I’ve become a little obsessed with making kombucha. I’ve had a brew going continuously on my bench since I made my first batch a few weeks back.

Image via Nourished Kitchen
Image via Nourished Kitchen

One of the concerns some of you had was with the use of sugar to feed the yeast and bacteria. As I pointed out, very little sugar is left behind. But if you’re drinking a few nips of the stuff per day, it can add up to several teaspoons. So I gave things a crack using rice malt syrup, which contains no fructose. RMS is a blend of complex carbohydrates, maltose and glucose. It’s fructose free, slow releasing and doesn’t dump on the liver like pure glucose.

I’d read that honey doesn’t work when making kombucha – the theory being the antibacterial agents kill the SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). So I was a little concerned about RMS – it’s a fermented product and I had a picture of the different bacteria squabbling for attention in the bowl, eventually annihilating each other. Plus, I’d used RMS to make my Fermented Ginger-Ade and found it needed to be a blend of sugar and RMS to work properly. Oh, and having spoken to various experts and Googled the bejesus out of the topic, I found no one had tried it this way.

But, I can report back from the moldy frontline: Rice malt syrup makes a perfect kombucha.

Simply swap the sugar for the same amount of RMS in my Kombucha recipe and you’re away. You might need to leave it to ferment an extra day or two, and I think it does produce a slightly tarter result…which I personally MUCH prefer. If you’ve been off sugar a while, you’ll probably be the same.

I’ve since used this adjusted fructose-free version to make flavoured brews. Today I’m sharing my favourite: a Chai flavour.

Chai Kombucha

  • 3 cups plain kombucha (my original recipe uses a litre of water, but I find I’m left with a little over 3 cups, a little of which I often reserve to “feed” the next batch)
  • 5 cloves (or cardamom pods if you prefer)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 3cm fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 star anise

After removing the SCOBY from your plain kombucha, pour into a mason jar. Add the other ingredients and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 days. Strain and then pour into a 750ml bottle (so that there’s about 2cm of air at the top). You can put this in the fridge and drink as is, or…

How to make a fizzy version

You can try to get a little extra fizz going (the second ferment with the ginger and spices will produce a little) by leaving the bottle out at room temperature for an additional 2-4 days. The live yeast and bacteria will continue to consume the residual sugar from both the first and second fermentation (the RMS and the ginger). In the absence of oxygen (now that the whole thing is lidded), carbon dioxide is produced (and trapped), thus building up the fizz.

All that said, using RMS won’t produce you a great deal off carbonation. I get around this anyway by drinking my kombucha diluted with soda water. If you love a fizz, try a 50:50 split RMS and sugar in the first ferment. Or try flavouring your tea with fruit (see my next instalment on this next week!).

Feel free to share your kombucha tips below and I’ll include them in my next post.

Have your say, leave a comment.

  • yes! i’ve been searching for a home made refined sugar free kombucha recipe.
    been following your program and am down 9 lbs so far. not to mention feeling fantastic!
    thanks sarah,

  • Dawn

    Hi Sarah, where did you get/buy your scoby from?

    • Gifted from a friend! But you can also buy online…

      • Misty

        How long can you use the same scoby for?

    • I got it from a friend

      • Caz Lang

        Try eBay or Gumtree, this is where I got mine.

    • Nat

      Type in FREE scoby online into Google. Usually people give them away. If you’re desperate I can probably spare a baby kombucha in about two weeks.

  • purelytwins

    sounds delicious, we will have to try making kombucha this way 🙂

  • Lauren Sime

    Totally obsessed with kombucha at the moment too, great post!

  • Karen Leddin

    There is something similar to Kombucha called Jun which is a green tea and honey ferment with a scoby. apparently it has different bacteria to kombucha but still very good for gut health.

  • Grace

    This is a brilliant experiment. If it works with kombucha scoby, it should work with kefir too. Thank you for being the genius guniea pig as always

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  • Cassie Hower

    Sarah, I’ve been wondering if instead of a second or even third ferment to get some fizz, could a soda stream be used once the flavour is right? I’ve been making water kefir and I am having trouble getting fizz. My dad home brews beer and thinks I need to add more sugar in the second ferment. I’m wary of doing this as I don’t want to add in more sugar than necessary. I’m adding fruit like berries or lemon and ginger and bottling it for a few days but little or no fizz! Do you think the soda stream would damage the good bacteria in any way? I’m tired of flat water kefir. I’ve started buying kombucha again and am resting my water kefir in the fridge for the time being. We want fizz!

