Can You Combine Multiple Types of Sugar in a Single Kombucha Brew
Have you been wondering if it is possible to combine multiple sugar types in kombucha? If so, read on because in this post we cover everything to do with combining multiple sugars in a batch of booch.
Over the last few months, we have been delving into the interesting topic of sugar types and kombucha. Typically brewed using white cane sugar, kombucha can also be brewed using a variety of other sugar types. Such as raw sugars like muscovado and sucanat. Honey, agave syrup and rice syrup can also be used in kombucha, along with many others.
Each of these different sweeteners has different effects on the flavor of your kombucha. If you really want to play with the flavor profile of your booch, experimenting with alternative sugar types can be very rewarding.
And if you want to take it up another notch, you can also try out using multiple types of sugar in a single kombucha brew. Not only is this possible, but it can also yield some really great results.
Yes, You Can Combine Multiple Types of Sugar in a Single Kombucha Brew
Brewing kombucha with more than one sugar type is most doable. More than one sugar present will not cause your SCOBY to die or freak out. In fact, combining multiple sugar types in a single batch of kombucha can actually help the SCOBY. Because some sugar types can be difficult for the SCOBY to process, two different types combined can make things easier for your culture.
And not only is multiple sugar types potentially great for your SCOBY, it can be amazing for the flavor of your finished kombucha.
The Benefits of Combining Multiple Types of Sugar in a Single Kombucha Brew
Before we jump into how to go about using multiple sugars in your booch, let’s go a little deeper into the benefits of this. So that you can take full advantage of them when brewing with multiple sugar types. There are two key benefits associated with combining multiple sugar types in your kombucha.
You Get More Flavors
First up, you get more flavors. There are two other ways to experiment with the flavor of your kombucha. These are through using different tea types, and through adding additional flavoring ingredients. Such as fruit, spices, and herbs.
This third way of switching up the flavor of your kombucha is less common. However, it can have a big impact in terms of flavor. Want to make outstanding booch? Then get creative with your sugar types and see what you like!
Combining multiple sugar types in one batch of booch takes this flavoring technique even further. When two flavors are combined together you can get interesting results and a deeper flavor profile. You can also use sugars together strategically, to negate the negative aspects of one or the other. Some sweeteners are really strong, such as molasses. But maybe you want some molasses tones in your kombucha? And you want the second sweetener to also have add flavor? You could try out, say molasses and honey, in a 1:3 ratio.
You Can Use One Sugar Type to Balance Another
The kombucha SCOBY tends to do best when dealing with white refined sugar. Refined cane sugar is super simple in makeup, which makes it very easy to process for the SCOBY. SCOBYs can also do pretty well on slightly less refined sugar types, such as brown sugar. And alternative sweeteners like rice syrup and agave nectar.
And then there are some sugars and sweeteners that SCOBYs do not process as well. Coconut syrup and coconut sugar are two of these. Molasses can also be heavy for the SCOBY to handle.
Some sweeteners have an adverse effect on brewing time. Date syrup for example, speeds up fermentation dramatically. This can cause your kombucha to finish too quickly, and have a flat and sour flavor profile.
Combining multiple sugars together can help you to circumvent these problems, and be able to take advantage of more flavors. By combining two sugars together strategically you stand to gain the flavor of both, while negating some of the negative effects of one or the other.
Are you getting excited to get started on combining multiple sugar types in your next brew? Before we get into just how to go about doing this, let’s take a quick look at this list of do’s and don’ts to get you started on the right foot.
Do’s And Don’ts
When brewing with alternative and multiple sugar types, there are a couple of things to keep in mind throughout.
Do Use Nutritive Sugar Types
It is very important that you always use a nutritive sugar type for your kombucha. The SCOBY needs sucrose and or glucose to be present, in order to have something to eat. The SCOBY feeds on the sugars that you give it, and this is what fuels the whole fermentation process. Without any sugars present, the SCOBY will have nothing to eat, and fermentation will not take place.
Do Substitute in by Recommended Ratios
When brewing with alternative sugar types, you have to check to see if you need to adjust the quantities. This is because not all sugars are the same strength.
If you are combining multiple sugar types in a single brew, you will need to make sure that you are using the right amount of each.
We explain just how to do this below, so don’t stress the ratios.
Do Play Around With Brew Time
Different sugar types can affect the brewing time of kombucha. This is because they are comprised of different forms of sugar, namely sucrose, glucose, and fructose. Each of which is processed by the SCOBY in varying rates.
