
- Anticariogenic effects( 14, 15)
This list of health benefits revealed by studies was compiled by Donald R. Yance, Jr., CN, MH and a full article by him detailing the health benefits of raw sugar can be found here. For those of you interested in the studies, I have tracked down the ones I can find online – and they are linked here and at the bottom of this post.
As you can see, switching over to and using a raw sugar like muscovado sugar is a good choice when it comes the associated health benefits. In general, foods are best for the body when in their most whole form, and this stands true for sugar as well.
So, let’s begin with our guide on how to switch over from using refined sugar in your kombucha, to using muscovado sugar.
How to Switch to Using Muscovado Sugar for Your Kombucha
Switching over to using muscovado sugar in your kombucha is not complicated. It should ideally however be done slowly and in degrees, so that the kombucha SCOBY has a chance to adapt to the more complex sugar. Immediate switch over can result in a complete stall in fermentation. However on the other hand some SCOBYs might be able to carry on fermetnation on 100% muscovado sugar without skipping a beat. It all depends on the SCOBY. So, if you wish to try an immediate switch over you may.
For this reason we have outlined both the gradual and the immediate switch over methods, and what to look out for if you choose the immediate switch.
The gradual one is the recommended method, so we will go over that first. However before you start to switch over to muscovado sugar, there is something which you will need to do if you have not done it already. And that is… make a SCOBY hotel.
Make a SCOBY Hotel Before Switching to Muscovado Sugar
As mentioned earlier in this guide, SCOBYs can sometimes struggle to brew on raw sugars like muscovado sugar. The increased complexity of the sugar presents a challenge for them, and presence of minerals can harm cultures over time. Because of this, it is very important to make sure that you have some back up SCOBYs in case something happens to your culture. And the way to store backup cultures is by setting up a SCOBY hotel!
How to Make a SCOBY Hotel
Making a SCOBY hotel is very easy. All you need to do is fill a suitable sized jar with enough sweet tea to cover the cultures you want to store. You also will need to top this up with fresh tea, and change the tea completely, from time to time, so as to keep the cultures fed.
This is the basics, but I recommend that you go and read our full guides on making and maintaining a SCOBY hotel:
(As a side note, make sure to never store your kombucha cultures in the fridge! This is not good for them and can result in brewing problems. More on that in this post.)
Once you have set up your SCOBY hotel, it’s time to rock and roll with the switch to the muscovado sugar!
How to Gradually Introduce Your SCOBY to Muscovado Sugar (Recommended)
This is the slow change over method, outlined step by step. The conversion ratio between white processed sugar and muscovado sugar is 1:1. So simply substitute the amounts in as instructed at a one to one ration.
Step 1: Mix Muscovado Sugar and White Sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to muscovado sugar, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the muscovado sugar you want to switch to. The exact amount will depend on the batch size which you are making.
Rough Guidelines on Sugar Amounts
If you are doing an average size brew, we would recommend that you replace the white sugar with muscovado sugar in 1/4 cup increments. This means that if you are using three cups of sugar per batch, it will take you 12 brewing cycles to switch over completely.
If you are brewing small quantities of kombucha, then rather replace the sugar in 1/8 cup increments.
Step 2: Increase the Ratio of Muscovado to White Sugar Each Cycle
Every cycle, increase the the ratio of muscovado sugar to white sugar by 1/4 a cup. So if you normally make 1 gallon batches with 1 cup of sugar, it will take 4 brew cycles (about a month and a half) to switch over completely.
Keep a Close Eye on Your Brews
Monitor your brews during this transition closely. This is very important, because as stated, raw sugars like muscovado sugar can cause brewing problems. If at any point your kombucha smells off or rotten, throw it out! The same goes for in the event that you spot mold. If you see any mold on your SCOBY, throw out everything. The kombucha, the SCOBY and all, and start again. Most likely this will NOT happen, especially if you have employed the gradual change over method.
