How to Brew Kombucha with Sugar Cane Juice
Are you wondering if it is possible to brew kombucha with sugarcane juice? In this post we are going to take a look at how to start brewing kombucha with cane juice in place of sugar.
With the growing global awareness of the health hazards of refined sugar, many people try to cut it out of their diets completely. If you are brewing kombucha which calls for cups of white sugar every week – this might not fit in with a no sugar diet goal.
Although SCOBYs do tend to process away a fair share of the sugar they are presented with at the beginning of fermentation, there is always some left. Unless of course you make a batch of kombucha vinegar….
For these reasons, you might be looking towards a healthier sugar option for your kombucha.We have covered a few of these recently in our post How to Brew Kombucha with Raw Sugars. Most of these raw sugars are derived from cane juice. So in essence, cane juice is the rawest way to add sugar to your kombucha.
Brewing kombucha with cane juice is considered ‘experimental’. For this reason you might encounter brewing hiccups along the way, and you will have to get your SCOBY used to the new form of sweetening over time. This however does not mean that it is not worthwhile. If you can get your SCOBY adapted to the cane juice, you could end up with some delicious kombucha on your hands!
Reasons for Brewing Kombucha with Sugarcane Juice
Health Benefits of Sugarcane Juice
Sugarcane juice is a raw and most minimally processed form of cane derived sweetening. In addition, sugar cane juice is not simply sugar water. It contains high concentrations of calcium,magnesium, manganese, iron and potassium. It contains other nutritional elements such as alpha hydroxy acids and according to studies (1, 2), a powerful assortment of antioxidants. Amazingly, sugarcane juice also has a low glycemic index. This is partly due to its high fibre content.
Sugar cane juice is also said to enhance protein levels within the body. This is supported by a study (3)which concludes that sugarcane juice is more effective than sports drinks at effective hydration, and that it enhances muscle glycogen resynthesis.
Price & Availability
Do you happen to live in an area where cane juice is sold on the streets by the cup or large bottle? If so then using cane juice for a healthier sugar source for your kombucha makes a lot of sense. The juice will be super fresh, and most times very affordable. Rather use the cane juice with is sold in your area, often pressed under your eyes. than a pricey store bought raw sugar. Raw sugars such as muscovado, demerara and jaggery – although undergone fewer processes – usually come with a much higher price than more processed sugars.
So, if you have access to fresh and cheap sugar cane juice, it is definitely worth the effort to try and brew with it.
The other factor is experimentation. If you enjoy brewing your own kombucha and find fermentation interesting, then trying out an experimental brewing technique can be quite fun! : )
Can One Get Good Brewing Results When Making Kombucha with Sugar Cane Juice?
As mentioned above, brewing kombucha with cane juice as a source of sugar falls under experimental brewing. However this does not mean that you cannot get good results from brewing with cane juice. It just means that good results are not guaranteed.
What Will Determine Good / Bad Brewing Results
This is tricky to answer definitively , as some SCOBYs often respond a little differently to new ingredients and conditions than others.
If you have a SCOBY which only does well on standard refined sugar, then you might struggle to adapt it to cane juice. However if your SCOBY is adaptable and takes to the cane juice, then you should get some great ferments.
SCOBYs in general are very much adapted to feeding off of refined sugar which is 100% sucrose. It is very easy for them to eat up and convert. More complex sugars on the other hand are another story. Which brings us to our next point.
Could I Lose my SCOBY Brewing with Sugarcane Juice?
Yes. When brewing kombucha with irregular ingredients there is always the chance that you might lose your SCOBY. Why is this? There are two reasons:
As stated above, SCOBYs like refined sugar because it is 100% sucrose and therefor very simple for them to process. Raw sugars, sugars which contain molasses and cane juice are not 100% sucrose. They have a more complex structure of sugars – which makes it more complicated for the yeasts in the kombucha SCOBY to break them down.
The reason why this can cause you to lose your SCOBY is that it might simply not be able to get enough to eat. If your SCOBY finds the sugars too difficult to break down, fermentation could stall completely, and the SCOBY can starve eventually.
Presence of Minerals
The other reason why cane juice and raw sugars can damage SCOBY is due to their mineral content. Those same minerals that make cane juice healthy for us to consume, can be bad for SCOBYs. Here is why.
If exposed to a high amount of minerals, SCOBYs can over time lose condition. Usually this is not a problem especially if you keep a stash of SCOBYs in a SCOBY hotel.
If you do not have a SCOBY hotel already set up, now is the time to make one. All it is is a large jar, filled with sweet tea and spare SCOBYs. Here you can keep any babies you want to save as backups.
SCOBY hotels are easy to make and maintain. It is always a good idea to keep some spare SCOBYs, because if you do have any problems with the one you are brewing with, you can simply switch out for a healthy one from your hotel.
For a great guide on how to set up and care for your SCOBY hotel check out this post How to Make and Maintain the Perfect SCOBY Hotel.