Harvesting your kombucha at the optimum time, when it is neither too sweet or too sour, is key to getting great tasting kombucha. If you are going to be using sugars in your kombucha that influence the rate of fermentation, then you want to keep an eye on this. Especially in the case of using multiple sugars types together in one batch of kombucha.
You don’t want to whip up a potentially amazing batch of kombucha, with two tasty sugar types, only to have it go super tart on you.
You can keep tabs on your brew by smelling it every day, to gauge how sour it is getting. One can also taste small amounts to check how close it is to being ready.
Do Not Use Non-caloric Sweeteners
We already covered this in “Do’s”, but in case you missed it we will say it again. Do not use non-caloric sweeteners for you kombucha. Sweeteners such as stevia and Splenda will not work for kombucha, because they do not contain anything that the SCOBY culture can feed on.
How to Use Multiple Types of Sugar in a Single Kombucha Brew
Are you ready to get started on how to combine and use multiple sugar types in your kombucha? Let’s jump right in. The first thing to do is get to grips with the different types of sugars that one can use in kombucha. We will go through them all and provide extra info on what their effect on your kombucha can be.
Step 1: Know Your Sugar Types
The key to creating great sugar combinations in your kombucha tea, is to get familiar with the different sugars. Knowing which sugars give what flavors, and how they affect brewing, will enable you to think up superior combinations.
White cane sugar is the most commonly used sugar for making kombucha. It is one of the simplest sugar types for the SCOBY to digest. And because of this kombucha SCOBYs tend to do very well on it. They can easily digest and convert the sugar into acids, and this makes for a hiccup-free brewing process. Because white sugar is so easy for the kombucha SCOBY to convert, it is the most recommended sugar type for kombucha brewing.
Most SCOBYs are also used to fermenting kombucha made with white sugar. If a SCOBY has been exposed to predominantly white sugar during its lifetime, then it will be adapted to feeding off of that.
White sugar has little to no taste and does not play into the flavor profile of your kombucha all that much.
However, if you are wanting to use multiple sugar types in your kombucha, white cane sugar can be a good option to use as one of the types. Because it is so easy for the SCOBY to work with, it can act as an insurance policy for a second sugar you may want to use, which is not as easy to ferment for the SCOBY culture.
More complex sugars such as raw cane sugars or coconut sugar can sometimes be difficult for the kombucha SCOBY to convert to acids. Which is a vital part of the fermentation process. Having a portion of white sugar present can make it easier for the SCOBY to successfully ferment a batch of kombucha which contains more complex sugars as well.
Brown sugar is the next most common sugar type that people use for making kombucha. It is relatively cheap and gives great brewing results. It is also pretty easy for the kombucha SCOBY to ferment.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy
Brown sugar is another easy-to-process sugar type for kombucha SCOBYs. Many brown sugars are actually white cane sugar, with molasses added back into them. So in the case of this, the SCOBY is essentially getting refined white sugar, with a little additional molasses.
Flavor: Hints of molasses
On the flavor side of things, brown sugar gives a darker and richer tasting kombucha. Thanks to the additional molasses. This can make for a very interesting flavor profile, especially when paired with fruit or spices in the second ferment.
Top Tip: If you have get to do second ferments, they are an awesome brewing practice to get in place. Check out our guide on how to do second ferments to get started.
If you want to try out using brown sugar in your kombucha, check out our guide to brewing kombucha with brown sugar.
Now let’s take a look at some of the raw forms of cane sugar, and their effect on the SCOBY and flavor profile of your kombucha.
Piloncillo is a raw form of cane sugar, hailing from Mexico. It is highly prized among chefs and bakers for its smokey rum like flavors. It is also considered a healthier form of sugar, thanks to being minimally processed. Piloncillo sugar is made via slow heating of cane juice until a reduced syrup remains. This is then poured into cone-shaped molds to harden.
This process results in all of the inherent molasses and minerals from the cane juice remaining within the crystallized sugar cones. Which is why piloncillo is so flavorful and deemed to be healthier than refined white sugar.
Brewing Difficulty: Medium
Because piloncillo sugar is minimally refined, it can be harder for the SCOBY to process than white sugar. The complex form makes for more work on the part of the SCOBY. The presence of the inherent mineral content can also potentially cause long term brewing issues.
