Brewing Kombucha at Home: How to Grow a SCOBY!

Growing a scoby at home using store bought kombucha

Drinks, Kombucha, Recipes | May 15, 2016 | By

After my post on Starting a Continuous Kombucha Brew System, I had plenty of people asking for a more in-depth look on how to grow a SCOBY at home. After reading about Kombucha’s plethora of beneficial enzymes, probiotics, vitamins and antioxidants, I don’t blame you!

healthy homegrown kombucha scoby

Well, call it a coincidence, but my latest Kombucha batch molded.
Nothing was happening for about two weeks, then mold formed on top of the tea. (And no, I didn’t get pictures because I immediately freaked the f-out and sanitized everything within 3 feet… oops!)

After some research (and a moment of silence for my dead SCOBY 🙁 ), I discovered that you are not supposed to refrigerate a Kombucha SCOBY after brewing a batch. This was my original problem with batch-brewing to begin with. I don’t like the idea of transporting a live SCOBY back and forth to the fridge to be brought in and out of a state of “hibernation”.

  • The entire process increases the risk of contamination. Every time you fully deconstruct a brew-system (which is every batch), you are introducing more and more bacteria.
  • This could potentially be harmful bacteria you are adding to the brew-container (and/or the SCOBY itself)
  • To make matters worse, refrigerating actually pushes the SCOBY culture too far into dormancy, usually killing most of it off.
  • This results in a weaker Kombucha “mother”, unable to ferment large amounts of sweet tea.
    • Remember, SCOBYs are living! Comprised of healthy yeasts and bacteria, a strong culture is fully capable of eliminating most problems before they’re a problem!
    • This explains why so many home-brewers have bad luck with their second batch.. You’re starting off with a weak mama!
  • Most recommend simply leaving the culture on the counter with sweet tea as you would normally would during a brew, leaving it for up to 6 weeks.
  • Cultures for Health goes into great detail on how to store your Kombucha for longer periods

 holding kombucha scoby

Time to start fresh! How to grow a SCOBY at home!

As I touched on in my first kombucha postSCOBY stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. I know it sounds (and looks) scary, but it’s the same idea as an equally creepy Vinegar “Mother”. I don’t know about you, but I will go to town on a bag of Salt and Vinegar Chips.

This is just how fermentation works! The bacteria and yeast is not a “disgusting” process, this is Mother Nature working at her finest! It’s the same with any fermented food! Kimchi, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, and even pickles. All fermented, and all amazing for your health!
Most of these foods have that signature sour-tang, many consider to be an acquired taste, that’s okay! Try it with an open mind, and before long your body will be craving the goodness.
(I first thought Kombucha was a mislabeled bottle of salad dressing! BLEH!)

 

close up how to grow a scoby

GT-Bottle growing kombucha scoby at home

Anyways, growing a SCOBY at home could not be any easier!

As soon as I was done having a mental breakdown over my first failed batch of Kombucha, I ran to the health-food store to get my hands on some ‘booch. This method only works with the original, raw, unfiltered, 100% original formula (the 21+ kind).

(GT’s was forced to reformulate after exaggerated reports of alcohol content scared parents enough to get the product pulled from shelves. The “new” formula uses a different yeast strain, preventing further fermentation. The 21+ variety is the original GT formula, and does not actually contain alcohol.)

We refuse to do anything that would compromise our product’s integrity of effectiveness. That’s why we have chosen to modify our labeling instead of changing the way we make our products

They tell it like it is, right on every bottle! I love it!

Once you have your bottle of ‘booch, you’re just a small-scale ferment away from quickly grow a SCOBY. Be sure to sanitize the bottle with vinegar, then simply add the kombucha to a cup of sweetened tea. The sugar will feed the trace amounts of live cultures, forming your very own mother! I placed mine in a warm, undisturbed room in our house and it only took one week to grow! Yayyy! I waited for two full weeks for it to be a little bigger, and put it to work in it’s very own Continuous Brew Kombucha System. (My all-time favorite method, check it out!)

Yields 1 SCOBY and 2 cups Starter Kombucha

Brewing Kombucha at Home: How to Grow a SCOBY!