How to Start Brewing Kombucha With Sugarcane Juice
Ok! Let’s get ready to do some brewing.
There are two ways in which you can start brewing kombucha with sugar cane juice. Most simply, you can merely switch out the sugar straight away with cane juice (see below for ratios and guidelines). Or, you can do a slower process whereby you get the SCOBY accustomed to the cane juice while still allowing it some processed sugar to eat.
The second way is probably the better way. However some SCOBYs can make the change in one batch and carry on just fine. So it is really up to you decide which method you want to try.
Method 1: Gradual Switch Over
Here is our step by step guidelines for introducing and adapting your SCOBY to cane juice over a few brews.
Step 1: Use a combination of cane juice and white sugar
The idea here is to introduce some cane juice into the mix. Cane juice of course is liquid, and does not convert 1:1 with sugar.
What you want to arrive at after about 10-12 brewing cycles is a batch of kombucha which is:
- Half cane juice.
- Half tea, but using that same amount of tea bags as always, so the tea is doubly strong.
In batches working up to this, things can get a little tricky, what with increasing cane juice, decreasing sugar and increasing tea strength all at once. So what you need to do is:
- The eventual volume of cane juice needed
- the present amount of sugar required per batch
Now break both numbers down by 12 (or the number of brews you want to change over in). These amounts of the sugar and the cane juice are what you need to be swapping out each brew, while increasing the strength of your tea accordingly. Until you reach a brew which is half and half tea, and cane juice.
Cane juice is not always the same strength in sweetness, so if at the end of the switch over period you find that the kombucha is not sweet enough, you can increase the amount of cane juice if you want.
Note: Monitor Each Brew Cycle Closely
While you are making this changeover to half and half cane juice and tea, be sure to keep a close eye on your fermenting batches of kombucha. This is important, because faced with the complex sugar and presence of minerals, ferments might be unpredictable. If at any point your kombucha does not smell nice through this changeover process, throw it out.
Method 2: Immeditate Switch
If you do not feel like the longer slower process above, you can also try merely switching your SCOBY over to a diet of cane juice in one shot.
Step 1: Swop out your regular sugar for cane juice
This process is very simple, all you have to do is swop out the sugar with cane juice and adjust your tea volume and strength.
How Much Cane Juice to Use
Unlike most raw sugars, cane juice of course down not convert one to one with sugar when it comes to swapping out. Roughly, if you use half the volume of the tea of cane juice, then you should have the right amount of sugar present for your brew.
Make Sure to Strengthen Your Tea
Because you will be replacing half your tea liquid with cane juice, the tea amount will be thrown out. Remember, SCOBYs also feed on components in the tea s well, so you do not want to deprive them of these.
All you need to do is simply boil up half the amount of water as you usually would, but use the same amount of tea. This will make a super strong batch of tea which will ‘cover’ for the dilution by cane juice.
So, you new ratio for your kombucha will be –
Half cane juice : Half tea, but using that same amount of tea bags as always, so the tea is doubly strong.
Kombucha Brewing Time With Cane Juice
Often when brewing kombucha with anything other than refined white sugar, brew time can be affected. In the case of, say date syrup for example, the brew time often decrease dramatically.
Cane juice however produces a similar brew time to refined sugar, at an average of 7 -10 days.
How to Maintain Long Term Brewing with Sugarcane Juice
If you have decided to brew with cane juice for good, then you will want to ensure the health of your kombucha brews into the future.
You might find that with time your brewing SCOBY will lose vitality due to the exposure to extra minerals. If this does happen you will need to swop it out and replace with a fresh one.
This is perfectly fine. However, you may find that the SCOBYs in your hotel – if they are from before you started brewing with cane juice – are not adapted to it.
Keep Your SCOBY Hotel Stocked with Adapted SCOBYs
While doing your sugar cane juice brews, if you see baby SCOBYs forming, scoop them up once they have formed and store them in your SCOBY hotel. Once you have stocked your hotel with these ‘adapted’ SCOBYs, you can keep them on hand as backups. So that if your brewing SCOBY gets old, you have younger ones which started growing in a tea sweetened with cane juice. This should make them hardier against the change from the SCOBY hotel back into the cane juice and tea medium.
If you have access to fresh pressed cane juice, it can be a great, healthy sweetener for your kombucha. Cane juice is the least processed form of sugar cane. It does not get rawer than that!
If you can get your SCOBY adapted to brewing kombucha which is sweetened with cane juice, you can get some delicious and refreshing batches of booch. Not to mention ultra healthy.
Brewing with any raw sugar or sweetening can be tricky. However if you make a gradual change over, your SCOBY should become accustomed to the more complex sweetening. If at any point you encounter brewing or SCOBY problems, if you have kept a SCOBY hotel you can simply introduce a new SCOBY into your project.
Good luck, and happy brewing!