However, that is not to say that you cannot make kombucha with piloncillo sugar. It is definitely possible, and can lead to some delicious booch! Pairing piloncillo sugar with white sugar in one kombucha batch could alleviate some of the problems associated with brewing with more complex sugars.
Flavor: Smokey rum tones with hints of caramel
Piloncillo is a wonderfully flavorful sugar to incorporate into your kombucha. It will impart its rum like smokey tones, and you may also find that it gives hints of caramel to your brew. A most delicious situation! Thanks to its great flavor profile, piloncillo sugar is definitely worth experimenting with in your kombucha brewing.
If you want to know more about how to brew your kombucha using piloncillo sugar, check out our in-depth guide.
Jaggery is another raw cane sugar that can be used for making kombucha. Traditionally made jaggery hails from India. It can be made out of sugar cane juice or coconut palm sap. However, cane derived jaggery is the most common. It is also the easier of the two for the SCOBY to work with. Therefore if you have a choice, we would recommend that you brew with jaggery made from cane juice.
Brewing Difficulty: Medium
Because jaggery is another raw cane sugar and is minimally processed, it can be tricky for the kombucha SCOBY to ferment. Even if you are using the cane juice derived type of jaggery. However, it is totally possible to incorporate jaggery into your kombucha brews. Especially if you are using a second sugar type in conjunction with the jaggery. It is also possible to make kombucha using jaggery only. However, you may run into obstacles such as erratic or prolonged brew times. If your SCOBY really does not take kindly to raw sugar, you may even encounter mold in the long term.
However, this is rare and probably will not happen if you train your SCOBY to ferment raw and more complex sugars.
If you want to know how to train your SCOBY to be able to handle jaggery, check out this post.
Flavor: Spicy Molasses Tones with Hints of Caramel
Jaggery is a delicious sugar that has a faint spiciness to it. It also tends to carry hints of caramel. This can equate to a deep flavor profile when used in kombucha! Although jaggery may be slightly harder for the SCOBY to process, it is definitely worth experimenting with, thanks to its great flavor. Pairing it with another sugar type that is easy to brew with can reduce brewing problems. And if you really want to kick it up a notch, you can pair it with another tasty sugar type, to ramp up the flavor profile.
Another lesser processed form of cane sugar. It is made from the initial stage of processing white cane sugar. It has higher levels of molasses present than white sugar, and is less processed than regular brown sugar. However it is lighter in color and generally contains less molasses than other raw sugars. Such as jaggery, piloncillo, Sucanat, and muscovado sugar.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy
Because of the low levels of molasses present, turbinado sugar is generally easy to brew kombucha with. The SCOBY is happy with simpler sugar form, and the lower levels of molasses. Turbinado sugar is not as simple a sugar for the SCOBY to ferment as white cane sugar, but most SCOBYs should not have a problem with it.
Flavor: Gentle molasses tones, with hints of honey
Turbinado sugar has a delicate flavor, with gentle molasses tones coming through. It also has some hints of honey like tones, and earthy notes. Like brown sugar, turbinado sugar is a great choice if you want a mild molasses flavor. Molasses and the raw sugars that contain higher quantities can have a dark malty effect on your kombucha. Which can be great, but if you are aiming for a toned down version, turbinado or brown sugar may be ideal.
The gentle flavor and easy to brew nature of turbinado sugar makes it a nice choice to use in combination with other sugar types.
It can also make for a great stand alone sugar type for using in your kombucha. For everything you need to know about brewing kombucha with turbinado sugar, check out our in depth guide.
Molasses is a highly concentrated sugar option to use in making kombucha. It is not concentrated in sugar. It actually has less sugar per gram than regular or raw cane sugar. But it is very concentrated in the naturally occurring minerals and non-sucrose compounds from sugar cane. For this reason, molasses is considered a health food when used in moderation.
Brewing Difficulty: Hard
Unfortunately, molasses can be a tough one for the kombucha SCOBY to ferment. The high mineral content in molasses is not ideal for SCOBY cultures. They can handle low levels of minerals, but concentrated sources can cause brewing problems over time. Molasses is also a complex sugar source, which SCOBYs can have trouble breaking down. However many people have had successful kombucha batches with molasses. In the end, it is all up to your SCOBY and how much brewing power it hast. SCOBYs in different areas also contain differing populations of microbes. Which explains why some SCOBYs can handle molasses without any problems.
