Maple Sugar Kombucha

by Monarda Thrasher  |  Guest contributor

A few years ago, I decided to stop making Kombucha because I thought that it needed to be made with cane sugar, and I was on a journey to only use local sweeteners.  (Well, almost, I still use sugar to capture the ginger bug to make naturally fermented sodas.  More on that later!)

Then someone challenged me to make maple kombucha, and since herbal drinks are my specialty, and I enjoy a challenge, I took it on.

I’m delighted with the results!

This kombucha is rich and earthy from the mineral-rich flavor of the maple, and still light and aromatic from the tea and vinegar.

While making maple kombucha is simple if you know how to make kombucha, getting a kombucha mother switched over to maple and getting the kombucha just right takes a little practice.

The first part requires time and patience.  A kombucha mother is happiest when it’s fed the same thing and lives in the same environment all the time.  So, if you’ve been feeding your mother with cane sugar and want to switch to maple, you have to switch it over slowly.

I did this by changing what I fed it by ¼ each time.  The first brewing I fed it ¼ maple, ¾ cane sugar.  The second brewing ½ maple, ½ cane sugar.  The third feeding ¾ maple, ¼ cane sugar.  And the fourth I shifted it to 100% maple sugar.

If you want to adjust your kombucha mother more gradually, you can shift it by 1/6th C instead of ¼ Cup each time.

Once the mother has been acclimated to maple sugar, you can brew using maple sugar.  I suggest that you keep an eye on your mother, and if it seems like it’s getting sluggish, you can add cane sugar for it to feed on.

How to Brew Maple Kombucha:

Primary fermentation

 

Supplies

  • Gallon Jar; Cloth cover/rubber band
  • 3½ quarts water
  • 3-5 Tbsp Green or Black Tea Preferred  (no caffeine- rooibos)
  • ½-1 cup Maple Sugar or Syrup
  • 1 cup Kombucha Liquid; Kombucha Mother aka SCOBY (SCOBY = Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast)
  1. Clean and sterilize jars and equipment with vinegar.
  2. Boil water and dissolve sugar/syrup
  3. Remove from heat and add tea.  Steep for 5+ minutes.
  4. Strain tea and allow mixture to cool to room temperature.
  5. Pour the cooled tea into the jar.
  6. Add the kombucha liquid (from previous unflavored batch) and carefully add the SCOBY, right side up please! SCOBY may sink, float or do tricks.
  7. Cover jar with a cloth and rubber band.  Set it away from other ferments in a quiet place.   and wait…this is the “first ferment”.  Allow it to remain undisturbed for about 7 days.
  8. When the kombucha begins to smell a bit sour, like mild vinegar, taste it!
  9. Use a spoon or pour a bit out.  When it is slightly sweeter than you like it, it’s time to bottle!
  10. Remove SCOBY from Kombucha, (I use my clean hands) and put it in a bowl or jar with 1 cup kombucha.  Set aside for next batch.

Secondary Fermentation

Supplies

  • Jars or bottles w/ rubber seal lids
  • Pitcher or bowl
  • Filter and funnel (optional)
  1. Filter Kombucha into large jar.  There may be some globs floating in the kombucha.
  2. Add 1oz dried herb or add 8oz fruit or juice per gallon kombucha.
  3. Let ferment 1-2 days.
  4. Strain out fruit/herbs and compost.
  5. Pour Kombucha into bottles.
  6. Close bottles tightly (not too tight) and store for 3-14 days in a warm place.
  7. Test the carbonation and taste it everyday.  Flip-top bottle can explode from too much pressure.  Plastic lids bottles and mason jars are safer.
  8. When you find the right flavor and carbonation for you, transfer to cold storage and/or enjoy!

My favorite flavor combinations:

I like to combine fruity/sour and flowery/aromatic flavors.

  • Red/Purple Monarda and Red King: Sumac, Rose Hips, Hibiscus, Elderberry, Hawthorne Berry, Aronia Berry
  • Anise Hyssop and Ginger
  • Lemon Grass, Basil or Thai Basil and Ginger
  • Raspberry and Anise Hyssop
  • Lemon Balm and Holy Basil
  • Elderflower and Lavender
  • Elderberry and Fir Tips or Pine Needles

Tips

  • To get a fizzier kombucha, start the second ferment when the kombucha is younger and let it carbonate for at least 5-7 days.
  • Many people prefer to brew with less sugar, esp when brewing with maple.  You can get away with using ½ C or more of maple per 1 gallon batch.  I like to use a full cup, because I often let it ferment 10-14 days, sometimes longer, and I want it to have plenty of food.  And, more sugar means more food to carbonate.
  • You can use one cup of maple sugar or maple syrup.
  • The factors for fermenting are time, temperature and sugar.  At higher temps your brew will ferment faster.  With more time and more sugar, it will ferment more sugar into acetic acid (to a point).
  • The second fermentation adds more bubbles, and changes the biochemical makeup.  Kombucha can be enjoyed prior to the second fermentation.

Monarda is an intuitive folk herbalist, fermentologist, tea maker, storyweaver and educator.  She has been studying herbalism and fermentation since 2007, launching the Wild Farmacy Project, Tea for the People and the Driftless Herbal Exchange Network in that time.  She has found a passion for empowering folks to make the best medicine for themselves.  Her educational focus is making traditional herbal techniques and practices more accessible for people, so that they can practice herbal crafts in their own homes.  Her work is cross-pollinated with story-telling, social and environmental permaculture, spiritual herbalism, and healing justice.

You can follow her work at:

https://www.facebook.com/monarda.thrasher

 

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