What is a SCOBY? How to Make, Feed, and Store a Kombucha SCOBY

by Kaitlynn Fenley

What is a SCOBY? A Kombucha SCOBY is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts. Learn how to make a kombucha SCOBY, how to feed a SCOBY, and how to store a SCOBY in a SCOBY hotel.

What is a SCOBY?

Kombucha SCOBYs are symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeasts. The gelatinous SCOBY structure is a polysaccharide matrix built by a mixed colony of bacteria and yeast.

Mainly, the Acetobacter bacteria in the SCOBY secrete the compounds that build the SCOBY structure. Let’s explore what type of microorganisms make up the symbiotic colony.

What is a SCOBY Made of, and What Lives in a Kombucha SCOBY?

Healthy kombucha SCOBYs contain Pediococcus, Saccharomyces, and Acetobacter species.

Many SCOBYs contain more microbial species in the genera ZygosaccharomycesSchizosaccharomyces, and Komagataeibacter.

Some SCOBYs even house Lactococcus, Lecunosctoc, and Lactobacillus bacteria. However, these don’t usually make up much of the population.

What is a SCOBY Good For?

Thanks to the microbial action in a SCOBY, kombucha is packed with vitamins B1, B6, B12, and C. It also contains a lot of polyphenols and healthy acids.

Kombucha is not exactly considered a “probiotic.” The health benefits of kombucha are attributed to the fermentation of postbiotics.

How to Make a Kombucha SCOBY

You can grow a kombucha SCOBY from store-bought kombucha. When buying a kombucha to grow a new baby SCOBY, look for a kombucha with many stingy floaties at the bottom of the bottle.

You can drink most of the kombucha; reserve 1/4 a cup and try to reserve the stringy sediment in the bottle.

Brew a batch of sweet tea starter liquid (recipe below). Once the sweet tea mix cools to room temperature, you can pour the store-bought kombucha with the sediment you reserved into a clean jar. Fill the jar with the sweet tea, cover it with a cloth lid and let it sit for 7 to 14 days.

You can also buy a kombucha starter culture to grow a SCOBY and begin brewing your kombucha.

Click here to learn about the best tea for kombucha

Growing a SCOBY and Kombucha SCOBY Growth Stages

First, you will notice a transparent film forming on the surface of the sweet tea. Do not disturb it; this is the first stage of SCOBY forming.

Next, you will notice the film gets thicker and less transparent. It will start to look opaque and off-white to light brown. The color depends on the type of tea you use.

Between 7 and 14 days, you should have a fully formed SCOBY. It may be thin, but it will get bigger the more you make kombucha with it. SCOBYs, on average, are 1/2 to 1 inch thick.

How to Store a SCOBY

A new SCOBY will grow every time you brew a fresh batch of kombucha. The SCOBY on the bottom is now the ‘mother’, and the one on top is the ‘baby.’

You can keep multiple SCOBYs together to ferment sweet tea into kombucha. I have 4 layered in my primary fermentation jar right now.

Any extra SCOBYs are fun to share with friends. Some people even sell extras on Etsy. You can also store your extras in the fridge.

How to Make a SCOBY Hotel

If you are like me and brew kombucha often, you will have a lot of extra SCOBYs. So you might be wondering how to store SCOBYs. The best way to keep extra SCOBYs is to put them in a “SCOBY hotel.”

It is effortless to make one. Add all of your extra SCOBYs to a sizeable clean mason jar. Then, brew a fresh batch of sweet tea. Allow the tea to cool, then top the SCOBY’s with the tea.

Close the jar with a cloth lid secured with a rubberband. Then, place it in a cool spot for four weeks at a time. This cuts down on feeding sessions, but you should still feed the SCOBYs fresh sweet tea every four weeks.

Can Kombucha Grow Mold?

Yes, kombucha can grow mold. Kombucha mold can be dangerous, but it is easily avoided.

Most mold growth and other fungi contamination of kombucha are simply due to unsanitary conditions. You should always clean your fermentation equipment and utensils thoroughly before making kombucha.

SCOBYs should be off-white to a light caramel color. NEVER drink moldy kombucha that has been fermented with a contaminated SCOBY.

If contaminated, it will be obvious. Fungal contamination looks like fuzzy blue, green, white, black, or grey growth on the surface of the SCOBY or sides of the jar. This growth cannot be scraped off because mold spores spread throughout the SCOBY and kombucha.

To quality control check the fermentation process, you can test the pH of your primary kombucha fermentation using pH strips. The pH should be between 2.7 – 3.7. The fermented tea should also smell lightly sweet and pleasantly sour.

kombucha scoby floats on top of sweet tea in a ball mason jar.

How to Feed a SCOBY

Feeding a SCOBY is also known as kombucha primary fermentation. Your kombucha SCOBY should be fed fresh sweet tea every 7 days. Some people wait longer to feed again; it really depends on the temperature. Anywhere between 7-14 days is usually acceptable.

After 7 days, the tea is fermented and ready for secondary fermentation. For secondary fermentation, the fermented sweet tea is separated from the SCOBY. Then, it is bottled in a carbonation-safe bottle with flavoring such as fruit juice.