Flavor: Strong molasses taste, malty and dark
Molasses possesses a strong flavor, with deep malty tones. Molasses can bring a lot of richness and depth to a brew of kombucha. It darkens the kombucha, and the malty tones come through strongly. If you enjoy the taste of molasses, then you will probably love the flavor of kombucha that is made with it.
If you do not like molasses at its full strength, then you can use it alongside a milder sugar type in your kombucha.
Kombucha that is brewed with molasses tends to finish up on the early side. A typical batch of kombucha may take around 7 days to ferment. A batch of kombucha brewed with molasses on the other hand will likely be mature around day 5. So when brewing with molasses, keep a note of how many days have passed, and check to see if it is finishing early.
For more info on how to brew kombucha with molasses, check out our guide.
Evaporated Cane Juice
Evaporated cane juice is another raw form of cane sugar. Although these minimally processed forms of cane sugar are termed raw, they are all extracted via a process using heat. The same is true for evaporated cane juice. Pressed sugar cane juice is evaporated using heat, and the resulting sugar crystals the end product. This process acts to retain all of the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals present in the cane juice. It also means that all of the molasses remains in the sugar.
This molasses component lends evaporated cane juice a deeper color and flavor, which can work well in kombucha. Evaporated cane juice, like other raw sugars, is also thought to be healthier than white sugar.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Evaporated cane juice is typically not too difficult a sugar type to brew kombucha with. Most SCOBYs will be happy with the sucrose present and be able to process the additional molasses and minerals just fine. If you do have any trouble using it in your kombucha, you may want to try our gradual switchover process as outlined in our guide on how to brew kombucha using evaporated cane juice.
Or, you can simply try combining evaporated cane juice and white sugar together for a few brews. This way you will get the flavor of the evaporated cane juice, and the SCOBY will get some white sugar that it can easily eat.
Flavor: Mild Molasses
Evaporated cane juice tends to have mild and gentle molasses tones. This is great if you just want a hint of the richness of molasses and not the full blown flavor. Paired with other flavorful sugars, or fruit in the second ferment, these molasses hints can be delicious.
Brown Rice Syrup
Popular among vegans and those wishing to avoid cane sugar, brown rice syrup is another sweetener that can be used in kombucha. Brown rice syrup is thought to be healthier than refined cane sugar. However it does undergo processing. Brown rice syrup also has a high GI index, higher than almost any other type of sweetener. High GI foods can cause insulin spikes and are considered to be less than ideal. Fortunately during the fermentation process of kombucha, a large portion of the sugars present, are converted into acids. The acids produced the kombucha fermentation process are healthy acids. So this is a direct win if you are concerned about the fructose levels in brown rice syrup.
What also makes brown rice syrup great for using in kombucha, is that the SCOBY handles it well.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy
For some reason, brown rice syrup works great in kombucha ferments. Ferments are usually hassle-free, with a minimum of brewing problems and SCOBY issues. Finished kombucha made with brown rice syrup tends to be balanced between sweet and tart. Brown rice syrup also does not affect the brew time. This is a plus because sugars which speed up the rate of fermentation can often yield tart kombucha with shallow flavor profiles. Another bonus to brewing with brown rice syrup is that the finished kombucha tends to be super fizzy!
Flavor: Butterscotch tones
Thanks to its unusual flavor profile, brown rice syrup can also enhance the taste of your booch. Brown rice syrup tends to have mild butterscotch tones, which can really taste great in kombucha. It is also a nice flavor to experiment with by combining it with other complementary flavors. You can do this by pairing up brown rice syrup and another tasty sweetener in your kombucha, such as honey. Or by adding flavors in the second ferment. Or by experimenting with unusual tea types.
If you want more info on how to brew kombucha using brown rice syrup, head on over to our guide.
Coconut syrup is another alternative to refined cane sugar that is thought to be healthier to consume. It is made from the sap of the coconut palm. Incisions are made in the flowers, from which growers collect sap, which is then reduced to form a syrup. The syrup contains the naturally occurring nutrition inherent in the coconut palm flower sap. Coconut palm sap also has a low GI index reading. Which is great for avoiding blood sugar spikes and insulin related problems.
Brewing Difficulty: Hard
Unfortunately, although coconut syrup is deemed to be a healthy sweetener, it can be difficult to brew kombucha with. The kombucha SCOBY tends to struggle with coconut syrup, and ferments can sometimes flop. However, once-off brews can often be most successful. Long term brewing with coconut syrup seems to be where issues can develop, such as mold.