In a kombucha related bind? This recipe can get you a baby SCOBY in 1-2 weeks! Yay!

10 minPrep Time

5 minCook Time

15 minTotal Time

Save RecipeSave Recipe
Recipe Image

Ingredients

  • 1 cup filtered water (save 1/2)
  • 2 black tea bags (or 1 tablespoon loose-leaf)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons organic sugar
  • 1 bottle of original raw, organic, 21+ GT's Kombucha

Instructions

  1. Heat 1/2 cup of the the water to 205º-210ºF
  2. Steep the tea for 4-5 minutes
  3. Remove the tea bags, pour in the sugar, and stir until completely dissolved
  4. Pour in the (room-temperature) 1/2 cup of water to cool the liquid quickly
  5. Wait until completely cooled, and finally add the bottle of store-bought kombucha
  6. Securely cover with a clean and breathable material, such as a coffee filter or cheesecloth
  7. Place in a warm (70º-80ºF), dark spot for about a week until the SCOBY starts to form
  8. It’s will start looking like bubbles, then a translucent film, slowly growing into a white-ish disk.
  9. SCOBYs look weird! It might be slightly discolored, bubbly, warped, etc. What you don’t want is fuzz
  10. Anything fuzzy or mold-like, toss the batch, sanitize, and try again. If you use enough starter and maintain a clean, warm environment, this shouldn’t be a problem
  11. Once the SCOBY has reached 1/4-1/2 inch thick, she is ready!
  12. Follow these instructions on how to brew the full gallon (using a continuous brew system)!

Notes

This produces slightly over 2 cups of strong-kombucha (not including the SCOBY). The perfect amount to jump starting your next batch or continuous brew system! You should start to see a SCOBY forming within 3 weeks, depending on several factors If nothing forms within that time, toss out the batch and try again

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Once you have a healthy SCOBY ready to go, check out:

See how easy it is to produce your own Kombucha!? It’s amazing having full control of the brewing cycle, not to mention the amazing flavor combinations you can make. What are you waiting for?

Get yourself a glass jar, find a dark space (even a flipping cabinet works!), and start brewing!

 

3 Comments

  1. rainey

    May 15, 2016 at 9:44 am I keep reading that the commercial formulations have changed and your can't grow a SCOBY from any but a +21, higher alcohol content bottle. I don't know who started this myth or why everyone believes it. I have started SCOBYs from a number of commercial kombuchas offered for general sale. I have even -- when nothing else was available to me -- started the SCOBY I'm currently brewing from from a mango infused kombucha. I understand that no harm is done if people search out the "adult" kombucha as their starter. But if someone doesn't grow a SCOBY because they don't have the high-octane stuff offered in their area or buys a $30 SCOBY from the internet they've been disserved by this untruth. On the other hand, it will cost someone about $4 and a week"s time try to grow a SCOBY from whatever they can get their hands on. If it works, then YAY for them. If it doesn't then they can make themselves nuts looking for the "right" bottle. Reply
    • Nick

      May 15, 2016 at 10:09 am Wow, congrats! I have been able to grow a couple of SCOBYs from the new GTs formulation, but each one produced a very weak tasting Kombucha (even after a full month of fermenting.) Have you noticed any difference in taste, speed of fermentation, or anything else like that? I'd be very curious to see Reply
  2. rainey

    May 15, 2016 at 11:08 am Thanks, but no congrats required. Brewing kombucha is a pretty bullet proof endeavor if you ask me. Have I noticed differences? I've noticed differences in every komucha I've tasted whether home-brewed, commercially brewed or from a small independent brewer. And also from every SCOBY i've grown myself. All I can say is that I think mine hold up well to the other kombuchas I've sampled. And, given that I can bottle when the flavor hits the profile that I like best, I'm happy with my results. It's possible that my homegrown SCOBYs will never reach a really robust flavor profile. I wouldn't know. That's not the flavor I'm looking for so I've never aimed for that. I want something refreshing and fruity with some lively sparkle. I will say that most of my SCOBYs were grown from GT clear bottles/white caps. And I think that's the general flavor profile they brew. My current SCOBY was grown from a WA independent brew and, though I can't remember well the flavor of the original, I doubt it's substantially different. Reply

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