How To Make Your Own Kombucha Scoby From Scratch

This is a mature scoby – after a few rounds of making kombucha, it will thicken, become smooth, and take uniform color (Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Scobys make some delicious kombucha! If you want to save a few bucks on your ‘booch habit, there’s just no getting around it. You’re going to need a scoby.

You can beg a scoby from a kombucha-brewing friend, or you can order a fresh one online. But there’s one more option: you can grow your own.

(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

What is a Scoby?

“Scoby” is actually an acronym: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. And that’s exactly what it is! A scoby is the living home for the bacteria and yeast that transform sweet tea into tangy, fizzy kombucha — think of the scoby as the coral reef of the bacteria and yeast world. It a rubbery raft that floats on the surface of the kombucha. Aside from being a home for yeast and good bacteria, the scoby seals off the fermenting kombucha from the air and protects it from outside, undesirable bacterias while it’s fermenting.

Are kombucha cultures reusable? How long will the culture last?

A. Yes, with proper care kombucha cultures can be reused many times. The cultures will multiply, and as a practical matter – you will likely recycle or compost older cultures after a few months or sooner.

Note: It may take several batches for a baby scoby to form after initial rehydration. With care, you should be able to continue using the same kombucha culture until the time a baby scoby does form.

PS: The scobies that are not in use do not need to be refrigerated. They store well for months in a mason jar with a little kombucha in it as long as you keep feeding it sweet tea every now and then.

How Can You Grow a Scoby from Nothing?

A scoby is a naturally occurring part of the kombucha brewing process. It’s constantly renewing itself and a new layer of scoby will grow on the surface of the old one every time you brew a batch of kombucha. You’ve also all probably bought a bottle of kombucha with a little blobby thing inside? Well, that’s actually a tiny, newly-forming scoby. This ability of the the scoby to constantly reform itself is what makes it possible for us to grow a new scoby from scratch.

You grow a new scoby from scratch by combining tea, sugar, and some pre-made kombucha. You can use homemade kombucha from a friend or store-bought kombucha, but make sure it’s a raw, unflavored variety. It also helps if you can see one of those little blobby things floating at the top or bottom of the bottle.

Kombucha Starter Ingredients

  1. Store bought Kombucha: You need to buy a bottle of plain (not flavored) GT’s original kombucha. Why GT’s? Because after “something happened in kombucha resale industry back in 2010” most store-bought kombuchas are too “clear” and “sterile”. You need to pick a bottle with brown and/or clear strands, and possibly even a mini baby “jelly fish” at the bottom of the bottle. Those brownish strands will become your SCOBY.GT's plain kombucha to is a starter for kombucha mother
  2. Black Tea: To grow a SCOBY, you need to use black tea only! To brew further batches of kombucha, any caffeinated tea works. Cost and taste wise I recommend to buy loose leaf tea. It is much cheaper than tea bags plus I am not a fan of “the paper” taste. Of course, organic is better.organic black tea, green tea and mint tea
  3. Sugar: You need white sugar. Coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave etc. DO NOT work. I bought a 10 lb bag of organic cane sugar at Costco for $8. Nothing beats this price and if you are going to make kombucha on a regular basis, you gotta buy a huge bag. Now, do not freak out about sugar – we are just feeding the SCOBY to grow and at the end there will be barely any sugar left in your homemade kombucha.organic cane sugar for growing scoby
  4. Water: clean water. As long as it is not tap water it should work great. I only use tap water for washing, nothing else. I don’t even use it to cook.

How to Make Kombucha SCOBY

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Turn off heat and add 1 tsp tea and 3 tbsp sugar, stir and let cool completely (place in a sink filled with cold water to speed things up).
  2. In a quart glass jar, pour previously made tea discarding the leaves (use a mesh strainer) and 1 cup of store-bought kombucha along with any brownish strands from the bottle.
  3. Cover with paper towel secured with a rubber band and set away from direct sunlight spot(counter or pantry) with temperature above 21C or 70F. It takes 2-4 weeks to grow a SCOBY. You can look but try not to disturb the jar as SCOBY is forming on top. See my post for video and pictures what SCOBY should look like and troubleshooting.
  4. SCOBY is ready when it is at least 1/4″ thick and white in colour – a jellyfish like mushroom you can take out of the jar and hold in your hands.
  5. Now you can brew some kombuchBelow are these instructions step by step with images.
  1. In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to boil. Turn off heat and add 1 tsp tea and 3 tbsp sugar, stir and let cool completely (place in a sink filled with cold water to speed things up). brewed sweet black tea
  2. In a quart glass jar, pour previously made tea discarding the leaves (use a mesh strainer) and 1 cup of store bought kombucha along with any brownish strands from the bottle.combined GT's kombucha and sweet tea in a glass jar covered with paper towel and rubber band
  3. Cover with paper towel secured with a rubber band and set away from direct sunlight spot (counter or pantry) with temperature above 21C or 70F. It takes 2-4 weeks to grow a SCOBY. You can look but try not to disturb the jar as SCOBY disk is forming on top.