If you wish to support you SCOBY while brewing with coconut syrup, you can try out combining it with another sugar type. For best results, pick a sweetener that is easy for the SCOBY to process. Such as white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, or rice syrup.
Flavor: Caramel tones
You may be thinking, well if coconut syrup is so tricky to brew with, why bother? Well, when it comes to flavor that’s where things get good. Coconut syrup usually has distinct caramel tones, and these can work really well in the flavor profile of kombucha. Contrary to association, coconut syrup does not taste like coconut. This is because it is made from the sap of the coconut palm flowers, and not the coconuts themselves.
For additional info on how to brew kombucha using coconut syrup, check out our in-depth guide.
Coconut sugar is similar to coconut syrup, except it is in crystal form. It also comes from the nectar of coconut flowers. It contains the inherent nutritional that is present in the coconut palm sap. And it also does not taste like coconut, as the sugar is not made from coconuts, but rather from their flowers.
Like coconut syrup, coconut palm sugar has a low GI index. This is a big reason for its popularity with those wanting to eat more healthfully. As kombucha is in many ways a health drink, it is not surprising that people are experimenting with coconut sugar in their booch brews.
Brewing Difficulty: Hard
Unfortunately, like coconut palm syrup, coconut sugar can also be tricky to brew with. However, while there are no guarantees, it is possible to get tasty and successful batches of kombucha when using coconut syrup. You will, however, need to be aware that kombucha made with coconut syrup may experience some brewing issues. Also, long term brewing with coconut palm sugar can result in mold if not done right.
To find out all the ins and outs of brewing with coconut sugar, check out our guide.
Once again, you can also try out combining coconut sugar with other sugar types. This can act to support the SCOBY during fermentation.
Flavor: Caramel tones
Like coconut syrup, coconut sugar also has gentle caramel tones, with hints of molasses. Which pairs well with the base flavor of kombucha.
Another alternative sweetener that can be used in kombucha. There are some conflicting opinions about whether or not honey is safe to use in kombucha. You may have heard that the antimicrobial action of honey will deteriorate the SCOBY. While honey is antimicrobial, as far as we can tell this does not have a harmful effect on the kombucha SCOBY. Jun tea, a very similar ferment to kombucha, is made solely with green tea and honey. Jun tea is brewed on a long term basis, and jun tea SCOBYs do well on honey and do not suffer many problems.
That said, it is recommended that one uses pasteurized honey in kombucha, as honey can contain bacteria. This colony of bacteria, while usually being beneficial, can disrupt the kombucha SCOBY.
Honey is one of the few sweeteners that can be called truly natural and mostly unprocessed. Thanks to this, and its various properties and health benefits, many people prefer honey to other sweeteners. So for those of you who like to use honey in place of cane sugar, you will be happy to know that you can use it in your kombucha too.
Although honey is often reported to be bad to brew kombucha with, it can turn out some lovely brews. Many brewers have had great experiences brewing kombucha with honey. So much so, that some even brew with it full time. Honey generally does not affect the brew time all that much, and shouldn’t result in brewing hiccups or cases of mold.
A beautiful thing about honey is that it can have an endless variety of flavors. Because honey is made by bees from nectar that they collect, this can result in a plethora of flavors. Whichever plants are in flower at the time that the bees harvested their nectar will influence the taste of the honey they make. Citrus flavored honey, from flowering citrus trees, can be especially delicious. As can honey made from apple blossoms.
So in short, honey can add a lot of variety and experimentation to the flavor of your kombucha. And almost all honey’s taste pleasant, so it is pretty hard to go wrong.
Honey has a tendency to cause kombucha to ferment a little faster. Therefore it is best to keep an eye on the brewing kombucha and stop the ferment early if it has matured. Honey stimulates the yeasts in kombucha, which results in an abundance of yeast strings. These are not a problem. However, if you are thinking of brewing with honey long term, you may want to strain some of these out of the starter liquid. This is to stop the ferment from becoming yeast dominated.
For more information on how to brew kombucha with honey, go and check out our full guide.
Maple syrup is an all natural sweetener that requires minimal processing. Like honey, it is practically ready make by nature to be an ideal sweetener. Because pure maple syrup is unrefined and additive free, many health conscious people enjoy using it in place of white cane sugar. People often brew kombucha in order to gain its slew of health benefits, and because of this are keen to try out unprocessed sweeteners in their kombucha. Such as maple syrup! Maple syrup is a potent source of antioxidants, containing over 24 types. It is also a rich source of manganese and zinc, and has a lower glycemic index than white cane sugar.
