So maybe you aren’t thrilled with the idea that kombucha is made with white sugar and black tea. Is there a way around your SCOBY’s strict diet? Yes! You can brew sugar-free kombucha with herbal or green tea.
There is really only one trick to brewing sugar-free kombucha… your SCOBY won’t be happy.
The SCOBY needs the tannins found in tea and it needs sucrose to thrive. However, as long as you have a healthy SCOBY grown in tea and sugar, then you can sacrifice one of its babies to a diet of herbal tea and alternative sweeteners.
Tips for Brewing caffeine-free, sugar-free kombucha
Your SCOBY won’t like being brewed without black tea or sucrose. So here are a few tips:
- Always keep a healthy SCOBY in the usual sweet tea as a backup. Then you can experiment as much as you want and you’ll still be able to return to making regular kombucha.
- To turn your SCOBY into a jun SCOBY start brewing with green tea and honey. It takes a few weeks for the new jun SCOBY to grow, but eventually, it will! (See the photo below).
- Rooibos tea is better than other herbal teas because it doesn’t contain any volatile oils. Avoid teas like mint, chamomile, rosemary, etc. which will harm the SCOBY. If you really want mint kombucha, then add mint-infused syrup when bottling.
- Don’t use low-calorie sweeteners (like xylitol, stevia, Splenda) as there won’t be anything for the SCOBY to eat. Also, avoid high fructose sweeteners (like agave or rice syrup). You can add these sweeteners after bottling the kombucha for a second ferment. But not for the initial brew.
- Good alternatives to sugar are honey, maple syrup, and fruit juice. These all contain enough sugars to feed the kombucha.
- A really low-sugar kombucha can also be made with regular sugar. Just use about half the usual amount. The kombucha will be less sweet and less bubbly.
Honey Rooibos Kombucha
Want to make sugar-free kombucha, or avoid caffeinated tea? Here is how to make kombucha with herbal tea, honey, and other alternate sweeteners.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 1/2 cups 1x
- Category: Beverages
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Probiotic
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 1 rooibos tea bag or 1 tsp of green tea
- 1/4 cup of honey (or other sweeteners, see notes)
- 4 cups of filtered water
- 1 kombucha SCOBY
- 1/2 cup of leftover kombucha
- Boil 2 cups of water and brew a sweet tea with rooibos and honey.
- Add the remaining 2 cups of water to cool the tea down to room temperature.
- Place the brewed tea, SCOBY, and leftover kombucha in a large glass jar or measuring cup.
- Cover with a tea towel and use a rubber band to keep it in place.
- Allow it to ferment in a warm location for 7-15 days (it will take longer than regular kombucha).
- After 7 days, pour off a little liquid to taste it. It is finished when it has reached the desired level of sourness.
- When you like the flavor, it’s ready to be bottled! Pour the honey rooibos kombucha into a plastic bottle or a swing-top beer bottle. Either refresh the SCOBY in its usual sweet tea or use a fresh new SCOBY to brew another batch of honey rooibos kombucha.
- Kombucha brewed without sucrose (sugar) will be less bubbly. If you really want bubbles, prime the carbonation by adding 1/2 tsp of regular sugar into the bottle. This will feed the kombucha enough to carbonate.
- Raw honey has its own yeast and bacterial culture. However, brewing tea with boiling water should kill the natural yeast and bacteria. Otherwise, you may end up making mead!
- Fruit juice also contains a mix of fructose and glucose. To sweeten with fruit juice use 1 cup of clear fruit juice (grape, apple, pear) with 3 cups of tea. The exact amount of sugar will depend on the type of juice. However, as long as you aren’t brewing with straight cranberry juice, the SCOBY should have enough fruit sugars to brew.
- Maple syrup can be used in the same way as honey. Just mix 1/4 cup into the tea.
Keywords: probiotic, sugar free, caffeine free, rooibos tea, honey, green tea, herbal, juice