I needed this post. I have thrown out more SCOBYs than I care to count. Then, I end up begging the neighbor for fresh ones. In this post, Chris shares with you ways to use extra SCOBYs.
I made a huge mistake in my “war on clutter.” I threw my kombucha SCOBYs in the compost pail, right on top of the coffee grounds. By the time I realized my error, it was too late. The SCOBYs were ruined. I couldn’t take them back.
What is a SCOBY Hotel and Why You Need One
In my New Year’s cleaning frenzy of getting rid of junk and cleaning up clutter, I emptied three Mason jars with thick stacks of SCOBYs into the compost pail, and dumped the vinegar kombucha down the drain. I no sooner finished dumping the last jar and I immediately regretted my decision. What was I thinking?
Today, I started a new Mason jar with a fresh SCOBY trying to recreate those SCOBY hotels, and the faster the better. In my temporary insanity, I forgot how useful having extra SCOBYs could be.
What is a SCOBY Hotel?
If you’ve been making kombucha for any length of time, you probably get some pretty thick SCOBY pillows in the top of your jars. After a few weeks, you want to separate those into layers, removing most of them, so that you can fit more kombucha tea into the jar.
You only need one SCOBY in the top of your jar of kombucha to keep the kombucha healthy and vigorous. The additional SCOBYs can be placed in a second jar to just continue growing until you need them. Fill that second jar with kombucha tea to prevent the secondary SCOBYs from drying out. This is your “SCOBY Hotel”—a perpetual collection of healthy, growing kombucha mothers.
You’ll end up with a thicker SCOBY stack in the SCOBY hotel even if you never feed it fresh, sweetened tea again. The liquid kombucha in the SCOBY hotel gets quite sour and can be used just like vinegar for salad dressings or even for cleaning. I had collected a few jars like this on my kitchen counter.
Why you want to have extra SCOBYs
While you can grow more SCOBYs as long as you have kombucha on hand, it takes a couple weeks to grow a thin SCOBY from a cup of kombucha. (See this article to learn how to grow a SCOBY from store bought kombucha. It takes a few months to get thick, pillowy, layered SCOBYs. Once you start collecting them, following are 10 ways to use extra SCOBYs.
1. SCOBYs are like life insurance for your kombucha
Since kombucha is a living, thriving micro-organism, it’s possible for your kombucha to become sick. This can happen if a nasty bacterium invades your glass jar. If a fly lands in the jar, or the jar that you started with had some bad bacteria already, this off bacteria can change the symbiotic culture of your SCOBY. It might grow hairy mold, but more likely it will just taste “off.” It might make you feel a little queasy.
If you have a SCOBY hotel, you can easily replace your bad SCOBY, sanitize all utensils, and start a new batch of kombucha off in a clean jar, with fresh tea. Those extra SCOBYs in the SCOBY hotel give you some leeway. They are like an insurance policy. Keep a few on hand for emergencies.
2. SCOBYs let you experiment
When you have extra scobies you have the freedom to experiment with your kombucha culture, without fear of damaging your stock. Use extra scobies to experiment with different tea or different sweeteners. Make coffee kombucha or rooibos. Use honey or maple syrup to sweeten it. If you have extra scobies on hand you have room to play with the basic kombucha recipe, without damaging your healthy kombucha stock.
3. SCOBYs make healthy, probiotic snacks
You can eat the extra SCOBYs. SCOBYs are a layered package of cellulose, bacteria, yeast, and sugar. They have no calories. You can puree them like apple sauce. Add the puree to other raw food recipes like energy-balls, smoothies, salad dressing, or sherbet. They lose their rubbery texture when they are pureed. But they add their strong probiotic benefits to any raw food recipe they are added to.
Plus those yummy probiotics improve digestion, lower blood sugar, and balance blood pressure in the same way that drinking kombucha regularly does.
4. SCOBYs can be candy
Scobies can be cut into squares and marinated in sugar and juice then dried to make SCOBY candy. Here’s one recipe to try that reminds me of salted caramels.
5. SCOBYs make you beautiful
While you’ve got extra SCOBY puree, add a little clay to it and make a mud mask. The gently acidic SCOBY exfoliates while it increases circulation and removes impurities from the skin. It will leave your skin soft and elastic. A clay mask can increase circulation to the skin and turn your face red though. The glow can last several hours. Don’t apply a clay mask just before a big date.
6. SCOBYs heal
The cooling effect of moist SCOBYs is soothing to cuts and scrapes, while the beneficial bacterial cultures inhibit infection. While you’d think that the acidic SCOBY would sting, we haven’t found this to be true. Add a small piece of SCOBY under a bandage to help a cut heal faster.
7. SCOBYs heal when nothing else does
Since kombucha is made with tea and tea is healing to the skin, it is no surprise that SCOBYs would be called upon for protracted skin issues. SCOBYs are used often as a last resort when other methods have failed. Try it as a first resort. It won’t hurt. It might help.
My husband had a severe patch of eczema on his shin. He’s had it for five to six months. We tried herbal ointments, soap, and even cortisone prescription creams. (Yes, that is plural!) Everything helped for a day or two, then the rash would come back stronger and more red, oozing, and itchy. A SCOBY poultice applied three times a day, for just 15 minutes, has given him new pink skin. It’s the only thing that’s helped long term. Follow a SCOBY poultice with fresh aloe gel to encourage new skin, and relieve dryness and itching.
8. Dogs like SCOBYs
Feed SCOBYs to your dog as fresh treats. They have the texture of raw chicken. Or dry a few in the dehydrator, till they have the texture of leather. My dogs like them both ways.
9. Friends like SCOBYs
Use your extra SCOBYs to make friends with your neighbors, and give them their own healthy, perpetual kombucha kit. One SCOBY, a cup of kombucha, a Mason jar and a recipe card is all you need to start a conversation and make a friend.
10. SCOBYs are good for the garden
And if these ideas seem to be too much work, you can dump your extra SCOBYs in the compost pile or the worm bin. Pour the acidic kombucha around acid loving plants like blueberries or rhododendrons.
I hope you will add a “SCOBY Hotel” to your kitchen this week and start growing those valuable SCOBYs. Then think about all the lovely benefits they offer. Which of these will you try?
Photo Credit: ©Katie Millhorn, Livin Lovin Farmin, used with permission.
I’ve fed extra SCOBYs to the chickens. They love them. And if you love fermenting, check out the Fermentools store for all the equipment you will need.
Chris is a teacher, author, gardener, and herbalist with 30+ years’ of growing herbs and formulating herbal remedies, skin care products, soaps, and candles. She teaches workshops and writes extensively about gardening, crafts, scratch cooking, fermentation, medicinal herbs, and traditional skills on her blog at JoybileeFarm.com. Chris is the author of the The Beginner’s Book of Essential Oils, Learning to Use Your First 10 Essential Oils with Confidence and Homegrown Healing, from Seed to Apothecary. Her newest book, “The Beeswax Workshop, How to Make Your Own Natural Candles, Cosmetics, Cleaners, Soaps, Healing Balms and More” is due in December with Ulysses Press. Chris is a contributing writer to The Biblical Herbal Magazine, The FermenTools Blog, and the Attainable Sustainable blog. Her books are available on Amazon. Chris lives with her husband Robin in the mountains of British Columbia on a 140 acre ranch where they raise lamb. They have 3 adult children and 3 grandchildren.