Besides being a pretty healthy form of sweetening, maple syrup also has a unique flavor. Which is another reason why you may be thinking of experimenting with it your kombucha.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy
Maple syrup is surprisingly easy to brew. The kombucha SCOBY for some reason processes maple syrup very well, considering that it is a complex sugar type. People who have brewed up their kombucha using maple syrup have reported few to no brewing problems. Fermentation time tends to remain the same, with no premature tartness. Woohoo!
Flavor: Varying maple tones
Maple syrup of course brings with it its signature flavor. Depending on the grade and color, maple syrup can taste fresh or woody, with varying levels of caramel tones. Light batches of maple syrup, that are harvested early on in the season, have a milder and fresher flavor. The darker maple syrup types have more intense maple tones. And the darkest grade of maple syrup has strong woody tones and hints of caramel.
This range of flavor is great for the kombucha brewer who wants some variety. If you have both light and dark maple syrup on hand, you can choose between creating a milder brew with light syrup. Or going full out maple flavor with the darker maple syrup.
When brewed up into kombucha, the flavors of maple syrup can gain in complexity and intensify towards the end of the ferment. Some brewers find that the complex nature of the taste of maple syrup requires no additional flavoring. However you can also take the experiment further and add fruit or spices, play with the tea types, and of course use multiple sugars types.
Because maple syrup is an easy sweetener for the kombucha SCOBY to handle, you can pair it up with just about any other sugar type. It could also act as a support for a more complex sugar type thanks to its easy-to-brew-with nature.
Agave syrup has seen a surge in popularity thanks to its relatively low ranking on the glycemic index. It can be a bit pricey to use in your booch, however, the results can be very nice. So if you were considering using agave syrup in your kombucha, this could be a great idea. If you want to save on costs, but still incorporate agave nectar into your brew, you can pair it up with another sugar type.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy
Agave nectar is another alternative sweetener that the kombucha SCOBY finds easy to process. Agave nectar is almost pure fructose, which accounts for its low GI index rating. Kombucha SCOBYs are thought to prefer glucose to fructose. However, when put to trial, it appears that even though agave nectar is fructose heavy, SCOBYs can still convert it into acids and carry out fermentation.
However, while some people have had great success with using agave syrup in their kombucha, there are others whose SCOBYs encountered problems. Therefore to know for sure if one’s SCOBY can handle agave syrup or not, you have to try it out. If you are keen to experiment with agave nectar in your kombucha, go and check out our guide on how to brew with agave.
Flavor: Similar to honey
Agave nectar has a mild and gentle flavor that is somewhat similar to honey. In kombucha this can translate to a gentle and warm, yet fresh flavor profile. This can be great if you want something subtle, or are planning for another sugar type or flavor to be the star. Some brewers have reported that kombucha made with agave nectar tends to be less tart than than regular kombucha. This can be due to the high fructose content. The resulting brew is generally one that is not overly sweet, but at the same time not too tart. This can be a tricky balance to achieve with kombucha made with regular white sugar. Because pretty soon after most of the sugar has been converted by the SCOBY, acid levels will be on the rise.
Therefore this attribute of agave syrup, to produce non-sugary kombucha that is simultaneously not overly sour, can come in handy. It also makes agave nectar a valuable sweetener to use in conjunction with other types that tend to yield a lot of tartness early on in the brewing cycle.
When brewing kombucha with agave nectar, it is important to monitor the fermentation time. Not because agave nectar influences the the brew time all that much. But rather, because agave nectar tends not to convert into as many acids. If you are ‘smell checking’ your kombucha, waiting for tartness, you may over brew your kombucha. So instead, rather taste your batch along the way and stop the fermentation when the taste is ideal.
Date syrup is another healthy alternative sweetener that you may be considering trying out in your kombucha brews. It is made from dates, which are highly nutritious. For this reason date syrup is considered to be a relatively healthy form of sweetener.
Brewing Difficulty: Hard
Unfortunately, date syrup does not always work that well for kombucha brewing. You can brew kombucha with date syrup, and the chances are that fermentation will take place. The kombucha SCOBY seems to be pretty okay with date syrup. There is one common issue however, and that is overly fast fermentation. Date syrup can cause kombucha to ferment too rapidly, leaving one with a brew that is tart and has a flat flavor.
