My neighbor must think I’m a slacker. I mean, I’m forever calling and asking for a fresh SCOBY to make kombucha. The truth is, I’m not consistent but she is. So, in order to avoid embarrassing myself by having to ask again, I asked Chris if she could write how to grow your own SCOBY. Thanks, Chris.
The essence of successful kombucha creation begins with the SCOBY. The SCOBY is a jelly-like combination of symbiotic bacteria and yeast that forms on the top of a jar of kombucha and the name is an acronym for “Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.” The SCOBY determines the flavor and probiotic makeup of your personal kombucha. Once your SCOBY is working for you, you can keep it going by feeding it regularly.
If you forget your kombucha, like many of us, your SCOBY may die or become contaminated with the wrong bacteria. Then you’ll need to either find a fresh SCOBY from a kombucha-faithful friend, or buy a kombucha SCOBY from an online supplier. Because the SCOBY is so important to the success of your kombucha brewing, you may not want to trust it to a “grow your own” method.
However, I want you to know that growing a SCOBY is easy. SCOBies want to grow. As long as you provide the essential nutrients for the SCOBY growth, you’ll be able to successfully grow a viable and appropriate SCOBY with very little effort.
I grew my first SCOBY four years ago from a single, store-bought bottle of kombucha. The SCOBY is still alive and has multiplied exponentially to bless friends and family members. I only needed half or less of the original bottle of kombucha to grow it. The rest of the kombucha was enjoyed, chilled. Here’s how you can grow your own SCOBY.
How to Grow Your Own SCOBY
• 1 bottle of store-bought Kombucha that contains raw probiotics and is unflavored
• 2 tbsp. organic sugar
• 1 tea bag of black tea
• 2 cups of filtered water, boiled
• 1 quart jar
• Tightly woven handkerchief or cotton cloth
• 1 elastic band
When choosing your bottle of store-bought kombucha, ensure that the label says “raw” or “unpasteurized.” For best results, choose a bottle that has a few jelly-like wisps or dark threads floating in it. It will probably be an older bottle.
Make a strong black tea in a tea pot or open measuring cup using sugar, tea bag, and 2 cups of filtered water. Let the tea sit with the tea bags in it until the tea is room temperature. Squeeze out the tea bags and remove them from the tea.
Sanitize a quart jar. Pour the cooled tea into the quart jar. Add ½ cup of raw kombucha from the bottle. Place the handkerchief over the mouth of the quart jar. Secure with the elastic band. Your jar will be just over half full.
Place the quart jar in a warm cupboard, away from direct sunlight. After a week to 10 days, you’ll notice a thin jelly-like substance floating on the top of the liquid in the jar. The jelly-like substance is your new SCOBY. It will have a clear surface, but underneath you may see darker threads clinging to the bottom. The darker threads are yeast, while the jelly-like substance is the bacteria and fungus that gives kombucha its health benefits.
You’ll notice that the SCOBY looks very much like the SCOBY that forms in apple cider vinegar that includes the mother. While it looks the same, the vinegar SCOBY has a different combination of bacteria and yeast. You can’t use a vinegar SCOBY to make kombucha.
Once you have a thin SCOBY forming on the top of the tea in the jar, you can use this SCOBY to make a batch of kombucha.
To make one quart of kombucha:
• ¼ cup organic sugar
• 3 black tea bags
• 3 ½ cups of boiled water
• ¼ cup kombucha
• SCOBY that you just grew
Place organic sugar and tea bags in a 1 quart measuring cup. Pour the boiling water over the top of the tea bags and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Steep to make a strong tea. Allow the tea to cool to room temperature.
Pour the room temperature tea into a sanitized jar. Add the kombucha. Add the SCOBY. Cover the jar with a clean cloth or handkerchief, secured with an elastic band. Wait 7 to 10 days.
The SCOBY will get thicker with each batch of kombucha that you make. To keep the SCOBY vibrant feed it at least three times a month with fresh tea and sugar.
With each batch of kombucha that you make your SCOBY will get additional layers added to its thickness. You can peel these layers off and use them to multiply the number of SCOBies you have working for you. You can gift them to friends. You can create a SCOBY “hotel” by putting the extra SCOBies in a quart jar and feeding them sweet tea on a regular basis. Extra SCOBies ensure that if one SCOBY gets contaminated with the wrong bacteria (You’ll know. It will smell “off.”) you will have another SCOBY to take its place.
Where did you get your first kombucha scoby from? We would love for you to share in the comments.
For more information about making kombucha at home, read the following posts:
• How to Make Flavored Kombucha
• Troubleshooting Your Kombucha
For creative ways to use kombucha, read on:
• Kombucha-fermented Beef Jerky
• Probiotic Red Horseradish Sauce
Once you experience the healthy benefits of drinking kombucha, you will want to start fermenting more foods. Fermentools has a wealth of information to get you started and the right tools to help you.