Can I Make Kombucha Without SCOBY, Sugar, Tea, Alcohol Or Caffeine? – Grow Your Pantry

Can I Make Kombucha Without SCOBY, Sugar, Tea, Alcohol Or Caffeine?

by Susan Grey on December 03, 2019
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Kombucha is a tasty beverage to drink and a fun beverage to brew. When brewing, it’s exciting to experiment with ingredients and brewing methods. Many tasty brews such as Jun and flavorful fruity tastes come from the experiments.
We’ll review each ingredient and a couple of other byproducts of brewing kombucha to see if you can not only brew without them but what the recommended alternative ingredients could be too.
Kombucha is typically made using a few ingredients, Tea, SCOBY, Sugar, and Water, with each playing an essential role in the process.

Role Of The Ingredient When Making Kombucha

SCOBY  
The Role Of A SCOBY When Brewing - A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria And Yeast, you can think of it as a big clump of bacteria and yeast that is all bound together into a disk shape. The SCOBY causes fermentation of the tea by consuming sugar and reacting to ferment the batch.
Can I Make Kombucha Without A SCOBY?
A SCOBY is an essential ingredient for brewing kombucha, however you don't have to start with one. If you add raw or unpasteurized kombucha to your batch when brewing, it could from a SCOBY, given the right conditions. Therefore you could brew your batch with a lot of starter tea only, however it would a lot longer.There are also several varieties of SCOBY, such as Jun or regular, which feed on different sugars. 
Sugar
The Role Of Sugar When Brewing - Sugar plays an essential role when brewing kombucha. It feeds the SCOBY to help ferment, and it also sweetens the taste of the tea. Both are required to create a batch of fermented tea. The most common type of sugar to use when brewing kombucha is cane sugar.
Can I Make Kombucha Without Sugar?
Yes and no. As sugar is an essential ingredient to brew kombucha, you need some form of glucose (the chemical in sugar), but it doesn’t have to be from cane sugar. There are several other sugar alternatives for brewing kombucha. Jun kombucha, for example, is brewed using honey. The honey feeds the SCOBY to cause fermentation. Other examples would be molasses, maple syrup, coconut sugar, palm sugar, and stevia. Be careful that you put the correct amount in as different sugars should be added in different amounts, depending on their relative glucose concentration.
Tea
The Role Of Tea When Brewing - Kombucha is fermented tea, tea is typically steeped in a boiling pan of water before being added to the brewing vessel. The most popular types of tea that can be used are black and green. Although there is an endless number of tea varieties, you need to be careful, as they could spoil the brew.
Can I Make Kombucha Without Tea?
The most accurate answer would be yes, but semantically no. The official origin of tea is the “Camellia Sinensis” plant. Whereas in everyday language and the use of the word, we would consider any plant or herb that infuses water to be tea. Therefore you can brew kombucha with many different types of herbs, leaves, and plants that aren’t classed as tea.
Starter Tea
The Role Of Starter Tea When Brewing - Starter tea is fully fermented kombucha tea that is then added to the beginning of a new batch. It plays the same role as a SCOBY when fermenting. It mixes both bacteria and yeast throughout the batch. When mixed, it acts as a SCOBY alternative. The higher the volume of starter tea, the faster that the new batch brews. 
Can I Make Kombucha Without Starter Tea?
Yes, you can make kombucha without starter tea. Starter tea speeds up fermentation instead of causing it. Therefore if your brew has a SCOBY inside then, it can still produce kombucha. Other ways to speed up the fermentation of kombucha would be larger SCOBYs, a temperature within the critical range, and less tea.

Chemicals Within Kombucha

Alcohol
Alcohol And Kombucha - Alcohol is commonly found in small quantities when brewing kombucha. Alcohol is a byproduct of the fermentation process that is produced when the sugars ferment kombucha tea. Some varieties of kombucha have higher ABV’s (Alcohol By Volume), often referred to as ‘Kombucha Beer’ or ‘Hard Kombucha.’ Whereas most commercially brewed kombucha beverages are below 0.5% ABV, so can be sold to minors too.
Can I Make Kombucha Without Alcohol?
You can create a kombucha tea beverage that is non-alcoholic, as defined by the FDA. The FDA states that if a beverage contains less than 0.5% ABV, then it is classified as non-alcoholic. Commercial suppliers often have special SCOBYs that contain specific strains of bacteria and yeast that produce less alcohol; therefore, it’s harder to brew non-alcoholic kombucha at home. Typically home brewed kombucha contains between 1 - 3% ABV. 
To create low ABV kombucha, we would suggest buying a low-alcohol producing SCOBY. As well as keeping the brew temperature towards the cooler end of the critical range, this should lower the production of alcohol. We would recommend buying an alcohol hydrometer to check the ABV during production.
Caffeine
Caffeine And Kombucha - You can find caffeine within most kombucha drinks. When brewing kombucha, tea is used during the initial stages, steeped in the brew before fermenting. Often teas such as black and green contain varying amounts of caffeine. The caffeine is left in the brew before bottling. Although it’s often a minimal amount of caffeine, 7-14mg per serving, people that are caffeine sensitive should be aware.
Can I Make Kombucha Without Caffeine? 
Yes, there are many caffeine-free alternatives. Ways to create a caffeine-free alternative would be by using caffeine-free herbs such as Rooibos (red tea). Rooibos gives your brew an earthy tasting ferment.
For more information about caffeine and kombucha, see our latest article, ‘How Much Caffeine Is In Kombucha?’.

Common Questions

Can I Make Kombucha Without Kombucha?
This is a confusing question that we got, but we’ll attempt to answer it. We have to assume that ‘without kombucha’ means, in fact, without starter tea (added fully fermented tea when starting a new batch). To this question, the answer would be, yes, you can make kombucha without kombucha. 
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