However if you do want to use date syrup in your kombucha, one of the best ways to counteract this is to combine it with another sugar type. Preferably one which has a minimum of brewing issues, and does not also speed up fermentation.
Flavor: Rich, dark and complex
Like dates themselves, date syrup has a sweet and rich flavor profile. Being not only sweet, but complex in flavor as well. If you enjoy dates, chances are that you will like the flavor of date syrup kombucha as well. To maximise the great taste of date syrup, and avoid unpleasant sourness that can develop, try combining it with another sugar type.
Because date syrup tends to speed up the fermentation process in kombucha, you will most probably need to harvest your kombucha early, when brewing with this sugar type. You may also want to takes steps to slow down the fermentation process. Such as placing your kombucha in as cool a place as possible. You will also need to keep close tabs on the fermentation, to gauge when to harvest the kombucha.
Cassava syrup is a less well known alternative sweetener. Made from the cassava root, it is considered to be a healthier form of sweetening to white cane sugar. This is partially thanks to its status as a fructose free syrup. Cassava syrup is also a useful sweetener due to the fact that it has a very mild flavor. This makes it a versatile replacement for cane sugar. And, it can be a good alternative to use in your kombucha, if you are wanting the focus to stay on another flavor, and not be influence by the sugar type.
Brewing Difficulty: Easy
Kombucha SCOBYs tend to do fine on cassava syrup. Kombucha ferments made with cassava syrup tend to be hassle free with a minimum of brewing issues. Cassava syrup also does not seem to alter the brewing time or disrupt the rate of fermentation.
As mentioned above, cassava syrup has a very mild flavor. It can be so mild, that you may not even notice it in your finished batch of kombucha. If you are looking for a sweetener that will ramp up the flavor of your kombucha, then this is not the one. However, if you want a sweetener that will not clash or compete with other flavors, then cassava root may be a good choice.
Thanks to its ability to facilitate hassle free fermentation, cassava root syrup can be a great sweetener to pair with more difficult to brew sweeteners. Especially ones which have strong flavors.
Sugar Cane Juice
Cane juice is yet another sweetener that one can use in place of sugar when making kombucha. Sugar cane juice is extracted from sugar cane, and is what cane sugar is eventually derived from. Cane juice however is raw, unheated, and besides being extracted from the sugar canes, unprocessed. This makes it a nutritious form of ‘sugar’.
If you are lucky enough to live in a place where sugar cane juice is freely available, then you may have been wondering if you can use it in your kombucha. Well guess what, you can! Sugar cane juice can be used to make some very delicious kombucha.
Brewing Difficulty: Medium
Brewing kombucha with sugar cane juice is classified as experimental. The results can be a little uncertain, and you will have to try it to see if it will work for your SCOBY. One of the main issues with sugar cane juice seems to be super fast rates of fermentation. This may be in part due to the makeup of the sugar cane juice. However it could also be linked to the fact that the sugar cane is typically grown in hot climates. So, if you have access to sugar cane juice, chances are you are also brewing in high temperatures.
Flavor: Light, fresh, grassy
Sugar cane juice is delicious, and has a very light, fresh and almost grassy flavor! This is because it has not undergone any heating or processing, which yields up the heavier caramel tones that raw cane sugars have. This light and fresh taste can make for the perfect base to a delicately flavored kombucha.
When brewing with sugarcane juice, you may want to heat it to a gentle simmer before adding it to your kombucha. Sugar cane juice is thought to contains its own set of microbes, which could upset and influence the brewing process of the kombucha.
In order to keep your tea and sugar ratio correct, you will need to steep the same amount of tea, in half the amount of water. Then add the same volume of sugar cane juice.
For more info on how to brew kombucha with sugar cane juice, take a look at our in-depth guide.
Step 2: Dream Up The Ultimate Sugar Combination for Your Kombucha
We have covered all the main sugar types that you can use to make kombucha with. That was the first step to combining multiple sugar types in your kombucha. Now it is time to dream up some interesting sugar combinations for your booch!
If there are two sugar types that are easy to brew with, then all you have to do is work out the quantities and get brewing. However if one of them is a type which is trickier to brew with, then you can work out which sugar would make a complimentary second choice. You can go through the above list, and pair up two sugars. Such as coconut sugar (tricky) and brown sugar(easy). Or molasses(tricky) and rice syrup(easy). There are many different combinations to experiment with. Simply work out, based on brewing difficulty, which combinations will be supportive of each other.
Of course, flavor is another factor that you can play with. With all of the different flavor profiles that these sweeteners have, you can really get creative with your combinations.