How to Switch your Kombucha Over to Muscovado Sugar in One Batch
If you do not have the patience to slowly make the switch over to muscovado sugar, then you can also try the immediate switch method. Simply swop out the regular sugar you are using at a one to one ratio with your muscovado sugar.
This might work fine, depending on what kind of a SCOBY you have on your hands. If the strain of culture you have was exposed to complex sugars somewhere in its genetic history, it will have the most chance of handling the fast change over well.
If you find that this method does not work, because you are experiencing brewing problems afterwards, you can always try the slow method. Especially if you have a store of SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel to fall back on.
What to Look Out For When Brewing with Muscovado Sugar
Because raw sugars like muscovado sugar are harder for the SCOBY to process, it is important to monitor your brews closely when changing over and brewing with it. There will likely be some changes in your brew cycles.
Changes in Fermentation Time
Raw sugars like muscovado sugar can change the rate at which your kombucha ferments. Some sugars like date syrup usually speed up the rate of fermentation. Raw and more complex cane sugars however are prone to slow down your ferment a bit. This is not a problem, as longer, slower ferments often produce a better kombucha with more depth in flavor.
If however you notice that your kombucha is fermenting so slowly that it is on the point of not fermenting at all, then this is a problem. Ferments which do not ferment at all usually go rotten at some point, and of course there is no kombucha being produced while you are busy waiting in vain for fermentation to get going again.
No fermentation, or a very low level of fermentation, can often result in the following developing in your kombucha:
Mold is never a good sign, and it spells the end for a batch of kombucha. If you see that mold has developed on your SCOBY, then you will need to throw out the batch, along with the molded SCOBY, and start again.
As said above, if at any point your kombucha smells off, chuck it. Kombucha which smells bad signals that fermentation has stalled and pathogens have been able to enter the brew.
Keeping a Refined Sugar Fed SCOBY Hotel
Once your SCOBY has adapted itself to the more complex muscovado sugar, your kombucha brews should ferment with minimal problems. There is one more thing to consider however, and that is the potential impact of the minerals in the sugar on the SCOBY over time. You might find that at some point the culture which you are brewing with starts to flag. This is normal for cultures anyway, and you can simply throw the old one out and replace it with one of the baby SCOBYs which have most likely formed.
For these reasons it is important to keep aside some babies as they form, so as to have follow up cultures to brew with. You can keep these babies in your SCOBY hotel.
Stocking Your SCOBY Hotel with Raw Sugar Adapted Babies
Even though you are making your kombucha with muscovado sugar, maintain the SCOBY hotel with white sugar. This will ensure that you are protected from any mineral related losses of SCOBYs in the hotel.
Also, make sure that over time you fill up your SCOBY hotel with babies that have formed in the muscovado sugar kombucha batches. This will mean that they already have a genetic memory of processing and living on complex sugar. Hopefully, when you introduce them into the mix again they should not take too long to re-adapt.
That is it for our guide on how to brew kombucha with muscovado sugar. As you can see, muscovado sugar is a much healthier alternative to use in your kombucha than regular white sugar.
It is however a bit more difficult to brew with, particularly in the beginning while the SCOBY is still adapting itself to the more complex form of sugar. For this reason we recommend a gradual change over to muscovado sugar, in order for the SCOBY to be able to adapt itself. If you do not have patience for this, you can also try the immediate switch over. It could be that your SCOBY is hardy enough to carry on brewing without problems, in which case, fantastic! However be aware that this sudden change to a complex sugar increases chances of problems such as fermentation stalls and mold.
If you do encounter problems like stalled ferments or mold, do not be disheartened. It could be that other conditions such as temperatures had an influence, and it is definitely worthwhile to give muscovado brewing another go. If you have set up a SCOBY hotel before beginning the switch over to muscovado sugar, then there is no problem. All you have to do is start again with a new culture and try to introduce it to the complex sugar slowly and gently.
Good luck with your brewing endeavors guys – and remember if you have any questions or comments, we love to hear from you.
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