How to Brew Kombucha with Sucanat
Are you wondering if it is possible to brew kombucha with sucanat sugar? It definitely is - and in this post we are going to take a look at exactly how to make the switch.
Did you know that you do not have to use white refined sugar for your kombucha? You can also use raw sugars, such as sucanat.
Although sucanat can be slightly trickier to brew with than refined sugar, there are some great perks to choosing sucanat sugar for your kombucha.
What is Sucanat?
Although many think of Sucanat as a sugar type – it is actually a brand name. The sucanat brand manufactures raw sugar, which is minimally processed and not stripped of its molasses content. Sucanat can be classed as similar to piloncillo sugar and muscovado sugar.
Sucanat is dark in color, sticky, and has a slight molasses / caramel like flavor.
Why Use Sucanat for Kombucha?
Sucanat is more expensive than regular white sugar brands, and can be more difficult to brew kombucha with. So why use it? There are two reason, the first is the taste, and the second are the health benefits that raw sugars like sucanat can contain.
Some people say that raw sugar is merely another new age health fad – and that raw sugars like sucanat are practically exactly the same as white sugar. In some ways there is merit in this – as companies can easily use words such as ‘natural’ and ‘raw’ to promote and overprice products. In the case of raw and minimally processed sugars however, there are scientifically outlined benefits.
Interesting Flavor Profiles
Because of the molasses content of sucanat, it will make your kombucha taste a little different. The molasses tones will be present, however in a diluted state. This can give pleasant caramel / toffee like flavors to kombucha.
Of course for some, if you do not like these types of flavors, then this could be a reason to NOT use sucanat in your kombucha. If this is the case, but you still wish to reap the health benefits of using a raw sugar in your kombucha, you can try using turbinado sugar which is lighter in color and taste. We have a guide on how to brew kombucha with turbinado sugar aswell, check that one out if you are looking to make a milder tasting kombucha.
Health Benefits of Raw Sugar
Raw sugar contains minerals, and it also has some associated studied beneficial effects on health.
Raw Sugar Contains Minerals and Vitamins
As opposed to refined sugar, which consists of 100% sucrose, raw sugars still retain certain amounts of molasses. This molasses brings with it certain vitamins and minerals.
Raw sugar contains, in varying amounts according to how much molasses is retained:
Medium levels of –
Low levels of –
As sugar is a high calorie food, it should not be eaten as a source of these minerals. However if you need to use sugar (and in kombucha you cannot do without it!) then why not use a sugar which is not comprised of completely empty calories?
Additionally, it is interesting to note that in the case of the iron contained in raw sugar, it comes in a highly bioavailable form for the body. Iron is notoriously difficult for the body to absorb, and requires the presence of additional specific other vitamins and minerals for it to be absorbed properly. In the case of raw sugar, it would appear that these conditions are met, and that is why the iron in raw sugar is of value.
Other Health Benefits of Raw Sugar
Besides containing small amounts of vitamins and minerals, studies have also link raw sugar with a number of other health benefits. This is actually not too surprising, considering that older schools of medicine such as ayurvedic medicine and the Unani system of medicine prescribe raw sugar for certain ailments.
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.
As you can see, there are some definitive pros for using sucanat – or any raw sugar for that matter – in your kombucha! However, there is one area of difficulty that we need to mention.
Potential Challenges When Brewing Kombucha with Sucanat
SCOBYs Don’t Like Complex Sugars
Sucanat might be good for us – but not so for the kombucha SCOBY. Kombucha SCOBYs are adapted to living off of and eating white refined sugar. Refined sugar is very simple for them to process being comprised of entirely sucrose. Raw sugars on the other hand like sucanat are still in a more complex form.
Because of their complexity, raw sugars can be more difficult for the SCOBY to breakdown. If the SCOBY has too hard of a time trying to convert the sugar that you give it, fermentation can stop completely – or simply never get going. If this goes on for too long, the whole batch of kombucha can spoil. However there are ways to avoid this. Namely, by introducing the raw sugar to your SCOBY slowly. This way they will get used to processing it, while still having a some of the refined sugar they are accustomed to fall back on.
SCOBYs Don’t Like Minerals
The other component of raw sugars like sucanat is that they contain minerals. Yes yes, we talked about that already, I know. But not in relation to SCOBYS! SCOBYs do not like minerals, and minerals are not beneficial to them. The opposite in fact. Prolonged exposure to mineral can cause a SCOBY to weaken.
Thankfully however, they can handle a certain amount of mineral exposure. All you need to do is create a SCOBY hotel (if you do not have one already) to ensure that you never lose your cultures completely. Keeping a stocked SCOBY hotel is a way to ‘backup’ your cultures, and always a good idea.
So let’s take a quick look at how to make a SCOBY Hotel, and then we are ready to start brewing with our sucanat sugar.
