Grow Your Own Kombucha SCOBY

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 in Blog, Fermentation | 19 comments

Grow Your Own Kombucha SCOBY

I recently started brewing my own kombucha at home. It is healthy and delicious, but can get very pricey to buy at the store (i.e. $4-5 per bottle!). I needed a SCOBY, which stands for Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast, to get the whole things started. At first I planned to purchase one online, but then wondered (as I often do) if I could grow one from scratch using raw, store-bought kombucha. It worked! Here is how I did it:

Supplies & Ingredients
1 Bottle of raw, unpasteurized, unflavored kombucha (I used GT’s Original)
1 Pot or Pan
4 cups of purified water (in most cases tap is fine)
½ cup of organic cane sugar (FYI: other sweeteners unfortunately CANNOT be substituted when making kombucha)
4 black tea bags or 1-2 Tablespoons of loose black tea
Half Gallon Jar
Cheesecloth or a cotton kitchen towel
Rubberband

Directions
1. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the tea bags to the water or use an infuser if using loose tea.
3. Allow the tea to steep for at least 15 minutes.
4. Pour the sweet tea into your half-gallon container.
5. IMPORTANT: Wait for the tea to cool completely. If it’s too hot the raw kombucha will get cooked and will no longer contain the live cultures needed to grown a SCOBY. Once cool, add the entire bottle of raw kombucha.
6. At this point you can add cool water to fill the jar, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top
7. Cover the jar with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a piece of a cotton kitchen towel and secure with a rubber band.
8. Place the jar out of direct sunlight, somewhere relatively warm (I put it on top of my refrigerator).
9. Wait patiently for 2-4 weeks for the SCOBY to grow! Ideally, it should be at least a ¼ inch thick before you use it to brew your first batch of kombucha from scratch.

Ingredients

The process of growing a SCOBY will likely also ferment the sweet tea into kombucha. After you’ve saved 1 cup of this liquid and the SCOBY for your next batch, you can drink the kombucha that has brewed in the jar. See my upcoming article: How to Brew Kombucha Tea to get started brewing your next batch!

Since kombucha is a live food, it can be temperamental, and some people may have trouble growing their own SCOBY from scratch. If all else fails, Cultures for Health sells dehydrated SCOBY’s that can be purchased online. Happy brewing!

19 Comments

  1. Hi Alexandra- I am excited to say that I’m at the 3 week mark and I have the very beginnings of a SCOBY. It is still very thin and looks iredescent, but according to my search online, this is a good thing and it is coming along. I keep it on top of my frig, but I know the house is probably staying between 63-67 right now and that may be why it is taking so long to even come that far.

    My question is, do I need to give it more sweet tea or anything? I tasted it and it tastes like sweet tea with a vinegar twang. Should I leave it be for another week or two or give it something to coax it along?

    Thanks so much!

    • Hi Susan: That’s so exciting! It sounds like your scoby is progressing like it should. And I agree that the temperature of your house may be contributing to a slower growth. I’d just hang in there for another week or so and see how it looks. The liquid will continue to get more and more vinegar-y, but that’s fine– You’ll use some of this batch to make your next one (the first real batch that you’ll want to drink since this one may not be too palatable). Once the SCOBY is between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick you can use it! Feel free to send photos if you feel so inclined. I’d love to see how it’s coming!

  2. Alexandra, I have got the ingredients to start my kombucha. I got green tea bags instead of black. I have Lipton black on hand. I am confused will lighter one work? I’m making it from scratch. Thanks, Helen.

    • Hi Helen. I think you are asking if it’s ok to use green tea, instead of black, to grow a kombucha SCOBY. If so, then yes, green tea should work fine! Just make sure that it doesn’t contain any other herbs or flavorings. Hope this helps. If you still have questions, let me know!

  3. Hi Alexandra, I have done this and am about 4 weeks into the process. I was just wondering if you have a picture you can post or direct me to where I may find one so I know what the end product will look like after this process. Mine at this point looks like it is thickening but still stringy and not like what I have looked into purchasing online before. Thanks for your help!

    • This site has some helpful photos: http://www.gardenvarietymama.com/2011/04/kombucha.html. In the first few weeks the SCOBY will simply look like a cloudy film. A few extra tips: Make sure you are not moving your jar since motion disrupts the SCOBY’s growth. Also, keep it in a warm-ish place if possible. If your home is less than 70° this process could take a while. Finally, did you start with unpasteurized kombucha? Good luck!