    • Soda stream can only be used on plain water, not with additions. I wouldn’t be too scared about adding a little extra sugar – the point is, it gets “chewed” up. Personally, I add Soda Stream water to the kombucha to serve. x

  • IQS_Team

    Chai Kombucha!!! You kept this recipe a secret! Can’t wait to try for my next batch – Jordy x

  • MJM

    I have been sugar free for just over a year and really the only gripe I have had is that sometimes having an alcoholic beverage can be a bit boring when sugar free. I started brewing Kombucha just before Christmas and have found it an ideal mixer to liven up a boring old vodka and soda. 50% Kombucha, 50% soda really makes the drink a bit more appealing.

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    Sarah, this comment is spam and has appeared on a bazillion other websites – you might want to delete it! 🙂

  • Sophie

    Sarah, In one of your recent posts you mentioned something about adding seltzer to get a bit of fizz. So off I went looking for this, but I just found alka seltzer which I discovered is actually a medication/pain killer. Is this what you meant? Or is it something else that I don’t know about?

    • Anne

      Selzter water should be in the soda/water section; if you can’t find it try a low sodium club soda, not too much difference there.

    • I mean soda water

  • Anne

    I gave sugar the flick about 9 months ago…and ate wholely and healthily. Something still wasn’t quite right though, stomach still bloated and hard….until I did two things. I stopped eating dairy (dairy no good for me) and started with the probiotics. Fermented veggies, coconut kefir and Kombucha. Yay, stomach flat, feel lighter, eat as much as I like. I can’t wait to try this recipe, thankyou Sarah for doing the ground work.

  • Katie

    Hi Sarah, when you say you swap sugar for RMS in your kombucha brew, do you mean equal amounts by weight or volume?

    • correct.

    • Mandy Fish

      it would be equal amounts by weight.

  • Caz Lang

    I am making about 9 litres a week of kombucha tea and hardly getting any, my husband is hooked on the stuff. He adds a little sugar free cordial to it to add a little flavour but he does like it straight.

    • Nat

      I am a beginner at 100ml a day ( for the last two weeks), how much do you and hubby drink per day? 9 litres a week is a big brew! 🙂

      • Caz Lang

        We drink about a litre a day between us, couple of glasses each. We have been drinking it for quite some months now. I make both black and green tea brews. Got so many scobies now. Anyone want one? I am about 25 kms north of Perth CBD.

    • Caz, I’d watch the sugar content! That’s quite a lot of sugar you’re consuming. I reckon 300ml max a day…

  • Andy

    I can’t say for sure but this could eventually damage the SCOBY so please keep us updated as you continue with this method.


    • rachel

      Mmmm, I agree: wait and see how it goes. I’ve played around a lot with kombucha too (for the same reasons, concerned about residual sugar). Wasted a lot of honey discovering for myself that wouldn’t work! I love kombucha made with rooibus (redbush) “tea” — so delicious. But after a number of batches, I realised my mother was not happy. It wasn’t multiplying and just didn’t have the properties of a healthy scoby. I moved it back to black tea and right away it picked up. So now black tea is the default and I sometimes experiment. Sally Fallon in “Nourishing Traditions” is adamant it has to be black tea and white (white!) sugar to get the benefits. I use raw sugar. And noted with surprise and interest the research cited in Sandor Katz’s new book which undermines some of the claims for kombucha. That said, it’s a good drink. In moderation! I agree, 300 ml is plenty.

  • Martin Hammelmann

    Thanks for the recipe Sarah, will be trying this real soon. Along with essiac tea it should compliment each other.

  • Mandy Fish

    i recently tried kombucha with RMS and i reckon it turned much better than with normal sugar. I did a 12 day ferment and it has a nice tingle.

  • Nicole

    Sarah, I’m on your eight-week plan to quit sugar! When quitting, do you recommend drinking Kombucha in the first six weeks (I’m not making my own) or would you only add kombucha in after the first six weeks once you’ve actually kicked all sugar? It helps me when I’m jonesing for something sweet. Thanks!

  • Guest

    Is it usual to have less fizz with the rice malt syrup? I followed the instructions and the flavour is nice but hardly any fizz after second ferment.

  • Kylie

    Hi, i bought a ‘mother SCOBY’ today from ‘GoVita’ health food store & am unsure about it. It looks and feels like a massive (20cm diameter, 2cm thick) jelly pancake, its a transparent brown colour with lots of brown residue type stuff floating in the water it came in (it just came in a zip lock bag – the staff in the store said a colleague brought it in from home). How do i know if it’s ok to use?

  • Danielle

    Just bought my first scooby from ebay! Cant wait to start making!!!

  • David Johnson

    I’ve been following Dr. Perlmutter’s advice concerning sugar consumption, especially to avoid fructose. I tried rice malt syrup only kombucha and found it works OK, but, the price for rms is way more expensive than cane sugar, and has a sediment when diluted with water (organic rms). It produces a much less sweet ‘bucha, due to the lack of residual fructose. I’m now experimenting with dextrose, = d-glucose. Reading articles suggests that it will have less acetic acid, pH may not go as low, and that the scoby is not as pretty as cane sugar scoby.