How To Grow A Kombucha SCOBY

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Wondering how to grow your own kombucha SCOBY? This easy, 4 ingredient recipe and comprehensive guide will have you ready to brew your own booch with confidence!

Love kombucha but hate the price? I feel you!

I LOVE kombucha, but at $4 – $5 bucks a bottle, it’s as expensive as a Starbucks addiction, and even if it is better for me, I still cringe when I buy my kombucha bottles.

The obvious solution to that problem is to start your own booch factory! And I’m gonna teach you how to do it, for less than 10 dollars, and with only 4 ingredients!

Making kombucha is fun, easy, and WAY more cost-effective than buying it!

This grow your own SCOBY guide is dedicated to fermenting!

Kombucha mixed with sweet tea in a glass jar.

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Brew Time: 7-14 days
Yield: 1 SCOBY
Best Part: Homemade kombucha for a fraction of the price!

What Is A Scoby?

If you are looking to grow your own kombucha, you will need a SCOBY. A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast. Like with a sourdough starter, the yeast and bacteria in the SCOBY are responsible for brewing kombucha and act as a starter culture, converting sweet tea into tangy kombucha.

To be totally technical, the SCOBY is actually the microbes within the liquid themselves, while the pellicle is what is commonly referred to as the SCOBY.

For this blog post and future kombucha posts, I will be calling the pellicle by both its proper name and referring to it as a SCOBY interchangeably.

What Is A Pellicle?

It is a slimy, flat, pancake-like disk that forms on the surface of the kombucha during the fermentation process. It sounds gross, and it looks gross, and it feels gross, but it’s a necessary gross!

The pellicle is made of bacteria and yeast cells and is held together by cellulose. The “mother” pellicle will grow “babies” with each batch of kombucha you brew as more cellulose is produced. This means that with each batch, a second, baby SCOBY or pellicle is formed.

The mother and the new SCOBY be separated or kept together, it’s up to you as a brewer, however, a larger pellicle can lead to vinegary tastes before the kombucha brew is properly fermented. You can grow as many kombucha SCOBYs as you want, give them away to friends, or find creative ways to use your extra pellicles.

A pellicle forming in kombucha tea, day 7.
Pellicle forming on day 7

My Pellicle Is UGLY!!

NOT all pellicles will be perfect little pancakes that cover the top of your jar! This is normal, don’t be discouraged, especially if you’re like me and can hardly wait for the pellicle to form, so you’re constantly jostling the jar to check!

They can be ugly, alien-looking danglers like the one in the photo above.

This does NOT decrease their effectiveness, it just makes them a little harder to grab!

Why Do I Need A SCOBY?

If you are looking to grow your own kombucha, you will need a SCOBY. As explained earlier, the SCOBY is responsible for brewing kombucha and acts as a starter culture, just like a sourdough starter, the SCOBY + pellicle are necessary to kick start the fermentation of the tea.

How To Get A SCOBY?

There are several ways to get your hands on a SCOBY, and I will go over a few of the most popular methods.

The first way, and probably the easiest way, is to buy a SCOBY online.

The second way is to get one from a friend who brews their own kombucha.

If both of those options lead to a dead-end, you can grow your own from store bought kombucha, and I’m here to teach you all about it!

How To Pick The Right Kombucha

When you’re buying kombucha to make your own SCOBY, you want to make sure you’re getting a high-quality kombucha that is raw, unpasteurized, and has live cultures.

Don’t be afraid to look through the jars at the store and pick a jar with a lot of floaties in it, that’s actually a good sign! Some kombucha bottles already have signs of a baby SCOBY starting in them. Those are great finds!

You don’t want to use kombucha that is pasteurized because the pasteurization process kills all of the bacteria and yeast, including the good yeast and bacteria needed for brewing kombucha. Also, avoid using flavored kombuchas, if you can.

More Fermenting Recipes

Tips + Tricks:

No. 1 –> Keep everything clean! This is key when fermenting. We only want the yeast and bacteria we want, and none of the baddies!

No. 2 –> Make sure the tea is room temperature before adding the raw kombucha, otherwise, you risk killing the good bacteria and yeast, which is bad.

No. 3 –> Have patience, it takes a while for a SCOBY to form, and it needs time and patience while growing! It’s tough to wait on your first SCOBY but it’s worth it!

Key Ingredients:

Kombucha:

I like to use GTs RAW kombucha for this one, pick unflavored if you can get your hands on it, but if not, Gingerade is almost always on the shelves and it works just fine. If you can’t find GTs raw kombucha, any plain raw kombucha will work.

The kombucha must be raw though because pasteurization will kill the bacteria and yeast needed to grow your SCOBY.

Black Tea:

You’ll need either tea bags or loose black tea for this recipe. I prefer to use tea bags, but either will work just fine. I’ve usually got a box of Tazo English Breakfast on hand for the first fermentation.

You CAN use green tea, but I recommend using black tea in the beginning to grow a healthy strong mother, then you’ll be able to train a baby pellicle to consume green tea.

Labeled image of ingredients to make a SCOBY.