SCOBY Disk Growth Progress

Day 1: Looks like this with bubbles from store bought kombucha.

Day 3: No visible change.scoby disk day 3

Day 12: White film thickens into “a jellyfish” at the top of the jar.scoby disk day 12

Day 15: That’s your SCOBY aka kombucha starter. Easy peasy. That’s it.scoby is ready

SCOBY is ready when it is at least 1/4″ thick and white in colour – a jellyfish like mushroom you can take out of the jar and hold in your hands.  scoby on a plate

You can now use this scoby to make your own diy homemade kombucha tea.

Is It Safe to Grow Your Own Scoby?

Part of the job of the scoby is to protect the kombucha while it ferments. This means that a jar of kombucha without a scoby is vulnerable to any bacteria, good or bad, that’s floating around the environment. This means that you need to be extra vigilant during this time: make sure the jar and utensils you use are squeaky-clean and rinsed of any soap residue; keep the growing kombucha covered and away from direct sunlight; also keep the jar somewhere out of the way where it won’t get jostled; wash your hands before touching or handling the scoby.

Keep an eye on it and refer to the pictures in the slide-show below. Bubbles, jelly-like masses, and gritty brown-colored residue are good; fuzzy black or green spots of mold are bad. The liquid in the jar should always smell fresh, tart, and slightly vinegary (this will become more pronounced the further you are in the process); if it smells cheesy, rancid, or otherwise off-putting, then something has gone wrong.

Be safe: if you suspect something has gone wrong, then toss the batch and start a new one. Use your best judgement — though I know this is hard because growing a scoby isn’t exactly something most of us have done before! It’s a weird process! Know that if something is wrong, it will inevitably get worse; if it’s a normal part of the process, it will even out.

All these warning aside, I made new scobys many many times myself and never had it go wrong. There’s a bit of trust involved — it just looks gross! — but I find that if you let it be, it comes out right in the end.

Homemade Scoby

How Long Does It Take to Grow a New Scoby?

It takes roughly 2 to 4 weeks to grow a new scoby from scratch. The time might be less if your kitchen is warm or longer if your kitchen is cool. In general, try to keep your kombucha at an average room temperature of about 70°F, and your scoby will form in a little over two weeks.

FAQs About Kombucha Mother

Q: Where to buy GT’s kombucha?

A: Look in a refrigerator in the produce section or natural foods aisle at your local large chain store or health food store. US: Safeway, Fred Meyer, Kroger. Canada: Save on Foods, health food stores, the Real Canadian Superstore.

Q: I live in Germany and have not seen GT’s kombucha in stores. Can I use different brand?

A: Yes, as long as you see brown and/or clear strands and possibly even a mini baby “jelly fish” at the bottom of the bottle. Many kombuchas will be clear without anything at the bottom, like a bottle of water. Don’t pick that one, won’t work.

Q: Can I use plastic or metal container for making kombucha SCOBY?

A: No, gotta be glass.

A: Only black.

Q: Can I let sweetened tea cool overnight?

A: Yes. I just left mine covered with lid on the stove.

Q: Can I cut SCOBY?

A: Yes, SCOBY is easy to cut with a pair of clean kitchen scissors.

Q: Can I eat SCOBY?

A: Yes, technically. I have seen “candy” recipes and have heard some folks feeding SCOBY to their dog. Also a reader suggested to cut it into appropriate size and offer it to your chickens.:)

Q: What should be the shape and size of my SCOBY?

A: SCOBY will take the shape of the mouth of the jar and then grow in thickness.

Q: I have been trying to grow a SCOBY for a week now and there are no visible changes. What should I do?

A: Hard to say but more likely it is the temperature issue. Ideal SCOBY growing temperature should be at least 21C or 70F. DO NOT place kombucha in a corner pantry that is by the external wall of the house. I have this pantry (newer homes) and it is cooler and not warm enough for bacteria to grow.

Q: Is the SCOBY reusable or do I need a new one every batch?

A: SCOBY is reusable. You transfer SCOBY from batch to batch. New SCOBY grows on top of old one every batch. Peel top one (new) off and use it for next batch. Compost bottom one (old) or give away with some kombucha in a sandwich bag to spread kombucha love.

Subscribe

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: