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 Zygosaccharomyces, Schizosaccharomyces, 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.
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.
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
- Blood Orange Kombucha with Sage
- Summer Peach and Pomegranate Kombucha
- Rosemary and Grapefruit Kombucha Flavor Recipe
Kombucha Primary Fermentation (how to feed a SCOBY)
Learn how to feed a kombucha SCOBY also known as kombucha primary fermentation.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1 Quart
- Category: Fermented Foods
- Method: Fermentation
- Cuisine: Chinese
- 50 grams organic sugar
- 5 grams organic tea
- 1000 mL water
- 1-liter glass jar
- 1 kombucha SCOBY
- Gather your ingredients
- Boil your water and dissolve the sugar in the water.
- 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.
- allow the sweet tea mixture to cool completely. It should be room temperature before moving on to the next step.
- Once it is cool, add the kombucha SCOBY. Some SCOBYs float, others may sink to the bottom, either way it’s fine.
- Cover the jar with a cloth lid and rubber-band. You must use a cloth lid to allow oxygen flow.
- 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.
- After 7 days you should see you SCOBY is thicker or another SCOBY is forming on the surface.
- Make a fresh quart of sweet tea as in the previous directions.
- 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.
- The fermented tea is now ready for flavoring and bottling (secondary fermentation; see recipes above)
- 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.
See links below for secondary fermentation and flavoring recipes
Keywords: kombucha, primary fermentation, fermented drinks