Do you love kombucha, and want to make it at home? The first step is growing a SCOBY. Here’s how to Make a Kombucha Scoby from scratch!
Heads Up! This is PART 1 in my Kombucha series! After you make a kombucha scoby, go here: How to Make Kombucha.
To make kombucha, you must have a SCOBY.
What is a SCOBY?
What’s a scoby? Scoby stands for Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.
It’s important. It’s weird. It’s freaky. It’s ALIVE!
This strange gel-like disk is what keeps your kombucha safe to drink, and helps the tea develop its unique and delicious flavor. It floats in the tea while it ferments, and keeps the tea healthy.
The scoby is similar to a vinegar mother (the thing you see floating around in some bottles of apple cider vinegar), and will grow and reproduce as you continue fermenting your kombucha.
Can I Buy a SCOBY?
Yes! You can buy them online, at some health food stores, a kombucha-growing friend most likely has extras, or you can grow your own!
How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY
To grow a SCOBY, you’ll need some plain, unflavored kombucha. You should be able to find it at your regular grocery store. It’ll be refrigerated and is usually near the produce section.
Tip: If your normal grocery store only carries flavored kombucha, try looking at health food stores, at Whole Foods, or at Trader Joes.
Next, you’ll need plain black tea, and a little sugar.
The other thing you’ll need is PATIENCE. Growing a SCOBY will take 3-4 weeks.
How do I get more kombucha scoby? Why is my scoby getting bigger?
As you ferment your kombucha, your scoby will thicken. Once it doubles or triples in size, you’ll be able to peel it in half, and voila! Now you have two scoby!
You may also find yourself with partially formed, baby scoby that are too small to use on their own. I usually put these in with an adult scoby during the fermenting process, until they’ve grown to at least ¼ inch thick, but these could also be discarded.
How do I keep my scoby alive?
Also remember that your scoby is alive, and it needs a healthy environment to stay healthy.
Avoid using flavored teas, and don’t leave the scoby in your tea after you add fruit or spices for flavoring.
If your scoby gets dark all over, it may have died. You can either try fermenting one more batch, and see if it ferments your tea, or toss it and use a new scoby for your next batch.
What next? Learn How to Make Kombucha!
What Can I Do with Extra Kombucha Scoby?
- Share with friends!
- SCOBY hotel: Store them in started kombucha in the fridge as backups.
- Ferment non-alcoholic, store-bought apple cider
- Add to smoothies
- Add to your compost pile, or mix in with potting soil
- Make Jun Tea
- Turn them into Dog Treats
- Make Fruit Leather
- Make Face Masks
How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY
- 7 cups water
- ½ cup granulated white sugar (do not substitute raw sugar)
- 4 bags black tea (or 1 TB loose black tea)
- 1 cup store-bought raw kombucha (unflavored, unpasteurized)
- large pot to boil water / steep tea
- 2 quart glass jar OR 2 1-quart glass jars
- paper towel or napkin (avoid using cheesecloth if you have a problem with fruit-flies)
- rubber band
- Bring water to a boil, and add tea leaves and sugar. Allow tea to steep until sugar has dissolved and water has cooled to room temperature. Remove the tea bags (or strain out loose tea). Do not proceed to the next step until the tea has completely cooled, or you risk killing the good bacteria in the kombucha.
- Add store-bought kombucha and stir. Pour into the glass jar (or divide among 2 glass jars). Cover the jar(s) with a napkin or paper towel, and secure with the rubber band.
- Set the jar(s) out of direct sunlight (sunlight can keep the tea from fermenting), at room temperature (around 70ºF), and avoid bumping or jostling the jar(s).
- The scoby will take 1 – 4 weeks to form. Check on it often– you should see the tea begin to bubble and ferment after a few days, and then a small translucent disk will appear. Eventually, that layer will thicken and become opaque. When it is about ¼″ thick, you’re ready to make kombucha!
- This is normal: The scoby has bubbles, is bumpy, has dark brown spots, or stringy pieces hanging off it.This is not normal: The scoby has mold or smells rotten. Throw away your scoby and start over.
- Use filtered water
- Use organic sugar
- Use organic tea
- Use loose-leaf tea, or tea in unbleached tea bags
- Switch brands of store-bought kombucha, and make sure to avoid using pasteurized kombucha as a starter (check the label)