  4. Hi,

    I’ve started my own scoby. Sure wish I read first not to disrupt the bottles…oops. I did look at one of them a week in and found a thin film, but also found a black spot. Is that mold? Is that scoby then bad? I have it in my cabinet, is that okay or should I start over?

    • Black spots doesn’t sound good to me. Sorry to say, but I’d start over.

  5. Alexandra, I’m brand new to home brewing and I currently have two batches going (my first two). I have watched sooo many YouTube videos and read sooo many pages on sooo many websites that my eyes are about to pop out of my head. If you have any advice I’d be ever so grateful. I started an attempt to grow a scoby by just using GT’s kombucha (albeit, a flavored variety — a no-no, I realize), using about half the bottle in a jar with NO sweet tea (after watching a video that said this could be done). It DID grow a small, very thin scoby. I used THAT, with its accompanying liquid, to start a quart sized batch the “correct” way. It has been a week, but no new scoby. Is it doomed?

    Next, I again attempted to grow my own scoby by using the method you describe above, but with proportions for a gallon batch rather than a half gallon (EXCEPT that I still only used one bottle of GT’s). This, again, after watching a video advising this method (full gallon). The day after I put the batch together, I saw another video saying not to even bother trying to grow a scoby in a full gallon batch, as there was not enough in the GT’s alone to ferment a whole gallon. SIGH…What do you think about each of my batches? (And I apologize for how long this is)

    • I’d say wait and see what happens. It usually takes my SCOBYs about 3 weeks to form fully. If you only see a thin SCOBY after one week, I’d say that’s about normal. I’d keep ‘em both going and see what happens. Sounds like you are on the right track!

      • Thank you so much for your advice! :o)

  6. Hi! I am attempting to make my own SCOBY from a bottle of GT’s, and at day 10 it’s coming along nicely! I started it in a half gallon wide mouth jar, and the solution only filled about half of the jar. The SCOBY is nice and firm looking, white, not clear, and seems to be doing fantastic. My question is this… Is it ok to give it more sweet tea as food to keep growing? I am estimating the tart solution to be about 4 cups right now, with the SCOBY on top. I have added to that another 4 cup batch of sweet tea to help it to grow, and haven’t been told that is what to do, I’m only experimenting. Just thought I’d ask your thoughts about this? Do you think adding additional sweet tea will encourage thicker SCOBY growth, or would it have continue to grow without the extra tea? Thanks!!! Carrie

    • Hi Carrie, It sounds like your SCOBY is coming along nicely! I don’t think that extra sweet tea is necessary at this point but I don’t think it’ll hurt either. Once your scoby is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick you can try making your first batch of kombucha!

      • Thanks so much for the comment. I went ahead and added the extra 4 cup batch of sweet tea, and it filled my half gallon a little fuller, but the SCOBY sank! It’s kind of suspended in the middle actually, and about 1/2″ thick! And, there is another new SCOBY baby growing on top! I checked on it today, and out of curiosity, had to take a taste, and it’s very strong / tart, but delicious. I think the acid was high enough to start working on the new sweet tea immediately, because it’s not sweet at all. So, can I go ahead and attempt to start a batch of tea? Would I use the whole batch of tart liquid to add as my starter? And, should I use “both” SCOBY’s? Thanks for your help! *In another note, I also purchased a SCOBY online from a reputable source. I bottled it after 1 week, it was delicious, and I’m SHOCKED at how much this tastes just like the store bought. Actually – better for sure!!! My flavors were nectarine ginger and blueberry lemon ginger! I LOVE KOMBUCHA!!! :)

  7. I have made a SCOBY and it is in a 1 Litre jar. My question is when I go to make KT (I have a 1 gallon jar for that) is this going to be a problem that my SCOBY has a smaller surface area because it was grown in a small jar? Please advise.
    Thanks,

    • Nope. Shouldn’t be a problem at all! Happy brewing!

      • My question goes along with Van’s question. If it’s ok to use a small scoby in a large gallon container will it take longer to make a batch of kombucha? Or is it ok just to make my scoby in the gallon jar but only fill it up with the amounts that you provide?

        • The size of the scoby shouldn’t matter as long as it’s at least a 1/4 of an inch thick. And yes, it may take a bit longer to to make kombucha if it’s in a big batch. Good luck!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Kombucha: Tips & Troubleshooting | Phoenix Helix - PhoenixHelix.com
  2. Kristine Rudolph » Explore More : June 7th - [...] speaking of kombucha, I am dying to brew my own.  This post on starting a SCOBY should help.  And I …

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