How To Grow A Kombucha Starter

Prepare:

  1. Thoroughly wash everything! We are fermenting, so we want to make sure everything, including your hands, is clean and free of any contaminants. The best way to do this is to wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse. I like to give my glass jars and utensils and extra rinse in vinegar, too.

Make:

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a slight boil, then measure off 2 cups. Add 2 tea black tea bags to the 2 cups of hot water. Allow the tea to steep in the hot water for between 10 and 60 minutes.
  2. When the tea is finished steeping, remove the tea bags and stir in 1/2 cup of sugar with a clean utensil.
  3. Allow the water to cool completely, until room temperature, this is vitally important, as too high of temperatures can kill the good stuff in the kombucha.
  4. Once the water reaches room temperature, pour raw kombucha into a large, clean glass jar. Top it off with the sweet tea. It’s ok if the liquid goes pretty high up the jar as some will eventually evaporate off.
  5. Cover the jar with a vinegar dampened coffee filter secured by a canning ring or rubber band and set it aside in a warm, dark place that it can be left for 7-14 days without disturbing. If no pellicle is present after 21 days, you’ll have to toss the brew and start over.

Ferment:

  1. Over the next two weeks, you’ll see the pellicle start to form. Like sourdough and ginger bugs, the mixture will start to bubble once fermentation really kicks off. Eventually, a thin, clear pellicle will form, and it will thicken to cover the entire surface of the jar. Once it’s about 1/4 inch thick and covers the entire surface of the kombucha, your SCOBY is ready to use.
  2. You can now remove the SCOBY + pellicle from the jar, and begin the second fermentation of your first batch of kombucha!

Best Temperatures To Brew Booch

Most booch is fermented between 75-80f.

Generally, a warmer ferment leads to a faster brew with a more vinegary flavor profile. While a cooler ferment has a slower fermenting time with a sweeter end result.

I actually love the Brod + Taylor proofing box that I use extensively with my sourdough baking for brewing kombucha. I’m able to use the proofing box to maintain a perfect brew temperature. I usually brew my booch around 77f.

If you don’t have a proofing box, and I know most don’t, you can use a seedling mat, it will maintain a warm temperature for your brew the same way it will keep seedlings warm!

You can also place your brew somewhere it can be undisturbed for a while, out of direct sunlight, and warm. The cupboard above your fridge is likely a great place.

Kombucha covered with a coffee filter in Brod + Taylor proofing box.

Now What?

Your SCOBY is in fine form, the starter tea is sourer than normal kombucha but not quite as sour as vinegar.

Well… Now it’s time to make Kombucha!

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📖 Printable Recipe

Kombucha mixed with sweet tea in a glass jar.

How To Make A Kombucha SCOBY From Store Bought Kombucha

Allyson Letal
It's time to grow your own SCOBY from store bought kombucha and brew your own creative and delicious kombucha at home! It's easy, it's fun, and it saves you money!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Ferment Time 14 days
Total Time 14 days 30 minutes
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 1 SCOBY
Calories 385 kcal

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • Thoroughly wash everything! Make sure everything, including your hands, is clean and free of any contaminants. The best way to do this is to wash with hot, soapy water, then rinse.
  • Bring 3 cups of water to a slight boil, then measure off 2 cups. Add 2 tea black tea bags to the 2 cups of hot water. Allow the tea to steep in the hot water for between 10 and 60 minutes.
  • When the tea is finished steeping, remove the tea bags and stir in 1/2 cup of sugar with a clean utensil.
  • Allow the water to cool completely, until room temperature, then pour raw kombucha into a large, clean glass jar. Top it off with sweet tea.
  • Cover the jar with a vinegar dampened coffee filter secured by a canning ring or rubber band and set it aside in a warm, dark place that it can be left for 7-14 days without disturbing. If no pellicle is present after 21 days, you'll have to toss the brew and start over.
  • Over the next two weeks, you'll see the pellicle start to form. The mixture will start to bubble once fermentation kicks off, and eventually, a thin, clear pellicle will form, and it will thicken to cover the entire surface of the jar. Once it's about 1/4 inch thick and covers the entire surface of the kombucha, your SCOBY is ready to use.
  • You can now remove the SCOBY + pellicle from the jar, and use it to begin brewing kombucha!

Notes

best temperatures to brew booch

Most booch is fermented between 75-80f.
Generally, a warmer ferment leads to a faster brew with a more vinegary flavor profile. While a cooler ferment has a slower fermenting time with a sweeter end result.
I actually love the Brod + Taylor proofing box that I use extensively with my SOURDOUGH BAKING for brewing kombucha. I'm able to use the proofing box to maintain a perfect brew temperature. I usually brew my booch around 77f.
If you don't have a proofing box, and I know most don't, you can use a seedling mat, it will maintain a warm temperature for your brew the same way it will keep seedlings warm!
You can also place your brew somewhere it can be undisturbed for a while, out of direct sunlight, and warm. The cupboard above your fridge is likely a great place.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 385kcalCarbohydrates: 100gFat: 0.3gSodium: 36mgPotassium: 2mgSugar: 100gCalcium: 22mgIron: 0.1mg
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