How to Make a SCOBY Hotel
SCOBY hotels are essentially like slowed down versions of regular batches of kombucha. All you need is a glass jar, sweet tea, starter liquid, and your SCOBYs. Put the lot together just like a regular brew, then store it in a darkened spot. A clean cupboard which gets opened every now and again is great.
To maintain the hotel, you will have to add either fresh sweet tea, or some straight sugar, every couple of weeks. The SCOBYs will be in a slight state of dormancy, so this sparse feeding will be enough for them.
This is the gist of how to set up a SCOBY hotel. 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.
Once you have set up a SCOBY hotel – it’s time to get brewing with your sucanat.
How to Switch to Brewing Kombucha with Sucanat
As mentioned earlier, when switching to sucanat you can run the danger of brewing problems. If your SCOBY finds the sucanat sugar to complex to process at first, fermentation will be sluggish or non-existent. For this reason, we have compiled a ‘slow’ method for switching over to using sucanat sugar in your kombucha. This is particulary relevant if you are switching over to sucanat sugar for your kombucha with the intention of brewing with it long term. The slow switch over will allow your SCOBY to get used to the complex sucanat sugar, and make for better long term brewing results.
If you merely want to try out a batch of kombucha made with sucanat, for interest’s sake or for a change, then you can try out doing an immediate swop of sugars. This may work fine, or it might give you hassles. It really depends on your individual SCOBY.
How to do the Slow Change Over to Sucanat (recommended)
The nature of the game with this changeover technique is simple. You will be swapping out a small portion of white sugar for sucanat sugar in your first batch. This quantity will increase with each new batch until you are brewing with 100% sucanat sugar. For an average sized batch of kombucha this should take about 8 brewing cycles to complete.
Step 1: Mix Sucanat Sugar and White Sugar
For your first batch in the process of introducing your SCOBY to sucanat sugar, swop out a small portion of the regular white sugar that you use with some of the sucanat 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 Sucanat 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 sucanat 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 sucanat 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 sucanat 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 sucanat.
Step 2: Increase the Ratio of Sucanat to White Sugar Each Cycle
Every cycle, increase the ratio of sucanat sugar to white sugar by 1 X. So in the second batch you will double the sucanat sugar amount, while accordingly decreasing the white sugar. In the third bath, triple the sucanat 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% sucanat sugar.
This slow method of switching over to brewing with sucanat sugar is the best way to make the change over, if you are wanting to brew with sucanat 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.
How to Make an Immediate Switch to Sucanat Sugar
If you want to make an immediate switch to sucanat in your kombucha – by all means do so. This method is not impossible or guaranteed to fail. There is a good chance that your kombucha will continue to brew without problems.
All you will need to do is replace the quantity of white sugar that you usually use, with an equal amount of sucanat in your sweet tea. Set up your batch of kombucha and leave it to ferment. During the fermentation cycle, keep a close eye in the brew. If you see bubbles and smell a whiff of tartness -this indicates that fermentation is taking place.
If however you see no evidence of fermentation, then this means that your SCOBY is struggling.You can give the brew an extra 5-7 days to mature, but if fermentation does not start up in this time, you must start again. Either with white sugar, or with a combo as outlined in the ‘slow’ switchover method above.
Keep a Refined Sugar Fed SCOBY Hotel When Brewing Long Term with Sucanat Sugar
If you are going to be making your kombucha with sucanat sugar on a long term basis, then you may be thinking of changing your SCOBY hotel over to sucanat sugar as well. Do not do this.
Earlier in this post we mentioned that the minerals present in raw sugars like sucanat can cause harm to SCOBYs if they are exposed to them over the long term. This is not really a problem, as if you have a SCOBY hotel, you can replace any weakened SCOBYs from there.
However, if the SCOBYs in the SCOBY hotel have also been submerged in sucanat sweetened tea -they too could be suffering from long term exposure to minerals. Therefore, stick to refined sugar for your SCOBY hotel. Just in case.
Stock Your SCOBY Hotel with SCOBYs Formed in the Sucanat Kombucha
To ensure that your spare SCOBYs are pre-adapted to converting sucanat sugar, stock the SCOBY hotel with babies formed in your sucanat kombucha. These cultures should retain some memory of the raw sugar, and hopefully will quickly adapt back to it if needed in the brewing vessel.
Sucanat sugar is a great choice for kombucha. It is healthier than white refined sugar, containing vitamins, minerals and a few surprising health benefits. Sucanat sugar can also give your kombucha a pleasant caramel like flavor.
Sucanat is however a little trickier to brew with. The kombucha SCOBY prefers refined sugar which is easier for it to process, being simpler in structure and without any minerals. This is not an insurmountable problem however. If you wish to brew your kombucha using sucanat on a long term basis, use our ‘slow change over method’.
Or, if you merely want to try it out, you can swop out all of the white sugar for sucanat, in one batch. You may find that fermentation stalls using this method – or you may find that your SCOBY handles the quick change just fine.
It is all up to the SCOBY in the end. : )
Happy brewing everyone.
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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.