Kombucha Second Fermentation, Flavoring, and Bottling Recipes

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Kombucha Primary Fermentation (how to feed a SCOBY)

Learn how to feed a kombucha SCOBY also known as kombucha primary fermentation.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 Quart 1x
  • Category: Fermented Foods
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Cuisine: Chinese

Ingredients

Scale
  • 50 grams organic sugar
  • 5 grams organic tea
  • 1000 mL water
  • 1-liter glass jar
  • 1 kombucha SCOBY

Instructions

  1. Gather your ingredients
  2. Boil your water and dissolve the sugar in the water.
  3. Steep the tea in the hot water for 5 minutes. If using tea bags, simply remove them. If using loose leaf tea, strain all the tea leaves from the mixture.
  4. allow the sweet tea mixture to cool completely. It should be room temperature before moving on to the next step.
  5. Once it is cool, add the kombucha SCOBY. Some SCOBYs float, others may sink to the bottom, either way it’s fine.
  6. Cover the jar with a cloth lid and rubber-band. You must use a cloth lid to allow oxygen flow.
  7. Keep the jar of sweet tea with the SCOBY at moderate room temperature, out of direct sunlight for seven days. Temperature should be between 65-78 degrees F.
  8. After 7 days you should see you SCOBY is thicker or another SCOBY is forming on the surface.
  9. Make a fresh quart of sweet tea as in the previous directions.
  10. Remove the SCOBY from fermented tea and place it in the jar of fresh sweet tea. Add a tablespoon of already fermented tea to the fresh batch.
  11. The fermented tea is now ready for flavoring and bottling (secondary fermentation; see recipes above)
  12. For secondary fermentation, you need pressure safe glass bottles and fruit juice for flavoring. I typically fill the bottles half way with fermented sweet tea and half way with juice. Once the bottles are sealed, carbonation builds in the bottles. Secondary fermentation can take anywhere from 5 to 12 days depending on the temperature.

Notes

See links below for secondary fermentation and flavoring recipes

Click here to learn about the best tea for kombucha

Keywords: kombucha, primary fermentation, fermented drinks

Did you make this recipe?

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Reference

Microbial Diversity of the Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) and its Impact on the Organoleptic Properties of Kombucha

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15 comments

Lesley York September 4, 2020 - 3:17 am

Hi there
My friend gave me a scoby the only thing is I’d like to know if I can use White tea as opposed to green tea & coconut sugar??as I dont use caffeine tea or use the normal cane sugar please can you advise
Kind regards
Lesley

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley September 4, 2020 - 4:32 pm

Yes! You can use white tea and coconut sugar. Just be sure all your equipment is clean. Brew the tea with the sugar in boiling hot water to sterilize it first.

Reply
Ding June 24, 2021 - 1:28 am

Good day from the Philippines. I haven’t found a source yet of kombucha scoby. Is it possible to use the mother from my pineapple vinegar for my kombucha F1? Thanks a lot.

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 25, 2021 - 5:22 pm

It’s sometimes possible for a vinegar mother to be converted into a SCOBY for kombucha, but it doesn’t always work. You can give it a try though! It may take a few F1 batches before you have any success. Is kombucha sold in stores anywhere in the Philippines? you can grow your own SCOBY from store-bought kombucha.

Reply
Sybil Fisher January 19, 2022 - 10:53 pm

How do you grow scoby from store brought kombucha?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley January 20, 2022 - 11:02 am

just add some store-bought kombucha to a batch of primary fermentation mix

Reply
Terence Goddard July 26, 2021 - 2:43 pm

Fruit flies got into my jar. The ‘baby’ had some blue mold on it, and a couple of tiny maggots crawling happily on the surface. The mold has now disappeared. I’ve removed the maggots. The ‘baby’ looks fine, a nice pale caramel color. If I hadn’t seen the mold and the maggots, I wouldn’t suspect a thing. Can I make a fresh batch with the ‘mother’ or do I need to trash the whole lot?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley July 26, 2021 - 3:14 pm

Hey there,

You need to discard everything and start over. You should be using a tight-weave cloth lid secured with a tight-fitting rubber band to ensure bugs do not get into the jar. The maggots probably ate the mold and that’s why it disappeared… and there’s likely still mold and fruit fly larvae present in the SCOBY and mixture.

Reply
Tara May 3, 2022 - 3:45 pm

Hello, I love your website. Thank you for all the detailed info.
My question is, if we just do primary fermentation and drink that, does it still have the about the same amount of yeasts and bacteria?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley May 5, 2022 - 5:20 pm

Thank you! and you are welcome!

Yes, the primary fermented sweet tea will have about the same amount of yeast and bacteria as kombucha that goes through two fermentations. If you drink it after primary fermentation it will just taste tart and flat. I personally think the texture and flavor are much better after it gets carbonated in secondary fermentation.

Reply
Melissa August 16, 2022 - 8:27 am

Hi! Thanks for all of this detailed info! If I accidentally covered my primary fermentation jar with a regular lid for 6 days (burped twice, but really not much pressure in the jar) before I realized it, but everything looks okay, can I proceed ahead? Is there any concern in using the scoby or tea?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley August 16, 2022 - 10:06 am

it’s probably fine. Just make sure your SCOBY gets oxygen through a cloth lid from now on. It needs oxygen to survive.

Reply
Kathy December 10, 2022 - 12:30 pm

I’ve been making your kombucha recipes all year (and now some of my own invention). My scoby is huge. Is that a problem or should I get rid of some. Like really big…

Reply
Maria June 7, 2023 - 9:43 pm

Hi! I don’t drink “tea, tea”. I stick to herbal and rooibos. Is it a lost cause for me? Could I make kombucha with rooibos? Thank you!

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 9, 2023 - 8:34 am

Contrary to what most people online say, you can make kombucha with herbal tea like rooibos! You may want to feed your kombucha scobys some sweet black tea every now and then to keep them healthy, though.

Reply