Step 3: Work Out Your Sugar Quantities
An important step when combining multiple sugar types in one kombucha brew is to accurately work out the correct ratios. Not all sweeteners have a one-to-one ratio to white cane sugar. When making kombucha, it is important that one incorporates the right amount of sugar. Too little sugar will cause fermentation problems, as the SCOBY will not have enough to feed on. Too much sugar and the SCOBY may go into a sugar coma and fermentation can stall.
Therefore it is important to calculate the correct amounts needed of both sweeteners for the amount of kombucha you will be making. For a batch of kombucha made with regular white sugar, the standard ratio of sugar to tea is 1 cup sugar to one gallon of tea. Some brewers have also experienced good results with up to one and a quarter cups sugar to 1 gallon of tea. The ideal amount of sugar to tea ultimately depends on your SCOBY. If you have already established the ideal amount of white cane sugar per gallon or per batch for your culture, stick with this number.
When you are substituting in different sweeteners, then all you need to do is work out the correct amounts based on the amount of white sugar that you use for your kombucha.
Sweetener Ratios Cheat Sheet
Below is a list of the recommended ratios of the main sugar types that can be used in kombucha, to white sugar.
Brown sugar – ratio 1:1
Piloncillo – ratio 1:1 (measure by weight, not volume)
Jaggery – ratio 1:1 (measure by weight, not volume)
Turbinado – ratio 1:1 (measure by weight, not volume)
Light molasses – ratio 1.5-2:1
Dark molasses – ratio 2:1
Blackstrap molasses – ratio 2-2.5:1
Evaporated cane juice – ratio 1:1 (measure by weight, not volume)
Brown rice syrup – ratio 1.3:1
coconut syrup – ratio 1:1
Coconut sugar – ratio 1:1
Honey – ratio 0.5 to o.66 :1
Maple syrup – ratio 0.66:1
Agave syrup – ratio 0.66:1
Date syrup – ratio 0.66:1
Cassava syrup – ratio 1.25:1
Sugar cane juice – 1:1 sugar cane juice to tea see guide
Before setting up your ferment, get out pen and paper, and a calculator, and calculate the exact amounts you will need of each sweetener that you will be using.
For example, if you want to use half maple syrup and half honey, you would calculate the ratios as follows for a 1-gallon batch:
0.5 x 0.5 = 0.25 cups
0.5 x 0.6 = 0.3
The formula is:
The amount of white sugar the new sugar is replacing x the ratio value for the new sugar
So, all you have to do is evaluate how much white sugar the new sugar will be replacing, and multiply this by the ratio value for the new sugar from the list above.
Step 4: Play With Brewing Time
Once you have determined the sugar types you want to combine, and the correct amounts, you are ready to brew. Simple set up your kombucha brew as you usually would, incorporating the combined sweeteners. Once the kombucha is fermenting, the final step of the process is to experiment with the brewing time. Different sugar types can cause changes in the rate of fermentation. Which is why one wants to monitor the batch of kombucha while it is fermenting.
To gauge how quickly the kombucha is fermenting, you can simply taste it on a daily basis. By doing so you will be able to stop the fermentation at the optimum time. When it tastes as if it has a perfect balance between sweet and tart, then it is probably ready.
You can also play with brew time and flavor, by doing a second ferment. Second ferments are a great brewing practice for deepening flavors and mellowing out your kombucha. Not to mention developing increased levels of fizz. If you want to find out more about second ferments, go and check out our guide.
Combining multiple sugar types in kombucha is not only possible, but it can also be a useful brewing practice. Using multiple sugar types can allow you to increase the flavor levels of your kombucha. However, not all sugars are easy for the kombucha SCOBY to process. Which is why you can also use sugar combinations to allow you to brew with a tricky sugar type. By pairing a hard-to-brew-with sugar, with one that is easy for the SCOBY to process, you can take advantage of the flavor profile of the complex sugar type, while supporting the SCOBY.
There are a few steps involved in creating ultimate sweetener combos in kombucha. The first step is to get to know the different sugar types that you want to use. The second step is to work out the correct ratios of the sweeteners that you wish to combine in your kombucha. And the third is to monitor and play with the fermentation time.
And after that, all you gotta do is experiment and see what works. If you stumble upon any rocking combinations, or epic fails, let us know in the comments. we love hearing from you guys.
In the meantime, happy brewing and experimenting guys!